How Much Has Heroin Addiction Cost the Economy?

How Much Has Heroin Addiction Cost the Economy?

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.

  1. Medical Costs

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.

  1. 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.

  1. Criminal Activity

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.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Remembering Anthony Bourdain: Cooking, Traveling and Giving Up Heroin

Remembering Anthony Bourdain: Cooking, Traveling and Giving Up Heroin

Anthony Michael Bourdain, born June 25, 1956, was a man with a rich and vibrant legacy. He took us on exotic adventures to explore the world and tried to expand the view of the audience on culinary arts and culture. He was much more to so many than a celebrity chef.

Anthony Bourdain was an author, travel documentarian, and television personality. He used programs like A Cooks Tour and No Reservations to travel across the globe, focusing on the international culture, cuisine, and the human condition. He has sat down for humble lunches with President Obama, and his explosive personality has even been featured in cartoons like The Simpsons and popular FX series Archer. Bourdain has taken us to some of the most secluded corners of faraway places to chat with the locals and enjoy a simple dessert. Anthony Bourdain was widely regarded as one of the most influential chefs in the world.

On June 8th, 2018 the world was shocked to hear that Anthony Bourdain had died at 61 years old. Even more heartbreaking was to learn his death was a suicide. Over the last several days, his passing has sparked a continuous stream of dialog about mental health and the need for treatment resources. Over the years the famous traveling chef fought against drugs like heroin, as well as depression. As we remember who Anthony Bourdain was, and as we call for letting go of stigma and pushing forward with helping those in need, it is important to look at the whole story.

Kitchen Confidential

Anthony Bourdain first fought his way up the kitchen ladder in New York to become a long-time chef at Brasserie Les Hallas. Around this time, he wrote his breakthrough memoirs titled Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which took him beyond the cutting boards to carving his way through the literary map.

Part of this first memoir describes the long journey that brought him to become a chef, and a notable element of his story is extreme excursions into drugs, strung out over years. In the book Kitchen Confidential he wrote about his experiences back in 1981 working at a restaurant:

“We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in refrigerator at every opportunity to ‘conceptualize.’ Hardly a decision was made without drugs. Cannabismethaqualone, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey and used to sweeten tea, secobarbital, tuinal, amphetamine, codeine and, increasingly, heroin, which we’d send a Spanish-speaking busboy over to Alphabet City to get.”

Later, Bourdain became more open about discussing his drug use. He’d even said some of these problems should have killed him in his 20s. In 2014, he did an episode of his show Parts Unknown that highlighted the ongoing opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. During the episode he says,

“Somebody who wakes up in the morning and their first order of business is (to) get heroin — I know what that’s like,”

Parts Unknown went on to be honored with five Emmy awards.

Eventually, Anthony Bourdain found himself kicking heroin in the 80s in drug rehab. When talking about finally getting clean he said,

“And we’re the lucky ones. We made it out alive. There are a lot of guys that didn’t get that far. But you know, I also don’t have that many regrets either.”

However, he admits to still worked long hours in New York kitchens interspersed with binges that consisted of cocaine and alcohol. Following rehab that Bourdain had cleaned up his act, although he continued drinking alcohol. He later wrote,

“Most people who kick heroin and cocaine have to give up on everything. Maybe because my experiences were so awful in the end, I’ve never been tempted to relapse,”

On June 8, 2018, Bourdain was found dead of an apparent suicide by hanging in his room at the Le Chambard hotel in Kaysersberg, France. At the time he had been traveling with friend Éric Ripert. Ripert reported that he became worried when Bourdain missed dinner and breakfast. According to the public prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel, Bourdain’s body showed no signs of violence. At this point there has been no official word on toxicology tests to determine whether drugs or medications were involved in his tragic death.

Legacy

It is hard to put into words the life and legacy of a man as dynamic as Anthony Bourdain. He wasn’t just a face on TV, he was a voice trying to tell us to embrace more of the delicious variety in life. It is easier to just look at some of his many accomplishments. Bourdain wrote multiple bestselling nonfiction books over the years, including:

  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
  • Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
  • A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal
  • The Nasty Bits

His articles and essays appeared in many publications, including:

  • The New Yorker
  • The New York Times
  • The Times
  • Los Angeles Times
  • The Observer
  • Gourmet
  • Maxim
  • Esquire

He even co-wrote an original graphic novel titled Get Jiro! For DC Comics/Vertigo.

Between 2002-2018 he hosted a number of shows, including:

  • A Cook’s Tour
  • No Reservations
  • The Layover
  • Parts Unknown

He worked on various other television shows, doing everything from judging to producing.

With the sudden news of Bourdain’s death, people from all across the world have paid homage to the man who did so much to try and share the beauty of diversity with us all. In the days following Bourdain’s death fans paid tribute to him outside his now-closed former place of employment, Brasserie Les Halles on New York City’s Park Avenue.

Fellow celebrity chefs and other public figures expressed sentiments of condolence, including Gordon Ramsay and Andrew Zimmern.

Beyond his amazing adventures of cooking in different countries, Bourdain also believed in making a difference for those less fortunate. He championed industrious immigrants from places like Mexico, Ecuador, and other countries in Central and South America.

He became a big advocate in the fight against sexual harassment in the restaurant industry in 2017, calling out other celebrity chefs and people in Hollywood.

Depression and Suicide

Anthony Bourdain had also been open about his struggles with depression. In 2016 he did an episode of Parts Unknown where he traveled to Argentina for psychotherapy. At one point he tells the camera,

“I will find myself in an airport, for instance, and I’ll order an airport hamburger. It’s an insignificant thing, it’s a small thing, it’s a hamburger, but it’s not a good one. Suddenly I look at the hamburger and I find myself in a spiral of depression that can last for days.”

While the passion he had for his work is quite obvious, traveling around 250 days of the year can take a toll. More than once he described his life as lonely. During an interview with People magazine, he said he was living the dream, but admitted that it did come at a cost. That cost may have had something to do with the ups and downs of marriage and divorce he experienced over the years.

Only a few months ago, when discussing his 11-year-old daughter Ariane, Bourdain had said he felt he had to “at least try to live” for her. Although he explained he also felt he did have things to live for. Sadly, it seems that over time, the iconic chef started losing his battle with the feelings he wrestled with on the road.

Anthony Bourdain’s death is another tragic loss in a trend we have seen a spike over the years, including among celebrities. Only three days before Bourdain’s own death, fashion designer Kate Spade took her own life. Suicide is a growing problem in the United States. According to a survey published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Suicide rates increased by 25% across the country over nearly two decades ending in 2016.
  • 25 states have experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%

While Anthony Bourdain may have been clean for decades, there was still pain there. While overcoming drugs may have been a huge victory in his inspiring legacy, other fights can still wear us down.

There is Help

As we remember the incredible impact that Anthony Bourdain had as an adventurer and advocate, we emphasize the importance of supporting those who need it the most. Sadly, we don’t always know when people need help. But we should always work to make sure people know that there is help, no matter what they are struggling with.

“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

Anthony Bourdain

June 25, 1956 – June 8, 2018

Mental health is an important part of recovery for people who struggle with drugs or alcohol. Fighting depression and suicide prevention means supporting well-being and fighting for mental health support. For those struggling, treatment for mental health disorders and addiction is not always the easiest thing to seek out, but as we as a nation continue to evolve the conversation and raise awareness more people are finding out about the amazing pathways to a life in recovery that are out there. We urge you to seek yours. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, please call toll-free now. You are not alone.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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

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