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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oprah's Special On Diane Schuler's Accident

Oprah Diane Schuler Accident
What if your secrets had the power to take the lives of innocent people? Every day millions of people struggle with the disease of addiction under the radar of their friends and family. The stigmas that accompany alcoholism drive many high functioning alcoholics into the closet. The thought of being branded an alcoholic by one's peers is too much for a mother or father that suffers from the disease to handle. High functioning addicts work overtime to cover up their problem, with the hope that they can go just one more day undetected.

Unfortunately, those same high functioning alcoholics are the people, the Diane Schuler's, we have seen in the news lately. Addiction can be invisible and go unchecked by friends and family for many years, then, tragically one day an accident takes place that strips innocent people of their lives. Oprah recently did a special covering the topic of mothers who have managed to hide their addiction from everyone and then were in horrific accidents. She talked with the family members of the people who died in the Schuler accident, as well toxicology experts who were involved with case. What is clearly evident is that many people, even after the accident, are in denial about the severity of Diane Schuler's problem; Schuler's husband even hired a private investigator to prove that the toxicology reports were false and that there is no way she was an alcoholic or was even drinking that day - let alone high on marijuana. Only three months after the accident, Oprah's special on Diane Schuler's accident points out and makes even more clear that it is very difficult to argue with science; there is no sense trying to prove that Schuler was not an alcoholic, what matters is spreading the message that we need to confront our loved ones if we suspect there is a problem.

Denial is a major component to addiction thriving inside people unchecked. Diane Schuler's family's protestations that there was no problem is very hard to believe given the evidence. Even after the tragedy, a tragedy that took seven innocent people's lives, Schuler's husband will not face the facts. This story has brought a surge of women who are stepping up and declaring that they have a problem which they have managed to hide; before anything tragic happens in their lives it is time to start speaking out to raise awareness. There is no reason children's lives should be placed in jeopardy, if you recognize that there is a problem with a friend or family member the responsible thing to do is speak out about it. You never know how many lives could be saved by a single act of concern; there are many support networks that can be tapped in order to save someone from the disease of addiction.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Substance Abuse Emergency Detox Cost Over $1,300

Substance Abuse Emergency Detox Cost
How much is your life worth or the life of someone dear to you? The United States spends nearly $500 billion annually to help in the fight against addiction and sadly the money is poorly managed which leaves very little room for success. Alcohol and drug addiction is perhaps the hardest disease to treat and is certainly the disease that is the least understood. 105,000 Americans each year die as a result of complications directly related to drugs and alcohol, that number is higher than traffic accident related deaths in over 15 states. The cost of even attempting to start a new life, one free of addiction, is staggering; because of that it is very difficult for most addicts to get the treatment that they need. Sadly, treatments controlled by the state are not managed properly and their success rate is minimal; for those who can afford to go to private pay drug treatment facilities success rates are much higher. Substance Abuse Emergency Detox Cost over $1,300, and clearly most bottom of the barrel drunks do not have that kind of money lying around. With an annual bill of 500 billion dollars, one would think that the state organized treatment options would have better numbers - where is the money going?

The Times Union of Albany New York reported that, "of each dollar spent, 96 cents goes to the criminal justice system and health care costs, 'shoveling up the wreckage' in the phrase of a recent study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Less than 4 cents of every dollar goes to prevention, treatment and research, 'a reckless misapplication of public funds,' the study concluded". Unfortunately, the majority of state funds go towards a group of repeat offenders who have been to: detox, treatment, jail, and hospitals several times over. "In Albany County, about $12 million, mostly state funds, is spent each year where about 100 individuals chronically addicted to alcohol and drugs consume the bulk of services and funding. They typically also are homeless, mentally ill and suffer from a myriad of physical ailments", according to the Times Union. About have of that number, 43, people can be seen in emergency room detox units with blood alcohol content levels around .30% as much as two dozen times a month. If you do the math, at $1,300 a day per person, the bill could reach $26,000 a month.

I cannot help but think that 4 cents on the dollar is not enough funding to make any head way in the prevention, treatment, and research of addiction. Perhaps if the state funding was allocating properly, the chances for individual success and less repeat offenders could be possible. The disease of addiction has been around since the dawn of civilization and is not going anywhere; if we use more money for research and less for imprisonment perhaps more lives could be saved every year from this terrible affliction. The tools are available for people to make a successful recovery, but, unfortunately people are not using those tools to their fullest potential or are not being properly taught how to harness the power of them. Until the United States figures out how to allocate spending appropriately, the longer unnecessary deaths will continue.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Treating Drug Addicts With Heroin

New studies into treating heroin have been taking place in Europe, especially in England where addiction specialists are realizing that it may be more beneficial for hard-to-treat addicts to be treated with the drug they are addicted to. Controversial to say the least, the study's findings have been quite shocking; it is a real possibility that heroin clinics will be set up throughout England to manage heroin addicts? Treating drug addicts with heroin, the addict's drug of choice, without a doubt should be a last resort choice. It seems relevant to point out that the study being performed in England benefits society much more than it benefits the addicts. The addicts who are being injected by government clinicians are still caught in the grips of addiction and it seems unlikely that they will become contributing members of society.

The study found that the use of street heroin was cut by three quarters and the crimes committed to get drugs were slashed by two-thirds. Great Britain decided that the cost of $22,000 per patient per year to provide, addicts who had failed at other forms of treatment, heroin was a wiser alternative to having addicts running the streets committing crimes to get their fix. The cost to imprison heroin addicts is almost 3 times more a year than supplying heroin in government run clinics. The streets are safer and the drug is administered in a more sanitary environment which cuts down on disease. John Strang, led the research team involved in this study at Britain's National Addiction Centre, associated with King's College in London. "Strang said the stubborn nature of heroin addiction is proof that getting addicts into treatment is really a shallow achievement, because many will eventually turn to drugs again. He believes this promising approach could change the way hard-to-treat addicts are treated and convince the government that the initial high cost offers good value", reported CNN.

This experiment is by no means the best way to help addicts become productive members of society. Providing heroin to addicts may cut down on crime and the amount spent annually to imprison such addicts; however, the likelihood that addicts high on heroin will be able to manage their lives while high is very small. Sure, the streets are safer but people are still shackled by their addiction and will never be relieved of the bondage if the government agrees to get people high year-round for free. Many of the most hardened drug addicts have managed to find sobriety and continue to maintain it without drug maintenance programs like methadone or Suboxone. Those individuals that are unwilling to surrender and ask for guidance will never find freedom form the disease of addiction.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Obama Administration Issues New Policy On Medical Marijuana

The marijuana question and the argument of legalization made a huge stride today in Washington. It seems as though every passing month brings new developments that are in favor of legalization; if people are following state law then they are relatively free of any federal punishment. Obama administration issues new policy on medical marijuana. "The Obama administration delivered new guidance on medical marijuana to federal prosecutors Monday, signaling a broad policy shift that will mean fewer crackdowns against dispensaries and the people who use them", according to the Washington Post. The idea is that federal prosecutors should focus on those growers who exploit state law and traffic drugs behind the veil of medical marijuana.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal", said Attorney General Eric Holder. Obama's new policy raises a lot of questions about what kind of good will come of it; on one hand, every plant grown legally in the U.S. is another dollar that Mexican Cartels cannot get there hands on to fund their war. Obviously, taking money from the cartels is a good thing and may reduce the number of murders that happen everyday along the border. There are those who argue that giving addicts the ability to grow marijuana without the fear of punishment may increase addiction rates throughout the country.

Only time will tell whether the new policy will do more harm than good and there seems to be more people in favor of medical legalization then there are against it. The Mexican cartels should be the main focus of federal agents due to the violence that goes along with their business. the Washington Post reported that, "Tom Angell, a spokesman for the advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said in an e-mail message that the shift appears to be a "major step" in the right direction". The new development in Washington is in no way an all out legalization of the drug, rather, it is simply put in place to guide investigators toward the more important cases where serious laws are being broken. What is the right answer in all of this remains unclear because the new policy has yet to be put to the test. Is less crime and more addiction the right path to take?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cartels Face Economic Battle With California Pot Growers

Cartels Economic Battle Pot Growers
In Northern California the growing of Marijuana has been a way of life for many families for a long time. The number of "Mom-and-Pop" grow operations are countless, and the number is becoming larger every day. The Washington Post states, "stiff competition from thousands of mom-and-pop marijuana farmers in the United States threatens the bottom line for powerful Mexican drug organizations in a way that decades of arrests and seizures have not, according to law enforcement officials and pot growers in the United States and Mexico". With more than half of the marijuana smoked in the United States now being grown domestically, it has become a serious burden upon the Mexican cartels. Now, the cartels face an economic battle with Californian pot growers!

The majority of all pot, up until recently, was grown in Mexico and Columbia; this allowed the cartels to maintain dominance of the trade for many years. Now that laws in the United States are becoming more relaxed as we approach potential legalization, the U.S. growers are severely cutting Mexican profits. "While the trafficking of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine is the main focus of U.S. law enforcement, it is marijuana that has long provided most of the revenue for Mexican drug cartels. More than 60 percent of the cartels' revenue -- $8.6 billion out of $13.8 billion in 2006 -- came from U.S. marijuana sales, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy", reports the Washington Post. Cutting as much as 60 percent of the cartels profit could do great things for the war on drugs. It is yet to be seen if this trend will hold, but, it seems very likely.

Marijuana is an addictive drug and should not be overlooked or even considered a good thing compared to other drugs. However, the war on drugs continues and the death toll keeps rising. If legalizing marijuana is what it takes to fight the cartels, then it should be something everyone in America considers long and hard. In almost half a century we have not been able to come up with any kind of solution that has worked in curbing the cartels in their deadly game. It may be time to consider what is the lesser of two evils; growing and consuming marijuana or countless dead bodies? No matter what, a solution to the drug war needs to be found.

Monday, October 12, 2009

DJ AM's Gone Too Far on MTV

DJ AM's last project before his life was cut short by drug addiction was a television show called Gone Too Far. It was scheduled to start airing on MTV, but, when DJ AM died MTV decided to postpone the show to decide whether or not they should air it at all. Gone Too Far is about drug addicts and assisting them in getting the help that they need to start a new life. DJ AM was the host of the show and ironically he overdosed on a sleuth of prescription medications and illegal drugs. AM had been struggling with addiction for several years especially after a plane crash, which he was severely injured in last year. Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein battled with his addiction for the greater part of his, he decided that a show to help people that needed assistance with there addiction would be a way to give back. MTV decided to respect DJ AM's mission by airing Gone Too Far, you can watch the premier on October 12th at 10:00 PM ET/PT on MTV(check your local listings)

"Gone Too Far is an intense and eye-opening series, which reveals the devastating effects of drug addiction while offering hope to those willing to accept an opportunity to change their lives", states MTV. What has shown to be the most effective when dealing with your addiction is to give back that which was freely given to you. Helping others and showing them how to get on the road to recovery is the most important part of one's sobriety. Freeing one's self form the grips of addiction is not something that can be done alone, working with others is perhaps the most vital part of the recovery process. "Each episode features Adam meeting with the addicts, friends and families to explore their willingness to change. As part of his life long struggle to overcome substance abuse, his mission was to help as many people as he could and this series was a way for him to help on a bigger level. Through interviews and self-shot video from the addicts and their families, the severity of their addiction and its impact is exposed. Adam often uncovers and reveals new information that even those closest to the addicts are unaware. Along the road to recovery, Adam made the time to see how their rehabilitation was progressing, providing a raw and honest look at their new sobriety. Each addict's path to sobriety is different and only time will tell if they will ever come back, from having gone too far", according to MTV.

Gone Too Far will be informative and could potentially help some of the show's viewers get closer to making the decision to seek help. Asking for help is the hardest part of the recovery process; in the back of every addict's mind is the idea that there has to be another way. Unfortunately, many people die trying to figure out that there is no alternative. Drug and Alcohol addiction leads to only three things, jails, institutions, and death. There is help out there if one is willing to accept it and begin the journey towards recovery. Confucius said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". I encourage everyone to tune in to this series if they are or know someone struggling with addiction. Gone Too Far will give all those who watch a glimpse into the world of addiction and what it takes to get sober.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Appeal Denied

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court denied a hearing of appeal from Brandy Holmes, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is on death row for murder in Louisiana. Holmes' attorneys argued that FAS was not considered in her sentencing. Not only did the Supreme Court decline to hear the appeal, but, according to CNN, "the justices gave no reason for rejecting the appeal, which challenged the constitutionality of Louisiana's capital sentencing procedures and argued that Brandy Holmes' alleged developmental disabilities should disqualify her from execution". There is no reason why someone with mental disabilities who functions like a 10-12 year old should be executed in the United States of America. In the 21st century one would think that we would have an understanding of mental disorders and the constitutionality of punishing people with them the same way as others. There is no legitimate reason why the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome appeal should have been denied when previously the Supreme Court had banned the execution of the mentally retarded.

There is not a doubt that Holmes belongs in prison with a life sentence, but if some mentally retarded people are exempt from execution then every mental disability should be as well. "Experts on fetal alcohol syndrome call it the nation's leading preventable cause of mental retardation. As many as 40,000 newborns in the United States are affected each year by their mother's alcohol use, according to an advocacy group. The syndrome can lead to brain damage, behavioral problems and intellectual disabilities", as reported on CNN. We are just now starting to understand the complexities and inconsistencies that exist with this disorder. There are varying degrees of FAS and sometimes the disorder cannot be seen physically. Tom Donaldson, the president of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, believes that "Brandy has a hallmark case of FAS", that is why Brandy received NOFAS support with her appeal. "In a petition to the justices, Holmes' attorney, Charles Ogletree, argued the Louisiana Supreme Court did not "review the extensive mitigating circumstances that limited Ms. Holmes's moral culpability and compare them to the mitigating circumstances presented in similar cases. The [state] court also failed to consider that petitioner's co-defendant received a death sentence and that the prosecutor stated at the co-defendant's trial that he (and not the petitioner) was the more culpable party", reports CNN.

Brandy Holmes may be high functioning for someone with FAS as she was able to contribute to such a serious crime, but, mitigating circumstances should and must be considered. The Supreme Courts banning of executions for the mentally retarded is a good thing, but, the justices established no clear benchmark on IQ test results to guide criminal courts which has created loopholes for certain defendants like Holmes to fall into. Holmes has been living with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; a life sentence given to her by her mother, maybe the State of Louisiana should do the same!

Monday, October 5, 2009

South American Cocaine Is Now Moving Towards West Africa

A shift is happening in the drug trade and new regions are being affected. The United States and Mexico have been working to seal the border in an attempt to keep drugs out. The cartels have begun looking for new markets to harness. South American cocaine is now moving towards West Africa for distribution in Europe and other growing markets. The use of cocaine in the U.S. is dropping but new regions are going to be dramatically effected. "But U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said the shift does not mean the United States can claim a triumph, as the drug trade reaches into and threatens to destabilize new regions", according to Reuters. Kerlikowske does believe that this is not a good thing necessarily; the war is just moving to a new battle ground, the problem still exists.

West Africa has been known for corrupt governments and weak infrastructure. Drugs pouring into these countries are being trafficked through out Europe. The point of Origin for cocaine in the world is South America primarily in Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia. In the last 9 years the United States has given billions of dollars in aid to help stop the flow of cocaine. "We have not stopped the flow we have merely diverted it and the rest of the world is going to suffer. Latin America's drug wars are largely fueled by U.S. demand and Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief, is promising a balanced approach with increased emphasis on drug addiction prevention and treatment programs" states Reuters.

As we follow the news on the larger picture of drug trafficking, the drug cartels, and our continuing war on drugs, it is important to stay alert to our own families and friends. Be aware of the signs of drug addiction and alcoholism. The real story is unfolding in front of our eyes.

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