On the 27th of June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosted an Online Opioid Summit to discuss the impact of the digital marketplace on the real-world issue of drug abuse in America. According to earlier reports, the summit was meant to encourage tech officials to collaborate on new initiatives that would take stronger action when it comes to illegal opioids being marketed online. With opioid addiction being such a huge issue today, more effort is being put into stopping the spread of prescription drugs.
However, the summit eventually stirred up a bit on controversy. On one side, the tech companies believe the pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable for the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies pointed to the tech industry as being more responsible.
So while the hope was to use this summit as an opportunity to bring people together, it still created a new version of the opioid blame game. Should the tech industry really be taking more of the blame?
Tech Leaders in Washington
The summit was organized to bring together leaders in the tech industry, along with academic researchers and advocacy groups. Part of the big draw included representatives from Silicon Valley and social media empires, such as:
The Online Opioid Summit also welcomed lobbyists and government officials to participate in the discussion. The involvement of the tech industry in the opioid crisis has been brought up a lot these past few months in Washington, D.C., including:
- The testimony of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Congress months ago
- At the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in April, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the tech industry had not done enough when it came to getting rid of illegal drug sales and marketing online.
- When the FDA sent letters to nine companies, which are responsible for operating 53 online pharmacies, and instructed them to cease the marketing of opioids.
Initially, the FDA’s invitation for the summit suggested the FDA planned to ask tech companies, such as Google and other social media giants, to sign what it called a “Pledge to Reduce the Availability of Illicit Opioids Online.” Had this plan gone through, the pledge would have been published 30 days after the summit.
Tech Industry Pushing Back
However, the FDA decided not to follow through with the plan after speaking at length with tech industry leaders. This may be because the tech companies are pushing back against the claims that they should be held more accountable to the illicit sale of opioids online.
One day before the summit the Internet Association held a call with reporters prior to the summit. For those who aren’t aware, the Internet Association represents various tech industry interests, such as:
A representative from the Internet Association reportedly cited research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The studies they point out state that most people misusing opioids get them from non-online sources.
And even when you do consider the online sale of opioids, reports indicate that either:
- Most illegal online opioid sales are happening on the dark web.
- Some “open” websites claim to sell opioids but actually do not. They actually steal people’s information.
Needless to say, the tech industry is not willing to let the burden on blame rest on their shoulders. However, some still say that does not mean they are unwilling to take steps.
Tech Taking Small Steps on Opioids
In order to eliminate opioid sales online, some of the biggest names in the tech industry are taking steps, even small ones. For example:
Google implemented a special tool on its homepage back in April to help promote the DEA’s Drug Take-Back Day.
This social media cornerstone is redirecting users who are trying to buy opioids on the platform to a help hotline.
As a part of the bigger Facebook family, the photo-sharing app Instagram now monitors hashtags that relate to opioids.
An official from the Internet Association states that many of the trade group’s members:
“-have partnered with nonprofits, health groups and the federal government to educate people about the epidemic and prevent it from spreading.”
While it is a start, some are still asking more of the tech industry. Libby Baney, an advisor to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, tells Wired that beyond the small changes being made, these companies also need to acknowledge the role they have played. Baney states:
“This is a historic opportunity to do more with what we already know is true.”
“If it ends up being us versus them and there’s pointing fingers and a lot of ‘We’re already doing this or that,’ that’s an old-school way of thinking that isn’t responsive to the public health need.”
According to Wired, one FDA spokesperson made statements suggesting that this shouldn’t be labeled a loss,
“We will consolidate the feedback and ideas discussed at the summit and turn it into an actionable plan—not just for those in the room but for all internet stakeholders to join.”
For now, the FDA worries that as other means of obtaining opioids are restricted, the online marketplace will keep growing. Hopefully, the tech industry will continue to work with the FDA and other government agencies to find the most efficient and proactive methods for keeping illegal online pharmacies from exploiting their platforms to distribute dangerous drugs.
Should we hold the tech industry responsible for some of the issues with illegal opioid sales? Should they be doing more to help curb the illegal opioid market? Surely, we cannot blame Facebook or Google for the opioid crisis. But what role can they play in helping slow the spread of drugs?
Furthermore, thing we can do to fight addiction together is to make as many resources for effective addiction treatment more available. Part of overcoming the opioid crisis is getting people who are struggling the help that they need. This means offering medical detox options and holistic treatment programs. The easier for people to find reliable treatment resources, the better chance we all have of making our country safer.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in supporting innovation and offering a personalized path for each individual trying to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. We do our best to connect with those who need us most and help them better understand the opportunities available to them. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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Anyone can see that these are divisive times.
Every day we see another story about protestors, protests against protestors, and counter-protests against those protesting the free-speech of protestors. Various movements drive outrage, and some of the loudest voices today are the most controversial. But are we addicted to it?
Today, the University of Florida in Gainesville is bracing for the impact of another contentious event. Known white supremacist Richard Spencer has been scheduled to arrive today on campus to deliver a speech, promoting his openly racist and radically white nationalist ideals. A guy who seems to have a knack for intentionally stirring up racial tension in public, preaching about ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’, and waving around tiki torches like nobodies business.
With so many other troubling things happening in America; the ongoing opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands every year; the debate on gun control following the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas; the concern over environmental deterioration or the devastation caused by recent Hurricanes to states like Texas and the island of Puerto Rico, doesn’t it seem we already have plenty to argue about?
How do voices like Richard Spencer spark our addiction to the controversy?
White Supremacist Invade Florida
The event is scheduled for this afternoon and will be the first college visit Richard Spencer has made since he and others participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The same day where the horrific display of people marching down the streets of an American city with Nazi flags and Ku Klux Klan symbols, many of them armed, clashed with counter-protestors. The same day a young woman was killed when a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protestors.
Richard Spencer stood on the side with neo-nazis and klansmen.
Today officials at the University of Florida are worried that this event will also become violent. In fact, the president of the University of Florida, Kent Fuchs, believes Richard Spencer wants there to be violence, hoping it will garner sympathy for the ‘alt-right’ movement he represents. In an interview Fuchs states,
“They’re coming to campus with the intentions of confrontation and with the intention of having all of us repeat their view on the world.”
On Monday Rick Scott, Florida Governor, declared a state of emergency for Alachua County to enable law enforcement to work together more effectively at preventing violence. There has also been the talk of activating the National Guard if necessary.
Of course, Richard Spencer took all this extra precaution as an opportunity to pat himself on the back. He’s alleged to be absolutely flattered by the state of emergency on his behalf.
Hint of Hypocrisy
One thing that always comes to these kinds of conversations is the discussion of people’s first amendment rights. When we get to the topic of whether universities should permit speakers to come to their campus, people always argue that the individual’s freedom of speech should be a priority and that these institutions should allow people who are controversial and divisive to speak, regardless of the harm or outrage caused by their poisonous rhetoric.
In this writer’s personal opinion– (and I know this may sound weird)- I agree with letting people I disagree with have a chance to talk. If we give those we think are wrong a chance to speak, we can engage the conversation and challenge them. If we completely silence all ignorance I think we can’t comprehensively address it.
THAT BEING SAID…
The problem I take with situations like this is hearing that the University of Florida is spending over $600,000 on additional security for this event in order to protect white supremacists. Money coming from taxpayers that could be spent on providing tuitions for who knows how many students.
Of course, this is because UF is a public university, and is therefore prohibited from stopping the event based on the contents or views of the speech. The university provided a permit for Spencer to speak, but the event is unaffiliated with the school, and no student groups sponsored the speech or invited Spencer. Plain and simple, it is an absolute set-up for a huge fall-out. And the university is not permitted to defer the costs of protecting Spencer to him or his alt-right movement.
But I digress…
Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy I see here is that the organizers for Spencer’s speech supposedly will only allow people who look like alt-right supporters to be among the 700 people inside the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. I can only guess what they look like.
So in essence, Spencer’s right to preach hate on a college campus should be a priority (sarcasm implied), even if the vast majority of students disagree with his oratory… But no one who disagrees with him should be allowed to participate in the dialog?
Our Addiction to Controversy and Outrage
Of course, just participating in this conversation is part of feeding the controversy. Therefore, this article in and of itself is putting the focus on the divisive subjects that push people into radical ideologies and pull communities apart. But the conversation still needs to be had; why are we so addicted to this kind of conflict?
Did you know our neurobiology rewards our outrage? A simple reason we are addicted to the controversy is that our outrage does feel good.
Our anger overrides all other moral and rational constraints in the brain because it originates from our primordial, original limbic system. This is the part of the brain where our most automatic emotions like fear and desire come from.
The limbic system has the most direct links to our fight-or-flight response system. It controls our adrenaline rushes, alertness, and other instincts. Controversy and outrage tap into those instincts and we can become addicted to the rush we experience through the limbic system.
The ego is a primary fuel source for our outrage and our attraction to controversy. Not only do we get a thrill from the debate and a rush from feeling right in a debate, but it is a way we overcome our own feelings.
Anger can be triggered by feelings of insecurity or weakness. Our outrage is a surge of emotion that flows in to overcome those feelings of fragility. So our outrage and immersion into controversy make us feel stronger or superior.
Feeding Our Addiction
Addiction compels you to chase a high that only makes you feel worse; it reduces you to a lesser version of yourself. It seems, however, that Americans are largely addicted to controversy and discord. When you look on social media or watch television it appears evident we are adopting a society that is hooked on hostility and that undervalues empathy.
How did this happen? Simple; More than most drug addicts, our dealers are literally everywhere! The business of controversy is an ugly but lucrative one. Any drug trafficker knows how that is. Many people who dig up every piece of offensive, frightening or infuriating news to publish don’t typically let it bother them in the same way. Especially online in forums, most posters are thrilled to pedal it because they know their addicted customers all too well.
The drama-dealers know they’re making us feel a thrill of uncertainty or weakness, while simultaneously making us feel stronger and better-than.
True Strength is in Unity
The truth is, being ‘right’ or debating better than others doesn’t make any of us stronger. Our true strength comes not from our addiction to being smarter or superior in any way. ‘Alt-right’ is not the future, it is a reprehensible and sectarian atrocity that should not be given even a finite measure of merit. But people will thrive off of the discourse it will create.
Contrary to the garbage Richard Spencer will spew about diversity being an evil and an unnatural threat to the supremacy of the white race, diversity, and unity despite our differences is what gives us true strength. It almost seems ridiculous that as adults we still have to keep arguing this point. Our nation has a very sordid past, but we are better for admitting it and trying to do better.
People like Richard Spencer, feed on the fear, weakness, insecurity and false strength created by their archaic and disgraceful controversy. This is not strength, it is pure exploitation of their own people in a callous attempt at prestige. Spencer is another dealer, committed to trafficking in racism, fascism, and discontent. Like any other heroin or crack dealer.
Student leaders from the University of Florida have been planning events using #TogetherUF to promote education and dialog while encouraging unity and embracing diversity. Hopefully, these collective efforts to pull people together can counter-balance the separation Spencer and his followers hope to create.
It is with great hope that the campus and its students remain safe, as thousands have already committed to marching in protest of Spencer and his movement.
“Our true nationality is mankind.”
Palm Healthcare Company believes everyone from every culture or community deserves a chance to be happy and healthy. We embrace the unity of our staff, our clients and our community towards building better futures for all of us. We know addiction does not discriminate, and we are here to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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When news travels at the speed of social media there isn’t much of a waiting period for responses to issues that strike a nerve with people. As we were writing and publishing our first response to the story aired by the NBC News Investigation host Megyn Kelly, along with other media outlets such as The New York Times, a fire was catching that lit the internet up.
While we already wrote a response to the Megyn Kelly piece, we wanted to also highlight the amazing response from the recovery community!
The Megyn Kelly story was focused on exposing the fraud and corruption that has infiltrated the addiction treatment industry in South Florida, utilizing interviews with local law enforcement, first responders, politicians and victims of patient brokering and illegitimate sober homes. While it may have been an eye-opener to some in other states, this wasn’t news to the population of South Florida. These tragedies and indiscretions have been talked about for years now. The topic is still causing contention and debate within the community.
However, when the piece aired just this past weekend, many of South Florida’s recovery community set aside much of the debate to answer what was being said.
South Florida Recovery on Social Media
Facebook turned into a major platform yesterday as new hashtags went viral, including:
A huge number of these posts were attached to personal stories of suffering, recovery and astounding accomplishments. Others were attached to photos. Many posts demanding that the media acknowledge the voice of the actual people in the South Florida recovery community. Most of the posts included people sharing their sobriety dates (meaning the day they finally stop drinking or using drugs).
Photo: Facebook posts responding to Megyn Kelly
There is a clear message here- the South Florida recovery community is strong and willing to take a stand.
This profound and inspiring response has been completely organic. One after another people from many areas, especially Delray Beach, started sharing their experience with treatment and recovery in South Florida. Megyn Kelly was tagged in these posts, so surely her social media team got pretty busy sifting through all those notifications.
Some were from people with several months clean and sober, other posts were people with a couple decades of recovery time. There were those who came to Megyn Kelly’s defense, while others took the whole thing as an opportunity to attack her… or the people responding to the story. Still, the presence of South Florida’s own population of people overcoming addiction was making a lot of waves.
The Megyn Kelly Conversation
One thing we should acknowledge about the piece on Megyn Kelly’s show… is it worked.
Granted the camera and narration do not paint the most flattering picture, but it revitalizes an important conversation- safeguarding the addiction treatment industry in South Florida. It worked because we can at least take something from it; the South Florida treatment industry needs to work together with community leaders, officials and people in recovery in the area to help make things better.
However, people in the recovery community did take offense to statements made by people during interviews that implied people were not coming to South Florida and getting better. It might not feel fair to a lot of people who thrive in South Florida’s recovery community that they felt marginalized or misrepresented. Some of the comments suggest that people sent to Florida are more likely to end up dead than they are to end up better, but there seems to be a lot of people with something to say about that.
After hearing the Megyn Kelly story the recovery community in South Florida chose to take the opportunity to stand up for one another. Overnight there was an up-welling of support for those who have come to South Florida, made a life for themselves after treatment and become active members of the community.
It’s About the People
More importantly, this is all about the people who have recovered and the people who are most desperate for it. We want people to know that there are unethical and illicit businesses in every state that exploit this same system, but there are world-class addiction treatment programs in South Florida that take great pride in being part of the solution, not the problem.
This is about the people who have changed their lives, acknowledging their strength, hope and adversities. It is about the people who want to believe that there is a safe place with people who care about improving themselves and each other. We have to let people know what to look for, how to ask the right questions and how to make educated decisions on how to best treat them or their loved ones.
For a more detailed look into the difference between addiction treatment programs and sober living facilities, download our FREE e-book:
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We are proud of how the recovery community of South Florida has responded to the Megyn Kelly story. Part of fixing the issues facing people with addiction is to strip away the stigma of substance use disorder, and a keystone to fixing the stigma is education and awareness. South Florida stood up and told the world #wedorecover because they know if we #tellthewholestory then the entire nation may see that addiction treatment is about healing and helping people together.
South Florida recovery set social media on fire a few nights ago… because South Florida recovery is full of absolutely amazing people too! Imagine if we did that all the time! Imagine if we took it upon ourselves to make this happen every chance we got! Who might get the help they need because of what we share?
My name is Justin Mckibben
My sobriety date is November 28th, 2013
Every recovery community has its faults, but the recovery community of South Florida is an amazing place to start your journey to change that could save your life. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398