Tag: overdose

Is Making Narcan Over The Counter A Good Decision?

Selling Narcan Over the Counter Narcan OVer the Counter

Naloxone (Narcan) has recently been released in limited proportions for sale over the counter in select pharmacies and states. Selling Narcan over the counter is a bold move in what many are looking at as part of the war against drugs, specifically the war against the opioid epidemic sweeping across our country. Others see it as a cop-out for junkies – a get out of jail free card in the case of an overdose. As with anything, the lines are blurry, and the bottom line is that if lives can be saved and fatal overdoses can be prevented, it is probably a good thing.

What is Narcan?

Narcan (naloxone) is an opiate antidote. Opiates include drugs like heroin, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone, and Vicodin. Taking too much or a combination of any of these drugs can cause an overdose, symptoms of which include the slowing or stopping of breathing, leading to loss of consciousness and even death. Once a person who is ODing is in this state, it is incredibly difficult to wake them up.

Narcan blocks the effects of opioids and reverses an overdose in a patient that has taken too much of a drug. The opiates are essentially knocked out of receptors in the brain, even if the opiate was taken in addition to alcohol or another drug that can further suppress the immune system. After Narcan is administered, the overdosing person should begin to breathe more regularly, and they will be easier to wake. There are no known negative effects of Narcan, and nothing will happen to a person who is not ODing and accidentally takes the drug.

Narcan Over The Counter Is Controversial

Narcan over the counter LighthouseThere are many people who maintain that the only reason a person would get Narcan over the counter would be if they expected that they or someone they are close with will overdose. In their eyes, it’s a way of prepping for a big Friday night party, and as mentioned earlier in the article, a get out of jail free card.

In the eyes of supporters, Narcan is preventative. For the mothers and fathers who have an addict child, to the wives of an addict husband, and to the child of an addict mother – it is something to have around in the case of an overdose that can prevent death. It isn’t just for addicts – accidental overdose could happen to anyone who has prescription opiates on hand, so in a sense shouldn’t it be sold with every opiate prescription given out?

America’s Opiate Epidemic

It’s no secret that opiates are taking a huge toll on Americans. The U.S. is in the throes of an opiate epidemic and it is a long, sad, and messy road to get out of it. In 2014, 47,055 people died of a drug overdose, making it the number one leading cause of accidental death. It is a problem that is nationwide and is destroying lives regardless of age, race, class, and location. If Narcan can help reduce these numbers and save some lives, why wouldn’t we make it as available as possible?

The Death of Prince – Highlighting Fentanyl Overdose

The Prince and the Fentanyl Overdose prince fentanyl lighthouse recovery

On what would have been Prince’s birthday today, instead,  headlines scream “How did Prince get his hands on Fentanyl?” In the meantime, people in recovery laugh and say obtaining the drug that killed Prince back in April is as easy as buying a pack of cigarettes. Fentanyl overdose isn’t “new” news.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to morphine, but immensely more powerful. It is used to treat patients with severe pain, but is also readily available as a street drug and often mixed with heroin. It causes a lot of overdose and death, and addiction. To have such a well-known celebrity such as Prince die from it will maybe shed some light on the growing problem.

What is Fentanyl

Fentanyl can be up to 100 times more potent than heroin, and causes more intense and rapid onset of respiratory depression, which gives users a bigger chance of overdose. Additionally, fentanyl is often mixed with or sold as heroin, so an addict will overdose because they don’t know exactly what it is they are getting.

Deaths related to fentanyl overdose rose by 500% from 2013 to 2014, and last March, the DEA classified fentanyl as a threat to health and public safety. The drug is so dangerous because of it’s immense strength and fast-action. However, fentanyl tends to wear off fast, leaving a user wanting more, immediately – and eventually seeking out higher and higher doses.

Prince’s Fentanyl Overdose Remains a Mystery

The question about Prince is whether or not he was prescribed fentanyl, or if he obtained it illegally, through a dealer or acquaintance. He was found unresponsive after a self-administered dose, in his elevator, leaving so many questions. If he was prescribed the medicine for pain, who prescribed it? The fact that there were doctors en route to his house for an intervention make it clear that scary drug abuse was going on. It makes is sad that they were so close, but just couldn’t make it in time to save Prince’s life.

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fentanyl overdose prince lighthouseThe Truth About Drug Overdose

Most people who overdose don’t intend to. Contrary to what it may look like to the rest of us, they aren’t suicidal, and definitely don’t want to die. Overdoses happen fast, and there are a couple of factors that tend to cause them. First, they tend to happen when someone hasn’t used in a while, and thinks they can handle the same amount as they could when they stopped using last time. This isn’t the case – and people OD very easily because of this.

Second, when a person buys street drugs, they never know exactly what is in them. Heroin mixed with fentanyl is a common cause of overdose, and the people who overdose just had no idea.

In the case of Prince, we may never know all the hows and whys, but it’s safe to say he was suffering a battle of addiction, which so many of us have been through. It’s a tragedy that he is now a part of the statistic of people who don’t survive their drug use, but we can only learn from his example and make the dangers of fentanyl overdose known.


I’m in Love with a Recovering Heroin Addict

I Fell In Love With a Recovering Heroin Addict Love Heroin Addict Lighthouse Recovery

We can’t choose who we fall in love with. Three years ago, I knew nothing about addiction, even though I was suffering from alcohol addiction myself, it just hadn’t been brought to light quite yet. I definitely knew nothing about heroin addiction, and would never think to associate myself with a heroin addict or anyone who was into hard drugs like that.

Him and I met through mutual friends in recovery, which is a large scene in South Florida. I remember seeing him on the beach one of the times our group got together and having an undeniable attraction to him. He apparently was in love with me the moment he first saw me – I had no idea.

We Met in Recovery in South Florida

A few months went by and we became closer, eventually going on our first date, which led to many dates, which led to us becoming a couple. His spirit matched my own and every time I looked into his eyes I felt a reflection of myself in a way I had never experienced before. We knew all about each other’s screwed up history – nothing was left in the dark between us.

Since coming to South Florida for addiction recovery, I had met my share of drug addicts, and seen relapses and ODs left and right – the first couple of times I was shocked and sad and tried to help each person, but after the 4th, 5th, 10th time – you are forced to turn a blind eye, tell the people close to you how much you love them, and hope for the best. It isn’t fun – it’s gut wrenching, heartbreaking, and my facebook feed turned into something more like an obituary of friends in recovery who lost their battle.

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He was different. The closeness we shared and still do was like nothing I had ever experienced before. So when he overdosed and nearly died, I was in shock, I was mad, I was terrified. I was lost. We had recently decided to move in together and ended up in a horrible flop house in Delray Beach. We were told by a “friend” that it was a solid halfway that we could live in as a couple while we looked for an apartment of our own.

A Halfway House Gone Bad

Love and recovery Lighthouse

The first few days were fine, but by the end of the first weekend there were fights in the middle of the night, an overdose, and we realized the houses next door to us were all huge drug dealers. We lived with a padlock on our bedroom door, and there were nights I was so scared about what was going on beyond our door that I didn’t sleep for more than a few minutes.

I knew seeing the drugs and being close to all of that was tough for him. I always knew I would be ok but my worry for him was all consuming. We moved out of that house as soon as we could, and to a friend’s house while we apartment hunted and finally found the perfect place for us and signed the lease.


The Heroin Overdose I didn’t Expect

I thought we were in the clear. I thought things were looking up. So when I was calling him one afternoon and didn’t hear anything from him for over an hour, I was slightly concerned because it was unusual but I wasn’t freaking out – I went back into work and figured I would hear back from him soon. I walked out of a meeting and checked my phone and had missed calls from a mutual friend, and a text that simply said, “Did you know what happened? If not call me ASAP.”

He had taken a huge dose of heroin and was found unresponsive, dead for all intents and purposes. The next hour or so was a blur, I felt every emotion in the book. I confirmed that he was breathing and alive when the ambulance took him away, but that’s all I knew. I drove to three separate hospitals looking for him, calling my best friends and screaming because I wanted to scream at him but I couldn’t reach him.

The only place I stopped was Walgreens to get cigarettes because my mind was a mess, I broke down crying and shaking to the lady at the counter who tried to get me to stay and not drive because I was such a wreck but I had to find him.

I found him at a hospital in Boca Raton. He survived. It wasn’t his time to go. I brought him home and held him all night, and he doesn’t remember a thing from that day. All he could say for himself was that it all got to be too much, seeing everyone using at the halfway, knowing I was unhappy with all the moving around we were doing, and some personal things he had going on. It was going to be his last “hoorah” before we moved into the apt the following weekend. That last hoorah almost killed him.

Living With and Loving A Recovering Heroin Addict love heroin addiction lighthouse

We moved into our apartment. Things are great, we’re both so happy. I’d love to say my fear of another overdose is gone, but it’s still very prevalent. My heart jumps into my throat every time I get a call from a number I don’t recognize, or if I don’t hear from him for an unusually long time. I have him on a short leash, and I don’t care if anyone else thinks I’m being needy or annoying, all I want is for him to live because he’s the most amazing soul I’ve ever met. I only want good things for him. 

Living with and loving a recovering heroin addict is not easy. As I said in the beginning of this article, we can’t choose the ones we love. I will not leave him, I won’t give up on him, and he’s doing well. I am grateful for every single positive moment we have together, and look forward to all the rest that we have in front of us.


Searching for a Way Out of America’s Opioid Epidemic

Opioid Use is RampantAmericas Opioid Epidemic

Opioid abuse has become an all-American epidemic, unique to our country and widespread enough to be called a public health outbreak. Abuse covers all ages, races, classes, and genders, however, the most typical victim is a non-Hispanic Caucasian male in his mid-30s.

In emergency rooms, nurses are not surprised when new overdose patients are rolled in on stretchers. Overdose is becoming so widely common that many doctors no longer need to run lab tests to determine which drug caused it. Observations such as dilated pupils mean cocaine, amphetamines, and hallucinogens. Constricted pupils almost always point to an opiate.

Opiate abuse also causes the characteristic “nodding out”, scratching, cold and clammy skin. In the wrong amounts, overdose is always just a few breaths away – and when that breath begins to sound like a rattle – the person is officially in the midst of an overdose that all too frequently leads to death.

The thought of a loved one – anyone – dying like this is terrifying, and reality is that every 19 minutes, one person in this country dies of opioid overdose. Hydrocodone, OxyContin, and Percocet are three examples of this medication, the only one known to man that is routinely prescribed and kills patients so frequently.

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How Did The Opioid Epidemic Get So Bad?

The United States is embarrassingly leading the charge in opioid abuse. 75% of the world’s opioid prescription drugs are prescribed here, and it is the number one cause of preventable death. We can’t point our fingers in one direction to place blame, however, certain pharmaceutical companies and doctors certainly had a heavy hand in leading to these statistics.

The FDA was misled for years about the true nature of opioid dependence so that big pharmaceutical companies could sell more drugs and make more money. Doctors often turn a blind eye to the reality of these drugs, accepting lame scientific data and continue writing out prescriptions, ignoring the obvious red flags.

Some staggering facts include:

  • 259 million opioid prescriptions are written yearly – enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills
  • 91% of people who survived an overdose are able to get a new prescription, often from the same doctor
  • 80% of heroin users started off using pain pills
  • As many as 4.2 million Americans have reported using heroin at least once
  • 94% of respondents in a 2014 survey of people in treatment said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were more expensive and difficult to obtain.
  • Heroin overdose deaths in women have tripled in the past few years.


Opioid AbusePutting an End to Prescription Abuse

The opioid industry has gotten so huge that it will take a long time to shift practices and make a positive change. As policy makers start to learn about the epidemic – and it can’t be ignored for much longer – they will begin to modify regulations. Small changes can already be seen, pills coming with safeguards to make them more difficult to abuse, the Centers for Disease Control recommending doctors not to prescribe opioids for chronic pain, monitoring of controlled substances, but much of the responsibility lies with each doctor.

Doctors need to discuss options and the realities of addiction with their patients and be more vigilant in what and how they are prescribing medications. Expectations must be set, and follow up is necessary. Knowing more about a patient’s history is key – for example, if a patient has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, they should never be prescribed addictive drugs. Opioids should always be considered an end-of-the-line resource instead of the first thing handed out.

Those of us in recovery are tired of hearing about friends and loved ones overdosing. We are sick of the same familiar and sad story. It isn’t too late to make a change, but in order for the severity of this to end, doctors need to step up and tighten up their prescription policies.


The Insidious Disease of Addiction – One More Dead

Addiction Knows No Boundaries

I could smell the sickness from a mile away. It was pungent and unsettling, and it stirred in me the thick layer of obscuring dust that had quietly settled over the past 8 years of my life. It was hard to be around, and so I avoided it. It was hard to see someone suffer the way I had once suffered. It was hard. For me. It made me uncomfortable. What do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We avoid and ignore and warn all of our friends. We say, “Sorry, I can’t today. I have other things to do.” Maybe not all of us do, but I did – because I am a coward and I am weak and I am only nice when it is convenient for me. But I am nice, you know? People think I am, because I drive people around and buy people dinner and read a book with women who remind me of myself. These things are not difficult to do; they don’t inconvenience me terribly and they make me feel better about myself. They keep my addiction in check and they allow me a life. And then he came around and the sickness stung my eyes, and I started to say things like, “Sorry. Today is not a good day for me. I’m sorry.”

And now he is dead.

And of course not much would have changed had I made the time, and I know that. People will tell you over and over and over, “There’s nothing you could have done.” This is usually true, and beating ourselves up over unchangeable fact is futile in a way that little else is futile. We’re good at this, though; we’re experts, most of us, at convincing ourselves that we played some sort of significant role. We’re important, either way. We matter.

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I keep checking his Facebook to see if it’s real. Looking at pictures of his stupid fucking face – the face I saw sitting across from me in homegroup on Monday. Looking sunken and pallid, but very alive. He was excited to pick up ten months clean – he kept saying it, over and over. Excited for his year. Excited for his future. Excited to go back to school, to finally be making real friends who really loved him in spite of himself. I keep thinking about his family, and how often they’ve been checking his Facebook page. To see if it’s real. If he’s really dead, or if maybe he’ll post an early April Fool’s status. It’d be sick, that’s for sure. But it’d be better than this. It would be a whole hell of a lot better than this.

We Can Always Love Just a Little Bit More

It’s a scary thing when people close to you die, and it’s even scarier to feel some heavy and illogical sense of responsibility. What is by far the scariest, however, is coming to terms with the fact that it could have been any single one of us. None of us are immune. We think we are, especially when we start doing what we’re supposed to be doing and we start getting healthier and we have money and friends and nice shoes and a job that makes us feel important. Maybe it wasn’t the lack of convenience that deterred me – no, I don’t think it was that. I think it was the overwhelming, eye-stinging sickness that poured from his soul. It is terrifying because it is real, and it is thick, and you can see it residing inside of some people. Through their eyes or in their smile. It lives in them, patient and waiting.

He had a chance, the same as you and me. Do you know? It comes from within, and that’s all there is to it. But sometimes we can contribute to it. Sometimes we do have some semblance of ability to make things just a little bit better. Help as much as you can, help those who are still suffering at the hands of this evil disease. Love the sick. Love the sick as much as you possibly can. Love everyone even if it scares you, because you can and because it is more important than anything else.

Can I Overdose on Crystal Meth?

The rates of crystal meth abuse have steadily been climbing throughout the country over the course of the past several years. Crystal meth is typically smoked, snorted, or injected directly into the bloodstream. Overdose can result from any method of consumption, contrary to popular belief. Many individuals who use crystal meth regularly believe that they are safe from overdose so long as they avoid intravenous use – unfortunately, this is not the case, though overdose is the most prevalent amongst intravenous users. First-time users who are injecting the drug are at higher risk for overdose than any other crystal meth users, seeing as they have developed no tolerance to the substance whatsoever and will typically inject more than their bodies are able to tolerate.

Is It Possible to Overdose on Crystal Meth?

Because crystal meth is rarely sold in its pure form, the likelihood that overdose occurs as a result of an adverse reaction to a chemical it is cut with is exceptionally high. There is no way to determine the purity-level of a drug before a user consumes it, thus crystal meth users are constantly putting themselves at risk. Even non-lethal dosages have the potential to kill for this very reason. It is sometimes difficult to detect the signs and symptoms of crystal meth overdose in others, especially because visual symptoms of overdose lack, and it is frequently difficult to differentiate between the behavioral signs of overdose and the expected ‘high’.

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If you believe you or someone close to you is experiencing a crystal meth overdose, look for the following symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Confusion
  • High fever
  • Impaired vision (spots in the field of vision)
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Chest pain
  • Intense muscle pain and cramping
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Coma

Clearly, overdosing on crystal meth is entirely possible, and it can quickly lead to fatality if not adequately and immediately treated. Those who engage in regular crystal meth use are liable to overdose at any time, regardless of their method of consumption or the presumed purity levels of the substance they are using. If you or someone you love is battling an addiction to crystal meth, it is crucial to seek professional help immediately. Addiction is a progressive disease, and due to the highly addictive nature of this specific chemical substance, rapid physical deterioration is common and especially devastating. For more information on crystal meth abuse and overdose, please contact one of our trained representatives today.

Are There Dangerous Chemicals in Children’s Cough Syrup?

Don’t Give Kids Codeine!

We’ve been warned about giving children medicines with codeine for decades. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued their first in 1997. That’s almost twenty years ago.

children taking codeine

Fast forward to 2013 when the FDA issued a warning about giving children codeine. The European Medicines Agency issued a similar warning in April of this year, stating codeine “must not be used” by adolescents under twelve.

So, with all these warnings, why are almost 900,000 prescriptions written each year for “children’s strength codeine?” Why is codeine commonly given to adolescents for everything from cough suppression, to sinus infections, to constipation? Why are kids between eight and twelve years old the most likely to be prescribed this opioid?

While I don’t have an answer to these questions, I do have some good news. The FDA is seriously considering taking codeine off the market for children, at least according to a recent announcement.

On July 1st, the FDA released a statement regarding codeine use in children. It reads, in part,

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the possible risks of using codeine-containing medicines to treat coughs and colds in children under 18 years because of the potential for serious side effects, including slowed or difficult breathing. We are evaluating all available information and will also consult with external experts by convening an advisory committee to discuss these safety issues. We will communicate our final conclusions when our review is complete” (The FDA).

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What is Codeine?

I’m a fan of any decision that takes drugs out of the hands’ of children. Still, why is this FDA investigation into codeine happening now? Why not in 1997 or even years before that?

Well, to understand why codeine is so dangerous for children (explained in detail below), we first need to look at what exactly codeine is.

Codeine is the chemical name for the world’s most consumed opioid. It’s sold under hundreds of brand names worldwide, including Tylenol 3.

Codeine itself is incredibly similar to morphine. In fact, it’s what’s known as a methylated-morphine or a slightly altered form of morphine. It’s also converted into pure morphine by the body.

Codeine has a long history of both medical and recreational use. Its synthesis dates back to 1832 and its recreational use started not long after. Opium and morphine were already popular drugs of abuse and codeine soon joined them.

Today, codeine is considered one of the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines. It’s used worldwide more than any other opioid and is generally thought to be one of the safest. While it’s certainly safer than, say, hydrocodone (Vicodin) or hydromorphone (Dilaudid), it’s still dangerous for children and the elderly.

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Why’s it So Dangerous for Children?

There are two main reasons codeine is deemed dangerous for children and older adults. First, there’s the potential for addiction. While codeine is certainly less addictive than stronger opioids, it still does pose a significant risk for abuse and addiction.

As if that wasn’t enough, codeine also presents a significant danger to children because of how it’s converted to morphine. Once someone metabolizes codeine, it’s carried to the brain and converted to morphine.

This conversion happens much quicker in some individuals. They, in turn, have a high concentration of morphine in their blood. This leads to classic opioid overdose symptoms, including shallow breathing, reduced heart rate and respiration, and unconsciousness.

This risk is increased in children who have asthma or other difficulties breathing.

So, what should parents do if their child is prescribed codeine? Well, first you should ask your doctor about any nonnarcotic alternatives. While codeine is wonderful at suppressing a cough, so are other, less dangerous medicines.

Parents should also be aware and watch for signs of codeine intoxication. These are similar to those listed above, things like drowsiness and general “spacey” behavior. Find a more detailed list of codeine overdose symptoms here.

If your child is exhibiting any of these, seek immediate medical attention. It’s better to be safe than be sorry.

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The Heartbreaking Toll of Addiction & Mental Illness Combined

A Worried Mother & an Addicted Son

Barbara Theodosiou isn’t a household name. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people outside of a particular community who know her name. That doesn’t change the fact that she’s fighting a life or death battle.

“There is no peace for me. Ever again. This is a life sentence,” Barbara uttered during a speech in Oakland Park, FL. She was talking about the impact her son Daniel’s death has had on her life and work.

the addicts mom
image via The Addict’s Mom

Barbara Theodosiou is the founder of a support group called The Addict’s Mom. She started it in 2008 to help other families struggling with addiction. Since 2008, The Addict’s Mom has exploded. What started as a small Facebook group has grown to monumental proportions – 30,000 members and chapters in each of the fifty states.

Still, when Barbara lost Daniel, a twenty-three year old boy struggling with addiction and mental illness, none of her group’s success mattered. She was simply heartbroken that her child, who had been missing for a week, was gone.

Daniel passed away in April. She’s still awaiting the toxicology report. Over the last few months, Barbara has thrown herself all the more into advocating for mental health and substance abuse treatment reform.

She’s using Daniel’s story and her own heartache to raise awareness of the dangers individuals with co-occurring disorders face. She’s committed to reforming a broken system – the mental health and addiction treatment industry as it pertains to schools, jails, and youth.

This is her story.

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The Addict’s Mom

Barbara’s path to mental health advocate isn’t a straight line. She never set out to reform anything. She was just a mother struggling with her two sons’ addictions.

Her eldest child, Peter, was addicted to both painkillers and heroin. He abused them throughout his teenage years before getting sober. Today, he’s been in recovery for a number of years, has graduated college, and is doing well.

Daniel, on the other hand, is a tragic example of the deadly toll addiction and mental illness have on families. From as far back as elementary school, Daniel struggled with isolation and social issues.

Barbara took her son to see a psychiatrist at twelve. The doctor didn’t diagnosis Daniel with any specific mental illness, instead suggesting he potentially suffered from a few. These included ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Soon, Daniel followed in his older brother’s footsteps and began abusing drugs. He escalated from over the counter medicines to just about anything he could get his hands on. Barbara believes he was self-medicating with substances.

That makes sense considering at school Daniel wasn’t offered much in the way of mental health treatment. There was no compassion or understanding when he got in trouble. There were only punitive measures like detention.

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An Ineffective System Led to Daniel’s Death

Of course that’s a vast oversimplification. Death from substance abuse and mental illness isn’t due to any single factor. Rather, it’s an amalgamation of several factors. In Daniel’s case, the largest was the incredibly ineffective mental health system in schools, jails, and even institutions.

And he wasn’t alone. Close to 9 million Americans suffer from a co-occurring disorder. Only 7%, or 630,000 people, are treated for both. While that number seems high, consider that 56%, or almost 5 and a half million people, are treated for neither.

Okay, let’s think about this for a second. There are 9 million people who’re struggling with both addiction and mental illness. Close to 5 and a half million receive no treatment at all. For either. That’s negligent in the extreme.

child dies of drug overdose
image via The Addict’s Mom

What about those with mental illness in jails and institutions? Well, according to the US Department of Justice, 56% of those in state prisons suffer from mental health issues. 45% of those in federal prison and 64% of those in jail suffer from mental health issues.

Those are incredibly large numbers. Something isn’t right here. In fact, something is very, very wrong.

That’s where The Addict’s Mom is focusing the majority of their advocacy. Among other tactics, they’ve submitted a bill to the Florida State Congress that would make it illegal to arrest an individual who’s currently in a psych ward.

The bill is born from Barbara’s direct experience. In late 2014, Daniel was receiving care from the psychiatric unit in St. Lucie Medical Center. While there, he allegedly assaulted a security officer.

The assault landed Daniel in jail and triggered to a chain of events which culminated in his death in April.

Barbara isn’t alone in her loss. Many members of The Addict’s Mom have lost children to either addiction or mental illness. Sherry Schlenke, one of these mothers, had a son who struggled with heroin addiction for twenty years before passing away a year and a half ago.

Barbara, Sherry, and the rest of those involved in the Florida chapter of The Addict’s Mom sent a letter to the legal team that prosecuted Daniel. In it, Barbara wrote,

“All I can do now is tell his story to the world in the hopes that I am able to make the smallest change in a broken system that houses the mentally ill in violent jails” (Gant Daily).

Small or not, some change is desperately needed. Let’s just hope it comes soon.

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The Ugly Truth about Methadone

What is Methadone?

Of all the drugs out there, street and prescription, none are as misunderstood as methadone. People, even those who’ve had firsthand experience with this synthetic opioid, simply don’t understand what methadone is, how it works, and the inherent dangers it brings with it.

Lighthouse has written about methadone before and we’ll write about it again. We won’t stop until everyone understands the truth about this chemical! What is that truth, you ask? Simple – methadone pills and liquid are dangerous and potentially deadly.

methadone dosage

Methadone dosage varies widely and overdose isn’t uncommon. This is true even for those who’ve been on the drug for quite some time. Speaking of extended periods taking methadone, there’s a little something called methadone maintenance treatment to be addressed. Add into this already complicated equation the varying opinions on whether taking methadone is “allowed” in recovery and, well, you can see why there’s such fierce misunderstanding.

So, with all the above in mind, let’s see if we can’t shed some light on what this opioid really is. First up, let’s look at methadone dosages.

Learn why methadone withdrawal is so much longer than other opioid withdrawal

Methadone Dosage

Methadone pills and liquids come in a ton of different strengths. These can range from five-milligram pills all the way to 100+ milligram syrups. It’s important to remember that someone’s methadone dosage is dependent on why they’re taking the medication in the first place and their body’s reaction.

Some people are prescribed methadone for pain related issues. Despite being thought of only as a form of medication assisted therapy, methadone has a long history of being used to reduce chronic pain.

In this case, an individual’s methadone dosage is usually much lower than if they were taking the drug as a form of addiction treatment. This is because they probably don’t have an opioid tolerance. Over time, doctors will adjust a patient’s methadone dosage depending on their level of pain and how well they tolerate the various side effects.

The other reason methadone is commonly prescribed is to help individual’s addicted to heroin and other opioids (oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.). This is also known as methadone maintenance treatment. I’ll explore this in depth below, but first let’s look at dosage.

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Someone’s methadone dosage is, broadly speaking, much higher if they’re on maintenance treatment. This makes sense, as they already have a tolerance to opioids in general. A patient’s methadone dosage while receiving maintenance therapy could be as high as 200 milligrams. However, and here’s where things get controversial, methadone pill overdose is higher in people receiving the drug for maintenance than in those receiving it for chronic pain.

Perhaps this is due to the vastly different ways these populations consume methadone. One takes it to relieve pain, the other takes it so they won’t relapse into active addiction. One has the brain of a “normie,” the other has the brain of an addict.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m demonizing those struggling with addiction. I’m simply suggesting some possible reasons that methadone overdose is higher in those receiving medication-assisted therapies.

Having looked at various methadone dosages, and how those dosages vary depending on the reason someone is prescribed the drug, let’s examine closer what methadone maintenance treatment is all about.

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Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Better minds than mine have discussed the in’s and out’s of methadone maintenance treatment, so we won’t beat a dead horse. What Lighthouse offers is a firsthand examination of what methadone maintenance treatment really looks like. That is to say, can you take methadone and be “truly” sober?

Opinions are all over the board on this question. Some say that taking methadone pills is completely acceptable in recovery. Others argue that taking opioids, methadone or otherwise, is a relapse. Some say that because many doctors offer methadone as a first line treatment for heroin addiction, it’s okay to take and call yourself sober. Others disagree.

Unfortunately there simply isn’t an easy answer. Rather, this is a decision that each individual much reach after consulting with their doctor(s), their sober supports (including their sponsor!), their spiritual or religious advisor, and their loved ones. After talking to all those people, it’s up to the individual to make an informed decision about whether methadone maintenance treatment is right for them.

Through our extensive personal experiences, we’ve seen both the good and the bad. While Lighthouse has no opinion on the effectiveness of methadone maintenance treatment, we do strongly encourage everyone to attempt abstinence-based treatment first.

Is There Any REAL Use for Painkillers?

Do Opioids Serve ANY Purpose?

The overprescription of powerful opioid painkillers has led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths and millions of unsuspecting addicts. No one can argue that point. It’s as cut and dry as saying the sky is blue or grass is green.

are opioids medically necessary

There is, however, a debate currently raging across the country about whether opioids are medically necessary, whether they offer any real benefits to pain-suffers. That answer isn’t so cut and dry.

Stanford University recently played host to two experts on the subject – Sean Mackey, a pain medicine expert, and Anna Lembke, an addiction expert. The two squared off in a public debate over the state of pain medicine and abuse in America.

This debate, at its most basic, comes down to whether you empathize with the millions living with pain or the millions living with addiction. It’s not easy to pick sides.

No matter where someone’s allegiance falls, there’s one thing we can all agree on. Doctors, pharmacies, and medical specialists of all stripes need better training on how to treat chronic pain and addiction.

Both Mackey and Lembke pointed out that most medical students receive only seven hours of pain medicine training and no hours of addiction treatment training. Something needs to change and it needs to happen now.

Officials can’t tell if painkillers or heroin is the cause of these overdoses…

Chronic Pain is Real & Debilitating

According to the most recent statistics, around 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. While that number is large (breaking down to almost a third of the population), it’s not a huge stretch.

Remember, chronic pain includes everyone from those with persistent back issues, like myself, to those who’re unable to get out of bed due to pain.

Mackey, in his defense of opioid painkillers, noted they work remarkably well for controlling short-term pain. There’s a reason morphine has been the gold standard of pain control for centuries. He also noted that there are some cases where using painkillers to treat long-term pain makes sense.

Another point Mackey brought up was how society has stigmatized taking painkillers for medically necessary reasons. Doctors are hesitant to prescribe them, patients are unwilling to take them, and the DEA is quick to crack down on them.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that although opioids cause the majority of prescription drug deaths, they’re not alone. In fact, of all the drug overdose deaths in 2011, 31% were attributed to benzo’s alone. That still leaves a large percentage of painkiller induced deaths, but less than is commonly thought.

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The Deadly Side Effects of Painkillers

There wouldn’t be a debate around opioids if both sides weren’t taken into consideration. So, what’re the cons of prescription painkillers? Well, there are more than a few.

Over 200 million prescriptions are written each year for opioids. This had led to a drastic increase in overdose deaths. They numbered at around 4,000 in 1999. By 2013, that number had more than tripled to approximately 16,000.

There’s the obvious risk for addiction. A bit more subtlety, though, is the risk for cross addiction. As the government has tightened restrictions on painkillers in recent years, there’s been a surge in heroin addiction and overdose.

This is the classic example of moving from one addiction to another. Users may start out with painkillers and move onto heroin as painkillers become harder to get their hands on.

There are also a number of other medical risks associated with opioid addiction. These are things like constipation, an increased risk for heart attack and bone fractures, and lowered testosterone.

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Alternative Ways to Treat Pain

Regardless of whether you think painkillers are medically necessary or not, there’s one more question that needs to be answered. That question, simple as it may be, is what opioid alternatives are out there?

Well, Mackey runs a pain clinic and, in his experience, there are plenty of other options. When asked this question, he responded by saying,

“We all come together in a team-based environment, with pain medicine physicians across all walks of training — anesthesiologists, PM&R neurology, psychology, internal medicine…We’ve built it with pain psychology, with physical therapy, with dietary, with biofeedback. And we do it in a co-located, coordinated model” (Vox).

If that seems too daunting, after all not everyone has access to pain experts, there are still other options. These include things like yoga, meditation, eastern medicine, and even “detox” meds like Suboxone to help painkiller patients detox. There’s also the somewhat controversial choice of medical marijuana.

Regardless of how someone chooses to deal with their pain, or where your personal beliefs lie in regards to opioid painkillers, one fact shines through. As mentioned above, America needs a change and we need that change now. Too many people are dying to continue down our current path.

It’s debates like the one that took place at Stanford, debates between informed and caring citizens, which will lead to meaningful change. Of that I’m sure.

What do you think? Let us know on social media!

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