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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

DEA Can't Do Its Job

The American opioid addiction epidemic has no parallel in modern history. What has happened over the last two-decades is too difficult to understand and even harder to combat. At Hope by The Sea, we have seen firsthand the devastation caused by opioid use disorder. We are acutely aware that, more times than not, it’s a condition that begins with a legal prescription for opioid painkillers. Today, all the talk is about heroin, fentanyl and other synthetic opiates that have the power to kill. However, we must never lose sight of the actual driving force of this epidemic, the pharmaceutical industry.

When people are dying at staggering rates, society expects accountability—naturally. Over the years there have been several shifts in playing the dangerous game of blame. First, it was the patient's fault, and then it was the doctor's fault. Patients found diverting medication faced jail time; doctors who overprescribed met similar consequences. The attention turned next to the medical industry approach to pain management, to which the industry has made efforts to address. The next target was the pharmaceutical industry; from painkiller manufacturers to the local pharmacy.

In between companies like Purdue Pharma and pharmacies, such as CVS, are medication distributors. These are go-betweens in every sense of the word, they move OxyContin from Purdue to CVS. Notable distributors, you may know, have been in the news over the years for their role in the epidemic, i.e., McKesson Pharmaceutical and Cardinal Health. Such companies have been fined and sued for filling orders that were the very definition of suspicious. The fines did get paid, but according to a new report, pharmaceutical distributors won in the end.


Hobbling the DEA

opioid addictionJoe Rannazzisi is a name that few had ever heard of before this weekend when The Washington Post and CBS: "60 Minutes" introduced him to America on Sunday. Rannazzisi, former head of the DEA's Office of Diversion Control, a division of the agency responsible for regulating and investigating the pharmaceutical industry. The former DEA deputy assistant administrator, CBS reports, has a degree in pharmacy and law.

Going after doctors didn’t impact the abuse and overdose death rates, prompting Rannazzisi to set his sights on the opioid painkiller distributors. Naturally, distribution companies have nearly unlimited resources and unbelievable clout in Washington D.C. They used their influence and money to stymie Rannazzisi's efforts; resulting in a severe blow to the DEA’s ability to cite and levy fines on such companies when they fill suspicious orders. Rannazzisi told CBS:

“This is an industry that's out of control. What they wanna do, is do what they wanna do, and not worry about what the law is. And if they don't follow the law in drug supply, people die. That's just it. People die." He adds: “This is an industry that allowed millions and millions of drugs to go into bad pharmacies and doctors' offices, that distributed them out to people who had no legitimate need for those drugs." 

The pushback paid off with the passing of H.R.4709 - Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2014. This is a bill that the drug industry spent $102 million between 2014 and 2016 lobbying Congress to help pass, according to The Washington Post. Before H.R. 4079, the DEA could freeze narcotic shipments that they deemed suspicious. The new industry-friendly law makes it nearly impossible for the DEA to stop the flow of suspicious orders.

“If I was gonna write a book about how to harm the United States with pharmaceuticals, the only thing I could think of that would immediately harm is to take the authority away from the investigative agency that is trying to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and the regulations implemented under the act. And that's what this bill did.” — Rannazzisi said to CBS

Please take some time to watch the "60 Minutes" segment. For a more in-depth analysis of how this all came to be, turn to The Washington Post.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

It’s hard to say what will come of the reporting mentioned above. Hopefully, it will lead to change for the better. In the meantime, efforts must continue to encourage everyone who has been caught in the cycle of prescription opioid addiction to seek help. If you are one of those individuals, please contact Hope by The Sea. From medical detox to residential treatment, we can help you set a course for long-term recovery.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tracking Overdoses In Real Time

Utilizing technology to address the American opioid addiction epidemic is a must. Hundreds of Americans die from an overdose each week. Over 50,000 lethal drug overdoses occurred in 2015, and 64,000 died in 2016. Experts prepared to see even more fatal overdoses this year. The numbers keep rising, and while naloxone is more available than ever, it doesn’t always work.

Time is vital to successful drug overdose reversals; the window to administer naloxone is relatively small. Furthermore, if a person overdoses on heroin laced with synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil, naloxone effectiveness is diminished. Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is sometimes no match for the potency of synthetic opioids.

First responders have no way of knowing when an overdose involves fentanyl. Information shared between cities and states about spikes in fentanyl prevalence isn't in real time. Drug traffickers follow particular routes. If a swath of fentanyl-related overdoses happens in one area, then experts can predict which city can expect the same. Provided however that the data is readily available and easy to access. Finding out about an overdose spike in a neighboring town two weeks later doesn’t do anyone a whole lot of good.


Overdose Mapping In Real Time

EMTs sharing overdose information with each other in real time has many benefits. The Washington/Baltimore division of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) teamed up with Esri, a geospatial technology company to create the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), NBC News reports. Jeff Beeson, the deputy director of HIDTA, points out that overdose information has been tracked in the past but it’s always isolated.

Credit: HIDTA

First responders use ODMAP at the scene of an overdose. The program is not open to the public, and a victim's personal information doesn't get shared on the database. EMTs can access a website on their smartphone and share info on a particular overdose, according to the article. Was the overdose fatal? Was naloxone administered? The shared information is mapped, giving police chiefs and officials a picture of where overdoses are being reported in real-time. Using the data from ODMAP, gives officials the ability to direct the necessary resources to the right places.

"This data is moving in real time across geopolitical boundaries," said Chris McIntosh, Esri's director of national government industries. "It's being analyzed in real time, so both the community and the public safety organizations can see trends when they occur — not in the days and weeks after, when someone does analysis on the data." 

Some 5,200 suspected overdoses have gotten plugged into ODMAP since January, the article reports. The program is currently being utilized in 85 counties in 19 states.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Synthetic opioids have become commonplace, and overdose rates are expected to rise, as a result. The surest way to avoid potentially fatal overdoses is to seek addiction treatment. At Hope by The Sea we can help you detox from opioids, break the cycle of addiction, and start you down the road of long-term recovery. Please contact us today.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017

If you own a business or are in charge of one, the World Health Organization (WHO) is asking for your help. Some of you may be thinking about scratching your head at this point, asking: ‘what does WHO want with me?’ The easiest answer to that question is, compassion. At least when it comes to the mental health of those in your employ.

Millions of people around the globe battle serious mental health conditions each year. Those who do not get help, or fear even talking about their mental illness, are in a bad way. Unable to seek assistance for fear of employment repercussions. Even if employers are no longer apt to fire people over exhibiting abnormal behavior, the fear lives on. And, rightly so; society does not have a great track record when it comes to compassion towards people living with mental illness.

Due to our history, comprised of centuries of stigma, those afflicted have lost their voice. Short of mental illness, there aren’t any health problems that people will attempt to hide. Spurn treatment for fear of social repercussions. Which comes at great cost, not just to the individual, but also to society. When a person doesn’t get the help they require, we all suffer. An idea supported by facts.


Mental Illness Around The Word

world mental health day
Mental illness is a pandemic. As we have pointed out before, more than 300 million people around the world battle depression each year, according to WHO. Making it the number one cause of poor health. The organization also highlights the fact that more than 260 million struggle with anxiety per annum. In many cases, people have to contend with both anxiety and depression.

When somebody experiences an episode, they are likely to call in sick to work. Usually making up an excuse. If they do muster the strength to get to their desk, productivity is likely to be lacking. In most cases, such people are not in any kind of therapy or have any means of coping with their symptoms. Which often leads to a host of other problems, not the least of which is addiction. Without any coping mechanisms, individuals are apt to seek comfort wherever they can find it. Illicit drug use and drinking alcohol are common methods of achieving desired relief.

Substance use may have a positive effect initially, but in the long run dependence and addiction become one’s lot. Once that occurs, self-medication transmogrifies into a co-occurring mental health disorder. An occurrence which could be avoided by promoting mental health in the workplace. WHO writes:

“Employers and managers who put in place workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity at work. A negative working environment, on the other hand, may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity.” 

A study, led by WHO, estimates that depression and anxiety disorders have combined cost in US$ of 1 trillion each year to the global economy in lost productivity.


World Mental Health Day

Encouraging employers to exercise compassion is one way to help millions of people get assistance. Today, is World Mental Health Day 2017. The theme this year is Mental health in the workplace. The goal, of course, is to promote mental health and raise awareness about mental illness. Mental health conditions can affect anyone, and those who are affected desperately need the support of society for recovery to be better achieved.

At Hope by The Sea, we stand by the World Health Organization in spreading the message that mental health recovery is possible. And, it starts with treatment. Please contact us if you are struggling, we can help.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions

In recovery, it’s important to never take ourselves too seriously. That’s not to say that we should make light of every serious situation or deflect with humor on a regular basis. But, there are times when comedy is welcome relief. After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves from time to time… Over the years there have been a number of comedians who have used their spotlight to enlighten people about addiction. Used their forum to do their part to help shed some of the stigma of addiction.

If you are in recovery, you may already be aware of some comedians with firsthand experience. Although, a number of them have had tumultuous times in recovery, some even succumbing to their addiction. Chris Farley and Mitch Hedberg may come to mind. Yet, there are still a number of comedians who will leave you in stitches who have managed to accumulate significant lengths of time in recovery. Craig Ferguson, Marc Maron, Artie Lange and Russell Brand. The list is longer than that, but you get the point; there are many comedians in recovery. And, it’s something to be thankful for.

One of the reasons that comedians in recovery are so important, is the fact that many of their jokes deal with subject matters that only we [recovering addicts and alcoholics] truly understand. There is something nice about it, being in on a joke feels good. Everybody in the audience is laughing, but for completely different reasons. Esoteric catharsis.


Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions

Setting the laughs aside. In the battle against stigma, comedians in recovery can also be champions of change. Showing the general public the realities of addiction, and the possibility of addiction recovery. They can use their enormous fan base to shed light on what addiction is; a debilitating form of mental illness, not a moral failing.

A person who has spent copious amounts of time talking about addiction, when he is not making people laugh, is British comedian Russell Brand. There is a good chance that you have seen movies he is in (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) or his specials on Netflix ('The Messiah Complex' or 'The Emperor's New Clothes'). His comedy or commentary is not for everyone. But, it is hard to argue with many of his observations about addiction and recovery. Some of what he says may actually help your own recovery. This is a fellowship, we all learn from one another's experiences.

Brand published a new book this week: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions. Which, he spoke at length about with People Magazine. He talks about the Steps in his book, being an active member of the Program for over 14 years. In his book, he has a bit of fun with the Steps (Step 1: “Are you a bit f—ed?,” Step 2: “Could you not be f—ed” and Step 3: Are you, on your own gonna un-f— yourself?”). He shares his story, from childhood onward. As well, as his experience in recovery:

“[Now] I don’t struggle with [addictive] urges because the program I live by helps me to remain serene and prevents those urges from arriving,” Brand said to People. “If I feel those urges — even though I don’t feel them so often because I’m working the program — I talk to other people and I do stuff for other people and I meditate and pray. There’s a whole sort of series put in place for when I feel those urges.” 

He added:

“The idea that life is meant to be punishing has really taken hold,” he says. “The two things [I want people to know] is that pain is a signal and it’s telling you to change. And happiness is a possibility.

“We don’t choose between having a program and not having a program. We choose between having a conscious program and an unconscious program. When you’re not working a program consciously you’re working an unconscious program – the program of your childhood, the program of your culture, the program of your media. So it’s very important to become awakened.”

Stephen Colbert interviewed Brand, recently:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Hope of Recovery

We all can interpret aspects of the program in our own ways, as long as we come to common ends. Brand’s interpretation is his own, to be subscribed to or not. You may read his book and find it enlightening, while others might be detracted. The main take away, it seems, is that both recovery and happiness is possible. Change is possible.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, please contact Hope by The Sea. We can help you make the dream of recovery a reality.

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