Posts tagged with "fentanyl"

Opioid Crisis Takes a Turn with Death of Founder

By: Elle Grant

The opioid epidemic is one of the great public health crises facing the United States today. Over the past two decades, the crisis has ebbed and flowed in different moments, but overall deaths, especially amongst younger people, have increased at an alarming rate. One of the most distinct drugs at the root of the problem is OxyContin from the company Purdue Pharma, a substance now known to be distinctly addictive and dangerous.

OxyContin, also known on the street as killers, OC, Oxy, poor man’s heroin or Oxycotton, is dangerous particularly due to its most active ingredient; “a 12-hour, time-released form of oxycodone, a synthetic form of morphine that is found in common painkillers like Percodan and Percocet.” Alarmingly, OxyContin can have as much as ten times the amount of oxycodone as an average Percodan or Percocet. Approved by the FDA in 1995, the National Institute on Drug Abuse asserts the “chronic use of drugs such as OxyContin can lead to physical dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms if use is stopped, including insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movements. Large doses can cause severe, potentially fatal, respiratory depression.” Intended to be taken orally, many patients and addicts chose to inject or snort the pills (after being modified) to quicken and heighten the effects. Oxycodone is intensely addictive, requiring more frequent and stronger doses as the body becomes dependent.

Efforts were being made to hold OxyContin owners and Purdue Pharma executives accountable for their actions. Thousands of lawsuits had been filed against the Sackler family, one of America’s wealthiest with an estimated combined net worth of about $13 billion. One of the main pillars of the family was Jonathan Sackler, son of one of the three Sackler brothers that transformed the small drug company Purdue Frederick into a hugely profitable pharmaceutical firm. Sackler passed away on the June 30 due to cancer, complicating many of the lawsuits as he was often named a defendant. Other members of his family have been named other defendants, depending on the case.

The famed OxyContin pill launched in the mid-1990s and was continually and thoroughly promoted by the Connecticut based family. The members of the family are charged with the accusation that “eight people in a single family made the choices that caused much of the US opioid epidemic” due to an unethical, irresponsible, and often illegal scheme. Furthermore, “the actions of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma included sharing studies that they knew were misleading, claiming that this was an effective, long-term treatment that didn’t give rise to risks of addiction,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told reporters at a news conference last year. “Those claims were verifiably false and ignored expert warnings. And they even undermined studies suggesting that there were addictive effects.”

Purdue as a company as well as the Sackler family deny any wrongdoing. Currently, Purdue seeks bankruptcy protection in order to counteract nearly 3,000 lawsuits that attribute blame to Purdue for beginning the opioid crisis. A Department of Justice criminal investigation is ongoing, relating to this process.

The opioid crisis, an epidemic that has spanned from 1999 to the present, has killed almost 500,000 individuals, potentially more. This count includes those that have died from an overdose involving an opioid, including both prescription and illicit opioids. Said epidemic can be characterized in three waves. The first beginning with the rise of prescribed opioids in the 1990s, including “natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone.” The second wave is marked by an increase of overdose deaths specifically related to heroin. The third commenced in 2013, with alarmingly stark increases in overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids, especially those “involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl” Unfortunately, “the market for illicitly manufactured fentanyl continues to change and it can be found in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine.”

Many Americans are unaware of the impact of the opioid crisis, or the fact that it is becoming increasingly, not decreasingly relevant to society. Yet, there are signs of positive change. Overall opioid-involved death rates decreased by 2% from 2017 to 2018, with sharper drops in prescription and heroin-involved deaths. Yet the increase in synthetic opioid-involved death rates increased by 10%, proving more work must be done to protect Americans. Currently, the Center for Disease Control combats this epidemic by monitoring trends, advancing research, equipping states with resources, supporting providers, partnering with public safety officials, and increasing public awareness.

Apart from crooked doctors, big pharmaceuticals, especially Jonathan Sackler, the Sackler family, and Purdue Pharma have received a majority of the blame for the epidemic. Jonathan Sackler’s death marks the death of who many see as a villain, but before justice was served in the American court system.

The opioid crisis, two decades in, has captivated the American imagination through film and media, as many crises often due. Netflix in particular has made efforts to document the crisis, including with the true crime series The Pharmacist and the limited series The Business of Drugs. Coming to Netflix next month is the long-awaited Hillbilly Elegy, starring Glenn Close and Amy Adams, both nominated for six Academy Awards each. The film lends a careful eye towards Appalachia, an area ravaged by the opioid epidemic, and features Adams in the role of a struggling addict. The film has already generated major Oscar buzz and will certainly bring further attention to a crucial issue.

Addiction is an incredibly difficult disease to combat. If you or a love one is struggling, please consider contacting the national hotline.

360 Magazine, Drugs, Pills, "Piracetam" by Arenamontanus is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Coronavirus Slams Drug Cartels

By Jason Tayer

Now that the coronavirus has essentially inhabited every region around the world, countless businesses and industries have taken major financial hits. Not only have legal industries been suffering from the pandemic, but underground, illegal trade systems have also been experiencing declines. Specifically, drug cartels, illicit powers over the production and sale of narcotics, traveling between the Mexico-U.S. border are undergoing a significant collapse stage.

These drug cartels are primarily suffering from a lack of resources along with means to make drugs in the production phase. According to the Washington Post, many of the chemical precursors used to manufacture these narcotics are supplied by China, and specifically from the city of Wuhan. With previous, open trade systems halting and borders closing over the past 2-3 months, it is no surprise that global and local drug trade has been negatively affected. Even within different Latin American cities and countries, drug transportation is slowing at considerable rates. While drug cartels slow production, criminal investigators can now take advantage of this time to try to shut down many drug cartels.

Government officials may gain more traction than ever in terms of seizing drug money and honing in on busting certain drug cartels. According to NBC News, cash seizures have more than doubled this year around the Los Angeles area. Again, without as much contact and access to China’s criminal gangs, many Latin American drug cartels are less able to launder money and utilize bank wires in a clean, less traceable manner.

On the contrary, the National Post suggests that stress and anxiety within the U.S. are actually leading to increased demand for narcotics such as meth and fentanyl. This increasing demand is outgrowing meth withdrawal treatment programs, and obviously not meeting the current supply of these drugs, so the industry is subsiding from both sides.

How to Spot Fentanyl Abuse in the Workplace – And What To Do About It

Synthetic opioids – primarily illegal fentanyl which is 50-100x more potent than morphine – are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States. The effects of fentanyl use and misuse are not isolated to the home of course; there are consequences that can affect an individual’s work environment, including fellow employees and customers. Employers who are not aware of this may face a startling wake-up call. Addiction expert Dr. Deni Carise of Recovery Centers of America is speaking at the 2019 Labor Assistance Professionals Conference this week on the topic of addiction, relapse and recovery and is available for an interview on the topic of spotting fentanyl (and other opioids) abuse in the workplace, as well as what to do about it.

According to Dr. Carise: “Drug use in the workplace can be obvious or subtle as different drugs present in different ways. An employee under the influence of fentanyl may exhibit extreme happiness, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, sedation, have problems breathing, or become unconscious. Overdosing on fentanyl presents as slow or shallow breathing, slow heartbeat, severe sleepiness, cold and clammy skin, trouble walking or talking, feeling faint, dizzy, or confused, or complete unresponsiveness. Employees under the influence of fentanyl may seem completely normal and functioning well, then experience noticeable mood or energy swings. They may appear to doze off while working which can endanger themselves and those around them depending on their profession. The most important thing to remember is that fentanyl and opioid abuse is a treatable disease. Employees can and do recover from opioid dependence to return to work as fully productive, contributing members of a work team.”

Dr. Deni Carise bio: For nearly 30 years, Deni Carise, PhD, has served as an important national voice on substance use disorder, treatment and recovery and regularly speaks at national conferences on current trends in the field. She is a clinical psychologist and assistant adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and chief scientific officer for Recovery Centers of America. Dr. Carise has provided consult for the White House and internationally with treatment providers in other countries to develop national systems of clinical treatment delivery. She has published over 100 articles, books and chapters on addiction and related topics. With extensive knowledge, media experience and her own personal experience in recovery, Dr. Carise speaks in plain truths and succinct sound-bites about the scope and stigma of addiction, the quest for treatment, and the challenges of recovery.

Opioid Epidemic

The painful and prevalent problem of opioid addiction plaguing families across our country has sparked national attention as the overdose death rates of these individuals has skyrocketed the past few years. The pervasiveness of the opioid epidemic is due in large part to the over-prescription of opioid pain medication and the highly addictive nature of these medications. Pharmaceutical companies and morally-corrupt doctors threw caution to the wind as “pill-mills” popped up all over the US. Although opioid use often begins with a legitimate injury and prescription for pain medication, those unfamiliar with the dangers of addiction are naïve to the depths of depravity it can take even the most innocent of souls.

As tolerance to the drug builds, the individual takes more than prescribed to alleviate the pain. Eventually, the suggestion is made to crush the pill and snort it for a better, more immediate high. The treatment morphs into a habit, then an obsession. Most opioid addictions escalate to intravenous use. Though the person previously swore never to pick up a needle, the temptation outweighs the willpower, and life becomes consumed with chasing the euphoria of that first shot. At this point, the sheer financial burden of the habit is insurmountable. Lying, cheating, stealing, anything becomes justifiable in the name of the next fix.

Inevitably, the solution becomes substituting the FDA regulated pills for the significantly cheaper heroin, which promises a more intense high. The recent inclusion of fentanyl in heroin increases the potency and the likelihood of overdose and death. Suffering with addiction is painful, exhausting, and frightening. Attempting sobriety means enduring withdraws, reality, feelings, and memories. Negative experiences with shady recovery businesses leaves clients feeling jaded and mistrustful. Unfortunately, many treatment centers view clients as numbers or worse, dollar signs.

They treat clients according to insurance benefits rather than clients’ needs. Once insurance quits paying, clients are dropped off at bus stations to fend for themselves with no resources. Luckily, the substance abuse field is starting to shift, and task forces in South Florida are shutting down illegitimate “treatment centers” whose sole focus is greed. Cleaning up the reputation of the recovery realm paves the way for companies genuinely vested in the best interest of the clients and the communities, like Delphi Behavioral Health Group. With fifteen treatment facilities in various locations across the United States offering the spectrum of care, Delphi understands every client is unique and so too is the specific treatment needed. Willing to step outside the norm, Delphi launched New Perspectives in Boynton Beach, Florida, a medication-assisted treatment facility.

MAT, while still somewhat controversial, is becoming an optimal treatment option for those suffering from long-term opioid addiction that have tried and failed at traditional, abstinence-based treatment models. New Perspectives offers a contingency-based model with highly monitored and conservative doses of Suboxone films. Suboxone decreases cravings for opioids and initiates withdrawal symptoms if opioids are ingested. Clients must be compliant with the clinical program to receive their prescriptions. Suboxone, in conjunction with intensive therapeutic services, provides a real opportunity for those afflicted with opioid addiction to finally create a life of sobriety. True, there is an opioid epidemic afflicting our nation, but new medications and treatment modalities bring hope that its reign is nearing an end.

Jennifer Behnke, MS, LMFT, LMHC, QS
Jennifer Behnke, Clinical Director at New Perspectives, has worked in the field of mental health and substance abuse for over a decade. Jennifer graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2012 with a master’s degree in counseling psychology. In 2014, Jennifer became a licensed mental health counselor and licensed marriage & family therapist. At that time, she opened her private practice and took a position as a clinical director. Jennifer helped launch the medication-assisted treatment program at New Perspectives and became a qualified supervisor. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in marriage & family therapy with a specialization in couples therapy at Northcentral University.

Written by Jennifer Behnke

Trump Revealed on Opioid Epidemic 

With more than 100 Americans dying every day from drug overdoses, Trump declared it was time to take action and officially declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency. The announcement was short on details. Declaring a national state of emergency involves more than just a brief statement from the president to the press — there’s a formal process that requires documents to be signed and legal steps to be followed.

On ViceNews.com, Keegan Hamilton details Trump’s informal state of emergency declaration and how a White House spokesman confirmed that the paperwork still remains incomplete.

The informal state of emergency declaration follows a pattern for the Trump administration. Much like his recent tweets about banning transgender people from the military or his early executive orders about cracking down on crime, Trump’s opioid gambit has been — at least so far — all flash and no substance, attracting attention without making any major policy changes.

Read “State of no emergency” by VICE News’ Keegan Hamilton here: http://news.vice.com/story/trump-officially-declared-an-opioid-emergency-and-then-officially-did-nothing. Follow @vicenews and @keegan_hamilton for more updates.