The battle against opioid addiction in America is being fought every day, and many are fighting hard to create more opportunities for treatment and recovery. With more awareness being raised across the country, many are turning to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) methods as a way to address illicit opioid abuse and overdose. One of the most commonly known medications used in MAT is Suboxone.
MAT programs can be very helpful as a harm reduction strategy that gives people struggling with addiction a chance to avoid harmful withdrawals. However, addiction specialists also recognize that MAT alone is not an adequate substitute for comprehensive addiction treatment.
Furthermore, medications like Suboxone can be useful, but only to an extent. This drug may help to curb withdrawal symptoms from opioids like heroin or prescription painkillers, but it is also a powerful narcotic that can cause its own symptoms of dependence and withdrawal. Some people have tried to utilize Suboxone to get off of other drugs, only to find themselves dependent on this medication. So how do you stop using Suboxone?
More About Suboxone
Suboxone is a medication primarily for helping people stop using other opioids. The medication is a combination of two drugs:
Most people do not realize that Buprenorphine is itself an opioid. This semi-synthetic opioid medication is different from other opioids because it is a partial opioid agonist. What this means is that its maximal effects are less than full agonists such as heroin or methadone.
However, it still creates feelings of euphoria and respiratory depression. With chronic use, this opioid can still cause physical dependence.
This medication is used to block the effects of opioids, especially when it comes to opioid overdose. It is added to the Buprenorphine to attempt to decrease the risk of misuse. Due to the nature of this medication, if someone takes Naloxone while still experiencing the effects of an opioid it can cause them to go into sudden withdrawal.
The makers of Suboxone do warn that it can be abused in a manner similar to other opioids, both legal and illicit. They issue a number of other warnings for those considering using the medication, including:
- Injecting Suboxone may cause serious withdrawal symptoms.
- Suboxone film can cause serious, life-threatening breathing problems, overdose and death, particularly when taken intravenously in combination with benzodiazepines or other medications that act on the central nervous system.
- One should not drink alcohol while taking this medication, as it can lead to unconsciousness or even death.
Some of the adverse effects of Suboxone use include:
- Numb mouth
- Painful tongue
- Redness of mouth
- Disturbance in attention
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sleep problems
- Blurred vision
- Back pain
These are only a few examples. Some circumstances may lead to further complications, including someone being pregnant or living with severe hepatic impairment. You should discuss any decision you make to start or stop using Suboxone with a healthcare professional.
5 Steps to Stop Using Suboxone
Speak with a medical professional
If you have a Suboxone prescription, do not stop taking it without speaking to a healthcare professional first. Abruptly discontinuing a MAT program can not only cause you a great deal of discomfort, but it can be very dangerous. Trying to quit without medical assistance also creates the risk of relapse and overdose.
This is why safe medical Suboxone detox is such an important element of any addiction treatment program.
Before you decide to stop using Suboxone, speak with your personal physician or a medical addiction specialist in order to decide what is the safest and most effective way to move forward.
Taper vs Cold Turkey
When someone goes ‘cold turkey’ to stop using Suboxone, they essentially discontinue without any kind of medical support. Again, we remind you that this can be extremely dangerous and is always counterproductive. A better choice is to develop a plan with a medical professional that utilizes a gradual taper or even medications to assist with withdrawals.
Health experts recommend gradually reducing doses of buprenorphine. Typically, you can lower your dosage over a period of three weeks or more, reducing the doses by 10%-20% each week. The best way to decide how to do this is by working with a medical professional.
Get comprehensive addiction therapy
Another crucial aspect of addiction treatment is the opportunity for comprehensive addiction therapy. Individuals have a much better chance to stop using Suboxone for the long-term when they address the underlying issues that lead them to use opioids in the first place. Sometimes, drug use stems from emotional issues, trauma, or behaviors that are self-destructive. When people avoid addressing these issues, they become vulnerable to relapsing as a means to cope with them later.
Therapy not only helps people uncover the root cause of their pain, but it also teaches people new, healthy ways to cope with these issues.
Build a support group in recovery
Once someone has started the recovery process, a huge part of staying on the right path is to build a support group. It is very difficult to try and stop using Suboxone or any other drug all on your own. Having friends, family or mentors provides people with the resources to reach out to when they are struggling.
When trying to overcome addiction, it can be difficult for some to relate to people who do not understand addiction. Thankfully, there are support groups all over the country that offer assistance to each other while dealing with a specific issue. Most people know of 12-Step programs and other support groups for alcohol or drug addiction.
Participate in aftercare programs
Another useful element of treatment is aftercare. While support groups are extremely helpful, another way to stay involved in the ongoing process of addiction recovery is to get involved in aftercare programs. Many treatment providers will have programs in place to support those who have completed the inpatient levels of care, such as residential treatment, and are ready to transition back into everyday life.
When you stop using Suboxone, it is a good idea to stay connected with those who can offer support and guidance.
When a lot of people hear about medication-assisted treatment, they think it is an easy way out of addiction. Some people automatically assume that you can trade an addiction to heroin or Oxycodone for a dependence on Suboxone or another drug and everything will be fine. However, with MAT programs the goal should never be to rely on a medication for the long-term.
Medication-assisted treatment does make a difference. For some people, the fear of withdrawal symptoms keeps them using far more potent and dangerous drugs. Because they do not want to experience the pain, they keep using. Sometimes, this leads to death. So giving someone the chance to reduce the risk by using a prescription medication might keep them alive long enough to get treatment. But that is the important thing- to get the treatment.
Medications like Methadone and Suboxone are only supposed to be one piece of a more comprehensive treatment plan. They are intended to act as a short-term tool to help people ease their discomfort and avoid suffering while they try to give up drugs. MAT programs are only really effective when they are accompanied by therapy and other means of treatment. So if you want to stop using Suboxone and start recovering, seek out a rehab program that wants to help you heal.
Holistic addiction treatment is specifically designed to treat the entire person, not just the addiction. This kind of approach offers a variety of opportunities to develop new coping skills, learn more about addiction and the impact of drugs on the body, and experience innovative treatment modalities to heal the mind, body and spirit. For over 20 years, Palm Healthcare Company has been a leader in providing holistic addiction treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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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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For the first time in six years, the DEA has ordered a suspension on a pharmaceutical wholesaler, and it’s a Big Pharma opioid distributor- Morris & Dickson.
We now know that officials all over the country, both at the state and federal levels, are joining forces to go after Big Pharma companies for pushing powerful opioid painkillers that contributed to one of the greatest addiction outbreaks in American history. While not everyone agrees on the role prescription drugs played in the opioid crisis, many believe the questionable marketing and distribution practices is reason enough for real intervention.
Lawsuits against opioid makers are taking place all over the US, and distribution companies are finding themselves in the hot seat.
DEA vs Opioid Distributor
This latest news comes following an investigation into Morris & Dickson. Allegedly, the investigation uncovered evidence that the Big Pharma opioid distributor neglected to inform the DEA about large quantities of addiction painkillers being bought up by independent pharmacies.
This is a problem because, according to The Hill, reporting such information to the DEA is a requirement.
Back in October of 2017 the investigation into the opioid distributor out of Shreveport, Louisiana got kicked off after reports came in that Morris & Dickson had sold narcotics to five of the state’s top 10 drug-purchasing pharmacies, but never filed any suspicious activity reports in any of these cases. In a statement Friday, the Justice Department revealed that according to the DEA investigation, independent pharmacies were allowed to purchase six times the amount they would normally order from the opioid distributor.
For the record- pharmaceutical distributors like Morris & Dickson are legally required to report unusually large shipments of narcotics to the government as a safeguard against prescription medications from making their way to the illicit drug market. DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson said in a statement:
“Distributors have an obligation to ensure that all pharmaceutical controlled substances their customer’s order are for legitimate use, and it is their duty to identify, recognize and report suspicious orders to DEA,”
“This is another reminder that DEA will hold accountable those companies who choose to operate outside the law.”
The Big Pharma opioid distributor will have the chance to appeal the suspension during an administrative hearing.
Morrison & Dickson Fight Back
Let the record show that Morrison & Dickson are definitely not taking these charges sitting down. The opioid distributor has struck back against the suspension with a federal lawsuit. They adamantly hold that they will fight the suspension. Company president Paul M. Dickson released his own statement, saying:
“Sadly, in this case, the DEA has gotten it wrong. We would’ve proved that to them had they given us the chance.”
They already asked a judge last Thursday to overturn the DEA suspension. In the legal claim against the DEA order the opioid distributor states:
“Make no mistake—this is a life and death situation. Morris & Dickson services 30-40% of the hospital drug market in Louisiana and Texas alone. If Morris & Dickson cannot ship needed medications to these hospitals, these hospitals may face immediate drug shortages.”
The company president also maintains that the opioid distributor has already greatly reduced its circulation of opioids. Dickson emphasizes that the company provides medications that many patients do desparately need. He also acknowledges the devastation caused by the opioid crisis, saying:
“Everyone in the Morris & Dickson family has been touched by the opioid crisis. That’s why we’ve taken aggressive and effective voluntary measures against any potential opioid diversion from medical use. We have reduced our opioid distribution dramatically. And it’s why we’re so proud of our history of 177 years with no outside enforcement actions against us.”
At this point, only time will tell if the company will have to adhere to the suspension for much longer.
Some people argue that moves like this from the DEA are too aggressive or an over-reach. However, given the circumstances, this seems like a logical response. Looking at the massive shipments of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, it seems like it shouldn’t be too much to ask they notify the DEA.
What is Next?
Big Pharma executives testified for Congress yesterday, answering questions about their role in the prescription drug problem. The Washington Post reports that this could be a defining moment for the opioid industry. Witnesses for the hearing included high ranking executives from:
- Miami-Luken, INC
- McKesson Corporation
- Cardinal Health
- AmerisourceBergen Corporation
- HD Smith Wholesale Drug Company
During the hearing, Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi states:
“We have learned much from the investigation but still have many questions,”
“Why did the distributors repeatedly fail to report suspicious orders of opioids or exercise effective controls against diversion?”
He goes on to explain that the DEA identified opioid distributor companies as a key element to combating the diversion of drugs to the black market. He states that distributors have often claimed that they were too limited to properly address these issues, as they do not understand the whole scope as the DEA does. However, he argues that distributors do have a great deal of data collection, and should be aware of their impact.
According to Congressman Harper, distributors also frequently argue that they are simply providing a service. They do not control the demand, but simply offer the supply based on the prescriptions from physicians. This argument seems a bit of a cop-out, and almost sounds like something a street-level drug dealer would say.
The committee also adds that over the course of 6 years, opioid distributor companies filled the state of West Virginia with over 780 million Hydrocodone and Oxycodone pills, while 1,728 people in West Virginia fatally overdosed on those two painkillers.
In their opening statements, each Big Pharma distributor representative acknowledged the devastation of the epidemic. However, when asked by Chairman Harper if they believed their companies contributed to the opioid epidemic, except for the chairman of the board for Miami-Luken Dr. Robert E. Mastandrea, they all said no.
In fact, Dr. Mastandrea seemed to be the only one consistently willing to admit that Miami-Luken had made mistakes that helped create the opioid crisis.
While it will take time to determine the impact of these testimonies, one thing we can say now is that drug distribution companies are quickly finding themselves on the chopping block when it comes down to the efforts to curb prescription opioids abuse.
For now, a crucial part of fighting the opioid epidemic is going to be providing safe and effective addiction treatment. It may not be easy to put a stop to the spread of addiction, but there are programs that can help you break out of the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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Eminem; Marshall Bruce Mathers III; The Real Slim Shady, is not just an icon in rap who had an unfathomable impact on hip-hop culture. He is also a man who has endured a lifetime of public controversy, private conflict, personal loss and emotional pain. Not only does this make his music career that much more powerful, but it makes his journey through addiction and recovery that much more gripping. With Eminem celebrating 10 years of sobriety this month, we take a quick look at the story of sober Slim Shady.
Eminem Celebrating Sobriety
A few days ago, between his headlining sets at this year’s Coachella, 45-year-old Marshall Mathers took to social media to share a message with his fans. On Instagram Slim Shady posted a photo of his ten-year medallion on Saturday, April 21. The circle, marked with an ‘X’ for the Roman numeral ten, is a token he received to commemorate a decade of continuous sobriety. To caption the image, he wrote:
“Celebrated my 10 years yesterday”
In just 2 days’ time, the image had already garnered over 1.7 million likes and over 33,000 comments. He wasn’t the only one utilizing his social status to share that powerful moment. Fellow rap artist and friend in sobriety Royce Da 5’9” also took to Twitter to give the real Slim Shady a shout out for his recovery milestone, writing:
“Happy sobriety birthday to my mentor @Eminem… Keep fighting the good fight homie… I love you for life”
Eminem has also shared moments of his journey through recovery with other famous sober peers, including Sir Elton John. The post prompted many fans on social media to congratulate Mathers on his anniversary. Others shared how he had helped inspire many others in recovery.
The last ten years have not been easy for Slim Shady, but it seems they have been worth it.
A Quick Look at a Legend
Long before Eminem got sober, he was a household name and best selling artist. Over his whole career, he has had a truly incredible list of accomplishments, including:
- 10 number-one albums on the Billboard 200
- Five number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100
- 4 million albums sold in the US
- 220 million records globally
- He is among the world’s best-selling artists of all time
- He is the only artist to have eight albums consecutively debut at number one on the Billboard 200
- Winner of 15 Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album
All of this, not to mention successful clothing lines, the creation of his label Shady Records which helped launch artists like 50 Cent and Yelawolf, and his own Sirius XM Radio channel, Shade 45. He gave us such gifts as D12 and Slaughterhouse, while also inspiring countless other artists.
Eminem isn’t only known for his music, but also for the controversy surrounding him. Whether it was the ugly battles with his mother, ex-wife, or the legal trouble he was conflicted with publically, it all fueled an image of a man who lived in a courtroom fighting painful scandals. He used the pain in his creative process, and the world was given a lot of angry, violent, and even poetic moments.
The Academy Award-winning film 8 Mile, which he starred in, made him the first rap artist to ever win the award for Best Original Song with “Lose Yourself”. Followed by various other film and entertainment ventures.
Oh, and don’t forget the Marshall Mathers Foundation, which aids disadvantaged youth.
The list just goes on and on. There is not enough time here to cover the truly immeasurable impact Eminem has had on not just hip-hop culture, but on the overall culture in America.
Getting to 10 Years
Slim Shady has always been pretty public about his struggles with addiction to prescription drugs. It is laced in his image over the years and is a prominent subject of his music. Back in 2002, a fellow artist said he had been trying to straighten out, but while working on 8 Mile he was introduced to Ambien and this prescription took him deeper down the path. When talking about working on his album Encore, Slim Shady once said he would “just go into the studio and goof off [with] a pocketful of pills”.
In 2007, Eminem suffered from an accidental methadone overdose after his addiction had spiraled out of control. At one point he revealed that he was taking up to 60 Valium and 30 Vicodin pills a day. After adding Ambien to the mix, he made his way to methadone by the end of his substance abuse. In 2011 when interviewed about the overdose, he stated:
“The doctors told me I’d done the equivalent of four bags of heroin… They said I was about two hours from dying.”
In a 2011 New York Times interview Slim Shady said,
“I used to get pills wherever I could. I was just taking anything that anybody was giving to me.”
Following that near-death experience, the Detroit rap legend chose to attend an addiction treatment program in Michigan. However, he ended up relapsing short of a month out of the hospital.
He reported that his star status made rehab difficult for him to focus on himself. Instead, he chose to detox at a hospital and dove into counseling and therapy. He credits his children, including his biological daughter Hailie, and two adopted daughters Lainey and Whitney. He also gives credit to exercise, saying that running helped him find a healthier high that helped him sleep.
When looking at his story, it is absolutely remarkable the impact that Slim Shady had had on the world of hip-hop or just music in general. He has been described by many as one of the greatest artists of all time, with billions of fans all over the globe. To hear about the life he lived; through poverty, depression, desperation, and addiction, to be a living legend only speaks to the inspiration in his experience, strength and hope. We celebrate the path Eminem walks and the work he has done over the years to make it this far.
Thank you for sharing, Slim Shady.
It can be a real inspiration to see some of the most successful people are recovering alcoholics and addicts. It reminds us that we all can suffer the same way and that we all have the same chance to build a better future. The more heroes we have every day that step up and share their message of hope, the more hope we may have that people seek the help they desperately need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
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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.
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 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:
- The federal death penalty is available for a few drug offenses. This includes violations of the “drug kingpin” provisions in federal law.
- 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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Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an announcement at a news conference Tuesday that the Justice Department will be creating a new task force to pursue the makers and distributors of prescription opioids. It seems that beyond pursuing new restrictions being put on prescriptions, there will be a more intentional focus on Big Pharma and those who many believe have made the opioid crisis possible.
Jeff Sessions said the task force will “examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine if we can be of assistance.”
Meanwhile, Sessions also included the Justice Department is going to be backing a lawsuit in Ohio against major prescription opioid makers.
Ohio VS Opioid Makers Lawsuit
In truth, this lawsuit isn’t just about the state of Ohio. It consolidates more than 400 complaints by cities, counties and Native American tribes nationwide. Buckeye Nation has definitely been hit hard by the opioid crisis, but for now, the stage is set here for a massive effort against questionable practices from opioid makers.
The lawsuit that solicits the Justice Departments attention is pending in Federal District Court in Cleveland. It goes after various companies for using misleading marketing to promote prescription opioids, including:
The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of:
- Downplaying the risk of addiction to these drugs
- Failing to report suspicious orders by consumers, which would indicate the drugs were being abused
Furthermore, there are some big names in Big Pharma being listed as defendants, including:
- Johnson & Johnson
- Purdue Pharma
- Teva Pharmaceuticals
The suit is also going after large distributors, such as:
Not to mention pharmacy chains like:
So how will the Justice Department be engaging in the current lawsuit? How will this new development impact the outcome of the case?
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Statement of Interest Against Opioid Makers
During the press briefing, Sessions explained that the Justice Department plans to file what is called a “statement of interest” in the Ohio lawsuit. This is a technique that past administrations typically would only resort to in cases that directly affect the federal government’s interests, such as diplomacy and national security.
However, with the intensity of the opioid crisis being what it is, it is perfectly understandable to make it such a high priority for the current administration to get involved with. So far, recovery advocates have been largely unimpressed with the half-measures that have been presented thus far with the Trump administration to address the issue.
By invoking the statement of interest, the attorney general is legally able to argue on behalf of the government’s interest in any court in the country. However, it does not make the government a plaintiff. All things considered, Sessions said his department will use criminal and civil penalties. He states,
“We will use whatever tools we have to hold people accountable for breaking our laws.”
Which is quite a statement, considering it isn’t at all common for criminal charges to be brought against Big Pharma.
The Devil Is in the Data
What brought the Justice Department into this began with a discussion on access to certain data. This past Monday, lawyers for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to the Ohio courtroom to discuss how much data they would share about the national distribution of painkillers.
The DEA said it would only provide two years of information in the case, asserting that the agency did not want to compromise ongoing criminal investigations. However, Judge Dan Aaron Polster’s request is to provide the sides with nine years of data. He said the agency has until next Monday to decide whether it will comply. This data can assist in determining:
- The number of pills distributed
- The locations
- The distributors
This information could be crucial in allocating liability.
Richard Fields, a lawyer who represents state attorneys general and sovereign Native American nations in opioid litigation, predicts that the statement of interest from the Justice Department “will help unlock this data so that we can hold manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies accountable for flooding communities with pills.”
Therefore, it appears Sessions is going to be taking some big steps toward calling out Big Pharma for their involvement in the opioid crisis. Sessions says the government will be taking a hard look at doctors who overprescribe prescription painkillers. Even legal drugs like these too often lead to addiction and abuse of illegal drugs like heroin.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he believes this is a game changer. With all the suffering communities in Ohio have seen over the past several years, we can only hope.
Holding Big Pharma accountable is a huge step. Nevertheless, we should also highlight the need for state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a dramatic difference in helping heal communities. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398