Dave Aronberg Talks How to Fight Fraud in Treatment Industry

Dave Aronberg Talks How to Fight Fraud in Treatment Industry

8 months ago, Florida was home to 953 licensed drug treatment centers, and 207 were in Palm Beach County. As of April 1, there are now 185 in Palm Beach, with 771 in the whole state. This decrease is due to the crackdown on fraud by Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office, which has led to 45 arrests in the last year and a half. So far, those arrests have led to 16 convictions. For State Attorney Dave Aronberg there is no sign of slowing down.

Recently, Dave Aronberg spoke with Opioid Watch to talk about the work his office has been doing to try and strengthen the addiction treatment industry. Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson also sat down to talk about how Palm Beach County is fighting to protect those who are coming to Florida for help. Johnson heads the office’s Sober Homes Task Force.

Dave Aronberg VS Purdue Pharma

 According to Aronberg, he got involved with opioid-related issues back in 2001, when he was an assistant attorney general. Aronberg says he was asked by his boss, Bob Butterworth, to investigate Purdue Pharma. This Big Pharma giant is the producer of OxyContin. This powerful prescription opioid has been credited with making a heavy contribution to the opioid crisis. Dave Aronberg was to examine the marketing practices of Purdue Pharma, and is quoted in the interview transcript stating:

“I believe we were one of the first in the country.”

Of course, now Purdue Pharma is one of many big name pharmaceutical companies being accused in lawsuits across America. In fact, Delray Beach, Florida recently filed its own case against the company.

When asked about what he found, Aronberg said that Purdue was marketing the product like it was Advil. Purdue has been repeatedly accused of pushing this product as if it was far less dangerous than it actually was. In 2002, Dave Aronberg was elected to state senate, and shortly afterward the case against Purdue was settled. In the edited interview transcript, Aronberg is quoted:

“Purdue also offered $2 million to the state to establish its first prescription drug monitoring program. I worked in the state senate to get the PDMP enacted into law. But some conservatives refused to go along. They thought it was Big Government. So Purdue’s $2 million went away, because the offer expired. We didn’t get the PDMP till 2011. By then the carnage was horrific.”

Furthermore, Opioid Watch notes that a Purdue spokesperson confirmed that the state failed to implement a PDMP by July 1, 2004, which was the expiration of the companies offer.

Dave Aronberg Goes to Congress

In December of 2017, Aronberg went in front of Congress to testify concerning fraud and abuse in the addiction treatment industry. In this meeting, they discussed various issues with shady facility operators in Florida and made suggestions on how the law could step in to change it and protect patients. The interview transcript quotes Aronberg:

“In recent years, we’ve had an influx of unscrupulous operators who enrich themselves by exploiting those in recovery. As a consequence, we’re attracting thousands of young people from throughout the country into fraudulent rehab centers. (We’re talking about some, not all. There are good rehab centers, too.)”

Again, Aronberg found himself at battle with shady marketing practices. While investigating the treatment industry, Aronberg’s office discovered illegal operations that not only manipulated insurance providers but put patients at extreme risk.

From patient brokering, where illicit actors would sell patients with insurance to the highest bidders, to illegal kickback schemes being run by sober homes to outpatient treatment programs. Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson added information about the exploitation of urine analysis costs, and even some programs that began billing insurers for allergy and DNA testing. Aronberg states:

“We have a doctor who billed $7 million in nine months for allergy tests.”

Needless to say, the task force and state officials had their work cut out for them.

The ACA, ADA, and FHA

When talking about the many scams being run by various illegitimate businesses, the conversation came back to insurance and how these cons run. Here Dave Aronberg talks about his beliefs on how the law should step in and help restructure the current system.

“Number one: Change the Affordable Care Act’s fee reimbursement model to an outcome-based reimbursement model. Where the good providers are rewarded and the bad ones are paid less. Right now, the opposite occurs, so the more times you fail, the more money you get. There’s an incentive for more services and for more relapse. That shouldn’t be.”

After talking about the issues with the ACA, he talked about the ADA and FHA.

“The second change we need is this: the Americans with Disabilities Act and Federal Housing Act have been misused and exploited by bad actors who own flophouses.”

He went on to say,

  “Local governments are largely prohibited from overseeing the sober home industry. If they want to require mandatory inspections, certifications, and registrations, they’re likely prohibited under federal law.”

In essence, Aronberg believes the law should allow local governments to create their own guidelines for health, safety and the general welfare of the patients. None of these demands seems outlandish, and with reasonable regulation, the reputable and effective providers in this industry can continue to best serve the South Florida recovery community.

Aronberg also points out that the problem is not only in Florida. Recently, he went to Orange County, California to meet with officials dealing with the same situation. Next for Dave Aronberg is leading the national task force of 34 prosecutors in 30 states. Their goal is to produce a working paper for setting best practices for prosecutors all over America concerning these issues. The task force also intends to make suggestions for changes to federal and state laws.

What might be most surprising though is the mention of harm reduction strategies?

“It’s about prevention, drug treatment, and innovative strategies. I think it will be powerful because it’s going to be prosecutors talking about needle exchanges and disposal and safe injection sites. People assume prosecutors are going to be focusing only on mandatory minimums and longer sentences. That’s not what this is about. I think it’s going to surprise people.”

While needle exchanges and safe injection sites have been proposed in numerous states, it is not the most popular idea. San Francisco is actually on track to open the first safe injection site in America, with Philadelphia not far behind, and Seattle and Baltimore in the conversation as well.

With Aronberg and the task force working to make a difference, hopefully, we will see the right change soon. We hope it will make the recovery community stronger as a whole. Reputable and respected providers are also doing their part to refine their practices while implementing innovative and effective resources to ensure that those who with drug or alcohol addiction always have a safe place in Palm Beach County to get the help they need. With the opioid crisis ongoing, having real resources for opioid treatment is still an essential part of overcoming the problem.

Palm Healthcare Company is a leader in holistic addiction treatment with over 20 years of helping people from all over the country heal mind, body and spirit. Providing safe and comprehensive care should always be a focus in the effort to overcome the drug problem, and preservation of life should always be a priority. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

The Trump Opioid Plan: the Good, the Bad and the Border

The Trump Opioid Plan: The Good, the Bad and the Border

The fight against prescription opioid abuse, heroin, and fentanyl in America continues to intensify. Our political landscape may soon see even more drastic shifts because of it. Controversy and conjecture have surrounded many ideas brought to the table on both sides. Even the President himself has been behind some pretty divisive propositions. Then Monday, President Trump unveiled his plan for combatting the ongoing opioid crisis in America while in New Hampshire.

During his speech, the President talked up a few key elements of his plan; some we have heard of before, and others have only recently become a serious topic of conversation. As the administration puts the final touches on their proposals, we thought should take a look at some of the highlights and see which of his plans could actually work, and why experts and advocates believe others probably won’t.

Arguably, there are some pretty good ideas here… and some pretty bad ones, depending on who you ask.

An Opioid Vaccine

Let’s kick this off on a high note.

The Trump opioid plan includes supporting the search for a vaccine. This honestly seems like a good ambition to get behind, but will it work? Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the National Institute on Drug Abuse developed an experimental heroin vaccine back in December. So far the compound has been tested with rats and mice. Their latest breakthrough found that antibodies in the vaccine bound to the heroin before crossing the blood-brain barrier. This reaction effectively prevents the euphoric effects of the drug.

While this is an exciting development, it is still a vast leap to go from treating mice to treating humans. We still have a long road ahead before this possible vaccine could be approved. However, more funding and resources from the federal government could make a big difference.

Even so, it is important to note that this vaccine will not be a cure-all answer that fixes everything. After all, we have seen opioid blocking methods before. Drugs like Vivitrol and other implants were also developed to hamper the effects of opioids, and they still haven’t stopped the crisis from growing. Experts are already saying this vaccine will only work in the short term and require repeated doses. It is expected to be an incredibly expensive treatment, and it may only be another variation of the Vivitrol shot. Still, some believe this vaccine, used alongside other treatment methods, could be a crucial tool in fighting opioids.

Big Pharma and Prescription Drugs

The Trump opioid plan also takes a look at prescription opioids. The President acknowledged the contribution of pharmaceutical companies and prescription drugs to the opioid crisis. In his statement, he indicated that this administration support research for opioid alternatives.

“That includes federal funding for the development of non-addictive painkillers.”

In talking about prescription drugs, President Trump said the administration also planned on addressing the issue of overprescribing addictive medications. He even touted the Justice Department’s new task force that may soon be fighting Big Pharma companies in court.

“Our Department of Justice is looking very seriously into bringing major litigation against some of these drug companies. We will bring it at a federal level.”

He acknowledges the recent work at the state level to hold Big Pharma accountable. President Trump said his administration will be working to reduce opioid prescriptions by 1/3 over the next three years. Hopefully, as time goes on there will not only be more accountability to those manufacturing these potent medications, but also more options for the thousands of people suffering from chronic pain who do need pain management.

Commercial Campaign

This show we have seen (fail) before. The crisis probably isn’t going to get fixed with re-runs and reboots.

For a long time, Trump has been talking about creating a media campaign to try and combat the opioid crisis. In his remarks on Monday, the president said,

 “We are thinking about doing a really large-scale rollout of commercials that show how bad it is for the kids… Scare them from ending up like the people in the commercials.”

Trump said he would spend a lot of money and direct people to make the commercials depict “pretty unsavory situations” claiming that this strategy has worked before with cigarette smoking.

Sadly, the reality is that we have tried this before. Using anti-drug messaging that specifically targets kids and young adults is exactly what was done with the “Just Say No” ad campaign of the 1980s and early 1990s, and the DARE program of the same period. Neither program was proven to be particularly effective in reducing drug use. Some have even argued it did the opposite and actually intrigued young people into drug use.

This is just one part of the Trump opioid plan that reminds people of the ideas pushed in the failed War on Drugs that already destroyed countless lives and only ended up making the problem worse.

So how will this new campaign be different?

The Border

The President also mentioned the importance of combatting the flow of illicit drugs like fentanyl and heroin into the country. He became particularly energized of course when talking about his proposed border wall with Mexico, saying,

“90% of the heroin in America comes from the southern border, where eventually the Democrats will agree with us and we will build a wall to keep the damn drugs out.”

However, many are not so convinced that the wall will be especially effective in stopping drug traffickers. Support for the wall experiences ups and downs as negotiations over immigration continue. Then the President took the opportunity to scrutinize sanctuary cities, calling out California and claiming these places were harboring the most terrible kinds of criminals, including drug dealers.

If part of the Trump opioid plan is to apply even more pressure to sanctuary cities, we may see more back-and-forth when it comes to compromises on immigration policy reform. Recently the Republicans were using DACA as a bargaining chip with Democrats to get the infamous border wall built, but now Trump says Democrats are holding onto it so they can use the issue during the election cycle.

Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

Now, THIS proposal is the one part of the Trump opioid plan that is causing the most controversy, and understandably so.

UPDATE: Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent out a memo Wednesday officially asking federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in drug trafficking cases “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs”. So the administration is now implementing President Donald Trump’s plan to ramp up “tough on crime” punishments in response to the opioid crisis.

In his speech, the President brought having the death penalty for drug traffickers to the forefront. This is an extreme even some of his supporters believed was more tongue-in-cheek than actual proposed policy. The details on this proposal were still pretty scarce at the time. Some support Trump pushing for the death penalty, saying this punishment would only apply to high volume, kingpin-level dealers. But what we should consider is this:

  1. The federal death penalty is available for a few drug offenses. This includes violations of the “drug kingpin” provisions in federal law.
  2. Reports indicate that Trump wants Congress to pass legislation that will reduce the amount of drugs needed to trigger mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers.

So should we assume that the President intends to expand what qualifies as “drug kingpin” activity to make the death penalty easier to enforce? If so, what does that mean exactly? And what does it mean for further enforcing other mandatory minimums?

The Justice Department has said it would seek the death penalty “when appropriate under current law.” While drug-related murder is already a capital offense, no one has ever been executed by those rules. However, President Trump says that he and the Justice Department are working very hard to change the laws. To do so would require an act of Congress, and many believe Congress is highly unlikely to expand the federal death penalty. So will any of this be changing soon?

In his comments, President Trump stated,

“If we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty.”

President Trump’s call for the death penalty is being strongly met with condemnation. The proposal’s critics range from treatment advocates to law enforcement officials and civil liberty organizations.

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement,

 “If this administration wants to save lives, it needs to drop its obsession with killing and locking people up, and instead focus resources on what works: harm reduction strategies and access to evidence-based treatment and prevention.”

Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office, said,

“Drug trafficking is not an offense for which someone can receive the death penalty,”

McCurdy is referring to a Supreme Court precedent that puts constraints on using the death penalty for a convicted person who did not commit murder.

Furthermore, there are plenty of arguments that this kind of policy is not practical. Some say it would either be so broad it became unconstitutional, or so specific that it would be obsolete. This aspect of the plan has sparked nationwide debate. Americans everywhere are arguing whether or not a drug dealer should be responsible for the deaths of customers.

Sadly, this is so frustrating because past data does not hold with the idea that getting ‘tough’ on drugs is more effective than offering treatment opportunities. One of the best studies backing this is a 2014 study from Peter Reuter at the University of Maryland and Harold Pollack at the University of Chicago. Researchers determined that while simply prohibiting drugs to some extent does raise their prices, there’s no good evidence that tougher punishments or harsher supply elimination efforts do a better job of driving down access to drugs and substance misuse than lighter penalties.

In fact, many addiction advocates argue that harsher punishments can actually be counter-productive because they end up punishing people who need treatment, not incarceration. So the need for a more comprehensive approach to opioid addiction treatment is paramount. Hopefully, this administration will see the need to focus on support for treatment, instead of a primarily punitive focus.

Trump Opioid Plan on Treatment

This is a critical and commendable element of the Trump opioid plan, and I applaud some of its intentions. However, I wish we could talk a lot more about this and a lot less about captial punishment.

Still, I give them credit for saying they want to increase access to addiction treatment and adopting harm reduction. There isn’t much detail to go on though, as far as how this will happen. One aspect is to increase the use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine.

As another highlight, Trump also asks Congress to repeal a rule blocking Medicaid payments to larger treatment facilities, which could provide a boost in the billions to inpatient clinics. Hopefully, this is one factor of the Trump opioid plan that will pan out, because one of the biggest issues the US faces with the opioid crisis is a limited access to adequate treatment options. If the White House allows Medicaid to reimburse larger treatment facilities, more people will be able to get effective care. Still, it is unclear how many resources the administration is willing to commit to treatment resources.

Hopefully, the Trump opioid plan will evolve and we will see a resurgence of resources going toward helping get people suffer the help they need. It is understandable to want to curb the rise of addiction through anti-trafficking measures and raising awareness, but we already have thousands and thousands of people struggling every day all over America who need help. Preventive steps are crucial, and the President is trying to push for them. But it is vital that we also give everyone already struggling more of a fighting chance. The possibility of more people having greater access could help create a huge shift.

Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing innovative and effective holistic treatment options for those who are battling with addiction. Our facilities believe in comprehensive and compassionate care, and our mission every day is to transform as many lives as possible. Together, we can make a difference. 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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Can Kellyanne Conway Really Compete with the Opioid Crisis?

Can Kellyanne Conway Really Compete with the Opioid Crisis?

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

Senator Investigating Vivitrol Drug Maker for Shady Marketing

Senator Investigating Vivitrol Drug Maker for Shady Marketing

The Big Pharma industry is still in the hot seat, and this week another lawmaker is adding a new name to the roster of drug makers to be investigated for shady marketing practices. Alkermes, the company behind the opioid treatment implant Vivitrol, is now being investigated for how they market their product.

Background on Vivitrol

Vivitrol is another name given to the generic drug Naltrexone. Originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 1994, Naltrexone eventually became approved for the treatment of opioid dependence. The medications primary use appears to be blocking the opiate receptors in the brain. It’s intended so that someone using heroin or other opiate-based drugs cannot experience the drugs high.

The Vivitrol shot is made by Boston-based biotech Alkermes. This medication stood out from other Naltrexone medications because Vivitrol is an injection given every 4 weeks with a monthly doctor visit. It is time released for longer lasting relief, instead of being a pill taken once a day.

Supposedly Vivitrol is intended to further help by reducing cravings for opioids. However, Naltrexone and Vivitrol have been refuted by many for having any notable effect on opioid cravings.

Enter Senator Harris

Kamala Harris is a Democratic California Senator who has announced she will be part of launching a new investigation into the sales and marketing practices of the makers of Vivitrol. According to the senator, Alkermes allegedly worked to increase sales of their opioid treatment medication through two questionable strategies:

  1. “Aggressively” marketing Vivitrol to officials in the criminal justice system

Senator Harris says that Alkermes pushes for judges and lawmakers to use their product. The company even provided free samples, which resulted in Vivitrol being actively implemented in 450 treatment programs across 39 states.

  1. Lobbying efforts by federal and state lawmakers

In her statement, Harris also alleges that the company has spent millions of dollars in direct appeals to government officials. Meanwhile, they were contributing to numerous congressional campaigns.

Due to the drug companies marketing, Vivitrol raked in well over $69 million dollars in the third quarter of 2017.

In her statement Senator Harris says,

“We are at the height of a crisis, and companies are taking advantage of pain in order to profit”

“We must hold these companies accountable for their deliberate actions that magnify the opioid epidemic and drive up the cost of drugs for Americans.”

The senator even quoted the chief of addiction medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Anna Lembke, who said,

“Alkermes has taken unethical drug promotion to new depths by enlisting judges, law enforcement personnel, and legislators to favor Vivitrol over proven treatments. Alkermes’ actions undermine public health.”

Which seems like some pretty strong words. In the midst of the opioid crisis, it might be fair to say we should use every resource we can get. However, the Big Pharma enterprises still need to be put in check when it comes to overlooking more effective treatments.

In fact, a 2011 review of studies suggested that Naltrexone was not significantly superior to placebo, and the authors believed there was no sufficient evidence to support Naltrexone therapy for opioid dependence.

Investigating Vivitrol

One reason Senator Harris seems to have Vivitrol in the crosshairs seems to be that the pharmaceutical company made a habit out of promoting Vivitrol as a more effective treatment than other maintenance drugs, such as Suboxone or Methadone, even though there is no substantive data to support this claim.

As part of the investigation, Harris contacted Richard Pops, the Alkermes Chairman, requesting the company provide data and communication. At the moment Alkermes is disputing the allegations. Senator Harris appears to be calling their bluff, as she was requested that Alkermes submit:

  • Marketing records

  • Financial records

  • Internal reports

Alkermes has also been asked to turn over any materials provided to participants or speakers for Alkermes since 2010. They’re being asked to disclose amounts paid to the company by various associations, including:

  • American Society of Addiction Medicine

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

  • Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Any studies presented to these groups are also to be turned in.

In their own statement, Alkermes states they are “focused on ensuring that patients, healthcare professionals, and criminal justice officials are educated on Vivitrol, and believes that patients should have access to all medications.”

There is no telling whether or not this investigation is going to turn into a witch hunt or if it will blow the lid off of even more bad behavior from Big Pharma. While other drug companies that can be connected to the opioid crisis are already facing lawsuits and others even criminal cases for racketeering and fraud, the Vivitrol producers might find themselves on the chopping block sooner rather than later.

There is already much disagreement about whether or not the Vivitrol treatment is really effective in the first place. Some say the medication helped save their life. Many others have horror stories of uncomfortable side-effects made worse by cravings. Either way, pharmaceutical companies still need to be held accountable for their marketing methods, especially when they seem a little suspect.

For now, this is all a request. Only Republican Senator Ron Johnson has the power to issue subpoenas on behalf of the Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee.

When talking about the most effective treatment programs for addiction, we should also remember that maintenance drugs like Suboxone, Vivitrol and others are not exactly a solution. While they can be effective in keeping people alive and helping to overcome their sickness, the real healing does not come from magic pills or implants. The real transformation comes with developing the understand and the tools to take care of yourself. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Wormwood on Netflix is New Series to Explore MK-ULTRA, CIA and LSD

Wormwood on Netflix is New Series to Explore MK-ULTRA, CIA and LSD

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

For anyone out there who (like me) loves the allure and intrigue of conspiracy theories, the new upcoming mini-series Wormwood on Netflix should absolutely be a Roswell-sized-blip on your radar. The show is described as part documentary, part drama (and in my early predictions- all awesomeness). Set to the backdrop of the 1950s and 1960s, the show is going to delve into the notorious Project MK-ULTRA.

Should we be excited about an intense take on CIA spooks, mind control experiments and a murder mystery?! Uh… YEA! Well, at least I am, obviously. The trailer released shows off cinematography that looks dark, edgy and eerie, with a tone that fits the content. For a little backstory about the twisted conspiracy behind the show Wormwood on Netflix, let’s take a face plant down the rabbit hole of Project MK-ULTRA.

Project MK-ULTRA

The operation began in the early 1950s and was officially sanctioned in 1953. It was designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the Cold War era when- as the trailer says- “the most dangerous weapon is information.” MK-ULTRA was kept hidden for about two decades due to the fact that the experiments were done on human subjects, which were at times illegal and most notably because the subjects did not consent and had no idea what was being done to them. The organized efforts of the project included entities such as:

  • The Scientific Intelligence Division of the CIA
  • Special Operations Division of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps

These invasive and supposedly damaging experiments were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture. The idea was to learn how to weaken the individual to force confessions through mind control, but the implications of these methods may also suggest far more sinister ways to utilize these tactics.

The Conspiracy 

For years people thought it was truly a paranoid dream, and considering the massive scope of the project, once finally revealed, there is no wonder why. According to a 1984 broadcast of 60 Minutes, MK-ULTRA involved more than 130 research programs within various known institutions, including:

  • 44 of them being colleges and universities
  • 15 research foundations, chemical or pharmaceutical companies
  • 12 hospitals or clinics
  • 3 prisons

Project MK-ULTRA conducted many illegal activities. One incredibly controversial method was the use of unsuspecting U.S. and Canadian citizens as test subjects. But the most notorious of all is probably the use of LSD and other chemicals to manipulate people’s mental states and alter brain functions.So essentially anyone from inmates and hospital patients to college students and Big Pharma customers could have been exposed to some of the most mind-bending, drug-induced illusions without their knowledge at the will of the United States government.

The world remembers well learning that government agencies were forcing hallucinogenic drugs onto citizens, but this is just one method of psychological torture via drug abuse in Project MK-ULTRA.

Forced Drug Experiments

While LSD is the drug most commonly associated with MK-ULTRA, the program is said to have utilized several other drugs in their illegal testing, including:

The CIA Cover Up

To touch on the timeline of Project MK-Ultra being exposed:

1973- CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MK-ULTRA files destroyed

1975- The Church Committee of the U.S. Congress first brought MK-ULTRA to the attention to the public.

A Gerald Ford commission was tasked to investigate CIA activities within the United States. Investigative efforts were hampered by the fact the destruction of the documents in 1973.

1977- Senate hearings began following a request from the Freedom of Information Act that uncovered a cache of 20,000 documents connected to MK-ULTRA.

2001- Even more information regarding MK-ULTRA became declassified

Now the world is well aware that the CIA, in cahoots with other entities, was behind hundreds of mind-control experiments. These horrific tortures and inhumane experiments are said to have left some people mentally and emotionally crippled for life. Hopefully, the new series Wormwood on Netflix will also give us a closer look at home some of these victims were able to recover, if at all.

Wormwood on Netflix makes it Personal

Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris gives this illustrious conspiracy story new texture and connection using dramatic reenactments with real-life interviews. Beyond that, the series Wormwood on Netflix also stands to humanize the drama, making it a much more personal and relatable scenario.

Enter the incarnation portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard of Dr. Olson. The real-life CIA biochemist Dr. Frank Olson died after falling 10 stories from a New York City hotel room in 1953. Dr. Olson’s death at the time was ruled a suicide. However, his family and others believe that he was actually assassinated by the CIA. Dr. Olson’s son, Eric Olson, is also part of the series.

Eric Olson and his brother Nils have made it their life’s mission to uncover the truth about their father’s death. Eric Olson has spent over 60 years investigating.

As if an indirect admission of fault, the Olson family actually received a settlement of $750,000 and a personal apology from then-President Gerald Ford and CIA Director William Colby. This came 20 years after Olson’s death in 1976, after all the documents pertaining to MK-ULTRA began to surface. Then in 1994, a second autopsy was conducted on the body of Frank Olson, which is said to have revealed injuries that had “likely occurred before the fall” leading many to believe that Frank Olson was killed by the CIA.

One way or another, Wormwood on Netflix is sure to be a very interesting ride. With the ominous overtone of impending espionage, chemical warfare, spy games and murder this show is set to take something that is so real it’s scary and packages it in a way that is sure to pull us in.

At risk of tempting a Netflix binge, there are some very good documentaries and other films related to substance abuse, drug policy and addiction. There are all kinds of resources out there to stay informed about the history of drug use and the risks associated with it. Find a way to learn more and if you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Is Secondary Exposure Overdose a Risk For People Who Know Addicts?

Is Secondary Exposure Overdose a Risk For People Who Know Addicts?

As we have seen time and time again, the opioid epidemic all across America has not been confined to one substance. It takes the shape of prescription painkillers, illicit heroin and even the more potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl. With the gradual progression of this poisonous outbreak, we have seen the stakes get higher and higher. Prescription opioids contributed to a growing population of heroin users. Dealers lacing heroin with synthetics like fentanyl led to higher overdose rates. Then the highly dangerous, frequently lethal carfentanil was added to the mix and now just being around the drugs can almost kill you.

With the addition of fentanyl and carfentanil to the illicit drug world comes a very real and potentially lethal new threat- secondary exposure overdose.

What is Secondary Exposure?

Secondary exposure is also referred to as secondary contamination or second-hand exposure. It is a term usually used with things like asbestos poisoning or mesothelioma. Sometimes it is even used to describe the effects of radiation. It is when people come into contact with gasses or substances that can be absorbed into the body and do very real damage.

The most common comparison you could make is to second-hand smoke, which is when people smoking cigarettes expose others to the toxic gas they and the cigarette release into the air. Second-hand smoke can cause very real health problems, including some cancers. The most terrible aspect of it being that the individual who gets sick doesn’t even have to smoke themselves.

With drug use secondary exposure overdose has now become a real risk thanks to synthetic opioids. Law enforcement and other officials tell us that some of these dangerous substances must be handled with the utmost caution. The news coming out of Ohio this week is just another example of how hazardous these drugs have become.

Ohio Nurses Experience Secondary Exposure Overdose

At Affinity Medical Center, a hospital in Massilion, Ohio, three nurses helped treat an overdose patient. After cleaning the room where the individual was treated, the three nurses were overcome by secondary exposure. They got sick and shortly after lost consciousness.

Detective Shaun Dadisman states,

“They were cleaning up the room and started to feel sick. And then that left them waking up in a hospital bed,”

According to the investigators in this case, the three nurses were treated with Narcan. The opioid overdose antidote Narcan is the brand name for Naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of opioids on the respiratory system. The local law enforcement believe the substance the nurses were exposed to was fentanyl. Thankfully, all three nurses are said to have recovered.

A union representing nurses at the hospital intends to meet with hospital officials to review protocols for environmental contamination. A spokeswoman from the hospital states that the institution does have effective policies, which isn’t out of the question.

Police Officer Needs Narcan after Secondary Exposure Overdose

Just this summer, a police officer in a very similar situation almost died from an accidental overdose due to secondary exposure. Officer Chris Green was responding to a drug call when the incident occurred. The drug he came in contact with at the time was so powerful that even though officer Green said he was wearing gloves and a mask as he searched a suspect’s car, he still ended up being severely impacted by the substance. Merely by ending up with a white substance on his shirt officer Green needed to be revived with not just one, but multiple doses of Narcan.

How Does Secondary Exposure Overdose Happen?

Detective Shaun Dadisman spoke more about the dangers of opioid overdose through secondary exposure. Dadisman states,

“It shuts down your breathing. It shuts down your system so you get to the point where you’re not breathing on your own. And you need that boost and that Narcan is what takes that away so it helps you to recover quickly,”

Fentanyl and other opioids like carfentanil present a whole new level of danger concerning secondary exposure. The drugs are so intoxicating that  law enforcement and medical personnel are now forced to come up with new policies and protocols just to handle an individual who may be overdosing on these drugs to protect themselves and others. Dadisman stated,

“I was actually stuck by a needle from an individual on a heroin overdose, so I had to run through all of the testing myself,”

The opioid epidemic now doesn’t just present an elevate risk of death to those who are using these drugs. Opioid abuse now poses a very real and deadly danger to those who work to save the lives of users every day. The greatest danger some of these drugs prevent is that of the unknown. As Dadisman points out,

“I think there will be continued changes – gloves, masks. And the problem with our first responders, police officers and our nurses and stuff, is you don’t know immediately what you’re dealing with. After the fact, you may know, but it may be too late.”

So now every day these synthetic opioid drugs don’t just threaten the lives of people who consume them, whether knowingly or not, but also the people closest to them.

So what can be said about secondary exposure overdose? Well, it is safe to say that with some of the most powerful drugs that are out there simply getting some on your skin or breathing it in, even on accident, can cause life-threatening illness. While hopefully this concept does not start a panic, it is a reality that more people should probably be aware of. Whether people are leaving the drug around others, consuming the drug in public places or being revived by loved ones and first responders, the fact is the drugs are stronger and more life-threatening than ever. The fact that a dose of Narcan might not save someone on the first shot should be enough to push for more awareness and more focus on finding a way to fight back.

So, what more can be done about the possibility of secondary exposure overdose?

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioids do not hesitate to get help. The rates for overdoses and opioid-related deaths are far too high to keep gambling with your life. Protect your loved ones and your future. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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