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Trends in Opioid Use, Strength, and Addiction

Opioid addiction continues to rise in the United States. Americans struggle with the consequences every day. Opiates come in many different forms and strengths. Increasing tolerance and downplaying the number of pills taken often marks addiction.

Identifying the Problem

An estimated 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. In 2001, The Joint Commission labeled pain as thefifth vital sign” in pain management. It required physicians to obtain a subjective measurement of a patient’s pain on a scale of 1-10. Feeling pressure to adhere to new quality standards, physicians overprescribed opioids for pain management.

The result is an epidemic in opioid abuse. Opioid overdose-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Opioid addiction affects the health and well-being of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, and classes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates 2.1 million Americans abuse opioids. The Obama administration recently allocated $1.1 billion for drug abuse initiatives and treatment options.

Types of Pain Management

Opioids take different forms and strengths. Each type has a unique half-life (the amount of time it takes for half of a drug to metabolize). Below are some commonly prescribed opioids.

Morphine – is known as the “gold standard” of opioids—the yardstick by which all other opioid analgesics are measured. Morphine has a half-life of 1.5-7 hours. Morphine is prescribed only in a clinical setting. It’s typically administered intravenously though it may be taken orally. Like other opioids, morphine may cause nausea, dizziness, constipation, respiratory distress, and certain cardiac problems. Unlike other opioids, morphine may also cause a histamine reaction.

Tramadol –  is a synthetic opioid. It’s a relatively weak opioid with a half-life of 5-7 hours. Tramadol’s efficacy is about 10-20% of morphine. Tramadol is a centrally-acting pain reliever. It treats post-surgical, obstetric, and chronic pain of neurogenic or mechanical origin. Tramadol is the opioid of choice for those with poor cardiopulmonary function (such as the elderly, the obese, and smokers) or patients with impaired renal and/or hepatic function. Tramadol can be an effective treatment option for those who can’t take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or for whom these drugs ineffectively manage pain.

Codeine – is another fairly weak opioid with a half-life of 9-11 hours. It’s often prescribed to combat chronic back pain. When combined to paracetamol (e.g., acetaminophen and Tylenol), it provides effective management for moderate-to-severe chronic pain and acute pain after dentistry. Codeine is more easily tolerated than tramadol and has fewer common side effects. However, tramadol is more potent than codeine and has fewer cardiopulmonary effects.

Pethidine – also known as Demerol, is a synthetic opioid that works on mu and kappa receptors to relieve pain. Pain relief occurs quickly, making pethidine the logical option for relief of labor pains—particularly during the second stage. However, pethidine has a relatively short half-life of 2-3 hours. Pethidine is associated with a high risk of suicide. It has a high side-effect profile compared to other opioids.

Hydrocodone – is a schedule II opioid with a half-life of 2-4 hours. Hydrocodone is reportedly equal to the gold standard morphine. In fact, some doctors have suggested that hydrocodone may be even more potent in analgesic quality than morphine. Hydrocodone is also more powerful than codeine or tramadol. It’s more efficacious in providing pain relief for acute musculoskeletal pain. Even though it has a fairly low bioavailability, hydrocodone isn’t available in pure formulations. It’s typically combined with acetaminophen for pain relief (e.g., Vicodin).

Oxycodone – more commonly known as Oxycontin, oxycodone is a strong synthetic opioid with a half-life of 3-4.5 hours. It’s approximately twice as strong as morphine. Because of its high potency, oxycodone is only used to treat acute pain. Chronic pain sufferers are more likely to be prescribed tramadol or codeine.

Mechanisms of Action: How Do Opioids Work?

Opioids are known as mu antagonists because they work on the mu receptors of the brain. While opioids may have other differences—for example, some are also kappa antagonists—all opioids have mu antagonist qualities in common. Mu receptors are one of the brain’s endorphin receptors. Opioids work by triggering the rush of endorphins, which are the body’s natural opioids, to dull the sensation of pain. Endorphins also generate a sense of well-being.

How Does an Opioid’s Potency Relate to Its Addictive Qualities?

How Does an Opioid’s Potency Relate to Its Addictive QualitiesAny opioid can be abused, but some have a higher likelihood than others. The distinction lies in both tolerance and potency.

Opioids work by triggering natural opioid receptors, but over time, synthetic opioids can actually inhibit the body’s endogenous endorphins. When the body can’t produce enough endogenous opioids on its own, patients experience the following feelings of withdrawal:

  • Discomfort
  • Shaking
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms, coupled with the return of moderate to severe pain, results in addiction-seeking behavior. Patients build a tolerance to the drug and seek more to experience the same effect.

Other Forms of Abuse

Abuse may begin when patients seek alternate delivery routes to achieve the “high” associated with a rush of endorphins. Patients may take their oral medications and crush them into a fine powder and snort them. For example, oxycodone is known for both its high potency and long half-life. Yet when an oxycodone pill is crushed and snorted, it not only produces a strong high, but it also increases the risk of negative side effects—such as respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, coma, or death.

Extended release formulations are particularly dangerous. Abusers have access to all of the medicine at one time if they crush, snort, or smoke them. This increases the strength of the opioid and thus the high.

Addicts may also find other ways to increase the relative strength of an opioid. A patient may take a relative’s Vicodin when a codeine prescription runs out. Since Vicodin has a stronger potency and a longer half-life relative to codeine, the patient’s body will inhibit his or her own endogenous opioid systems more quickly.

Spotting Addictive Behaviors in Opioid Abusers

Those who abuse opioids may display behaviors similar to alcoholics or other addicts. Much like an alcoholic may downplay how much he or she drinks in a day, an opioid abuser may downplay his or her habit. While admitting to taking a much weaker Tylenol with codeine recreationally, he or she may actually be taking hydromorphone or oxycodone, which are extremely potent and dangerous opioids. Addicts can become incredibly good at lying (even to themselves) about the extent of their problems.

It’s important to realize that many opioid prescription problems have roots in real moderate to severe pain. When prescriptions run out, addicts may turn to other drugs of abuse, like heroin, to dull the pain and trigger a euphoric feeling. Indeed, heroin use is on the rise: according to NIDA, the number of heroin users doubled from 380,000 in 2005 to 670,000 in 2012.

Prescription drug addicts are at risk for more than just an overdose, especially if they turn to heroin. Intravenous drug abuse can lead to other complications, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne disease transmission from dirty needles.

The Dangers of Opioids and The Solution

The addictive qualities of an opioid depend on its potency and half-life. The stronger the drug, the quicker the path to addiction. As tolerance develops, abusers may turn to alternate avenues to experience the “high”, from crushing and snorting pills to switching to a stronger opioid to using heroin. Addicts are creative with the way they administer prescription pills, leading to an increased risk of overdose because opioids continue to build in their systems. High amounts of opioids can lead to organ damage, tissue death, respiratory depression, and cardiac arrest.

As the full extent of the opioid epidemic comes to light, opioid abuse is becoming less stigmatized. Loved ones should be on the lookout for potentially abusive behaviors, such as downplaying the number of pills taken. Early intervention produces the best chance of opioid abuse recovery. Our staff here at Summit Estate specializes in Opioid addiction, let us help you or your loved one recover from this dangerous addiction. Click the button below to see more about our services offered on opioid addiction.

Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment Center

Painkillers For Kids: Recent FDA Approval Marks The Latest Step In OxyContin’s Evolution

Painkillers For Kids OxyContin Approved - Summit EstateThe United States has been embroiled in an opioid overdose epidemic for years, resulting in growing public support for stricter prescription practices and more oversight of pharmaceutical manufacturers. One of the most potent opioid painkillers on the market is OxyContin, and that name has been part of the public drug discussion for the past couple of decades for many reasons.

Although OxyContin is one of the most effective medications for treating severe pain for long periods of time, it is also one of the most habit-forming prescription drugs. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved OxyContin for use for children as young as 11 years old. OxyContin is an incredibly potent and highly habit-forming opioid, and this new approval has drawn no small amount of scrutiny.

For years, OxyContin had only been prescribed to treat chronic and severe pain. The deciding factor for whether the drug can be given to a child is a bit ominous as well: The child must be able to tolerate a 20 mg opioid dose over five consecutive days to qualify for continued use of OxyContin.

OxyContin is a long-acting painkiller that can provide relief for up to 12 hours for even the most serious pain, and pediatric healthcare professionals have argued that this can help ease the suffering of children with terminal or seriously debilitating health problems.

Although the FDA’s decision is not meant to make OxyContin the first choice among opioid painkillers for children, this change has led to significant public debate. Those who support the change say the drug is powerful enough to combat even the most severe pain some children face, namely from cancer or serious invasive surgeries, such as spinal fusions.

OxyContin In The News

OxyContin's Dubious Track Record - Summit EstateOne of the major criticisms of this new approval is that the FDA is acting in the interest of the pharmaceutical company that develops OxyContin: Purdue Pharma. Purdue has a poor public perception, mostly due to the fact it pled guilty in 2007 to charges of misbranding and misleading pharmaceutical regulators about OxyContin’s potential for abuse and risk of addiction.

Purdue aggressively marketed OxyContin after its introduction in 1996. Sales of the drug reached $1 billion that first year, and Purdue was criticized for marketing to general practitioners and other health care professionals that typically are not trained to identify patterns of abuse among patients.

By the year 2000, abuse and crime rates surrounding OxyContin skyrocketed, as the drug is capable of producing a high as powerful as that of heroin. One of the main reasons Purdue has been criticized was that during the course of legal proceedings, internal documents surfaced that proved the manufacturer was well aware of OxyContin’s potential for abuse and addictive properties.

The time-release nature of the drug was inaccurately touted as a deterrent to abuse, and Purdue severely underreported the appearance of withdrawal symptoms in arthritis patients. These are notoriously serious offenses, and it would appear to many that, at least at the time, Purdue was far more concerned with profits than public welfare.

After a guilty plea, Purdue was forced to pay $600 million in criminal and civil penalties – $130 million of which went to civil litigation settlements for patients. Since the incident, OxyContin has been met with no short supply of scrutiny, although American opioid prescription rates have continued to climb.

America’s History With Painkillers

19000 Deaths Prescription Opioid Overdose 2014 - Summit EstatePrescription opioids are some of the most commonly prescribed painkillers in the U.S., despite the fact drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the country. Opioid addiction is the major driving force behind this very serious epidemic. Of the more than 47,000 lethal drug overdoses in 2014, nearly 19,000 were attributed to prescription opioids. Additionally, heroin (an illicit opioid) caused more than 10,000 overdose deaths that year.

One of the biggest issues with the prescription opioid epidemic in the U.S. is that it increases heroin use among the population. Prescription opioids are addictive and carry a high risk for abuse. Without careful, thoughtful instructions, patients can easily overdose or develop dependency. Once their prescription runs out, many patients see heroin as an attractive substitute. This is because “smack” is cheaper than black market opioid pills and far more accessible.

Building A Tolerance

Despite the addictive nature of opioid painkillers, prescription use has continued to climb over the past several decades. Unfortunately, the nature of prescribed medication lends itself to misuse. Many patients simply assume that since their doctors prescribed the medicine, it must be safe to use. Once the drug works itself into the body, one may develop a slight tolerance to the drug, and it may not treat their pain as effectively after some time. Some patients assume it is safe to up their dosage a bit to compensate for their newfound tolerance..

This line of reasoning turns a slight tolerance into a major tolerance, and patients often go through their prescriptions much faster than intended due to their painkillers lessening in potency. By the time they require so much of the drug that addiction has set in, they essentially depend on the opiod to function.

Recent Strides To Combat Abuse

To combat abuse, Purdue recently reformulated OxyContin pills so they could not be as easily crushed into powder. OxyContin abusers would commonly crush the pills so they could snort the powder or mix it into a solution for injecting. Both methods produce a much more potent and faster-acting high than simply ingesting the pills. Hence, Purdue Pharma’s new formula has helped curb overall demand for black market OxyContin.

However, while this change helps to actively curb OxyContin abuse, the new formula is a double-edged sword. If doctors believe the potential for abuse has been diminished with the new formula, they may be more liberal in giving prescriptions to patients. This, in turn, could further the prescription opioid epidemic we are seeing today and create more addicts.

OxyContin’s Evolution: Now Available To Adolescents

OxyContin Can Help Children With Cancer Sickle Cell Anemia - Summit EstateThe important thing to remember is that most addicts do not actively choose to abuse their prescriptions. Many are people with legitimate health problems and a genuine need for opioid painkillers who have simply disregarded their doctors’ instructions or were not thoroughly informed about the risks of their prescriptions before obtaining them.

It is an unfortunate reality in our world that children sometimes must contend with life-threatening and incredibly painful health issues too. The recent FDA ruling is aimed at providing these children with an effective pain-management drug formerly reserved strictly for emergency situations at a doctor’s discretion. The ruling is also meant to provide long-term pain relief for conditions that cannot be adequately managed with other, less potent medications.

Purdue has repeatedly insisted that it has no plans whatsoever for active OxyContin marketing to pediatricians, and the company remains committed to opposing and preventing abuse and misuse of the drug. As an additional safety measure, the FDA has required that Purdue perform consistent follow-up studies on how OxyContin is used among younger patients. This is meant to immediately identify any troubling patterns as they emerge.

The FDA has also required that Purdue collate and report nationally representative data concerning OxyContin prescriptions for children under the age of 17. This data must include the conditions it is being prescribed to treat and the types of doctors providing the prescriptions. These additional requirements are meant to be safeguards to ensure OxyContin is used appropriately for minors.

Clearer Directions For Physicians

The FDA has argued that this change was not meant to make OxyContin more available or more widely used, but rather to better educate the health care industry about how to safely use and distribute opioid painkillers in pediatric cases. Doctors are legally permitted to prescribe and administer whatever medications they deem fit for any given scenario, and the FDA claims that this change will provide a better standard of care for children who are fighting serious medical issues.

The new labeling and dosage changes make it much easier for health care professionals to determine which adolescent patients need OxyContin, and it eliminates most of the guesswork about proper dosage. Children that could greatly benefit from this form of consistent pain relief are those who are:

  • Facing aggressive forms of cancer
  • Recovering from invasive surgeries
  • Stricken with sickle cell anemia or another potentially fatal condition

This issue has sparked vehement voices on both sides of the debate. Many of the strongest supporters are pediatricians, pain specialists and parents that all too often have to witness children in severe pain firsthand. Detractors voice their concerns that this change is made in favor of Purdue’s profits and puts children at an unnecessary risk for addiction. The current opioid overdose epidemic certainly has a large part to play in these raised concerns, too.

Patterns Of Addiction In Adolescents

Another major point of contention is that adolescents are more predisposed to forming addictions than adults. Since the adolescent brain is not fully developed, it is much easier to develop addictive patterns and a dependence on an opiate painkiller. Indeed, prescription opioids are responsible for tens of thousands of accidental deaths each year, and it has been widely argued that the FDA’s ruling opens the doors to children being a larger portion of those statistics.

Recent studies have shown that drug abuse among adolescents and teens has declined to the lowest levels seen in years. This trend has continued despite the ongoing national opioid epidemic, so it would be difficult to draw a connection between this new ruling and OxyContin abuse among adolescents. Another safeguard preventing younger patients from forming addictions is the fact children are rarely responsible for their prescriptions.

Parents are most likely the ones to dispense their kids’ medication, and the new FDA ruling specifically requires careful instructions to be included for all adolescent prescriptions. If parents are properly warned about proper dosing and the dangers of addiction present with OxyContin use, adolescent patients will be less likely to develop addiction to the drug and will use them only as intended.

It would seem that though today’s youth are far warier of drug abuse than previous generations. The known effects of drugs, the consequences of addiction, and the fear of legal repercussions are effective deterrents for keeping children disinterested in experimenting with hard drugs.

Time Will Tell If Painkillers For Kids Is The Right Decision

OxyContin For Kids FDA Approval Opioid Epidemic - Summit EstateAt this point, it is difficult to say definitively one way or another if this change is a step in the right direction. The new ruling requires stricter instructions for use and follow-up studies to carefully analyze the effects of OxyContin prescriptions among adolescents, and it aims to curb the opioid epidemic through responsible use. Children who suffer from serious pain are also now afforded a great degree of relief through OxyContin prescriptions.

On the other hand, the opioid epidemic does not seem to be diminishing, and this new ruling could very well result in a spike in youth opioid dependency. However, one must keep in mind that adolescents are not in charge of their medical treatment and prescriptions. They rely on their doctors and parents for treating and managing their conditions.

As long as those individuals have been thoroughly informed about the dangers of opioid addiction and abuse, it stands to reason that there is little reason to fear the FDA’s decision as a dangerous one.

Will Prescriptions Rise?

As stated previously, one detail that will remain to be seen for some time is whether this change and the new perception of OxyContin will result in an increase in prescriptions overall. If doctors are more confident in the efficacy and safety of the drug, then they will naturally be more inclined to prescribe it without reservation.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that this new ruling is focused on thorough and accurate labeling as well as education for health care professionals about proper prescription practices, safe applications and appropriate doses. With any luck, this new change will highlight the appropriate applications of OxyContin for all patients so they can benefit and experience an enhanced quality of life while dealing with their afflictions.

By thoroughly educating the health care industry and all relevant professionals about the proper applications of this drug, the FDA may actually help curb the current opioid overdose epidemic rather than prolong it.

America’s Surprising History With (What Are Now) Illegal Drugs

Heroin Cocaine Marijuana Illegal Drugs In US - Summit EstateMind-altering drugs have played a role in recorded history for thousands of years. Pain relief, treatment of illnesses, spiritual experiences and expanding one’s consciousness have all been cited as reasons for experimentation with well-known potent substances. Medical necessity has driven such experimentation, as has simple curiosity, for millennia.

The United States has been embroiled in debates over the dangers and possible benefits of drug use since our nation’s founding, and some of the history behind American drug use may surprise you. For example, many of the most well-known hard drugs today started as over-the-counter remedies for common ailments, while others were once acceptable in medical settings.


Opiates In The US Since The Pilgrims - Summit EstateThe opium poppy has been considered a medicinal herb for as far back as 5,000 years ago in ancient Sumer. Opium and its derivatives are some of the most powerful and useful medicines on the planet.

Some of the earliest Pilgrims to arrive in North America brought opium tinctures, especially laudanum, a potent pain and cough suppressant, as treatments for various illnesses and infirmities, such as:

  • Smallpox
  • Dysentery
  • Cholera
  • Pain
  • Trouble sleeping

Opium-based tonics were especially popular with women at the time, as they were commonly used to alleviate menstrual cramping.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the U.S.’s most well-known and influential founders, resorted to using laudanum to treat his various afflictions, despite his marked history of skepticism toward medicine. Eventually, he began growing his own poppies at his Monticello estate in Virginia.

Recreational Use

While laudanum was an oft-used medical treatment for various ailments, many people were beginning to experiment with opium use for recreational purposes. Opiate use was prevalent during that era, and by the mid-19th century, opium dens were a common sight in the Americas. This was one of the first times that widespread public drug use was acknowledged as a societal concern, and “Yellow Peril” became a term used to describe Chinese immigrants who were accused of luring Americans into depravity and addiction with their popular opium dens.

The Arrival Of Morphine

The next major breakthrough regarding opium development came in 1803, when Friedrich Sertuerner of Germany synthesized the first batch of morphine, an injectable and highly potent opiate painkiller. Morphine was widely used and available, and wounded veterans heavily relied upon it during the American Civil War. This led to a widespread wave of addiction in the United States during the late 1800s.

Heroin: From Accepted Treatment To Epidemic

In 1895, chemist Heinrich Dreser developed heroin while working for the Bayer company in Germany, and the substance quickly gained traction as a treatment for morphine addiction. However, the drug’s immediate success did not adequately show that physicians were simply trading one addiction for another. Heroin addiction became the new epidemic.

Over the next 50 years, heroin would remain a prevalent force in American culture. The infamous “French Connection” led to an enormous supply of heroin being brought into the U.S., fueling the rebellious subcultures of the beatnik and hipster scenes. During the Vietnam War, American servicemen commonly fell victim to heroin abuse, and the addiction rate among this group was an ominous 10 to 15 percent.

Synthetic Opiates Gain Prominence

Over the years, opioids (synthetic opiates) have collectively evolved into one of the most commonly used prescription medications in the United States. Unfortunately, while opioids possess real pain management capabilities, the potential for addiction and abuse goes hand-in-hand with the drugs’ possible benefits. The CDC reports that nearly 3 million Americans are facing some kind of opioid abuse problem in 2016, and this class of meds has helped make drug overdose the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In fact, more than half of all drug-overdose deaths are attributed to either prescription opioids or heroin.


Cocaine Reached Peak In Usage In 1982 With 10.4 Million - Summit EstateCocaine, a stimulant taken from the leaves of the coca plant, is powerful and highly addictive. It was first discovered by Spanish explorers who reached South America, where the indigenous people commonly chewed coca leaves for their stimulating effects. The Spanish saw an opportunity to bring this plant home to Europe, but shipments rarely survived the journey across the Atlantic.

It would not be until the late 1800s that the potential of the coca leaf would be unlocked. Although illegal today in the U.S., cocaine became known for its medical applications after its successful synthesis in 1855. The drug was a common ingredient in tonics and medicines meant to treat impotence, depression and a host of other common ailments.

Cocaine-Infused Beverages

In 1863, Angela Mariani, a Corsican chemist, developed a mixture of cocaine and wine that was sold to cure stomach ailments and suppress appetite. It was wildly popular among the European elite and led to countless copycat products.

One such facsimile was a new soft drink made by John Pemberton in 1886, who was hoping to replicate Mariani’s successful formula in America. Contention over alcohol in the South led to Pemberton’s being forced to reformulate his invention with soda water. Cocaine lent its name to this concoction, and it became one of the most well-known commercial products in world history: Coca-Cola.

Evolution Of Cocaine Use

In the 19th century, cocaine was also known as a reliable local anesthetic for dentistry and oral care. Cocaine lozenges and cough syrups were very common, and syringes for injecting cocaine were later given to soldiers during the First World War.

The beginning of the 20th century saw a huge spike in recreational drug use, and cocaine was among the most ubiquitous and easily accessible. One of the major contributing factors to the increase in drug use in the U.S. was alcohol prohibition, which inadvertently steered many citizens toward other methods of inebriation.

The first half of the 1900s saw an explosion in the popularity of cocaine among the stars of Hollywood. Strangely enough, despite its popularity, cocaine’s addictive properties and potential for overdose went largely unreported. This only helped the drug’s popularity to soar, cementing its spot as a prime recreational drug over the next several decades. Several publications included depictions of cocaine use as a luxurious habit reserved for the upper strata of the social elite.

Glamorization Of Cocaine And The Emergence Of ‘Crack’

Unapologetic reports that showcased cocaine use as harmless, classy and opulent led to a dramatic spike in public consumption. This uptick peaked in 1982 with an estimated 10.4 million cocaine users in the U.S. Demand was widespread at the time, and urban areas began to see derivatives of this upper-class sensation in the form of crack cocaine, or simply “crack.” Crack was cheap to produce in large quantities, and it helped fuel in huge spikes in violent crime, as competing drug syndicates fought over territory.

One of the major incidents that helped change the public’s perceptions about the apparent safety of cocaine use was the death of basketball player Len Bias in 1986. Bias was a star rookie drafted by the Boston Celtics. While celebrating his addition to the team, he died of a cocaine overdose and heart issues the drug caused. This high-profile death coupled with a dramatic rise in violent crime led to harsher sentencing for drug-related offenses – especially those involving crack.


How Did Marijuana Reach Schedule I Status In US - Summit EstatePublic opinion of marijuana has swayed greatly in recent years. Many American states have decriminalized its use, legalized it for medicinal applications and/or fully legalized it for adult for recreational use. Marijuana’s history in the United States dates back to the Jamestown settlers around 1600.

Being that hemp and cannabis sativa plants contain one of the strongest natural fibers in the world, early American settlers used hemp for ropes, clothing, sails and many other products until the end of the Civil War. During this time, marijuana was prized for its usefulness in manufacturing, rather than its effects on the human body. Hashish was made from the resin of the marijuana plant and was only mildly popular for smoking in the U.S.

Recreational Use

Marijuana’s popularity as a recreational drug did not gain much traction until the early 1900s. Between 1850 and 1937, anyone could purchase marijuana over the counter at pharmacies for medicinal purposes. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 led to a drastic increase in the number of Mexican immigrants coming to America, and marijuana was widely used for recreational purposes in Mexico at the time. Marijuana’s popularity jumped again following the Volstead Act, which sharply increased in price in 1920 due to the nationwide prohibition of alcohol.


Eventually, marijuana use became synonymous with violent crimes, and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 criminalized its consumption. Despite these changes, marijuana’s popularity as a recreational alternative to alcohol grew and reached new social spheres over the next several decades.

In the 1970s, Congress repealed mandatory minimum sentences for drug charges, and President Jimmy Carter’s administration pushed to decriminalize marijuana. However, public opinion swayed in the opposite direction, which led to President Ronald Reagan signing the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which reinstated mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related charges.

Evolution Of Public Opinion

In the 2010s, marijuana has become much more widely accepted for its medical applications and relative lack of dangerous side effects. It is impossible to overdose from using it, has never been linked to any fatal bodily harm, and is not physically habit-forming, like cocaine and heroin.

However, despite a great deal of public support for marijuana decriminalization, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I narcotic – on par with heroin in terms of danger.

How Did Marijuana Land On The Schedule I List?

Marijuana was assigned its Schedule I status as part of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Many members of the scientific and medical communities argue against the DEA’s stance on marijuana, citing their sources as incomplete, archaic or outright erroneous.

Recordings of President Richard Nixon from 1971 showed that he intended to uphold the country’s prohibition of marijuana in an effort to combat detractors of the Vietnam War. The Shafer Commission was created with the sole purpose of engineering damning scientific evidence meant to maintain marijuana’s Schedule I status.

Unfortunately for Nixon, the Shafer Commission’s results proved exactly the opposite of the intended results:

  • Marijuana was as safe (if not safer) than alcohol.
  • It had no addictive qualities.
  • Public health would benefit from ending marijuana prohibition.

Ulterior Motives

An interview with John Ehrlichman, one of Nixon’s aides, revealed that the War on Drugs was largely spurred by the perceived need to discredit minority communities and anti-war, leftist opposition to Nixon’s re-election and the war in Vietnam.

Ehrlichman said in the interview:

“By getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and the blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meeting, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The DEA has repeatedly stonewalled any and all attempts to reclassify marijuana and take it off of the Schedule I narcotics list. The DEA even denied a petition to reschedule marijuana that came from its own administrative law judge, Francis Young, in 1988. In 2011, the DEA again denied a petition due to an apparent lack of available research dedicated to analyzing the effects of smoking marijuana.

Medical Professionals’ Current Stance

A 2014 Medscape survey showed that 56 percent of reporting physicians supported national legalization of medical cannabis, and 82 percent of reporting oncologists said the same. Perhaps one of the most critical examples of the DEA’s intransigence was Administrator Michele Leonhart’s inability to explain how marijuana was just as dangerous as heroin at her appearance before Congress. Marijuana has no lethal overdose threshold, whereas prescription opioids caused 19,000 American deaths in 2014 alone.

Changing Public Perception On Illegal Drugs

Alternatives To Punishing Drug Addicts - Summit EstatePublic perception is one of the biggest issues surrounding drugs in modern America. Many people believe that decriminalization of drug use will lead to improved public health for several reasons, including the chance that it might quell the stigmatization that commonly accompanies Americans who have faced drug-related charges.

In terms of prescription opioids, despite the number of deaths they cause every year, they are still widely available and frequently prescribed. Opioid addiction is seriously debilitating and remarkably difficult to overcome. Rather than looking for alternatives to these dangerous medications, legislators seem to expect those who are prescribed these medicines to use them diligently, lest they suffer the consequences or become addicted. And when they become addicted to these prescription drugs, many resort to heroin as a cheaper and more accessible alternative once the prescription runs out.

The War on Drugs has essentially become a war on public health. Addicts are ostracized and criminalized rather than afforded the treatment they need to become functional members of society again. Hopefully, as public opinion shifts toward compassion and logical legislation, the stigma surrounding drug use will not have such deleterious effects on public well-being. Addicts would then be able to safely pursue treatment and rehabilitation for their afflictions.

How To Help A Family Member Who Is An Alcoholic

Helping A Family Member Who Is An AlcoholicThere’s an old adage that family is where life begins and love never ends. The bond established between a newborn infant and a doting parent may be the most powerful connection on Earth. The love that parents feel for their children can move mountains. The profound connection between siblings lasts a lifetime. There’s simply no denying that family emotions run deep.

Helping A Family Member Who Is An Alcoholic

Yet, what happens when alcohol causes a family member to go from being your best friend to someone you don’t recognize. What if your mother, father, sister or brother crosses over from being a social drinker into a problem drinker? It doesn’t happen overnight, and families often socialize and drink together. In fact, it seems that the unconditional love and support that families provide can also serve as obstacles that prevent alcoholics from getting effective treatment.

Break Through Denial

One of the trickiest parts of dealing with an alcoholic is being able to communicate about the problem. Denial is a core element of alcoholism which means most alcoholics are reluctant to openly admit that anything is wrong. In fact, they will often go to great lengths to hide their problem – especially from family members and other loved ones. Keeping open communication and avoiding judgmental dialog can be particularly beneficial during the early efforts in getting a family member into treatment.

Avoid Enabling

The desire to help a family member is natural. However, certain types of help can be detrimental to an alcoholic. Enabling in the form of providing monetary support, shelter, or legal assistance often worsens the problem. Help should be squarely focused on getting the alcoholic the treatment they need.

Focus On The Family

Often, the alcoholic demands an excessive amount of attention which can leave family members feeling neglected and resentful. While there needs to be a goal of getting the individual the treatment required, the focus must remain on the health of the family. Balancing life and managing a relationship with an alcoholic is never easy. For many, a support group can help alleviate some of the negative emotions associated with dealing with an alcoholic family member.

Do You Have An Alcoholic Family Member Who Needs Help?

While alcoholism is a family disease, this doesn’t mean that it should be solely contained within the family. Professional treatment can provide the foundation for a lifetime of recovery. To learn more about treatment for alcoholism, call now to speak with an addiction specialist at Summit Estate.

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When Prescription Drug And Heroin Addiction Hits Close To Home In The Bay Area

Prescription Drug, Heroin Addiction Hits Close To Home Bay AreaWith the recent news that Prince’s death was due to the prescription painkiller Fentanyl, increasing light is being shed on America’s growing epidemic of prescription painkiller and heroin addiction. Individuals from all walks of life are becoming addicted to these powerful drugs and even suffering from lethal overdoses.

Just how widespread is the problem with heroin and prescription painkillers?

In 2014, there were over 47,000 fatal overdoses related to these drugs.

And, the number of those becoming addicted continues to skyrocket, despite increasing efforts to address the problem.

Addiction Hits Close To Home In The Bay Area

Recently, one family’s story of addiction was shared in the San Jose Mercury News. D’Anne and Bruce Burwell never thought they would have to deal with the scourge of prescription drug abuse while raising their family in Silicon Valley. Their two children were getting good grades and were both on the fast track to college and successful careers. Yet, a problem was lurking just beneath the surface.

The Slippery Slope Of Drug Addiction

Something began to change for their son Jake who had always been a good student. Jake’s efforts in high school began to decline, and D’Anne caught him using marijuana. After suspending his driving privileges and sending him to a psychologist, she thought that the problem was solved. However, it was actually only the beginning.

Jake started college and proceeded to flunk two classes his freshman year. In his second year of college, a friend of Jake warned D’Anne that he was engaging in “risky behavior.” Jake was smoking OxyContin, a drug that is in the same family as heroin. Over the next two years, Jake had three unsuccessful stints in rehab. Finally, Jake finally realized that his addiction could kill him, and he agreed to enter detox and start a six-month program.

To read the rest of Jake’s story, click on the button below.

Jake’s Addiction And Recovery Story

Jake’s Story Is Not Unusual

Many parents have the same perspective that D’Anne once did – addiction is something that happens to others. However, many parents, especially in the success-driven Bay Area are finding themselves struggling with addicted children and wondering what went wrong.

Without a doubt, there is a tremendous amount of shame and stigma associated with addiction in the Bay Area and beyond. Many teens start using drugs because they feel insecure, anxious or depressed.

Identifying The Signs Of Prescription Painkiller Addiction

Often, an addiction problem is happening in a family for a significant length of time before it is addressed. It can be easier to overlook common symptoms such as:

  • Problems in school
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Moodiness
  • Missing or stolen money or valuables
  • Questionable friends
  • Anger
  • Depression

What Should You Do?

Because prescription drug and heroin addiction is progressive and can lead to a fatal overdose, taking a “wait and see” approach to the problem is a serious mistake. First, it’s important to discuss the problem and work towards a solution. In most cases, the best option is professional addiction treatment. Many treatment programs can be tailored to the individual and address underlying or root causes that helped perpetuate the addiction.

It’s also important for parents to focus on their child’s recovery as opposed to blaming themselves for the problem. A group like Al-Anon can be beneficial in understanding the challenges of being a parent of an addict.

Does Your Adult Child Need Addiction Treatment In The Bay Area?

You’re not alone. The number of young adults addicted to prescription pain killers and heroin is growing at a shockingly fast rate throughout Northern California. Don’t try to weather through this problem alone. Help is available at Summit Estate Recovery Center. Call now to speak with an addiction specialist or click the button below to learn more about our prescription drug addiction treatment program.

Prescription Drug Treatment

Tech Employers In Silicon Valley Offering Perks Including Addiction Treatment Options?

Empoyers In Silicon Valley Offering Rehab Services For ExecsWith Silicon Valley companies vying to get top talent, the battle of employee perks has heated up tremendously over the last several years. While a decade ago, it was impressive to offer free meals, a gym and dry cleaning services, these benefits do little to impress those who are being wooed by industry leaders. Today’s benefits are all about spoiling employees and addressing their whims.

Companies have caught on that Millennials now flooding the workforce care a lot about perks and benefits and will choose an employer based on what they have to offer. For example, employees at Credit Karma can jam out during breaks in a room outfitted with instruments and amplifiers. Tilt offers its workers a wide range of complementary lunch and dinner options, including vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan and Paleo. Domo provides $2,000 for maternity clothing for pregnant workers, and Rational Interaction has “Breakfast Sandwich Wednesdays.” The list of creative perks goes on and on.

Benefits That Can Really Make A Difference

While breakfast sandwiches and electric guitars can make for a fun workplace, they don’t necessarily create a lasting impact on employees’ lives. Because of this, some employers are starting to offer benefits that can truly make a difference both on the job and after hours, such as debt relief assistance, tuition reimbursement or help with a mortgage. Others are offering specialized healthcare services, including rehab services and addiction treatment that span beyond what is typically offered by standard insurance plans.

Rehab As An Employee Benefit

With a 24/7 work mentality, newly acquired wealth, and pressure to excel, Silicon Valley employees are prone to drug abuse. The stress-filled, production-driven environment is causing individuals at all stages of their careers to abuse drugs and alcohol to keep going. The death of Google executive, Forrest Hayes, who died of a heroin overdose, certainly shed light on the growing problem of substance abuse in Silicon Valley. Sadly, some companies are overlooking or even hiding employees’ drug problems because they are so focused on results. However, others are addressing the problem head on and even offering fully-paid assistance to those who need help.

Outpatient Care For Busy Executives

One option for addiction treatment that is often aligned to the needs of busy tech execs, is an outpatient treatment program in Silicon Valley. As an alternative to inpatient care, an outpatient program is designed to help those who cannot put their lives on hold while they obtain treatment for addiction. Individuals can get ongoing care in an outpatient program while still being able to work and manage their lives outside of the office.

Outpatient treatment typically includes a variety of therapies for the individual, as well as for their family. This includes family therapy, couples’ therapy, one-on-one therapy and group therapy. Outpatient addiction also includes relapse prevention and ongoing group therapy sessions and activities to provide recovering addicts with a safe place where they can share their personal situations without feeling judged.

With addiction rates rising in Silicon Valley, it’s likely that more employers will be considering addiction treatment when they develop their benefits programs. By doing so, they gain the advantage of keeping valuable employees while providing something that is truly needed in today’s workplace.

Are You A Tech Worker Who Is Struggling With Addiction?

Alcoholism and drug abuse are progressive conditions. Don’t throw your career away by ignoring a problem that is not going to disappear on its own. You need professional help. Call Summit Estate now to learn more about our flexible and personalized outpatient programs. We’re here to help you in your recovery.

Personalized Outpatient Programs

San Jose Seeking Greater Control Over Sober Living Homes?

San Jose Seeking Greater Control Over Sober Living Homes-SummitEstateWith rates of addiction continuing to climb in San Jose and throughout the United States, the need for addiction treatment programs and sober living environments is growing. This has led to more addiction treatment facilities and sober living homes opening their doors in residential areas which has spurred growing discussion and debate from neighborhood residents.

Because these facilities typically have a larger number of occupants which generate more traffic, deliveries and visitors, city officials are having to address the interest of residents who want to sustain the residential quality of their neighborhoods while also balancing the rights of those obtaining addiction treatment and support from these facilities.

San Jose Lobbying For Greater Control Over Sober Living

San Jose is one city that is lobbying to obtain greater control over where these addiction treatment centers and homes can be placed. The city is joining a group of others that is also currently lobbying to gain greater control over where these facilities can be located.

Concerns Of Local Residents

The high-priced, beach city of Malibu was one of the first communities to ask California Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators for more control on the location of sober living homes and recovery centers, according to In Malibu, there are several dozen facilities within a population of approximately only 12,000 people. This high concentration has raised the eyebrows of many residents. With the median home price well over $1 million, there is also growing concern that these facilities could bring down the value of real estate.

In San Jose, the concentration of sober living homes and recovery centers is not as high, but residents who live near them often worry about overcrowding and the potential of crime.

Currently, state-licensed facilities need only a 300-foot buffer to meet legal guidelines. The 300-foot buffer doesn’t apply at all to privately run sober living homes.

Under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act which was established in 1977, people with disabilities have the right to live in the “least restrictive environment.” This means that those with disabilities, including addicts, can live in residential communities and not just in institutions. Some communities have tried to fight back with lawsuits. In 2008, a federal judge dismissed a $250 million lawsuit by a Newport Beach citizen’s group that claimed that sober living facilities were causing noise, traffic, and second-hand smoke.

City officials and state legislators will most likely continue to struggle with this issue as more of these facilities are placed in residential communities like San Jose. There is an obvious need to balance the rights of residents with the rights patients.

The Benefits Of Sober Living Homes

For recovering addicts and alcoholics, there are substantial benefits to transitioning to a sober living environment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends living in a sober home for at least 90 days, although residents are typically invited to stay as long as needed. In this semi-structured environment, residents can avoid the negative influences and triggers of the outside world while beginning their transition back into daily life at a pace that is comfortable. Residents are often encouraged to attend 12-step meetings as part of their care, and positive social relationships are encouraged to help build a support system that can be relied upon in recovery.

Studies have shown that sober living programs can improve an individual’s chance of avoiding relapse and staying sober. In a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, residents in sober living homes had significantly higher rates of abstinence than those who were not in this type of care.

Learn more about our addiction aftercare programs for ongoing support to recovery.

Continuing Care Programs

Read more of our newsworthy addiction-related posts.

Newsworthy Posts

Soccer Moms And Their Secret Addictions

The Secret Addictions Of Soccer Moms-Summit Estate Recovery

The popular term “soccer mom” brings to mind a certain type of individual – a devoted suburban mother who spends a significant amount of time driving her children around town from one sporting event to another in her late model minivan or SUV. Soccer moms are polite, volunteer at school, believe in fair play, put their kids’ lives ahead of their own and rarely say the wrong thing.

The term was popularized during the 1996 presidential election when at the time, political strategists believed soccer moms were mostly undecided swing voters who would influence the outcome of the election. This propelled them to tailor their message to a segment of voters who had never existed before. And, that’s how the parable of the soccer mom was born.

Perfection Comes At A Price

The truth is, the proverbial soccer mom is often an overburdened, stressed out working mother who is burning the candle at both ends. With single income households largely a thing of the past, many moms find themselves pulling double duty, working full time jobs while performing a full daily schedule of motherly duties. It’s not easy living the perfect life, maintaining a spotless household and being the ideal mom. No matter what anyone says, the majority of kids rely on their moms first and foremost. It’s an exhausting, never-ending, emotionally satisfying but draining job.

For some soccer moms, perfection comes at a heavy cost. Relief from unrelenting stress can be found in a glass of wine or a bottle of prescription pills.

The most common mood-altering substances of choice are pain pills, stimulants and alcohol.

Each has its own particular reason for becoming a go-to drug. You won’t find too many soccer moms writing “score drugs/become an addict” on their daily “to-do” list. Unfortunately, many well-meaning moms casually descend into addiction without ever intending to, and sadly, many times without realizing what they’ve done until it’s too late.

In 1966, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones wrote a hit song with “Mother’s Little Helper.” The lyrics describe a spread-thin mom who requires a pick me up to get her through her day. Fifty years later, the story hasn’t changed much.

Personal Addiction Stories Of Two Typical Moms

Here’s two prototypical moms and their stories of how they became addicted.

Busy Carol Needs A Lift

Carol is a programmer with a high paying job, two kids in grade school, a husband who works 55-60 hours a week at a law firm and a jam-packed schedule that keeps her on the go from six in the morning until eleven at night. Just when she thought she couldn’t possibly handle one more thing, her mother broke her hip in a car accident which required Carol to drive over to her mother’s house each night to check on her.

It seemed that everywhere she turned, someone was demanding something of her. She wasn’t able to keep up the pace. Her level of exhaustion was making it hard for her to concentrate at work.

One day, on a routine visit for physical therapy for her mother, Carol asked the doctor if he could prescribe something for her exhaustion.

Rather than face the truth about her ridiculously overscheduled life and make the hard choices required, Carol opted to not rock the boat and maintain her supermom “A” rating. The doctor was only too happy to help and started her off with a Silicon Valley favorite, Adderall. The drug gave her a lift, made it easier for her to concentrate and it also seemed to lighten her mood considerably.

Unfortunately, Carol discovered she could purchase Adderall on the Internet and save herself a trip to the doctor’s office. It wasn’t long before her Adderall experiment turned into Adderall dependence.

Active Lisa Needed Pain Relief

Lisa is a soccer mom who loves her kids and enjoys playing tennis and jogging. Her husband makes a good living running a successful family insurance agency started by his father. Lisa works part-time at the office about 10 hours per week. This allows her plenty of time in the afternoons for the kid’s activities and her own fitness pursuits. One thing about Lisa is she never does anything half way. When it comes to fitness, she pushes herself hard. She’s the top women’s tennis player at her club and she religiously jogs 15 miles a week to stay in shape.

One afternoon, on a typical three mile run through the park, Lisa misjudged the trail and landed awkwardly on a slippery rock. She hyperextended her right foot and heard something go pop. The pain was excruciating. Her doctor prescribed Vicodin for the throbbing in her foot. Lisa had never experienced inactivity before and it really annoyed her.

She started to focus on the pain and nothing else. Lisa found she couldn’t wait for the next pill.

She quickly fell into the habit of taking more Vicodin than recommended. Before long, she was seeing multiple doctors for pain management and doubling up on her prescriptions and spiraling into addiction.

Millions Of Stories Of Addiction

Like Carol and Lisa, there are countless stories of mothers who have slipped into addiction and are afraid they’ll lose it all if they share their problem with a loved one. The reality is addiction can happen to anyone, and the first step in recovery is asking for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, don’t wait another day. Call Summit Estate now to speak with an addiction specialist.

Read About Addiction In Silicon Valley

Born Addicted: Baby Recovers
From Mother’s Heroin Addiction

Could anything be more heartbreaking than a newborn entering the world dependent on drugs? A recent article chronicled the crucial first eight weeks of life for a baby born suffering from withdrawal due to her mother’s heroin addiction.

Weaning addicted infants off drugs is a difficult, intensive, multi-step process. Babies suffer withdrawal symptoms similar to adults, such as fever, aching muscles, tremors, diarrhea and sleeplessness, and to make matters worse, they have difficulty eating. Nurses give around-the-clock special care to these infants in recovery, holding them, speaking to them softly, playing music and doing whatever needs to be done to ease their pain.

The Heroin Epidemic

The recent dramatic increase in heroin use has had an unfortunate ripple effect that is being felt throughout the United States. Hospitals report deaths due to heroin have nearly tripled in the last three years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Often initiated by abuse of opioid prescription painkillers, heroin use is impacting all demographics, including even pregnant women and their babies.

It’s a sad reality that some pregnant women suffer from addiction and continue to abuse prescription painkillers or illicit drugs like heroin throughout their pregnancy. The impact of the drug use can be significant and long-term. With the use of prescription opioids during the first trimester of pregnancy, there can be substantial heart problems, and fetal heroin exposure has been linked to a variety of serious complications, including preterm labor and even death. There are also painful withdrawal effects after birth and other serious health consequences for the newborn baby.

Addicted Baby Recovers From Heroin Addiction

As reported, in Baltimore, MD, a newborn struggled through weeks of difficult withdrawal and the aforementioned symptoms after being born with heroin addiction. Her 31 year old mother has fought with being addicted to heroin for over 10 years. The hospital where the newborn fought for life, weaned her off of the toxic substance through constant and intensive care.

Find out how the baby and mother are doing now by reading the full story:

Read The Full Washington Post Article Here

Getting Help For Opiate Addiction During Pregnancy

Walking Through Flowers-Opiate Addiction Treatment

Do you know someone who is pregnant and struggling with addiction to heroin or opioid prescription pain medications? This is not a problem that is going to go away on its own. Help is available. The first step is reaching out for local treatment through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. A directory of local treatment programs is available on their website and is categorized by state with phone numbers you can call to obtain immediate help.

Opiate Addiction Treatment After Birth

Being a new mother is difficult enough without also struggling with addiction. If you or a loved one needs help with overcoming an addiction, call Summit Estate now to speak with an addiction specialist. Our caring and professional team will guide you or your loved one to a new life filled with hope and freedom from addiction!

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How Opioids Surprisingly Overtook Prince – Featuring Expert Insight

How Opioids Overtook Prince_SummitEstate.comPrince was a fascinating character. He was a legend in the music industry. He won numerous awards, including a Golden Globe, seven Grammys and an Academy Award for Best Original Score in Purple Rain. He was alwo inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

But that’s not all.

Prince was also known for leading a healthy lifestyle. He was a proud vegan and voted “World’s Sexiest Vegetarian” in a PETA poll in 2006.

Unfortunately, Prince’s remarkable life was cut short on April 20 at the age of 57. With such an abrupt and untimely death, many people speculated that drugs were the cause of death. Prince’s lawyer assured the public that this wouldn’t have been the case. Prince led a healthy lifestyle. He was not some drugged-out singer.

Friends and family validated what Prince’s lawyer said. Chazz Smith, Prince’s cousin, told the Associated Press that, “I can tell you this: what I know is that he was perfectly healthy.” Journalist Heather McElhatton, who worked with Prince in the 1990s, said that the singer had “limitless energy” and that she never saw him drink or do drugs.

So what happened?

Lethal Overdose Of Fentanyl

Autopsy reports verify that Prince died from a lethal overdose of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a drug that is used to treat severe pain. It’s remarkably potent and works similarly to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more powerful. Fentanyl can be a very addictive drug, but according to friends and family, Prince didn’t seem to be the face of an addict.

Did Prince habitually use opioids, or was this something more recent? He was complaining of knee and hip pain from his past performances. Could this be the reason he was taking this drug?

Who prescribed him the medication? If Prince did have a prescription, was it legitimate? In Minnesota, if an individual who illegally prescribed fentanyl and it causes death, they can receive a third-degree murder charge and 25 years in prison.

Not Your “Typical” Addict

With so many questions left unanswered, all we have are a lot of opinions surrounding Prince’s death. And with these come the stereotypes. Prince didn’t look or act like an addict.

Those who knew Prince say he was an unlikely candidate for addiction. Here are some of the reasons why.

  • He had plenty of friends and family around him who weren’t using drugs.
  • He wasn’t in constant trouble with the law.
  • He was extremely particular with his looks. Prince was always well-groomed and clean cut.
  • He was a proud vegan, having given up meat in his 20s.
  • He had incredible drive. Many people who worked with Prince said they couldn’t keep up with his determination and motivation.

Erasing The Stereotypes

Prince didn’t fit the stereotype of an opioid addict. It’s possible that he wasn’t addicted and his death was just the result of an unfortunate, accidental overdose. It’s possible that whoever prescribed him the drugs was well-intentioned and wanted to help Prince with his knee and hip pain.

But could it be possible that within the last few months or years, Prince did develop a dependency to opioids? He may not have started out with that intention, but as we know, opioids can take over extremely quickly.

We need to lose the stereotypes and start recognizing this epidemic as a serious problem that affects all of us: our friends, our family, our neighbors, our coworkers and our idols. No one is exempt.

Expert Insight From The Summit Estate Team

Here at Summit Estate, we cannot ignore the opioid addiction problem. We work with individuals in recovery each day at our treatment facility. Our treatment team feels deep remorse for Prince and his friends and family after hearing the news about his accidental overdose.

Tim Sinnott, MFT, LAADCr, Summit Estate’s very own Clinical Program Director has taken the time to provide additional insight on this issue:

Tim Sinnott, MFT, LAADCr-Clinical Program Director

Tim Sinnott, MFT, LAADCr-Clinical Program Director

For the past 30 years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to have worked in the addiction rehabilitation profession.  Over the decades I have worked with alcoholics and addicts from all social classes.

The recent demise of Prince has brought more attention to the current epidemic of opiate overuse in America. Many people are surprised when celebrities become addicted.  Addiction (substance use disorders) is an “equal opportunity disease” that affects all classes of human beings.  The overwhelming power of today’s pharmaceutical opiates causes people who overuse them to become quickly addicted.

“Many athletes and celebrities are becoming addicted at alarming rates via prescriptions for medical issues.  If one is not careful they can become addicted very quickly.”

Prince was known to be someone who was healthy and lived a healthy lifestyle.  He was active, ate well, maintained a positive attitude, etc.  He also had chronic pain issues and medical procedures.  In a way, he was a prime candidate for opiate use disorder.  The fact that his use led to dependency and overdose is not that surprising.  In fact, it is happening more every day.

“The amount of opiate drugs prescribed today is alarming.”

Once people are using them for a period of time it is difficult to stop.  If the prescription is stopped, people often turn to street drugs which are easily available and less expensive.  Being a celebrity probably made it easier for Prince to continue to get prescriptions for quality pain medications. Medical professionals are real people too and they are in their profession to help people.  They can also be influenced by celebrity and their own codependency issues.

It is unfortunate that people around Prince were a day late in trying to access help for the fallen star.  Treatment works and the success rates of treatment for substance use disorders are similar to treatments for asthma, diabetes and heart disease.  The trick is compliance to the treatment and continuing care plans.  Many celebrities and non-celebrities alike are in recovery.

“It is estimated that today there are 23 million people in recovery in the U.S.”

Celebrities tend to go to treatment centers that offer quality care and have greater amenities. They are usually attracted to holistic programs offering a body, mind and spirit approach to recovery. A key issue also, is that their anonymity and presence in treatment can be protected. Celebrities are usually more steadfast in wanting to protect their anonymity.

I believe the most important factor in getting celebrities into treatment is similar to getting anyone into treatment.  It usually involves the family and support network.  Celebrities often wield great power and influence.  It takes a strong family member or manager to insist they get help for their addiction. If the celebrity goes into treatment, a good family program attended by the family and support network is of utmost importance.

“As far as the current opiate epidemic in the U.S. goes, it appears it is still continuing to rise.”

The phenomenon of chronic pain and its management needs ongoing assessment and scrutiny.  The overproduction and access to pain medication needs to be addressed at the national level.  Until our legislators and medical professionals put more stringent controls into place and more resources into non-prescription pain management mechanisms, we will continue to see this epidemic rise.

Opioid Overdose In Hollywood

Prince is not the only celebrity who has lost his life to opioids. Let’s take a look at some other famous individuals whose lives were cut short as part of this recent opioid epidemic.

In 2014, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died at the age of 46 from a deadly interaction of heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine. In 2013, actor Cory Monteith died at just 31 from a toxic mix of heroin and alcohol. Whitney Houston shocked her fans when she passed away at age 48 after drowning in the bathtub. It was believed that she drowned because of complications from cocaine, a heart problem and possibly other drugs. Michael Jackson passed away in 2009 at the age of 50 from a lethal mix of prescription drugs.

These are just a few of the most well-known celebrities who have died from an overdose in recent years. We encourage you to check out this website to get a better idea of the many individuals – musicians, actors, athletes – who have lost their lives to drugs and alcohol.

More Than Hollywood’s Problem

Of course, the prescription drug problem does not affect just famous people. It’s not solely a Hollywood problem. It’s not a poor man’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem.

According to SAMHSA, nearly 2 million people had an addiction to painkillers in 2014. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with over 47,000 lethal overdoses in 2014, according to the CDC. Opioid addiction is at the root of this problem, with over 38,000 deaths coming from prescription painkillers and heroin alone.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, heroin was a problem for low-income males living in the inner cities of America. It was much easier for mainstream America to sweep the problem under the rug because it was more contained.

Today, heroin is a drug that has quietly moved into the affluent suburbs. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the opioid problem in our nation. It affects everyone in some way.

What Could Be The Next Big Drug?

Fentanyl is going to get a lot of attention in light of Prince’s death. As a result, doctors are going to be exceptionally careful about prescribing this drug. It’s also likely that the laws surrounding the illegal prescribing of the drug will be handled more severely. We may see the use of the drug decrease, but another drug will almost certainly gain momentum in the meantime.

What could that drug be?

Even with the various forms of designer drugs on the market as well as the legalization of marijuana in some states, many people believe that the next big drugs will still come from the opioid family. One drug on everyone’s radar is Kratom.

Kratom is a controversial painkiller that’s described as being sedating and effective at taking away pain. Though it’s highly addictive, just as other opioid drugs are, it has a lower overdose rate.

Kratom comes from a legal plant that has been used in Asia for hundreds of years. But as the prescription and heroin problems worsen, some users are finding Kratom to be a useful alternative. The drug hasn’t been a threat to the U.S. – until now.

The DEA has put it on its list of “drugs of concern.” This is indication that Kratom will eventually be banned at the federal level, but in the meantime, some states are scrambling to ban the drug as well.

Addiction Follows No Rules

It’s clear that the prescription drug problem isn’t going away anytime soon. So many stories start with the average American family’s medicine cabinet or a legal prescription following an injury or surgical procedure.

No one plans to be addicted. No one foresees handing over their lives to a drug like fentanyl. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that we need to recognize, accept and do something about. Education is crucial.

Prince has left a legacy in so many ways. He was PETA’s biggest rock star. He had a passion like no other. He broke the stereotypes, and he was proud to do it.

Prince was not one to conform, and his death reminds us of this. He didn’t fit the stereotypical norms of an addict. He was everything but that: healthy, happy, successful and surrounded by people who loved him.

Prince died at the hands of a problem that has reached epidemic proportions yet still doesn’t get the attention or compassion it deserves. As we learn more about the circumstances surrounding Prince’s death, let’s remember that he didn’t look or act like an addict. Let’s open our eyes to this very real problem and be part of the solution.


We need to share the awareness of opioid addiction and accidental overdose with anyone and everyone. Please share this insightful article with your colleagues, family and friends…You never truly know who may be secretly struggling. Share now!