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Heroin And Opioids Continue To Be A Runaway Problem In Northern California

Heroin And Opioids Continue To Be A Runaway Problem In Northern CaliforniaHeroin and opioid addiction continues to be a growing problem around the globe. Prescription pain relievers are incredibly addictive, damaging lives and increasing overdose death tolls in nearly every state. Opiate and heroin abuse affects the welfare of all societies, including Northern California. The problem in California has reached an all-time high due to low drug prices, easy access to drugs, and lack of awareness. Exploring the drug problem in Northern California can help our community find a solution.

Heroin And Opioids In NorCal: Surprising Statistics

Heroin And Opioids In NorCal- Surprising StatisticsIn 2013, California hospitals treated over 11,500 people suffering an overdose of opiates or heroin – the equivalent of one overdose every 45 minutes. This statistic shows a shocking 63% increase in overdose cases since 2002. Researchers believe this rise is partially due to consistently low prices and plentiful amounts of black tar heroin in California pipelined from Mexico. Every office in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in San Francisco reports the dominance of black tar heroin and that it’s easy to obtain.

According to data gathered by the Sacramento Bee, hospitals in rural superior California have the highest rate of opioid overdose patients. The county averages for overdoses per 10,000 residents were the worst in Northern California. Here’s an overview of the greatest county averages in overdoses per 10k residents from 2006 to 2013:

  • Plumas County: 9.1
  • Lake County: 8.8
  • Humboldt County: 8.4
  • Shasta County: 8.1
  • Tuolumne County: 7.5

Local counties faired slightly better on the scale but still had high overdose numbers:

  • Nevada County: 5.1 (400 total overdoses)
  • Yuba County: 4.1 (234 total overdoses)
  • Sacramento County: 3.3 (3,723 total overdoses)
  • Placer County: 3.3 (918 total overdoses)

Overdose Deaths In California

Heroin And Opioids In NorCal- Surprising StatisticsShasta County hospitals helped more than 1,150 overdose patients between 2006 and 2013—more than triple the average for the entire state. The rates of overdoses were also higher than the statewide average in Sacramento County, Placer County, and El Dorado County.

In 2013, there were a total of 6,108 ER visits due to opioid overdoses—a rise from 3,517 in 2006. The number has steadily increased each year, as have the number of hospital stays. The number of overdose deaths has risen since 2006, but there was a slight drop in 2012. This may be due to people seeking help before their problem gets out of control or advances in how hospitals treat patients suffering opioid overdoses. Still, an average of 1,752 people die from opioid overdoses in California every year.

The Relationship Between Opioids And Heroin Abuse

Recently, there’s been a statewide switch from prescription opioids to heroin, with a particularly high increase among young people. Evidence suggests that as prescription drugs become less available and more difficult to obtain, drug users are shifting to heroin. For example, a downward trend in OxyContin abuse directly correlated with an increase in heroin use in a study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Additionally, drug users will build a tolerance for opiates and prescription painkillers, making them more likely to find heroin, which is easy and cheap to purchase in most major cities in California. In some communities, heroin costs less to purchase than prescription opioids. Between 2005 and 2012, the number of known heroin users in the United States almost doubled, from 380,000 to 670,000.

Unfortunately, the risk of overdosing is increased with heroin when compared to prescription opioids. Heroin addicts can’t control the purity of the drugs they purchase, leading to heroin that may be contaminated or mixed with other, unknown drugs. Previously, heroin use was a problem almost strictly in urban areas. Now, the DEA frequently encounters heroin in small towns and suburbs in California.

Sources Of The Heroin And Opioid Problem In Northern California

California officials attribute the ongoing problem to a number of different variables that have changed over the years. An increased patient awareness of the right to pain relief, various organizations that support the use of large doses of opioids, and aggressive marketing from the pharmaceutical industry have all contributed to the issue. Some doctors prescribe opioids loosely without properly educating patients on the addictive nature of such drugs.

Easy Access To Prescription Meds Through Family

Based on a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of people (54.2%) aged 12 and older who used pain relievers non-medically say that they obtained the drugs from a friend or relative for free—whether by consent or theft. Reducing the number of unused painkillers improperly disposed of may help prevent people, especially young people, from developing a drug addiction. Keeping prescribed pain medications hidden or counting them carefully can also help.

Methods Addicts Use To Obtain Drugs

While only 18.1% of respondents said that they obtained the drugs from one doctor, the 54.2% of people who got them from friends state that 81.6% of their sources got the drugs from one doctor. Patients with addictions can gain access to prescription pain medications relatively easily across the United States. In 2001, there was a movement toward prescribing more opioids, stating that doctors largely undertreated chronic pain. This led to the Pain Treatment Act and Bill of Rights. Since then, doctors have more openly prescribed pain medications for common health complaints without fear of retaliation.

One of the methods addicts use to get their hands on large amounts of opiates and painkillers is “doctor shopping.” Doctor shopping refers to the act of going to multiple doctors and complaining of the same symptoms. A patient may go to one doctor complaining of a health issue, either real or fake, and obtain a legitimate prescription for pain relievers. Then, the same patient will go to a different doctor and do the same thing. Doctor shopping allows addicts to consistently receive a high number of opioids with real prescriptions.

Opioids are available for purchase online, without the need for a prescription, through illegal online pharmacies. Law officials do their best to locate and shut down illegal Internet pharmacies, but they still exist. Online pharmacies may not sell customers prescription-grade opioids, posing an even greater threat to users.

Easy Heroin Availability And Low Prices

Los Angeles is a known collection and distribution point for black tar heroin from Mexico—the primary form of heroin the DEA encounters in Northern California. From there, tight-knit groups transport the drugs to locations in the Central Valley. San Francisco is a significant destination for this heroin, as are San Jose, Redwood City, and East Palo Alto.

Heroin availability has quickly spread throughout California, cropping up in counties such as Sacramento, Placer, Nevada, and Yuba that didn’t previously report heroin problems. The plentiful amount of heroin results in low prices. Prices vary across communities and depending on the purity of the drugs, but heroin typically is less expensive than other addictive drugs. The average cost of 0.1 gram (a single dose) of heroin on the street is only $15.

Effects Of Heroin And Opioid Addictions

Drug addictions can lead to a plethora of negative outcomes, and the price it costs the individual abuser, the community, and the nation as a whole is high. Many drug abusers don’t realize the extensive consequences of heroin and opioid addictions and each drug’s effect on daily life.

Not only do heroin and opioids have devastating mental and physical health effects, but they also cause damages to a person’s finances, employment, quality of life, and relationships. A drug addiction can take over literally every aspect of life until the user has nothing left except his or her addiction.

Effects On The Human Body

Doctors often prescribe hydrocodone and oxycodone in drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin to treat moderate to severe pain. These medications attach to proteins (opioid receptors) found on nerve cells within the body and brain. These receptors reduce the perception of pain, producing a sense of peace. Opioids can also lead to mental confusion, drowsiness, and nausea. When someone abuses opioids, that person is at risk for serious medical complications such as coma and fatal overdose.

Heroin is well known as a drug with a high risk of overdose. Since there’s no regulation for the drug, most users have no way to know exact dosages or purity levels. Chasing the rush, or the feeling of euphoria, that typically comes with heroin leads users to increase their dosages more and more. Heroin can cloud mental function, slow breathing and heart function, and sometimes result in coma, permanent brain damage, and death.

Costs Of Addiction For The Addict And The Community

Opioid and heroin addictions can severely damage a user’s personal life. Addicts no longer express interest in achieving goals, education, working, or cultivating personal relationships. Relations with spouses, children, parents, and friends suffer—sometimes leading to damages that addicts may never be able to repair. Drugs take over every aspect of life, making it impossible for an addict to see past his or her addiction. With intervention and treatment, addicts can take their lives back. Without treatment, they risk eventually dying from overdose.

The community cost of providing healthcare, emergency services, and treatment programs for heroin and opioid addicts is remarkably high. The Centers for Disease Control ranks California as the number one state in the country for total health care costs from opioid abuse, exceeding $4,263 million in 2013. This was $2,299 million more than the number two state, Texas, which totaled only $1,964 million by comparison. The estimated total cost of opioid abuse in America is $25 billion annually.

California’s Lost Work Productivity

In 2010, illicit drugs cost California more than $15 billion in tangible costs, and though this statistic has yet to be updated, other stats suggest this number is much higher now. This includes $5.321 billion in wage work costs alone. Addicts lose productivity while using and abusing heroin and opioids, losing the desire to go into work, and eventually failing to show up at all. Illegal drug abuse also leads to incarceration, resulting in lost time at work and being terminated from jobs. Business costs also include increased employee turnover and higher insurance costs. The citizens and state economy bear 76% of all tangible costs of substance abuse in California.

Violent Crime Increases Across Counties

Violent crime and property damages are often related to street gangs in California who distribute heroin, among other drugs. Street gangs are involved in crimes such as burglary, assault, auto theft, carjacking, mugging, and home invasion. The U.S. Department of Justice states that much of the violent and property crime is in the Northern California region. This is due to trafficking, group rivalry, and drug abuse. Often, illicit drug abusers commit crimes like robberies to pay for their addictions.

The Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program strives to reduce drug trafficking, lowering the impact of illicit drugs like heroin in the ten Northern California counties within its region. Part of the Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s goals is to reduce drug-related crime and violence throughout the area. This program locates major drug threats in each region and implements initiatives to put an end to drug trafficking.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome In California

One of the most tragic effects of opioid and heroin abuse in Northern California is the rising number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), or a dependency on drugs from birth. In 2015, doctors diagnosed about 1,190 California newborns with NAS—up more than 50% from 2014. NAS leads to withdrawal symptoms as the drugs leave the baby’s system, including tremors, vomiting, fever, and restlessness. Neonatal withdrawal is painful for babies, although it doesn’t typically have a long-term effect on their health.

NAS causes lengthy hospital stays compared with normal births, resulting in increased healthcare costs. The average length of stay for a baby without NAS is about 2.1 days, costing around $3,500. In contrast, a baby with NAS has to stay 17 days or longer, costing $66,700. This resulted in an estimated total of $1.5 billion for hospitals in 2012—8% of which state Medicaid programs pay. As the rate of babies born with NAS increases, so does the total cost to California.

Finding A Solution For Opioid And Heroin Addiction

Opioid and heroin have become runaway drugs in California in part due to lack of community awareness and initiative to stop drug abuse. Currently, there are a number of anti-drug campaigns and programs running throughout Northern California, including the Northern District of California Project Safe Neighborhood, a state agency that focuses on areas of high violent crime and drug activity.

Staying on top of the growing trend toward heroin in NorCal and learning what you can do to prevent drug addiction and help current addicts are important steps to take during this time of high drug activity.

Reduce Future Drug Abuse

Addictions can start at an early age, with kids snatching prescription opioids from their parents’ medicine cabinets. Early intervention programs can help put young adults back on the correct path before a drug problem gets out of control and leads to tragedy. Research intervention centers in your area, and learn how to discuss a drug problem with your teenager. Preventing drug-related death, crime, and other tolls starts with spreading awareness to the next generation.

Many Northern California counties have launched community coalitions against drugs. They bring together leaders from the medical sphere, public health department, clinics, law enforcement, and addiction treatment providers to collectively work to decrease drug use and the overprescribing of pain medications within the community. The California HealthCare Foundation recently began an initiative to support new opioid safety coalitions throughout the state. Joining your local coalition can be a fantastic way to support local efforts against addictive drugs.

Support Sufferers And Addiction Research

Research on how best to treat opioid and heroin addictions continues throughout America, leading national recovery center leaders to discover new, more effective ways to reduce withdrawal symptoms and help abusers recover for good. Donate to your local recovery or research center to help further the knowledge industry leaders have about this growing epidemic. Northern California is just one region out of thousands across the country that can benefit from more advanced treatment research.

If you know someone who has a problem with opioids or heroin, learn how you can help them on the road to recovery. Getting past a drug problem is 100% possible with the right mindset and resources. In many cases, your friend or loved one will need an intervention to recognize that he or she has a problem and that treatment is the only solution. Once the addict agrees to seek help, support his or her efforts to embrace treatment and continue on the path to a drug-free life.

Get Professional Help

Drug addictions are complex—especially since there’s a medical component to the problem. Addicts need therapists, recovery programs, support groups, and treatment centers with the right tools and resources to facilitate healing. Thousands of people who have struggled with substance abuse have successfully overcome addiction and led normal, happy lives. Recovery isn’t possible without support from friends and family. Be there for your loved one, and know when to call in a professional for help.

If you feel you’re at risk of becoming addicted to prescription medications, heroin, or any other substance yourself, seek help from a treatment center such as Northern California’s Summit Estate Recovery Center immediately. Treatment centers are no-judgment zones where you can obtain the help you need to prevent or end a drug dependency.

If you would like to learn more news about addiction and drug, read more Summit Estate blogs.

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A Report on Northern California Drug Statistics and Insights

Report on Northern California Drug Statistics and InsightsFederal and local officials formally recognize northern California as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Production/manufacturing, distribution, sales, and use all play a role in the regional drug landscape. The information provided in a federal report from the US Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center elucidates the reality of the drug problems citizens from all walks of life face every day. The widespread use and trafficking of illegal drugs affects entire communities, and awareness is part of the solution.

What an HIDTA Designation Means

HIDTA is a national designation given to areas seen as centralized locations of drug-related activities. Local law enforcement agencies petition for the designation and receive it if:

  • Local and state law enforcement allocate resources to aggressively combat the problem
  • Drugs and related activities currently produce serious and harmful consequences in the region and may impact other areas of the nation
  • The location requires federal resources to effectively respond to the problem

Any geographic area within the US may qualify as an HIDTA if it meets these criteria and satisfies the petition requirements for the designation. Northern California has held its status as an HIDTA for several years. Drug trafficking and related activities remain a serious concern, requiring individual, local, and federal involvement to combat.

Recognize the Scope of the Problem

Over time, certain drugs pose more serious threats than others. At the time of the report, 2011, methamphetamine posed the most significant problem, and the potent drug continues to remain a top priority among law enforcement officials, public health officials, and community members. In addition to high rates of methamphetamine production and use, illegal marijuana distribution and use continue to pose a threat to the region. While California recognizes legal medical uses for the substance, illegal uses remain problematic.

Methamphetamine and illegal, high-potency marijuana trafficking are top priorities within the region, although other illegal drugs including cocaine and heroin also create cause for concern. In fact, while trafficking activities center on methamphetamine and marijuana production, abuse issues often involve forms of cocaine. Heroin, including Mexican black tar heroin, is also abused at higher rates in the HIDTA. As a geographical center for trafficking, hundreds to thousands of kilograms of drugs flood the area each year. In 2010, drug seizures for some of the most dangerous and targeted drugs included:

  • 61,149.35 kilograms of total marijuana
  • 154 kilograms of methamphetamine (powder and ice)
  • 696 kilograms of cocaine (crack and powder)
  • 203 kilograms of heroin

For pricing perspective, consider that the wholesale price per pound for ice methamphetamine in 2010 ranged from $17,500 to $20,000. Keeping the exorbitant price of illegal drugs in mind, these seizures represent a lucrative and dangerous trade near the coast of northern California. To accurately gauge the picture of the region, one must also consider the unknowable amount of drugs that run through the community without seizure every year. This snapshot of the drug trafficking problem here indicates the sheer scope of the problem our local, state, and federal law enforcement officers combat.

The Geography of Drug Trafficking

Northern California’s HIDTA geographical area extends from the northern part of Mendocino County down to Monterey County and includes areas such as Santa Cruz, San Jose, Palo Alto, and Silicon Valley. Highway 101 runs through the area, and the region around San Francisco serves as a major interchange for interstates including I-5 and I-80. Many local cities are home to more than 250,000 residents.

Sea Ports

The region is also home to the Port of San Francisco, which moved thousands of passengers and 93 tons of cargo in 2009. The Port of Oakland is one of the busiest container ports in the country. It saw more than 12.3 million tons of cargo during the same year. Unlike airports, which are subject to national security screenings, sea ports offer fewer opportunities for drug trade monitoring and management. These ports remain a challenging environment for law enforcement officers and others.

Airports

The San Francisco International Airport receives over 34 million travelers, and other major airports (including the San Jose International Airport and Oakland International Airport) are nearby. TSA protocol and security screenings greatly reduce the likelihood of drugs entering into or leaving the country during passenger air travel.

Transporting Drugs in the HIDTA

Drugs move in and out of the area via land, sea, and air. In addition to personal trafficking transportation, many drugs move through mailing systems and delivery services. From this location in northern California, drug moving organizations can access major foreign markets, including the continents of Asia and Europe and countries including Canada and Mexico. Domestically, traffickers can use the region to move drugs between major urban hubs in Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, and on the East Coast.

In a transportation hub such as northern California, law enforcement agencies must take a multifaceted approach to manage the widespread drug trafficking problem. Illegal drugs can potentially travel through all major modes of transportation available in the area, including vehicles, ships, planes, and third-party deliveries. The diversification of drug types and the amount of substances in movement only compound the problem.

Drug Distributors in HIDTA Areas

California has long been recognized for its gang and criminal organization problems. Several groups of individuals stand out in the drug trafficking industry. Some of the most recognized gangs and drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) include:

  • Mexican DTOs. Recognized as the dominant player in the wholesale drug trade, these organizations are well-organized and practiced in the illicit drug trade. They use vast established transportation networks to transport drugs to major markets in the US. These organizations play a major role in managing and moving the majority of methamphetamine, high-potency marijuana, cocaine, and heroine within the HIDTA.

Multigenerational families lead these organizations in funneling drugs from Mexico into the region using vehicles and a diverse range of storage areas, including homes and warehouses throughout the state. Task force officials indicate that leaders of DTOs maintain their base of operations in San Jose, Redwood City, East Palo Alto, and other areas. Law enforcement agencies consider Mexican DTOs the number-one threat in HIDTA drug trafficking.

During a large DTO-centered investigation in 2008, named Operation Breadbasket, officials seized 612 pounds of ice methamphetamine, including 75 pounds of the higher potency formula. They also discovered $62,846, 10 kilograms of cocaine, two handguns, 1,405 pounds of marijuana, and three cars. Officials arrested 11 individuals associated with the investigation and uncovered information regarding a regional leader, money launderer, and drug couriers. A bust this large further indicates the size and severity of the drug trafficking problem as it relates to local DTOs.

  • Gangs play a role in the drug trafficking industry as middlemen and retail distributors. They’re often violent groups that not only represent drug-related threats, but also other criminal threats—including murder, assault, racketeering, and weapons charges. Prison gangs including the Border Brothers, outlaw motorcycle gangs such as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, and street gangs like the Bloods and Crips, Sureños, and the Asian Boyz play various roles in the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin.

In one example of police involvement with gang members, 29 members of the MS 13 street gang were charged for several criminal activities associated with methamphetamine and cocaine distribution activities. The area gang leader pled guilty to several charges, including conspiracy to murder, gun crimes, and racketeering.

The information regarding the players in the drug trafficking industry highlights the dangers surrounding the trade. In addition to the inherent dangers associated with selling and using illegal drugs, many involved in the industry often find themselves in other illegal activities, such as murder, robbery, extortion, weapons violations, grand theft auto, and more. Those involved with the industry face more than the risk of addiction and financial hardship, making the fight against these illegal activities all the more necessary.

Finances and the Drug Trafficking Industry

The illegal drug industry is a lucrative one, which is why so many individuals fall prey to the schemes and promises of Mexican DTOs and street gang leaders. In the Northern California HIDTA, both Asian and Mexican DTOs handle the majority of the money laundering operations associated with the regional drug trade. They smuggle cash from other countries through a variety of transportation modes including personal vehicles and delivery services. Money services businesses and casino card rooms often play a role in laundering schemes. In fact, during one Bay Area search of a card club, officers found several hundred thousand dollars in cash, jewelry, gambling chips, firearms, and drugs.

A Look Into California Drug Statistics Based on Prevalence

Understanding the big picture drug trade can help individuals recognize the dangers involved in possessing, using, and selling drugs. Using an illegal substance, even once, can place an individual firmly within the network of criminal activity in this HIDTA. Over time, some involved often become so entrenched in criminal organizations that they have a difficult time trying to leave the lifestyle behind. Consider these closer looks into some of the most dangerous drugs involved in trafficking in northern California:

Methamphetamine

Mexican DTOs provide the Northern California HIDTA with most of the methamphetamine trafficked and abused in the area. Both ice and powder forms of the drug remain popular choices among users. Methamphetamine is considered a synthetic stimulant that, over time, can create lasting effects on the systems of the body and cause death.

Methamphetamine is dangerous to use, but it is also a dangerous substance to make. By “cooking” numerous over-the-counter ingredients, including the widely available cold medicine pseudoephedrine, the process releases several dangerous toxins into the environment and can explode under the right conditions. Spaces used to make methamphetamine often pose health hazards to those who live there for years after, and many buildings are later condemned.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs indicated the substance as the primary reason for treatment admissions in the area from 2006-2010. In 2010, the agency reported an admissions rate of 9,375 individuals for problems with methamphetamine.

Pseudoephedrine and Methamphetamine Production

Unfortunately, placing restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine have not slowed the production of the substance. In light of legislation limiting sales and crackdowns on the practice of “smurfing” (going from retailer to retailer to source the ingredients without raising suspicion), many drug producers have switched to alternatives when making the illegal drug. Often, the result is a more potent version of methamphetamine. Around 30% of the methamphetamine transported here from Mexico features the stronger formula.

**A note on smurfing. Smurfing, on its own, is a lucrative business. While some involved in the practice make their own methamphetamine, many more use their purchases to sell the pseudoephedrine they purchase on the black market. Smurfing rings in the state often include around 30 individuals in charge of purchasing the medication. These groups try to hit an average of 20 stores a day. From one day’s worth of work, these groups can source enough medication to create around four pounds of methamphetamine.

Whether they sell the pills directly or sell the methamphetamine they make, many fall into the practice and earn a profit of less than $100 a day. In other words, the large organizations may become rich from the drug trade, but those they prey on to do their dirty work often make little from the practice

Law Enforcement Seizures and Statistics

Drug Seizures In North CaliThis highly addictive and dangerous illegal drug is considered the number-one drug problem in the HIDTA, with ice methamphetamine posing a particular problem for trafficking and drug abuse. Out of 41 law enforcement agencies in the HIDTA area, 29 indicate a moderate to high level of ice methamphetamine availability in their areas. Twenty-four respondents consider the ice version of the drug as the greatest drug threat, and 24 consider it the most likely to contribute to violent crime. Twenty-eight associate the drug with criminal activities involving property. These are the highest rates of concern out of all the drugs available in the area.

Powder methamphetamine, on the other hand, doesn’t rate quite as high among the 41 agency responders. Only five considered this form of methamphetamine as the greatest drug threat, and five considered it as the most likely to contribute to violent crime. Seven respondents considered powder methamphetamine as the most likely to contribute to property crime.

Consider these additional statistics that shed light on the severity of the problem with methamphetamine in areas including Monterey, San Jose, and Santa Cruz.

  • In 2010, the amount of ice methamphetamine seized increased by 709 kilograms over the previous year (from 97 kg to 806 kg).
  • Law enforcement officials seized 22 methamphetamine labs in 2010 within the Northern California HIDTA region.
  • Most laboratories seized during the 2010 year (18) could produce around two pounds of methamphetamine—or roughly $37,500 worth of illegal drugs. However, at least one laboratory that year produced 2-9 pounds of methamphetamine every cycle, and three produced 10 pounds or more.
  • In addition to regular labs, law enforcement officials find ice conversion labs, chemical and equipment storage sites, and dumpsites. Slightly different seizure findings (because of a time lag in reporting) from the National Seizure System indicate the seizure of 12 methamphetamine laboratories, seven ice conversion spaces, three chemical and equipment storage areas, and two dumpsites in 2010.

Methmphetamine remains a dangerous and popular drug in the area, posing a significant threat to individual health, environmental health, law enforcement activities, and public safety. Comparatively, other drugs don’t pose the same level of danger at this time.

Marijuana

Second to methamphetamine, law enforcement officials recognize a problem with the cultivation, distribution, and use of high-potency marijuana. Under California Proposition 215, medical marijuana is legal for those under a physician’s care. An individual doesn’t need a prescription and may possess an average of eight ounces of the drug and six mature or 12 young plants.

Comparing National and Regional Seizure Data

According to 2010 data from the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP), around 90% of the 9.87 million plants removed in the US came from only seven states, including California. During that year, 7.2 million outdoor plants were removed California, and the Northern California HIDTA produced around 14% of the outdoor plants eradicated. For one area, 14% (or 1,018,963 plants) is an extremely high concentration.

In the same year, indoor growing removal activities yielded 47,890 plants in the HIDTA area compared with 188,297 at the state level. Marijuana grown in the area travels as far as Hawaii, the East Coast, and into other countries including Canada.

According to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, 5,051 individuals sought treatment for marijuana addiction in 2010, a decrease of 704 from the previous year. From the 2011 National Drug Threat Survey, only six law enforcement agencies out of 41 considered marijuana as the most significant drug-related threat in the area, while seven rated the drug as the most likely to contribute to violent crime.

High-Potency Marijuana

Marijuana cultivators can engage in indoor or outdoor cultivation practices. In an indoor environment, cultivators contain much more control over the growing process and can often produce more reliable crops at a higher level of potency. The prospect entices many growers due to the profitability of the venture. They can produce a high-potency product every 90 days without consideration for outdoor seasonal changes. Out of the 41 law enforcement agency responses in the HIDTA area, 33 indicated a problem with indoor marijuana cultivation. In 2010, law enforcement removed 47,890 plants from indoor grow sites (an increase of almost 9,000 plants from the previous year).

Those who cultivate cannabis indoors use a variety of sites, including homes, warehouses, and apartments. They use modern technology to manage crops through lighting systems, hydroponics, and controlled soil formulations. When setting up their growing conditions, many modify electrical setups onsite and create public safety hazards.

Mexican DTOs and Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation

However, problems with large operations and illegal trafficking still abound. Popular culture and science may support the use of marijuana medically (and even recreationally), but many of the large operations in the Northern California HIDTA are associated with Mexican DTOs. These operations typically involve other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking operations, human trafficking, weapons violations, and violence. As a result, illegal cultivation poses a threat to public safety and law enforcement officials charged to protect and serve.

Many of the area’s Mexican DTOs hire undocumented aliens to manage the marijuana cultivation areas. These individuals may receive wages for their work, but others comply with the DTO to earn legal passage into the US and/or to protect their families still residing in Mexico. Some cultivation areas aren’t hidden away on private property, but instead are situated on public property, including the Mendocino National Forest. Law enforcement officials from Lake, Santa Clara, and Monterey counties all indicate an unspecified increase in marijuana growing activities associated with the Mexican DTOs.

Asian DTOs, Other Criminal Elements, and Indoor Cannabis Cultivation

Demographically, the landscape for indoor cultivation is different. Asian DTOs, including Chinese and Vietnamese groups, Caucasian criminal gangs/groups, and independent marijuana dealers, are responsible for the majority of indoor cannabis cultivation in the HIDTA.

Many Asian DTOs keep their management functions outside of the country to prevent law enforcement from eradicating their operations. They invest in a network of homes and individuals, which makes pinning down the entire operation more difficult.

Others use the guise of legality to hide their illegal activities. Growers may invest in a legitimate medical marijuana business and then intentionally ignore the stipulations put in place for growing. Growers will keep a larger amount of processed product ready to sell or grow more plants than allowed during the season. They sell their excess on the black market for profit.

Violence and Cannabis Cultivation

As an illegal activity, many DTOs arm their workers to protect the site from outsiders and law enforcement agencies. Along with reports of more growing activities come reports of associated acts of violence. In 2011, reports from law enforcement officials indicated that DTO workers may be armed with assault weapons, hunting rifles, and sniper rifles.

On public land, armed growers may encounter daytrip hikers, campers, hunters, and park officials monitoring the area. In 2010, officers indicated an unusually high number of violent incidents associated with Mexican cannabis cultivation workers. During the month of August in 2010, law enforcement working with the DEA’s DCE/SP cited a higher number of armed incidents than ever before—although exact data for the prevalence wasn’t documented.

Recorded encounters for the 2010 growing year included two incidents in June: one involved a firearm discharge directed at a patrol car. Two incidents involving armed individuals were recorded in July, three incidents in August involving multiple armed individuals, and one incident in September involving an armed dispute.

Indoor cultivators who fail to adhere to medical marijuana laws may protect their investments using weapons and booby traps, further adding to the hazardous nature of the venture. These individuals must often answer to a DTO, face criminal rivalries, and prepare for law enforcement discovery.

Cocaine

While cocaine doesn’t pose as great a threat as methamphetamine or marijuana in the Northern California HIDTA area, it’s an ongoing problem as a drug with a high rate of abuse in the region. Mexican DTOs play a major role in all drug distribution in northern California, and cocaine is no different. Using ports on the Mexico-US border, this highly addictive drug makes its way to dealers who sell it at parties, on street corners, and at other locations.

Statistics on Cocaine Seizure and Use

In 2010, the Northern California HIDTA seized 89.302 kilograms of powdered cocaine and 2.394 kilograms of crack cocaine. Cocaine is a stimulant that comes from the coca plant, which is native to South America. Users either snort or inject powder cocaine. Crack cocaine users smoke this version of the drug derived from powdered cocaine. The crack version is more addictive than the powder version of cocaine and more commonly associated with urban drug use. Law enforcement officials indicate that both are available and abused in the HIDTA area.

Drug Related AdmissionsStatistics on treatment for drug-related problems in publicly funded facilities indicate that 4,436 individuals were admitted for cocaine and crack cocaine problems in 2010. This is a significant decrease from previous years. Only two law enforcement agencies considered crack cocaine as the greatest drug threat to the area in 2011, and none considered powdered cocaine as the most significant threat.

Heroin

Heroin also represents a secondary threat in the HIDTA area of northern California, but one that remains a serious problem for trafficking and abuse. Organizations involved in the production and trade of methamphetamine and marijuana also often play a role in the trafficking of cocaine and heroin around the region. DTOs from Mexican and Asian backgrounds and local gangs may share involvement with the substance.

Derived from resin found in poppy plants, heroin is a refined end-product that users inject. An opiate, the substance is more addictive than morphine. Producers often cut the substance with more dangerous compounds, including chemicals and poisons.

Statistics on Heroin Seizure and Use

In 2010, 8.203 kilograms of heroin were seized in the Northern California HIDTA. While this number represents one of the lowest amounts of drugs seized, the drug is extremely potent—and these numbers may not reflect the total amount of drugs being trafficked and used in the area. Law enforcement officials suggest that heroin maintains moderate to high levels of availability and abuse. Some drug users switch to heroin from prescription drugs to keep the costs of their addiction down.

For example, maintaining a habit of OxyContin prescription abuse could cost around $240 each day for around six doses. Black tar heroin, on the other hand, costs around $80 per day for an equivalent amount. Many teens and young adults find themselves turning to heroin addiction from another gateway drug.

In 2010, 4,681 individuals were admitted into publicly funded treatment programs because of heroin addiction problems. The number of admissions for heroin-related issues has steadily decreased since 2006 and was reduced by almost 2,500 individuals from 2009 to 2010. No law enforcement agency surveyed in 2011 considered heroin as the greatest drug threat facing the HIDTA area, and only one considered the drug as the most likely to contribute to violent crime.

Black Tar Heroin and Mexican DTOs

Mexican black tar heroin is a cheaper and more popular version of the drug sold in California. The compound’s unique tar-like characteristics come from the refinement process and do not require high-quality lab equipment to create. Mexican DTOs, in particular, trade this form of heroin in the Northern California HIDTA.

Other Drugs (LSD, PCP, MDMA, etc.)

The Northern California HIDTA area also faces problems with other illegal and illegally used drugs at varying extents. MDMA (also known as ecstasy), PCP, LSD, and illegally used prescription drugs all play a role in the drug trafficking scene here

Asian DTOs and criminal groups are most often responsible for the transportation and sale of MDMA in the vicinity. MDMA has also been seized at air mail centers in the HIDTA area, indicating its ability to sneak through mail service deliveries from all over the world.

Other drugs, including prescriptions, PCP, and LSD, may come from independent dealers in the area or via internet sales and mailing services. Many of these so-called “party drugs” are distributed at clubs and house parties, on university campuses, and at raves.

The category of “other drugs” was responsible for 2,774 drug-treatment admissions in 2010—a number that has progressively increased over the years since 2006. Despite a clear recognition of problems in the population, law enforcement officials do not recognize the category as a significant threat.

CPDs and Drug Trafficking

Only four out of 41 law enforcement respondents considered CPDs (controlled prescription drugs) as the most significant drug threat in the region in 2011. Some of the most commonly abused prescriptions include benzodiazepines, opioid pain relievers, and phendimetrazine. In San Francisco, the DEA collected 11,648 pounds of excess, unused, and expired prescription drugs across 96 sites in northern California in 2010 to keep them out of abusers’ hands.

Users acquire prescription drugs through a variety of means, including mail delivery, theft, forgery, and doctor shopping. All are illegal modes of access and part of the drug trafficking problem.

Other Drugs and a Lack of Data

These other drugs create a unique problem in the overall picture of drug trafficking. Unlike other drugs shipped in large quantities, many of these are available in pill form and can enter into any environment under the guise of a legitimate pharmaceutical drug or vitamin. Compounding the threat of these drugs is the fact that law enforcement doesn’t have the resources or actionable data needed to detect and intercede to reduce the risks posed by these outliers in the drug trafficking industry. They can target large organizations and gangs but may not always see the activities of independent dealers scattered throughout the world.

While the problem of these other categories of drugs is distinctive, they clearly fall behind methamphetamine, marijuana, and drugs such as heroin and cocaine in terms of urgency. The rate of addiction is lower, as is the culture of cultivation and trafficking in the HIDTA area.

Drug Use Problems and Drug-Related Treatment

Many of the drugs that earn a place for high alert among law enforcement are highly dangerous and addictive. With as little as one use, an individual can start to feel the pull of addiction and get sucked into a cycle of dependency. Often, dealers purposefully hand out freebies to individuals to give them a taste of the experience and then start charging them for using the drug on a regular basis. Over time, these customers can’t escape the dependency without assistance.

Each category of drug represents a different story where treatment is concerned, but together, the statistics on drug-related admissions also offer some interesting insights. Approximately 26,317 individuals were admitted into public programs for drug-related treatment in 2010. In 2009, 33,126 individuals were admitted, and in 2006, 38,683 individuals were admitted.

The number of admissions has fallen, but the question remains: Have they fallen because the problem is going away, or have they fallen because fewer individuals are seeking assistance? Without contextual information about dependency rates and supporting facts, we can’t rightly assume that lower admission rates mean fewer problems—especially when the law enforcement officers continued to see a high rate of trafficking in the area in 2011. Ultimately, drug dependency varies based on the type of drug used, recovery differs for each individual, and drug traffickers continue to explore new markets and lure in new drug users.

Only a continued effort on the part of advocates, law enforcement agencies, educators, and health officials can continue to combat this ever-present threat within the Northern California HIDTA and communities from Mendocino to Santa Cruz and everywhere in between.

Putting the Data Together: An Outlook on Drug Trafficking and Abuse

Understanding the data on drug trafficking and abuse can help individuals make better decisions about their own futures, but it can also help advocates, healthcare professionals, and others gain an awareness and appreciation for the status quo in the Northern California HIDTA.

The outlook from the National Drug Intelligence Center’s Drug Market Analysis 2001 for the Northern California HIDTA Program does provide some predictive information health advocates can use to understand the past five years and the future of drug trafficking in the area:

  • The Mexican DTOs have the upper hand. For the foreseeable future, law enforcement agencies recognize this group as one of the most serious threats across all drug-related activities, including the trafficking of ice methamphetamine, Mexican black tar, and cocaine. Other criminal groups don’t have the resources, structure, or clout to overthrow the hold of the Mexican DTOs in the HIDTA. With the adoption of cross-border transportation services such as Uber, trafficking between the two countries may increase.
  • Ice methamphetamine maintains its status as the top drug threat in the area. The demand for the drug increases all the time across this region and others. Law enforcement officials don’t expect the demand for the drug to fall off in the near future, and the likelihood that producers will expand their operations is high. As Mexican DTOs further entrench themselves in the trade, they’re becoming savvier at developing high-yield laboratories capable of producing hundreds of pounds of product.

While law enforcement officials may bust one laboratory or one ring of dealers, they rarely have an opportunity as they did in Operation Breadbasket to bust a multifaceted operation involving a large amount of methamphetamine.

  • Smurfing rings continue to pose a problem. Smurfing gives producers access to a large quantity of supplies and supports high-yield conversion laboratories. The problem spans large geographical areas, often across several states.
  • The Northern California HIDTA is poised to maintain its status as one of the most active cannabis cultivation centers in the US. Users are looking for high-potency versions of the drug, and medical marijuana laws give growers the foothold needed to continue to pursue trafficking activities in the area. Indoor cultivation in particular is a notable area for growth.

Drug trafficking is a threat to users and other individuals within HIDTA communities. With the increased risk of associated crimes and active, large criminal organizations driving operations, fighting the illicit drug industry in the Northern California HIDTA will likely remain an ongoing battle for years to come.

Summit Estate’s Dr. Kenneth Blum Publishes Important New Addiction Study In Medical Journal

Summit Estate’s very own clinical consultant Dr. Kenneth Blum, M.Sc, DHL, was the lead author of an article recently published in Current Pharmaceutical Design medical journal. Dr. Blum and his collaborators believe they may be onto the “hatching of the addiction egg” with their research.

Current Pharmaceutical Design publishes in-depth reviews that involve modern research on rational drug design. Each issue of Current Pharmaceutical Design is focused on a single therapeutic area, covering subjects important to modern drug design such as:

  • Medicinal Chemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Disease Mechanism
  • Drug Targets

Solving America’s Addiction Epidemic

The new Dr. Blum-led article is titled, “Neuronutrient Amino-Acid Therapy Protects Against Reward Deficiency Syndrome: Dopaminergic Key to Homeostasis and Neuroplasticity.” Ultimately, the article aims to further the understanding of common mechanisms of all types of addiction in order to foster better diagnoses, treatment and prevention of relapse.

The authors raise a number of questions before delving further into the research, such as:

  • Why are medical professionals failing at reducing the incidence of “bad behaviors”?
  • Are we aiming at the wrong targets for the treatment of behavioral disorders?

Quick Background On ‘Reward Deficiency Syndrome’

In 1996, Dr. Blum and his research team coined the term “Reward Deficiency Syndrome” (RDS) to explain the neurochemical and genetic mechanisms involved in addictive behaviors, including substance and process addictions. A few years prior, Dr. Blum was involved in identifying the connection between the dopamine D2 receptor and severe alcoholism.

In his new article, Dr. Blum points to a past study which observed that habitual cocaine use was connected with a reduction in dopamine D2 and D3 receptors. He and his team also maintain that medication-assisted treatment with an emphasis on anti-dopamine (or dopamine antagonist) medications, such as those involving clozapine, fails in the long run when it comes to RDS behaviors.

Homeostasis Over Antagonist Therapy

When it comes to treating addiction, Dr. Blum and his fellow researchers propose using dopamine antagonist therapy in the short term, and dopamine agonist therapy in long term recovery. Put simply, it’s better to try to keep the recovering addict’s dopamine levels fairly stable over the long term than to stunt the neurotransmitter altogether.

“The neuro-mechanisms involving ‘dopamine homeostasis’ are key to understanding recovery from drug and non-drug addictive behaviors,” Dr. Blum writes.

Amino Acid Therapy Could Be Key

In the article, Dr. Blum and his team identify a particular allele for which neuronutrient-amino acid therapy would be beneficial if the host is suffering from addiction. Amino acids help balance brain chemicals and other parts of human physiology. The article also points out a number of gene polymorphisms that lead to a heightened risk of all RDS behaviors.

The Importance Of Dr. Blum’s New Addiction Study

Dr. Kenneth Blum, M.Sc, PhD, DHLDr. Blum and his fellow researchers conclude that paying attention to addicts’ dopamine levels is essential to better understanding the science of addiction. They encourage medical professionals to look for a certain allele in their patients that indicates a high risk for addiction, as amino acid therapy appears to be an effective treatment for people who carry this particular gene variant.

The authors finish with a call for more genetic and neuroimaging studies as they pertain to drug addiction. If that were to happen, Dr. Blum and his colleagues believe that neuroscientists will actually hatch “the addiction egg.”

To learn more about Dr. Kenneth Blum, see our Staff Page.

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

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

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.

Marijuana

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.

Outlawed

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.

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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 SanJoseInside.com. 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.

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