Author Archives: dradmins

Universities React to Recent Fraternity Deaths

Probably most of us have either seen the classic John Belushi movie Animal House or at least know about it. While it depicts Greek life on a college campus in a humorous way, there are some scary realities associated with fraternities that involve heavy alcohol and drug use. While of course it is not the case for all chapters of fraternities and sororities, it is definitely a common theme observed on campuses around the country.

There have been two recent deaths connected to fraternity activities on two major universities that have recently drawn national attention. In September, a young man died in an alleged hazing incident at LSU in Baton Rouge, where an autopsy showed is blood alcohol level was .495 – an astronomically high number. His tragic death led to multiple arrests, and the university suspended all Greek activities indefinitely.

Another tragedy struck this past week when a student died at FSU in Tallahassee, also resulting in the indefinite suspension of fraternities and sororities. Florida State University’s president, John Thrasher stated, “For this suspension to end, there will need to be a new normal for Greek life at the university. There must be a new culture, and our students must be full participants in creating it.”

Before someone dismisses these horrible incidents as rare accidents, a recent article outlined some of the troubling behavior connected to Greek activities at LSU, showing repeated negligent behavior filled with intentionally inflicting harm on fellow students through forced drinking and other abuses.

These behaviors point to a much larger problem in our current American culture – a trend in degradation of others and rampant substance abuse fostered by college campuses around the country. Although no college condones such behavior openly, they all know it exists – especially among fraternities – and most do very little to stop it. These clubs also often promote the idea of an elitist mentality where protecting one’s “brothers” is more important than doing the right thing in life.

If it seems like we’re picking on fraternities – it’s because we are. Despite the assumption that most Greek activities are so dangerous, there is definitely plenty of evidence to prove that enough is enough.

New Legislation Seeks to Help Children of Families Dealing with Substance Abuse

One of the most heart breaking aspects of addiction is the effect it has on children and families. There are approximately 200,000 children in foster care because their parents are addicted. Although there is no question that some form of intervention needs to happen, especially for the wellbeing of the children, just how that should take place is easier said than done.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem of South Dakota recently introduced legislation to help this situation, and she’s getting a lot of support. The bill, H.R. 2857, is called the Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act and recently passed the House and is on to the Senate. It seeks to provide funding for treatment programs that help keep families together rather than sending kids off to foster care.

Treatment centers that provide adequate facilities for children to remain with parents during rehabilitation are few and far between. This is despite the evidence shows that keeping children with parents who receive treatment is more effective for both the adults and the kids long-term.

This unprecedented move would help to restore family structures that are so often beyond repair after the child is placed in foster care. Oftentimes the child, who likely has lived with several different families while in the state’s custody, loses the trust and security that the parent is supposed to offer. And while drug abuse certainly reduces that trust, allowing the child to stay with a parent who is willing to go to treatment and get better helps to maintain the trust and security the child needs and deserves.

“I think it would be very hard for the children – or for all of them, probably – to work with each other when that trust has been broken. In that capacity, I was an advocate for the children, and it was very hard, especially when the child can’t trust their own parent or has been hurt so many times because of alcohol and drug abuse or whatever else it may be,” explained Anna Wahcahunka, a counselor at a treatment center that deals with the fall out of parent drug abuse problems.

“Drug treatment programs that keep families together and children out of foster care have proven to produce better outcomes for both the parent and child,” said Rep. Noem in a release. “Even so, government-induced barriers exist that make a family-focused approach difficult. I’m hopeful the Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act will offer another evidence-based tool to those on the drug abuse epidemic’s front line, helping them strengthen families and change lives.”

The bill works by providing families that have a parent enrolled in a state-approved treatment facility with income that would have otherwise gone to a foster family. In order to qualify, treatment programs have to offer parenting skills training, parent education and individual and family counseling. The length of the stay can be no longer than 12 months, but many believe this is an adequate amount of time to regain the family structure and start to repair the damage caused by the drug or alcohol abuse.

The magnitude of the drug problem in America still has not yet fully been realized. This is largely due to the number of people who are dependent on or abusing their prescribed medications as well as the more obvious illicit drug use. Tens of millions of people in the country are in need of help, and finding ways to not only create positive change now in terms of rehabilitation and prevention, but also long-term improvements through policy improvements are essential.

Tennessee Lawsuit Alleges Opioid Drug Manufacturers Deceived Public

Holding Drug Companies Liable

Three Tennessee prosecutors and the guardian of a baby born addicted to opioids say that several drug manufacturers are responsible for starting an epidemic “through deceptive marketing about the risks of addiction to painkillers.”

A lawsuit was filed on June 13, 2017, in Sullivan County Circuit Court, Kingston, Tennessee. It shares the story of the first few day of life of an unidentified infant born in March 2015, and describes how the child had to be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the hospital where he was born.

Child Born Addicted to Drugs

The infant was born to an addicted mother. He spent two weeks in the NICU. During that time, he often “cried uncontrollably” and was treated with morphine to wean him off of drugs. The lawsuit also describes the child as having ongoing health issues and learning disabilities. None of these allegations have been proven in court.

Plaintiffs Seeking Unspecified Damages

The legal action was filed by three district attorneys representing parts of Appalachia. The defendants are Purdue, manufacturer of OxyContin, Mallinckrodt PLC, a drug maker that develops and sells several pain medications, and Endo Health Solutions. The latter company sells Opana; it develops and sells a number of other drugs used to treat pain. Other defendants named in the lawsuit are an alleged pill mill and two people previously convicted for dealing drugs.

The lawsuit is asking the court to make this class of drug less accessible in the state. An unspecified amount of damages are being requested. If the lawsuit is successful, this money will be used specifically for the following:

• Medical expenses
• Drug addiction treatment
• Pain and suffering

The lawsuit is also asking the court to declare an existing state law limiting the amount of non-economic and punitive damages that defendants can be awarded in a lawsuit unconstitutional. The prosecutors who started the lawsuit plan to join with other district attorneys to put pressure on state lawmakers to control the number of pain clinics operating in the state and what they describe as the overprescribing of opioids.

Drug Makers Denying Allegations

Purdue has “vigorously denied” the allegations in the complaint, stating that the company shares the public’s concerns about the opioid crisis and that it is “committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.”

Mallinckrodt stated that it takes its responsibility as an opioid manufacturer “very seriously.” The company said that it only makes generic versions of drugs and doesn’t promote them. Mallinckrodt also said in an official statement that it has made broad efforts to support dealing with the opioid health crisis through “a range of advocacy initiatives, direct lobbying campaigns, and charitable activities.”

Does Smoking Inhibit Recovery?

One of the most common sites to see in a treatment facility is cigarette smoking. Clients and counselors often engage in smoking as a way to temporarily reduce stress, socialize and still feed at least one of their addictions. However, new research is showing that smoking can also be a serious hindrance to maintaining sobriety.

Researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health investigated data gathered from 35,000 adults, specifically looking at rate of relapse after treatment. They found that people who smoke before treatment and continue doing so afterward are nearly twice as likely to relapse as non-smokers.

This information is especially interesting because of the current take on smoking in most treatment centers. Since coming off of drugs can be so stressful and patients are often having to work through painful past experiences, smoking is accepted because it is a “lesser” addiction. However, according to this research it can be detrimental.

“If research continues to show a relationship between smoking and relapse to substance use among those in recovery, making tobacco treatment a standard part of treatment for illicit substance use disorders may be a critical service to provide to adults toward improving substance treatment outcomes over the long term,” commented Renee Goodwin, author of the study.

Perhaps some of the indicators of having a compulsive behavior tied to a chemical leaves a pathway open in the brain that makes people more susceptible to relapse. Whereas research into neuroplasticity has shown that the brain can be “re-trained” to create new pathways and behaviors, maintaining an active addiction to nicotine may prevent that re-writing process from occurring.

Economic Worries can Lead to Drug Abuse

Middle-aged, average Americans are not supposed to die at alarming rates. In fact, with increased health care, social programs and a general improvement of self-awareness, the middle class is supposed to live longer than past generations. However, this is not the case. In fact, ten years ago the number of deceased middle-aged Americans started to climb significantly. In an effort to find out why, two economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, delved into the numbers and found a surprising correlation.

They found that other statistics were rising along with the death rate. Drug and alcohol use among this demographic were increasing at a similar rate. What was even more interesting was that as these two things were rising, the economy was taking a nose dive. The uncertainty of the financial future could be causing people to give in to depression and succumb to overdoses, alcoholism and suicides, all things contributing to the death rate.

“Whatever it is these people are unhappy, they’re left behind, some of their jobs have gone away, they’re worse off than their parents were, they’re worried about opportunities for their kids,” explained Deaton.

In a separate study, researchers made a connection between the rise of opioid abuse and the rise of unemployment. They found that countries with more unemployed citizens also had higher rates of substance abuse. It appears that connection is so sensitive that a 1% increase in unemployment effects a 3.6% increase in opioid overdoses. In yet another study, this time in China, researchers found that when trade brought about sudden unemployment there were more suicides and drug overdoses. Examined as a group, these studies certainly indicate that people are greatly affected by the tide of the economy.

But, if rise and fall of the economy can bring about such extreme behaviors, maybe health officials, families and loved ones can use this as a predictor. For instance, if it appears that there are less jobs, or unemployment starts to rise, communities can have programs in place for out -of-work professionals that connect them with their peers, therapists if needed and networking tools to get them back in the work force. There can also be more substance abuse prevention programs for adults.

If you have a loved one struggling with drugs or alcohol due to economic stress, contact us today to see how we can help.

Responsibility for Opiate Epidemic Includes Pharmacies

Opinions abound regarding who all should be held accountable for the surge in opioid addictions and subsequent overdoses in our country. Yes, heroin is leading the pack at the moment, but there were several years leading up to this where painkillers containing substances like oxycodone and hydrocodone were the major culprits, and they are still a major part of the problem today.

A lot of finger-pointing has occurred as to whose fault it was for the number of people becoming dependent. Many place the blame directly on the pharmaceutical companies for the manufacturing and marketing of the drugs. Some people find fault with the doctors who have been over-prescribing the painkillers, although most people only blame the addicts themselves. In truth, these are all correct, but there is another missing element in between the manufacturers, doctors and patients – the pharmacies.

Checks and balances are the framework of our government as well as most businesses and within the health care system. The idea is that one person cannot make sweeping decisions without first consulting or getting approval from a separate entity. This is done to ensure the safety and effectiveness of any decision. For instance, pharmacists make sure that the patient knows how to take their medicine, or alert them if their doctor prescribes them something that may interfere or be dangerous with another medication the person is already taking. Businesses that distribute prescription drugs receive orders from pharmacies and are supposed to alert authorities if a pharmacy is ordering too large quantities for what they need.

However, the checks and balances have failed in places like West Virginia. The state has struggled with the opiate crisis for many years, and they have several counties that lead in prescription overdose death rates. But this is not surprising when one looks at the number of painkillers they had been receiving.

For instance, a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia ordered 9 million prescription painkiller pills in two years. This pharmacy is located in a town that has 392 residents. This should have set alarm bells off with the distributor, but instead of flagging it as suspicious, they continued to send the pills.

The amount of money being made on these pills may be what compels distributors to look the other way when pharmacies start ordering excessive quantities of the drugs. According to an investigation conducted by reporters at the Charleston Gazette-Mail, three drug companies (McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen) made over $17 billion from West Virginian pharmacies from 2007 to 2012.

“It starts with doctor writing, the pharmacist filling, and the wholesaler distributing. They’re all three in bed together. The distributors knew what was going on, they just didn’t care,” claimed a retired West Virginian pharmacist.

Prescription drug companies have continued to profit off of the painkiller epidemic that is sweeping throughout the country, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars over time. Although it is difficult to point the finger at only one entity, what happened in West Virginia highlights the importance of maintaining an honest system that monitors the prescriptions as well as the people filling them.

The Surgeon General’s Report on Addiction

US Surgeon General Calls for Holistic Approach in Addiction Treatment

Surgeon General's Report on Addiction

The US Surgeon General has issued the first report of its kind on the subject of substance abuse. In it, Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a direct call to action to stop what he has said is a “public health crisis of drug and alcohol addiction that is both underappreciated and undertreated.”

US Drug Use and Overdose Statistics

Dr. Murthy pointed out that the number of US deaths from drug overdoses reached 47,055 in 2014, which was a record number according to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure represented a 6.5 percent increase over previous years.

The government has requested additional funds to address the serious issue of drug addiction. President Barack Obama has made a request for additional funding of US$ 1.1 billion to help combat the problem. Opioid painkiller abuse is of particular concern, with drugs such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine being at the forefront of the public’s attention.

In 2015, the number of people who have reported either using illegal drugs or misusing prescription drugs has hit 27 million. Close to one-quarter of all adolescents and adults (66 million people) have reported engaging in an episode of binge drinking during the past month.

Early Intervention Important: Surgeon General

Dr. Murthy’s report calls for a holistic approach to taking on the issue of addiction. It should involve a number of entities and organizations, from policy makers and regulators to communities, schools and families. One of Dr. Murthy’s goals is to increase access to existing treatment programs and to expand the number of programs available.

His report also discussed the importance of early intervention in schools to teach children about the dangers of alcohol use. Dr. Murthy pointed out that if a young person has their first drink before they turn 15, they are four times more likely to develop an alcohol problem than if they postponed their first drink to after age 21.

Dr. Murthy’s model for his approach is the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on tobacco. At that time, approximately 42 percent of the US population smoked, but few people recognized the dangers of tobacco products. Through the work of the campaign, the public was made aware of the health consequences of smoking, and the current smoking rate is below 17 percent.

Preventing Opioid Addiction Goal of New Michigan Surgical Initiative

doctor prescribing opiatesMichigan, like other states, has been hit hard by America’s drug epidemic. A team from the University of Michigan (U-M) is taking action against a key factor in the problem: opioids being prescribed to patients both before and after surgery.

The Department of Health and Human Services will be providing a grant of $1.4 million in funding per year over each of the next five years ($7 million total funding), which will be matched by U-M. The team will be launching an initiative that will help doctors and hospitals across Michigan address surgical patients’ pain without putting them at high risk for becoming new chronic opioid users, misusers or addicts.

Michigan Opioid Engagement Network Will Prescribe Fewer Narcotics

The program, called the Michigan Opioid Engagement Network (Michigan OPEN), has set as its goal to reduce the number of opioids being prescribed to Michigan surgery patients by 50 percent. It also wants to lower the number of patients still using opioids several months after surgery by the same rate.

Based in the U-M Medical School and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, Michigan-OPEN will work with existing networks of hospitals, doctors and nurses across the state. The team will be working with 12 of these networks to understand and use best practices for managing pain for their patients, which includes using opioid pain medications wisely.

“Surgeons prescribe nearly 40 percent of opioid painkillers in Michigan, but have few resources to guide them on best use of the drugs by patients before and after surgery,” according to Chad Brummett, M.D., who is of Michigan-OPEN’s three leaders and the director of the Division of Pain Research in the U-M Department of Anesthesiology. “We hope that by working with surgical teams across the state, we can fill that gap for the benefit of individual patients and our state as a whole.”

According to U-M researchers, approximately 10 percent of patients who weren’t taking opioid medications before they undergo surgery become dependent on them after the procedure. This dependency can open the door to misuse and addiction to prescription and illegal drugs.

How Michigan-OPEN Will Help to Prevent Addiction

Opioid abuse in Michigan is already a widespread issue that costs the state nearly $2 billion each year. Mortality rates are increasing faster than in other states. Michigan-OPEN will move quickly to distribute evidence-based information and advice to health care teams and treatment programs statewide.

Special attention will be paid to patients currently on Medicaid insurance. Patients in this category make up 12 percent of those having surgery, but account for close to one-third of those who develop a post-surgical opioid dependence.

Michigan-OPEN will also work with patients who are already taking opioids prior to surgery. A U-M study has found that care for these patients costs nine percent more than for patients who did not use opioids before their procedure. It also resulted in more complications and readmissions than for patients of similar age, health and insurance status.

Michigan-OPEN teams will work with patients and their healthcare team to create strategies they can use to reduce the number and level of opioids being prescribed and dependence on these types of drugs. One strategy that can be implemented is for surgeons to discuss pain management expectations and concerns with the patient before surgery.

Wrapping up Recovery Month 2016

recoveryAs yet another Recovery Month comes to a close today, we wanted to take a bit of time an reflect on the meaning of recovery. In truth, recovery can mean different things to different people.

A general definition for recovery is “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength,” but that doesn’t really tell the whole story in terms of addiction.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), their working definition of recovery is: ” A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

samhsarecovdefThrough the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has delineated four major dimensions that support a life in recovery. These areas encompass what are often considered the most important parts of life, although some may feel that family and religion could be added. But, these can also be part of the greater category of community, below.

  • Health – Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms—for example, abstaining from use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications if one has an addiction problem— and for everyone in recovery, making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional wellbeing.
  • Home – A stable and safe place to live.
  • Purpose – Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society.
  • Community – Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

They also have 10 Guiding Principles of Recovery, which include Hope, Person-Driven, Many Pathways, Holistic, Peer Support, Relational, Culture, Addresses Trauma, Strengths/Responsibility, and Respect.

Regardless of what each person’s individual definition of recovery may be, we feel it is imperative for us all to be supportive of one another in this journey. Just because your definition may include things that others do not, it doesn’t mean they are wrong or somehow missing something. Yes, it’s fine to share opinions and successes, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of someone else’s progress in their own lives.

Instead, let’s celebrate not just recovery, but the experience of life as a whole, for these are the reasons for living in the first place. If you would like help getting started on your path to recovery, contact us today to speak with a treatment consultant who can help you find appropriate resources.

Surgeon General Asks All Doctors to Help Reduce Prescription Opioid Problem

sgrxThe 19th Surgeon General of the United States of America, Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., has issued a landmark letter to all physicians seeking help to address the opioid epidemic in the country. He acknowledges the critical role that doctors have played in partially creating the problem through the over-prescription of narcotics, while at the same time asserts that they can help to greatly reduce the crisis as well.

“Everywhere I travel, I see communities devastated by opioid overdoses. I meet families too ashamed to seek treatment for addiction,” Dr. Murthy wrote, citing that overdose deaths have quadrupled in America since 1999.

He also noted that the responsibility is shared with pharmaceutical companies as well as patients, stating, “Nearly two decades ago, we were encouraged to be more aggressive about treating pain, often without enough training and support to do so safely. This coincided with heavy marketing of opioids to doctors. Many of us were even taught – incorrectly – that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain.”

Dr. Murthy asked his fellow physicians to take a pledge to reduce prescription opioid abuse at a special website set up at www.TurnTheTideRx.org, which also includes helpful information on recommended prescribing practices, non-narcotic alternatives for treating pain, resources for patients who become addicted and other helpful information. The goal is to address the problem from all sides within their profession.

“First, we will educate ourselves to treat pain safely and effectively. A good place to start is the enclosed pocket card with the CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline. Second, we will screen our patients for opioid use disorder and provide or connect them with evidence-based treatment. Third, we can shape how the rest of the country sees addiction by talking about and treating it as a chronic illness, not a moral failing,” the Surgeon General wrote.

If you have a loved one who is battling an opioid dependency, contact us today to speak with a treatment consultant who can help you find an appropriate rehab center.