Category Archives: Drug Addiction

How One Town is Attacking the Opioid Epidemic and Succeeding

Dayton, Ohio, is one of the worst hit states by the opioid epidemic, but it’s also a town fighting to save lives with everything it’s got, and it sounds like the town has a plan that other cities and states can learn from. A November article in The New York Times (This City’s Overdose Deaths Have Plunged. Can Others Learn From It?) states that “it may be at the leading edge of a waning phase of an epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands…in the U.S., including nearly 50,000 last year.” But now, deaths from overdoses are down more than 50% from last year.


This seems to be one of the few hopeful articles about the opioid problem, saying that all opioid deaths are decreasing, according to the CDC. Here’s how this town is doing it.


First
, the governor’s decision to expand Medicaid three years ago means that more people are able to receive free addiction and mental health treatment (and more than 12 treatment centers have opened as a result. Let’s hope they’re good.)


Second
, there is greater support available in the town after treatment, including tons of recovery support groups and the availability of (and training for) peer support personnel. In addition, teams comprised of social workers, police officers, medical personnel, and those in recovery visit people who have recently overdosed to try and persuade them to enter treatment.

Opioid Epidemic


Third
, Dayton has blanketed the city with Naloxone. The police chief is adamant that his staff carry it, unlike some of his peers in other cities who view administering Narcan as enabling. He sees it as a harm reduction tool that will help him achieve his goal of saving as many lives as possible.


Fourth
, Carfentanil (similar to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 10,000 times more powerful than morphine) is not being found as frequently in overdoses. A DEA agent theorized that perhaps “traffickers realized how much of its base it was killing.”

Fifth, the police and medical workers agree with each other on an approach and are working together. The police often believe in “a punitive, abstinence-only approach to addiction,” while the medical community wants to eliminate deaths by any means possible. In Dayton, the chief supported a syringe exchange program (which was dropped in Santa Ana, ironically), and got a federal grant to distribute fentanyl test strips to check for fentanyl similarities in other medications.


You wonder: Would these steps work in cities the size of Philadelphia or San Francisco? And/or, there are enough smaller towns with a similar problem — couldn’t some of these steps be tried there?

A recent study shows what can happen when medical professionals don’t take every opportunity to help. These professional can be another part of the solution, at least when people start on opioids for pain relief and then become addicted. Researchers at the Washington State University College of Nursing studied a group of ten who fit this profile to answer two questions: How do people with chronic pain move from appropriate use of opioids to addiction? And what prompts them to seek drug addiction treatment?

Part of the reason for the study was that not many people had looked into these questions. It’s
not a large study, but all of those involved fell prey to cravings and then found they were dependent on the pills.

Many of the study participants said their medical professionals could have helped them identify their addiction and get into treatment but instead they felt the providers seem to judge them, didn’t believe them when they complained, or didn’t take their pain complaints seriously. The researchers said the patients’ “most challenging relationships” were with the healthcare workers they dealt with, and what’s needed is more compassionate, nonjudgmental care.

It would be helpful if this study could hit as wide an audience as possible.

If you need additional information about drug rehab in California and any other state, you’re welcome to call Summit Estate professionals at (866) 569-9391.

San Francisco vs. Philadelphia Substance Abuse

There are numerous American cities that stand out for certain characteristics. Madison, Wisconsin as a great place to bike. Cooperstown, N.Y., for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Asbury Park, N.J., as the town where Bruce Springsteen got his start. The list goes on and on. Recently, San Francisco and Philadelphia, on opposite coasts, were characterized as standing out for similar reasons: the devasting consequences of addiction. 


In San Francisco, for example, an area of Hyde Street has “an open-air narcotics market by day and at night is occupied by the unsheltered and drug-addled slumped on the sidewalk.” Twitter, the article notes, is only a 15-minute walk from there, and other giants of the technology industry are not far away. (Note that the previous blog post dealt with substance abuse in Silicon Valley, not far from the San Francisco area in this post.)


San Francisco’s “persistent homelessness” is a big problem for such wealth so close to it, and a large part of the homeless are the drug dependent. There are hundreds upon hundreds of heroin needles lying around, along with the people who shoot up. The dealers and users are known as “the street people,” or the street population. One resident said it’s like “the land of the living dead” and accuses the city of allowing a containment zone so that the devastation doesn’t spread. The police say the drug trade is their most significant issue.

Substance Abuse

The problem is so dire that in August, San Francisco health workers walked the streets to find opioid users and offer them Suboxone prescriptions, according to another article. The recipients can get the medication the same day. “At the end of a recent yearlong pilot, about 20 of the 95 participants were still taking buprenorphine under the care of the street medicine team.”


It’s estimated that 22,500 people “actively inject drugs,” and the San Francisco medical director said there’s a strong trend of people using both meth and opioids in the city, which is really difficult to treat. But the goal of going to the streets to find users is to reduce the number of deaths.

 

Almost three thousand miles away, Philadelphia is known far and wide as “the largest open-air narcotics market for heroin on the East Coast” and so it draws people from “all over,” according to an article that appeared in the New York Times magazine last October. In one neighborhood known as Kensington, which actually takes in other areas as well, dealers hand out free samples with impunity and those on drugs are using them in the open or are already passed out. It’s known as the Badlands and supposedly has the purest heroin in a three-state area.

The author rode through the area in 2017 with a special agent with the D.E.A. According to her description, it looks like the apocalypse hit there – “Houses transformed into drug dens, factories into spaces to shoot up, rail yards into homeless encampments.” Sadly, the largest provider of drug treatment programs in the Bay Area is the prison system.


There’s history behind why this neighborhood is the way it is, starting with the fact that it had cheap housing, and once people moved in and a drug haven started springing up around them, they didn’t have the money to leave. That story, and the individual stories, go on and on, and it’s just so sad. Kind of like San Francisco.  Last January the governor signed a statewide disaster declaration—a public health emergency—to take concrete steps to try and address the devastation.


In the comments that appeared after the article, a San Francisco resident wrote in to say, “The article has allowed me to see how intractable our own ‘homeless’ problem in San Francisco will be without first addressing the drug epidemic….[It] shows what a death sentence heroin is, both for the users and for the community that the users (and pushers) inhabit. Why do we as a civilized, supposedly advanced society allow this?”.
 
If you need additional information on this matter or about Summit Rehab  plans, please call us at (866) 569-9391.

Silicon Valley Substance Abuse Redux

Do the West Coast papers cover drug use in Silicon Valley to the extent that other publications do? Because it certainly seems to pop up in other media. Take microdosing, as an example. It’s a valid way to study the effect of a new medication on the body more safely than administering a full dose, but workers in the Valley are microdosing LSD, saying it makes them more productive.

An internet search on “microdosing + Silicon Valley” turns up articles in at least two publications (Forbes was writing about it as early as 2015) and on several websites:  Business InsiderHuffpostMedium, and The Independent and Wired from the U.K…but it took going to the SFgate website and searching to find an article on Silicon Valley and microdosing.

This Summit Estate Recovery Center blog first wrote about drug use in Silicon Valley last winter (2018), and it’s important enough subject to revisit it. At the end of the summer, a contributing writer for The New York Timeswrote an opinion article about a recent visit to the Valley and what she found. There are online and hardcopy headlines: “How and Why Silicon Valley Gets High” and “Turn On, Tune In, Start Up.” The writer had lunch with a couple entrepreneurs there, which were sad upates on the current state of affairs there. One lunchmate told her “that magic mushrooms will help …[her]  become a better reporter … and … that Ecstasy will make …[her] a nicer person.” Seems he also suggested she try ayahuasca, a “brew made from plants that includes the hallucinogen DMT”. Soon afterward she learned that Tesla’s board was worried about company founder Musk’s admission that he has occasionally used drugs.


This was just before the popular Burning Man gathering, and she associated the festival with the use of ketamine. It sounded like that put her over the top:

“I spoke to just over a dozen people who all said consumption was increasing once again. Obviously, there are major problems with addiction to opiates and alcohol here, as elsewhere. But people in Silicon Valley tend to view drugs differently from those in places like, say, Hollywood and Wall Street. The point is less to let off steam or lose your inhibitions than to improve your mind.”
Silicon Valley

She quotes a tech worker as saying “It is all, about the ‘intellectualizing of drug use as a stimulant for the brain’ and refers to Michael Pollan and his book, “How to Change Your Mind,” about the resurgence of psychedelic drugs. He told her that “the exploration of drugs by tech workers remains part of the industry’s ‘hacking ethos’.”


A number of people commented on her article on their own blog. One wrote, “This is what you get when ordinary men aren’t calling the shots: society thinks nothing of pressuring unsexy men to work 200 hours a week, shooting up whatever drugs are needed to make Executive Chad’s arbitrary deadlines, using frickin’ hallucinogens for inspiration and friendship.” I won’t link to the post because he also makes misogynist comments and derogatory comments about one ethnicity.


The article itself had 229 comments on the paper’s website. Here’s one: “Is it any surprise that the gurus of AI and ‘the singularity’ would be taken in by pharmaceutical transcendence? Intelligence without thinking, ‘social media’ instead of culture, spiritual depth in a pill–it’s all about what sells, not what works. It would be funny if the world were laughing instead of throwing money at them.”


And here’s another: “I have always thought (and personally believed) that to expand one’s mind, first the person had to expand their empathy for all others. If you need a drug (natural or synthetic) with your sole purpose … to achieve some type of nirvana that will lead to you pushing yourself above another, then that sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?”


You wonder about the future for these companies and their employees. Will things every change there? What will it take to turn it around? How do you change drug culture embedded in so many tech companies? How do you reach the hard-driving people at the top who are part of the problem if not the whole problem? And what about the individuals who are hurting themselves and their loved ones? What happens to them?

New Opioid and Fentanyl Strips Have Advocates and Critics

Dsuvia

There’s a new opioid in town called Dsuvia. It’s been all over the news lately, and it’s controversial.  An NBC News headline proclaimed “FDA approves powerful new opioid in ‘terrible’ decision.” The FDA was also accused of bypassing its own advisory process to approve the drug.

This drug, which is 1,000 time stronger than morphine, is usually given in IV form. This new formulation is a tablet taken sublingually and is to be used only in health care settings such as hospitals. According to the NBC article, it’s commonly used on the battlefield and similar emergencies “to treat intense, acute pain.”. It was actually the military that requested the pill formulation.

In the middle of the opioid crisis, the obvious question experts are asking is do we really need another opioid? Two criticisms are that there may be more deaths from overdosing with this drug, and health workers in confined health settings may find it easy to steal it. The FDA, however, says it has learned from the opioid crisis and has tightly restricted Dsuvia. It will not be available at pharmacies or for home use, the package is for single-use only, and it should only be used for 72 hours tops.

Side effects, not surprisingly can be horrendous: fatigue, possible breathing problems, and even coma and death. The cost will be $50 to $60 per pill.

Fentanyl

Test strips for Fentanyl

At the same time as a new opioid has been approved, there’s a new “tool” in the fight against opioid overdoses, according to several media outlets — a strip of paper that can test for fentanyl in batches of heroin. In October, The Atlantic reported a recent study found that drug users who employ them as a precaution before ingesting opioids or cocaine can possibly avoid overdosing.

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and has been found in at least half of overdoses now. (As indicated, cocaine is often laced with fentanyl as well.) Researchers posit that if more people with substance use disorder had access to the strips, “they’d use less, or possibly not use … at all.” A YouTube video made by the Associated Press shows that when the strip is dipped into a drug, the appearance of two red stripes signifies fentanyl is present, and one stripe means it is not.

As we know, some states, and even cities, are more progressive than others. “… Baltimore; Philadelphia; Columbus, Ohio; and Burlington, Vermont—have started providing the test strips alongside clean needles. The California public-health department pays for the distribution of strips through needle exchanges.” Leave it to California to lead the way. 

However, some health agencies have questioned  the accuracy of the strips and whether or not a person would actually not take drugs they have right in front of them. Also, some experts want to see more research done.

There’s an obstacle as well: Some areas have “paraphernalia laws” that prohibit the use of devices to aid in doing drugs, except clean syringes, so these laws need to be amended to exempt test strips as well. 

The cost may also deter some users. Each strip costs $1.00, and users take drugs on average four times a day, so it’s not a cheap aid for people who don’t have money.

 

Taking Drugs on the Job

With all the evidence available, there’s no denying some employees have used drugs while working, whether they shot up in a restroom, or popped a few pills at their desk, for example. An article in The New York Times holds that  ”As the opioid epidemic continues to rage…, the fallout is increasingly manifesting itself at construction sites, factories, warehouses, offices, and other workplaces.”

An earlier post on addiction in Silicon Valley mentioned that substance abuse in the workplace took place in offices there as well. But this article focuses on a construction worker, an employee in an industry that has been found in the past to have one of the highest rates of addiction of any field. Today it has “the second-highest rate of pain medication and opioid misuse after the entertainment, recreation and food business,”  according to the article, and construction workers also have “twice the addiction rate of all working adults.”

According to an 11-year old survey by the National Safety Council, at the time, 70 percent of employers said that prescription drug abuse had affected their businesses, relating to absenteeism, injuries, accidents, and, of course, overdoses even then. Understandably, there were positive drug tests as well.

Taking Drugs on the Job

The construction worker in the article has overdosed on the job several times, and was revived with Narcan by a coworker at least twice. He never went to rehab, until he was fired and returned to his hometown. He joined the local construction union, which was a lifesaver. He had an outstanding arrest warrant which proved troublesome in getting him into a program, but union officials talked a judge into letting him serve his time in rehab. So far, he has been clean and is working, thanks to his union.

The current statistics are not good: in 2016, 217 workers died from overdosing on alcohol or other drugs at work, which was a 32 percent increase from 2015. Overdose deaths in workplaces have increased every year since 2010. That includes someone at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, a crawfish fisherman in Louisiana, and a Sam’s Club warehouse worker in Texas. The guy down the street in your neighborhood, the man sitting next to you on the bus, or the father of a boy on your son’s little league team.

The article reports that few businesses are willing to acknowledge the drug use at their company. Yet certain enterprising business people do and are willing to help, like Alan Hart, president of Giovanna Painting in Spencerport, NY.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he’s in recovery himself. He tries to help workers enter rehab, although he doesn’t offer employees health insurance. He also fires workers he suspects of abusing drugs while working.

It would be naïve to think drug use doesn’t go on in the workplace, and just like addiction can hit anyone, so drug use can appear in any business.  Perhaps you heard of the teacher who OD’d in a school bathroom and died, although his wife had no idea he was on drugs. The news traveled as far as the United Kingdom.

In the corporate world, perhaps disseminating more information about Employee Assistance Programs would help. (For that matter, a comparison of programs would be a good thing, along with what laws mandate as far as offering employees treatment.) In addition, perhaps there should be guidelines for what employees can do if they suspect a co-worker of taking drugs, not as a punitive measure, but to try and address the problem. And of course, Narcan could be made available in workplaces. At least companies could discuss these approaches and others.

 

Helping Addicted Inmates

The number of people suffering from substance use disorder who likely think they won’t end up in jail is probably large—especially if they have good jobs. They never think it will happen to them. But it can. As a recent episode of the TV program Dopesick Nation showed, even formerly responsible citizens may find themselves stealing, forging prescriptions, and so forth to support their habit.

 You may have heard we’re not doing nearly enough for substance abusers who end up in jail. But there are a few programs around the country that seek to help these people, often in small towns, that can serve as examples for other towns. Here are a few.

Peer recovery coaches in NJ

 In one NJ town, certified peer recovery specialists are volunteering to work with those suffering from substance use disorder who are incarcerated. In a new program called Next Step, the volunteers are called coaches, and they help to steer prisoners into treatment.

Bail reform in certain areas of the country means that nonviolent offenders are being released earlier, and for addicts, that usually means without treatment or the offer of treatment. (And many [most?] likely got little help in jail.) Although it’s too soon to comment on the program’s success, shortly after the program was instituted at the jail, nearly half of those screened entered treatment.

One of the county prosecutors noted that when people are sent to jail, it’s often their lowest point, a good time to try and convince them that treatment may save their life. Several local organizations have stepped up to provide clinical assistance, including a social services organization helping inmates find jobs, a recovery center, a peer recovery organization and a hospital.

 Having a peer in recovery work with an incarcerated person is another tool in the toolbox to help someone get healthy and return to society.

Helping Addicted Inmates

The Start Strong 3 E’s in Kentucky

There’s a new treatment program in the detention center in Kenton County, KY, in which inmates are expected to be “Employed, Enlisted, or furthering their Education,” 12 weeks after release, according to the program director. The key in this area, which has suffered greatly in the opioid addiction crisis? The jail is partnering with Aetna Better Health and getting help from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

 The concept involves giving medication not only to quell cravings or ease withdrawal symptoms, but to stabilize patients getting therapeutic care in jail. They will then have the option to stay with medication assistance during and after their incarceration, according to a local TV station. And, luckily for these inmates, there’s an aftercare program with intensive job training.

Vivitrol and Counseling in Central New York State

In Onondaga County, NY, addicted inmates are given the opportunity to have injections of Vivitrol and attend counseling sessions. According to the Vivitrol website, the medication “is a non-addictive, once-monthly treatment proven to prevent relapse in opioid dependent patients when used with counseling following detoxification.”

Chicago’s Thrive program

Inmates suffering from substance abuse in a Cook County jail who are not in the drug court program are being offered naloxone on release and will be monitored “in a modified version of the sheriff’s electronic monitoring program.” (For example, caseworkers who worked with one woman on the inside will continue to work with her once she’s released.)

Other programs, in Indiana, Orange County, Florida, and Cincinnati, Ohio and Kings County, California, to name a few, show that a number of jails realize they can contribute to finding solutions to substance abuse in this country. Whether it’s to offer Suboxone, Naltrexone, Vivitrol, peer coaches, and counseling and job training, or a combination, these programs can serve as a blueprint for other jails.

 

Some Good News In Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

A New Medication

 On June 6, CBS TV profiled an early stage biotechnology company called Blue Therapeutics that has developed a non-addictive painkiller. Pharmaceutical companies have been talking about developing less addictive painkillers lately, but their definition refers to pills that would be more difficult to crush and so forth. Blue Therapeutics supposedly has the real thing, which means that people looking for pain relief will not become addicted with this medication as has happened so often with other pain relief. This company’s medication clings to different receptors that are non-addictive and so it “eliminates the narcotic high,” according to a company executive who was interviewed. Unfortunately, the medication won’t be available for about five years. It’s in clinical trials now.

 Acupuncture

 People in recovery from heroin and methamphetamine addiction might suffer from anxiety and fear like Sarah Downs, the woman featured in an article appearing in several newspapers in May. She was at the Pickaway Area Recovery Services (PARS) in Ohio, for acupuncture, which she hoped would ease the symptoms she experienced since getting sober for three months prior. Jimmy Laux, a chiropractor associated with the program, eased needles into her ears in a new program for the center. What’s interesting is that a judge is linked to the program as well. He heard about Laux because he sends defendants to a recovery facility, and Laux educated him about acupuncture for easing addicts’ recovery. This judge has pledged almost $13,000 for treatment for people who don’t have the funds to pay for it themselves. Acupuncture isn’t meant to be used in isolation, the article said. NAR-ANON and AA meetings are also important, as well as therapy. But the executive director of PARS said that his research “shows that people in recovery who undergo acupuncture stay clean at a higher rate than those who don’t.”

drug rehab programs

 Brain Stimulation

 It’s surprising that brain stimulation isn’t more well-known than it is when it was publicized as far back as 2015. On a site called Addiction Recovery Guide, run by a psychologist, Magnetic Brain Stimulation and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation are mentioned as promising research. Magnetic Brain Stimulation stimulates nerve cells in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls impulsive behavior. The article says it’s been used since the 1980 to treat depression, and in a study using it for cocaine addiction, patients were able to reduce their cocaine use and had few cravings after eight sessions. This information was published in the European Neuropsychopharmacology Journal (December 3, 2015). Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation has also been used for depression and anxiety, and was also was found to decrease cravings for drugs, although more study on how many sessions and what length is needed. This information was published in the October 2016 issue of the Annals of Neuroscience.

 Exercise

 The fact that exercise is good for people in recovery is nothing new. Treatment centers often have exercise programs, and clients are advised about the benefits of exercise, But if you thought that was only to return a person to health, you should know that exercise can have actual positive effects on recovery. In June  U.S. News cited a study which found “daily aerobic exercise altered dopamine signaling in the brain in ways that make alcohol and other substances of abuse less appealing or rewarding.” The lead author also said that exercise also increases functioning of the brain’s frontal areas, which help inhibit cravings. For information on drug rehab programs please contact our rehab in California at (866) 569-9391

Ecstacy and Ketamine for Addiction Treatment?

Ecstacy and Veterans

There are certain substances that are seen as bad but paradoxically can be used for good. For example, botox is a toxin, but it’s also well-known as a wrinkle treatment. As WebMD cites, it can also be used to treat crossed eyes, uncontrolled blinking, and muscle spasms or movement disorders. It’s helpful for people who experience frequent migraines, too. Now, Ecstacy, also known as Molly, has been found to show promise as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder to help veterans suffering from the condition. Ecstacy alters mood and perception, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A study in the Lancet Psychiatry journal explained that when 26 combat veterans were given two sessions of therapy along with the party drug MDMA, a majority of them benefitted. In fact, there were dramatic improvements in symptoms. They also slept better and “became more conscientious.” Sixteen, or 62 percent, no longer could be said to have PTSD.

PTSD Treatment

This study bears out the results of smaller studies done in previous years. The next step is Phase 3 trials, which will replicate safety and efficacy results, and if all goes well, the FDA could approve the drug by 2021. That doesn’t mean the treatment will be loosey-goosey, however. Indeed, the original headline, “A Drug From the Dance Floor May Soon Help Ease Veterans’ PTSD” was worded differently in the digital version: “Now Ecstasy as a Remedy for PTSD? You Probably Have Some Questions.” There is a protocol. First there are three therapy sessions. In a fourth session, a licensed therapist administers the drug in pill form. Then the patient lies down amid candles and flowers and listens to music. A male and a female therapist sit with the patient as a guide. The drug floods the brain with hormones and neurotransmitters and users report feelings of trust and well-being. Following this session, users “process” emotions in a follow-up session, and take MDMA “two or three times, each a month apart, interspersed with psychotherapy.” Larger clinical trials will validate whether or not the technique really works, and unfortunately, there are side effects, such as headache, fatigue, muscle tension, and insomnia. (Puzzling, since most people reported sleeping better.) What has excited a few experts is that there is a lack of treatments for PTSD, so they’re hopeful. Sadly, as word has spread, some people are self-medicating with MDMA, and as a street drug, it may be found to be mixed with other drugs. Also, frequent use can damage the brain and an overdose can be fatal.

drug addiction treatment center

Ketamine and Veterans

Ketamine, also known as K, Special K, or cat Valium, is one of the club drugs listed on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website along with Methamphetamine, MDMA, LSD, GHB, and Rohypnol. These are frequently used by teens and young adults at parties, nightclubs and the like. Ketamine is also used as an anesthetic for humans and animals, and in addition to GHP and Rohypnol, it’s a date rape drug. Ketamine is known as a dissociative drug because it makes users feel out of control and disconnected from their body and environment. They may hallucinate, have psychotic-like episodes that can linger, and experience respiratory depression, heart rate abnormalities, and withdrawal. A doctor at a veteran’s hospital in Mufreesboro, Tenn., is using the drug to treat opioid addiction, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is supporting him. The doctor, an anesthesiologist, claims a 74% success rate, and said it “resets excited pain receptors” so that patients feel pain “in a normal, manageable way.” The article mentions a veteran who was on opioids after being shot in the hip years earlier. Eventually, he developed an addiction and couldn’t wean himself off. The implication was that ketamine helped. For more information please contact our drug addiction treatment center at (866) 569-9391

Opioid Protests, and an Imodium High? Who Would Believe It?

 Opioid dissent

 Americans have a long history of protesting when they don’t like something. It hasn’t been that long since Occupy Wall Street, the Parkland, Florida students, and the #MeToo campaigns, to name just three uprisings. But who would have thought there would be an actual protest against OxyContin? A lot has been written against Purdue Pharma, the drug’s manufacturer, but to actually take to the street over it? Well, it’s happened. Last month, Nan Goldin, a well-known photographer who was addicted to opioids herself once, led a demonstration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in a wing named for two Sackler brothers whose family owns the company. The group had a symbolic “die-in” there, marched through the halls and also gathered outside. Their goal was to get buy-in from cultural institutions not to accept money from the family, and to fund addiction treatment. They unfurled banners and scattered pill bottles labeled with the drug’s name and the Sackler name into a reflecting pool. MOMA is not the only museum the family has given money to, either.

 Opioid Protest

Previously, a small protest took place in November outside a VA medical center in Florida when six veterans marched outside to protest opioid deaths and show support for medical marijuana. They carried a casket draped in an American flag and then poured “hundreds of empty pill bottles inside the casket.” Most either had a personal story about opioids or knew someone who became addicted. One vet’s young daughter had died from a seizure and he believed she would had lived if she had access to marijuana for her genetic condition. Can you imagine if families that have lost loved ones due to opioids, or who have loved ones that have become addicted decided to them march en masse in major cities? And if those who became addicted themselves joined them and identified and put pressure on perpetrators to provide funding for treatment? That would be something to see. Some people think progress is being made in the fight against the opioid epidemic because a partnership has been established between the NIH and pharmaceutical companies to develop nonaddictive painkillers. But abuse-deterrent doesn’t mean less addictive at all, it simply means pills are harder to crush or do otherwise with for snorting or injecting them.

a drug treatment program

 Imodium

 Also in the category of “Will wonders never cease?”, it seems that Loperamide—Imodium A-D, the diarrhea stopper, has potential for abuse. If you’ve heard of Joe and Teresa Graedon, you may know they’re syndicated columnists with a health column (The People’s Pharmacy) in which they answer readers’ questions and comment on people’s concerns.  In their March column in The Seattle Times, a reader wrote in to say he or she has been taking Imodium for Irritable Bowel Syndrome for years, one pill a day, and it has been extremely helpful. The person doesn’t have to be near a bathroom shortly after eating. He or she was concerned because the FDA wants to limit the allowable amount to be sold over the counter to packs of eight pills, an amount good for two days. The writer is afraid that the price will go up and it will be difficult to get the amount he or she needs. (Sound familiar? Like the complaints from people who take opioids for legitimate pain and don’t abuse them, and are fearful that more stringent measures may mean they won’t be able to get what they need? Appears so.) The Graedons explain: “Some people have been using high doses….to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms; others have abused the drug in order to get high.” One problem with the latter behavior is that it may result in irregular heart rhythms or cardiac arrest. Who knew an IBS medicine could be used for other than stopping diarrhea?

For more information contact Summit Estate, a drug treatment program, at (866) 569-9391.  

White Collar Professionals and Addiction

Often, the stereotype of someone suffering from alcohol or other substance use disorder is that they’re down and out, barely functioning most of the time, and always looking for the next drink or fix. Yet if you’re at all knowledgeable about addiction, you know that addiction affects people at all socioeconomic levels, including executives in the corner office and other white collar professionals.

 

These employees often work in highly stressful jobs, such as in high-tech companies, where much is expected of them. They also fall prey to the stigma of addiction, so the fear of losing their job is strong.

 

Denial is strong at this level, and the excuses are many.  Perhaps the most common is that they don’t have a problem. Some people say they deserve to drink or take drugs because of all they’re dealing with, or even that they can do their job better with drugs. (I interviewed one woman addicted to oxycodone who said she took a handful of pills every day just to feel normal.) Others say they could never take time from work for treatment.Tyler Fitzgerald, Clinical Director of Summit Estate, says his experience has been that most companies are incredibly supportive of people getting help, especially in Silicon Valley. “What they won’t put up with is the absenteeism, the hangovers, and the outbursts,” adds Jon Heller, Summit Estate’s Admissions Director.

 

You may have done some research and learned that effective treatment facilities group people with similar needs for the best results. A teenage boy does not have the same rehabilitation needs as a high-level executive, for example. Summit Estate caters to white collar professionals with stressful jobs. “We’re the non-luxury luxury treatment center,” says Fitzgerald. “This is not the kind of place where people come and are pampered and get to sleep until noon and have breakfast brought to them. We don’t emphasize the things that aren’t necessary. We focus on real treatment for real people.”

 

Similarly, he explains, the reintegration program is an intensive daily program that can be built around people’s work schedules, if need be. “People continue working with their therapist and their treatment team while being reintegrated into the community and learn how to deal with the everyday stresses of work.” 

 

Even during the program, people who absolutely need to keep in touch with work can be accommodated. “What we do is take away excuses not to come,” says Fitzgerald.

 

On Psych Central, Dr. David Sack explains that addicts may think they’re “getting away with” their addition quite awhile before taking action:  “High-functioning addicts are masters of disguise whose struggles with drugs and alcohol may go unnoticed for years, often with increasingly severe consequences. A … position of power at work … may cushion them from the consequences of their drug use, while a sense of self-importance or belief that they can resolve their own problems may prevent them from seeking treatment.

 

 

Fitzgerald offers the perfect conclusion for this post with an apt observation about treatment: “Our clients could be at their bottom. They could have been called in at work and spoken to about their performance, or perhaps other people have noticed they’ve been intoxicated or are increasingly missing deadlines or work. Everyone’s bottom is the same — you’re up against a wall, and the rug’s about to be pulled out from under you and you’re going to be exposed. Our clients often come to us in a state of panic that they’re going to lose their job; this is the time to save it.”