Tag: heroin epidemic

SNL Heroin Skit Has Upset America… And Prompted Conversation

SNL Skit on Heroin Has Most of America Enraged

Those who have lost loved ones to what has recently become recognized as a national heroin epidemic may have been slightly (or severely) offended by the somewhat distasteful sketch that aired on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. In the fake television commercial, Julia Louis-Dreyfus depicts a clean-cut mother openly discussing her desire to use heroin responsibly. The satirical ad presents a product called ‘Heroin AM’ – a daytime narcotic opioid that allows for a solid high and uncompromised productivity.

Uncouth Fake Ad Leaves Bad Taste in Many Mouths

It is not all too uncommon for the writers of the long-standing sketch comedy show to poke fun at some pretty disheartening and valid issues, such as police brutality and terrorist attacks. In fact, essentially every skit the show features is exceedingly offensive and repugnant depending on who you are. However, this particular issue seemingly strikes especially close to the cast and crew of SNL, seeing as the show has personally experienced several heroin-related overdose deaths. Both John Belushi and Chris Farley lost their lives to the deadly combination of heroin and cocaine – the very same recipe that Heroin AM so enthusiastically advertises.

New York as a whole has been rocked by the heroin epidemic, with the number of heroin-related deaths throughout the state skyrocketing from 215 in 2008 to 478 in 2012. The sketch comedians and writers behind the nationally broadcasted show would have to be quite thick to miss the fact that this particular skit would deeply offend thousands.

heroin skit on snl

So why the blatant spotlight on such a clearly devastating and widespread crisis?

Like I mentioned previously, nearly every skit the raunchy comedy show airs is offensive in some lighting. What ‘goes too far’ is based heavily on personal opinion and experience. I personally live in Delray Beach, Florida – a ‘recovery community’ in every sense of the term. Because of this, my life has been directly touched by the utter destruction of heroin addiction. While I lack personal experience, I have had friends lose their lives to the disease and I have seen loved ones rapidly deteriorate at the hands of unrelenting physical and psychological dependency. And because of this, I found myself slightly disturbed by this particular farce. Not to the point of heated debate, merely to the point of thinking, “Wow, that was not funny at all.”

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In 1988 a sketch called “Nude Beach” aired on SNL, bringing to rise much public uproar regarding the gratuitous use of the word “penis”. If I was a devout Christian, my feathers may have been quite rustled by the 2013 skit titled “DJesus Uncrossed”. Yes, some may argue, but heroin addiction is responsible for thousands of annual deaths. Well, so is terrorism, which SNL has also tastelessly tackled. And domestic violence, and racism… the list goes on.

SNL Has a History of Meddling With the Offensive

Any publicity is good publicity. So, some people may have been rubbed the wrong way by a cheerful advertisement for what may have contributed to the death of a lover or family member. Of course. Some people are even downright angry, demanding that NBC publicly apologize for being so excessively gauche. But the nationally broadcasted skit has gotten people around the world talking about the heroin epidemic in a way that it needs to be talked about. The spotlight is being shone directly into the eyes of the issue at hand, and although the light may not be the most flattering, it is still quite illuminating. Perhaps this was the intention of the show all along. To bring to light the fact that heroin addiction is non-discriminatory, overwhelmingly pervasive, and constantly increasing in severity. What are your thoughts?

 

Watch the full video here:

 

FDA-Approved Implant Solution to Nationwide Opiate Addiction?

New Jersey-based company Braeburn Pharmaceuticals recently developed an implantable device called probuphine, intended to treat opiate addiction in the same way as Suboxone – without such an extreme potential for abuse. The device is composed of four metal rods, each which slowly seep buprenorphine (a semisynthetic opioid medication) and are no larger than a matchstick. The steady flow of buprenorphine into the bloodstream of the ‘recovering’ addict would ideally help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, while potentially eliminating the risk of relapse (therefore diminishing the opiate-overdose related epidemic that has recently swept the nation). An advisory committee for The Food and Drug Administration voted 12 to 5 that the drug be medically approved for widespread use – and the medical community is typically prone to following such advice.

Braeburn Pharmaceuticals Formulates Drug to Help Drug Addicts Not Do Drugs

Opiate AddictionBecause Suboxone has been causing so much controversy throughout recovery communities based on its high potential for abuse, the conception of an implantable device that offers essentially the same exact solution seems kind of… well, stupid. Addicts are overdosing on the alleged ‘miracle’ drug, selling it and trading it for major profit or ‘the real deal’, and withdrawing from prolonged Suboxone abuse in droves. While the drug can play a major role in reducing potentially detrimental issues throughout the withdrawal stage of opiate recovery, it has seemingly become more of an issue than a Godsend.

So rather than prescribe recovering opiate addicts an opioid medication that (duh) they could potentially abuse, let’s stick an identically structured medication under their skin for six months so they cannot easily trade it for painkillers or take more than intended. Try and overdose on that, you sneaky little drug addicts, you!

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Here are the issues that this specific innovation presents:

  • The implant only lasts for six months.

And then what? No one knows. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process in most cases, so treating it for 6 month intervals raises some concern amongst medical professionals.

  • Adjustments are common, and will likely lead to Suboxone use anyways.

Many doctors who prescribe their patients Suboxone will end up adjusting the amount several times before settling on an adequate dosage. Once the probuphine is implanted, that’s it. So doctors assume that they will have to prescribe their implanted patients sublingual Suboxone anyways. So then… wait, sorry, what issue does this solve?

  • Experts are concerned that patients with the implant will neglect clinical check-ins.

‘Recovering’ addicts tend to keep on top of their clinical check-ins when taking Suboxone. Oh, how surprising. Doctors fear that if patients have no reason to hit up the office on a regular basis (to get their prescriptions filled), they will stop making an effort to attend regular counseling.

  • The nation is desperate, and desperation clouds judgment.

We want answers. Our friends are dying. Our family members our dying. We’re dying, and we want to get better. So, so desperately, sometimes, that we’re willing to listen to whomever tells us they’ve found a better way. Our judgment becomes cloudy with the urgency and the bitter anguish of active addiction. We reach for whatever promises to be fast-acting and efficient.

  • We are consistently covering a fatal and deep-rooted epidemic with a fucking Band-Aid.

The national opiate addiction epidemic is not one that can be easily solved with a little glue and some patience. It will take massive, massive amounts of serious, long-term treatment and even larger amounts of unrelenting altruism. And awareness, and preventative programs, and a cessation of the disturbing amounts of overprescribing taking place across the country.

Let’s Fight Fire With Fire, Guys, This Has Worked Historically

It seems somewhat insane to conclude that the overprescribing of opioid analgesic painkillers should be met with an increased prescribing of opioid analgesic painkillers. The number of prescriptions for painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone has skyrocketed from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013. The United States is by far the biggest global consumer, accounting for almost 100 percent of the world total for hydrocodone and 81 percent for oxycodone1. Overdose deaths due to prescription opioids have nearly quadrupled over the course of the past 20 years. An average of 46 American citizens dies EVERY DAY at the hands of prescription-related overdose. Is this because American backs are getting significantly weaker – drink your goddamn milk, everyone! Or because, perhaps, the pharmaceutical industry has so successfully perfected the art of gluttonous and coldblooded misapplication? “Oh no, you’re addicted to this drug? That’s horrible, we’re so sorry. Here, take this drug, this drug will help you not be addicted to that one.” Drugs on drugs on drugs on drugs – and where does it end?

If Something Is Helping You Not Die, Do It

If you were selling your sick little body for dope a month ago; if you were robbing old women at gunpoint and beating your wife and sticking needles deep into your veins on a daily basis – take the measures you need to take to not do those things. If buprenorphine helps you, take it. Take it for two weeks and then jump headfirst into the real shit. If you keep abusing Suboxone (because, you know, you’re a drug addict), and you feel like having some implanted into your skin will help you not abuse it so much, go for it. By all means. Do I have the right to judge any one individual’s program of recovery? Absolutely not. I’m not saying if this idea appeals to you, you are doing something wrong. All I’m attempting to do is to point out the fact that the American pharmaceutical industry is making an effort to solve the underlying issue of overprescribing with an intensification of national prescribing. It’s counterintuitive. Solving drug abuse by pumping addicts with more drugs is illogical and irresponsible. What government officials may want to seriously consider is the availability of adequate treatment. Those with no insurance and no financial means to attend inpatient drug rehab are at a complete loss. The national opiate epidemic has quickly turned into an appalling opportunity for those with an eye for avarice to profit interminably off of a cyclical and widely misunderstood affliction.

Opiate Addiction Recovery is a Highly Personal Journey

Drugs will never be purely good. Sometimes we need them – we need them to help us get better. Cancer patients need chemotherapy, but they don’t continue chemotherapy for the remainder of their lives in fear that one day the cancer will come back. They eat better and wear sunblock and quit smoking; whatever the case may be. They take care of their physical bodies to ward off the physical illness. As drug addicts, it is our responsibility to take whatever measures we personally need to take in order to thoroughly and authentically kick the habit. In many cases, this means undergoing a comprehensive psychic change. Working hard and helping others and learning to love ourselves pretty unconditionally. It’s difficult to do, but the results are pure and genuine and real and lasting.

What are your thoughts on the new implantable version of buprenorphine? We’re interested to hear your stance on the issue, and to hear about any personal experience you may have with opiate addiction and recovery.

 

Will Obama’s Latest Drug Prevention Program Be Enough?

The White House Steps in to Help Addicts

gathering data on heroin overdoses

We recently reported on a number of top scientists who believe the heroin epidemic is on its way out. While that’s wonderful news it doesn’t exactly help the men and women caught in active opioid addiction.

Well, it looks like President Obama and the White House have a new plan to help heroin addicts!

The Office of National Drug Control Policy recently announced a multimillion-dollar program to target and gather data from fifteen East Coast states, as well as create local “drug intelligence officers” and pair them with public health coordinators to parse the data.

In practical terms, this will allow officials to learn where heroin is coming from, where it’s going, how it’s being transported, where it’s being laced with drugs like fentanyl, and who is selling it on a street level.

White House officials have long talked about the challenges of gathering accurate and time sensitive drug trend information. This is their attempt to combat that as it applies to heroin and other powerful opioid painkillers.

A senior White House official, speaking anonymously, told the Washington Post,

“Our approach needs to be broad and inclusive…Law enforcement is only one part of what really needs to be a comprehensive public health, public safety approach.”

Sounds good to me! Read on to learn exactly what this new program will do and what states it covers!

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas

What exactly will this new program accomplish? Well, at its most basic, it’s going to provide money to hire fifteen drug intelligence officers and health policy analysts who will do the following:

    • Collect heroin trafficking, use & overdose data

 

    • Identify patterns

 

    • Identify major heroin distributors & coordinate multistate approaches to their arrest

 

    • Identify heroin use & overdose trends

 

    • Distribute all information to street-level police, firefighters & health workers

 

    • Train first responders on the use of Narcan

 

These measures will be implemented in fifteen of the country’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. They’re going to cover the following fifteen states along the East Coast, with one pair of officials per state: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

Probably the largest advantage this new program offers is the speed at which data will be collected and circulated to law enforcement and health officials. In fact, various government officials are already praising the program as an innovate and unique approach to facilitating access to health data that usually takes years to be seen.

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Is it Too Little Too Late?

Despite being loved by many, the White House’s new plan isn’t without its fair share of critics.

Lighthouse reported on how Obama proposed a total of $27.6 billion to be spent on drug abuse prevention in 2016. Compare that to the funding for this current project – a paltry $2.5 million.

Not to mention that the Obama administration proposed $133 million should be spent this year alone to help fight the over prescription of painkillers and expand the use of Medication Assisted Therapies.

There seems to be a pretty large discrepancy between what’s being proposed and what’s actually happening. Still, change takes time and two and a half million dollars isn’t anything to laugh at.

There’s also the fact that this $2.5 million is only one small part of a larger $13.4 million grant to High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. From what we can tell, the remainder of that money is being used to fund law enforcement initiatives.

heroin trafficking prevention

Again, this doesn’t come without its fair share of naysayers. Bill Piper, the Director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, is just one of these. He recently told USA Today,

“Half of what they’re doing is right – the focus on health and overdose prevention – but the other half, the side that focuses on the failed arrest and incarceration policies of the past is destined to ruin lives and fail.”

It’s a debate as old as time itself. Should addicts be offered treatment or be arrested? Regardless of where you stand on that matter – and opinions tend to vary widely – we can all agree that money going towards gathering heroin trafficking and use data is money well spent.

After all, we’re not going to push the heroin epidemic off America’s plate until we fully understand how people are transporting, selling, and using the drug. This latest initiative brings us one step closer to understanding and, ultimately, one step closer to winning.

Could This Mobile Methadone Clinic Help Fight Heroin Addiction?

An Innovative Solution to an Old Problem

medication assisted heroin therapy

Anne Arundel County, located just south of Baltimore, is tight in the grip of this country’s heroin epidemic. Consider that there were forty-eight overdose deaths in 2014 alone. Consider that there were 204 heroin related ER visits in 2013 alone.

Consider that Steve Schuh, the County Executive, declared heroin abuse to be a public health emergency this past January. Consider that from January to April of this year, sixteen people have overdosed and died.

Consider that, from a financial standpoint, Anne Arundel has paid over 2.5 million dollars since 2013 for citizens to get rides to methadone clinics. In fact, between now and this time last year, over 23,000 people have already taken these state-funded rides.

This program, helping opioid addicts without personal transportation or access to public transportation, is one way Anne Arundel County has been fighting heroin addiction. Well, thanks to a veteran substance abuse worker, there may be another way!

Enter Ron Grossman, who’s been involved in the mental health and addiction treatment fields for thirty-five years. He has plans for a mobile Suboxone and methadone clinic that would travel around the county. Not only would this save money for the state, but it would connect those that need treatment the most with help.

What’s Grossman’s name for his unique project? A Road Less Traveled. Up to now, it certainly has been. Let’s hope he can change that!

Methadone can save lives…but it has nasty withdrawal symptoms

Mobile Methadone Clinic? Sounds Strange

As heroin has tightened its stranglehold on Maryland, on the whole United States in fact, we’ve seen an uptick in medication-assisted therapy. This is as true in suburban Baltimore as it is in rural Indiana. Still, there remains some skepticism.

Case in point – there was recently a hotly debated fight over opening a methadone clinic in Pasadena, a small town in Anne Arundel County. This fight came on the heels of the County Health Officer, Dr. Jinlene Chan, admitted there was a lack of treatment services in the central and south parts of the county.

With this lack of resources in mind, Grossman and his partners came up with an innovative solution. Thus, A Road Less Traveled was born. What exactly is this program though? How will they make a methadone clinic mobile and, more importantly, will it positively impact Maryland’s fight against heroin?

Well, Grossman has teamed up with Dr. Lee Goodman. Goodman, an Annapolis based addiction professional, has high hopes for their mobile clinic. He’d like to see it treat 300 patients each day.

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Grossman and Goodman plan to accomplish this by making two stops daily, for four hours each time, across the street from participating pharmacies. Patients would come aboard the clinic and be seen by a doctor. They would then walk across the street and fill a prescription for methadone or Suboxone.

To keep patients accountable – after all, heroin addicts are a notoriously unreliable bunch – they would be tested before receiving a renewal on any prescriptions. Patients would also have access to a therapist at A Road Less Traveled, as well as receiving weekly counseling offsite.

So far, A Road Less Traveled is still in the planning stages. Grossman and Goodman are trying to obtain a formal agreement from the county before they begin operation. They’re also hopeful for other state funds available for medication-assisted therapy programs.

The Public Response Hasn’t Been Great

Despite offering a valuable service to an at-need population, A Road Less Traveled has received a less than stellar public reaction. Dr. Chan, the County Health Officer mentioned above, has had perhaps the best response – and hers is still ambiguous.

When asked about Grossman and Goodman’s project, Dr. Chan responded,

“It’s not necessarily a good idea or a bad idea…If it can be executed well and it provides good service for the residents of Anne Arundel County, then I would be a proponent of it” (Capital Gazette).

A Road Less Traveled has faced a similar response from County Executive Steve Schuh. Despite trying to meet with Schuh since he took office in January, Grossman and Goodman have yet to sit down with him. Schuh’s spokesperson did issue a statement that county officials are interested in the idea, but need a “better grasp of the proposal.”

A number of local politicians are also hesitant to the mobile methadone clinic model. Councilman Andrew Pruski offered limited support, saying that A Road Less Traveled was worth looking at. Councilman Derek Fink offered a similar response. He said that while medication-assisted therapy clinics can be beneficial, they shouldn’t impact the quality of life of county residents.

It looks like public officials aren’t flocking to this idea of a mobile methadone clinic. It looks like they’re waiting to see how others respond and whether the public picks up support for the idea. This despite the fact that people are dying in record numbers from heroin and painkiller overdoses.

mobile methadone clinic

Look, I’m not an expert on methadone clinics and medication-assisted therapies. I’m not a doctor or a public health official. I do, however, have firsthand experience with heroin addiction and overdose. I struggled with it for several years before finally getting sober.

In my opinion, and this is just my opinion, anything that has the potential to save lives is a good thing. While more traditional, abstinence based approaches are still the gold standard for addiction treatment – A Road Less Traveled could save lives. What else do you need to know?

Why are some addicts seeking rehab in the ER?

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