Tag: heroin overdose

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:

 

Is Narcan Coming Soon to a School Near You?

High School Heroin Overdoses

keeping narcan in schools to avoid heroin overdose

It’s the start of the school year. That means parents everywhere are buying their children pencils, notebooks, TI-89 graphing calculators, and opioid overdose kits.

Wait…what? Okay, parents aren’t buying their children overdose kits, but a new trend is emerging in middle and high schools across the country – they’re stocking Narcan.

Narcan, the brand name for the anti-overdose drug naloxone, is a fast acting medication that can completely reverse the effects of a heroin or painkiller overdose in minutes.

In the midst of an ever-growing heroin epidemic, Narcan saves lives. It’s also fairly controversial and not without its fair share of opponents. Still, with heroin and painkillers being used by younger and younger people – Narcan in schools offers some serious benefits.

In fact, the National Association of School Nurses is in support of all schools in the United States stocking up on the drug.

Beth Mattey, their President, had the following to say,

“We’re facing an epidemic…People are dying from drug overdoses, opioid drug overdoses. We need to be able to address the emergency” (The Seattle Times).

Narcan in Schools Isn’t Just for Kids

That’s an important point to make! While the primary purpose of keeping naloxone in schools is keeping our children safe, it’s not just for them.

It can also be used to save the lives of a parent or school employee who overdoses. While it’s scary to think about a student’s mother, father, teacher, or principal using drugs…it does happen.

Not to mention that students in one district in Rhode Island responded favorably to the introduction of Narcan.

Kathleen Gage, a nurse at Pilgrim High School in Warwick, RI, showed juniors in a health class how to administer Narcan and what to do to get it at a local pharmacy. Far from being apprehensive or scared, Gage says students were “…really enthusiastic that this could reverse an overdose, and they would have the tool to do it” (CBS News).

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What States Have Narcan in Their Schools?

That’s the question, right? Where is this happening? What states have approved Narcan for use in middle and high schools?

Well, so far it’s a small group. As mentioned above, Rhode Island has approved this measure. In fact, all middle, junior high, and high schools are now required to have naloxone in the nurse’s office.

Some districts in Vermont have approved the use of Narcan. Schools in and around Hartford are now stocking the lifesaving medicine. This is after an initial push not to stock the drug.

Delaware recently passed a resolution that allows schools to carry Narcan kits. According to news sources, around forty high schools in the state have received donated auto-injector kits.

Massachusetts is also on board. Nurses in over 200 school districts have been officially trained on how to administer Narcan. Some districts are even keeping the drug on premise.

There are also laws in both New York and Kentucky that allow school officials to carry and administer Narcan on school grounds. While there doesn’t seem to be any official rules regarding stocking the medicine at schools, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

What do you think about allowing schools to stock up or Narcan? Let us know on social media!

The Heroin Epidemic is Getting Worse in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Alarming Heroin Problem

new jersey heroin statistics

The heroin epidemic is still raging across the United States. In fact, a recently released Center for Disease Control study found that heroin use has more than doubled in the last ten years.

And bad as the situation is across the country, it’s even worse in New Jersey.

According to multiple reports, the percentage of NJ residents using, and dying from, heroin is much higher than the national average. According to NJ Advance Media, the rate of fatalities due to heroin overdose in New Jersey is upwards of three times the national rate.

As if that wasn’t enough, heroin overdoses claim more lives than murder, suicide, car accidents, and AIDs. In Camden and Atlantic counties, overdoses are deadlier than the flu and pneumonia combined, according to NJ.com.

There were 741 heroin-related deaths in 2013 alone. That number rose to 781 in 2014. This breaks down to just over eight deaths per 100,000 residents. The national average for heroin-related deaths per 100,000 people is 2.6.

These numbers put New Jersey at almost four times the national rate of heroin overdose deaths.

It’s clear something needs to be done, but what? Well, before we can begin to implement a solution, we need to take a closer look at the problem itself.

Why is NJ Being Hit So Hard?

Despite being deadlier than the national average, New Jersey’s heroin problem isn’t that different than anywhere else. They’ve been hit hard because the demographics of heroin abuse and overdose are rapidly changing.

For decades the “traditional” heroin addict has been male, African-American, in his late 30s to 40s, and of lower socioeconomic status. That’s all changing. Today’s typical heroin addict is either a man or woman, in the 18 to 25 age bracket, and solidly middle-class.

While this shift’s been occurring, “traditional” heroin addicts continue to be seduced by the drug. This all culminates in today’s heroin crisis. Men and women, black and white, rich and poor, in cities and in suburbs – they’re all using and overdosing on heroin.

New Jersey is a perfect microcosm of this current epidemic. With demographics ranging from poor, inner-city individuals to affluent families in the suburbs, they just happen to have become ground zero for heroin abuse.

So, what’s the solution? How do we combat heroin addiction when it’s become so prevalent? How do we shut the door once it’s been opened? Well, various New Jersey politicians have already begun to implement some proactive measures.

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What’s Being Done?

The newest laws, covered in detail here, were introduced by State Senator Joseph Vitale in 2014.

These include additional funding for state-sponsored addiction prevention, prescription drug monitoring programs, a dedicated opioid taskforce, and many more. A good start, to be sure, but what else is New Jersey doing?

new jersey heroin treatment

Well, Gov. Christie has launched a few programs of his own. As of July 1st, he implemented a statewide treatment hotline. Anyone can call in, at any time of the day or night, and be connected to help.

Christie has also pushed for first-responders to have easier access to naloxone and for a post jail integration program. It remains to be seen how effective these will be and whether, in the case of his “jail re-entry program,” they’ll be executed at all.

Still, these are all major steps that New Jersey’s taking to curb its heroin problem. While their impact on day-to-day overdose deaths is still uncertain, one thing is for sure – Jersey is fighting back. I’d wager that, as one of the states hit hardest by heroin addiction, they’ll also be one of the first with a real solution.

The Changing Demographics of Heroin Overdose

Younger Addicts are Overdosing More Often

There’s been a large shift in the demographics of heroin addicts over the last fifteen years. Coinciding with this demographic shift is another shift – the spike in heroin overdose rates among younger white individuals from the Midwest.

heroin fatalities

Consider that in 2000, way back in the halcyon days of heroin addiction, overdose and death rates were highest among older black men from the Northeast and West coast. Today, overdose and death rates are highest among young, white men and women living in the Midwest.

This new information is based a report from the Center for Disease Control, complied from 2013 information. So, what exactly does their report say? Well, without sugar coating the information, it says there’s still very much a heroin epidemic raging across the United States.

The government is in favor of Suboxone?

New Overdose Rates

Find information from the CDC’s new report, distilled into a few key bullet points, below:

  • In 2013 there were 8,257 heroin related deaths. This is a sharp increase from 2012 (5,925 overdose deaths) and 2010 (approximately 3,000 overdose deaths).
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  • Overdose deaths related to heroin have increased across all sections of the population. Men, women, all age brackets, and all races have seen an increase in heroin overdose.
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  • African-Americans between the ages of 45-64, living in the Northeast and West Coast, made up the bulk of heroin overdose deaths in 2000. By 2013, white men and women between the ages of 18-44, living in the Midwest, had overtaken them in heroin overdose deaths.
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  • In fact, more than half of all fatal heroin overdoses in 2013 occurred to white individuals in that age bracket. That breaks down to over 4,100 deaths.
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  • There were more than 16,000 opioid painkiller related deaths in 2013. That’s about double the number of heroin related deaths.
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  • Despite the high number of painkiller fatalities, the overall rate of painkiller overdose remains static. Heroin overdoses, however, continue to rise.
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    Why are Heroin Deaths Climbing?

    The above numbers don’t paint rosy picture. Rather, they show a county in the midst of a storm of opioid abuse. Some of that abuse takes the form of using heroin, while the majority still revolves around painkillers.

    But why are heroin overdose rates climbing while painkiller overdose rates remain static? This, my friends, is the million-dollar question. And the answer lies somewhere between stricter regulations on opioid medication and less social stigma associated with heroin.

    As individual states increase control over how powerful opioid pills are prescribed, and as the nation as a whole reacts to this painkiller epidemic, it makes sense that people are shifting to heroin. After all, if an addict can’t find the pills they need, but they can find heroin that will produce the same effects, well, they’re going to use heroin.

    Here we come to the second part of why more and more people are using, and overdosing on, heroin – decreased social stigma. In days past, heroin addicts were thought of as homeless, mentally ill, depraved, etc. In today’s climate, that isn’t the case at all.

    heroin overdose deaths

    Rising purity levels mean that heroin users don’t need to inject the drug. They can simply smoke or sniff and achieve the same high. Removing the needle from heroin abuse has gone a long way to making it more acceptable. Of course, the needle is still involved. As dabblers find themselves moving from use to abuse to addiction, they also find themselves moving from sniffing or smoking to shooting up.

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    What’s the Heroin Overdose Solution?

    Here’s where things get tricky. What’s the solution to the ever-increasing number of heroin overdoses? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. There’s no magic pill that will cure heroin addiction and overdose. There are, however, some very promising options on the horizon.

    First, there’s naloxone. The popular “anti-overdose” drug, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, is saving thousands of lives each year. Naloxone removes heroin molecules from an individual’s body in minutes. It’s literally a lifesaver.

    Several states, notably New Jersey, have increased first-responders access to this life saving chemical. The results have been astounding to say the least! Since mid-2014, over 800 New Jersey residents have been administered Narcan. That’s 800 saved lives!

    Going hand-in-hand with increasing access to naloxone is an overall increase in the Federal budget for drug abuse prevention and treatment. In his 2016 budget, Obama has earmarked over $26 billion for various drug programs. While much of this money is being funneled into fighting prescription drug abuse, make no mistake that heroin overdose prevention will see an increase in federal dollars.

    Finally, hope for the rising numbers of heroin overdoses comes from a rather traditional channel – twelve-step fellowships. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have been helping individuals break their addictions for decades. Surely they offer a beacon of hope for the shifting demographics of heroin overdose.

    Learn more about Narcan and the benefits it offers!

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