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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 Dr. Kenneth Blum Publishes Important New Addiction Study In Medical JournalSummit 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.

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.

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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Read more of our newsworthy addiction-related posts.

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How Opioids Surprisingly Overtook Prince – Featuring Expert Insight

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

But that’s not all.

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

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

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

So what happened?

Lethal Overdose Of Fentanyl

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

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

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

Not Your “Typical” Addict

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

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

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

Erasing The Stereotypes

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

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

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

Expert Insight From The Summit Estate Team

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

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

Tim Sinnott, MFT, LAADCr-Clinical Program Director

Tim Sinnott, MFT, LAADCr-Clinical Program Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opioid Overdose In Hollywood

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

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

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

More Than Hollywood’s Problem

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

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

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

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

What Could Be The Next Big Drug?

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

What could that drug be?

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

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

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

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

Addiction Follows No Rules

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

How Bay Area Doctors Are Helping Create Heroin Addicts

Bay Area Doctors Helping Create Heroin AddictsIn the fast-paced, technology-driven Bay Area, it’s all about staying on top of your game and pushing through the pain. For many individuals, pain that comes after a sports-related injury or surgery is treated with opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone or fentanyl.

While these prescription medications are effective in treating acute and chronic pain, they are also highly addictive. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly two million individuals in the United States are currently addicted to narcotic painkillers. Many of these individuals innocently start using these drugs to treat a pain condition, but quickly find themselves unable to quit.

Painkillers And Heroin Going Hand-In-Hand

Heroin, like opioid-based prescription pain killers, are processed from morphine and extracted from the poppy plant. Addiction is very similar in painkillers and heroin, and many users of prescription narcotics move on to heroin to feed their addiction.

Bay Area Doctors Overprescribing Prescription Painkillers

Doctor-Bay Area Doctors Overprescribing Prescription PainkillersUnfortunately, over the past several years, those specifically in the Bay Area who have died with opiates in their system, have dramatically increased, according to MercuryNews.com.

This jump is driven by many causes, but easy access to prescription drugs by doctors who are overprescribing, is a main contributing factor. And when tolerance builds and the prescription ceases, many individuals turn to chemically-similar heroin, to seek the relief they need.

Sadly, many doctors are unaware of the risk they are contributing to by giving certain individuals prescription painkillers. Those who have a history of substance abuse, an underlying mental illness or even a mix of psychological and environmental factors are at a substantially higher risk of becoming addicted to these medications. Even those who do not fall into any of those categories need to use caution when taking opioids. Once an addiction has set in, it can be very difficult to treat.

Are You Struggling With Painkiller Addiction?

Many people ask this question once they’ve habitually started taking painkillers prescribed by their doctor. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, someone who has two or more of the following 11 signs can be clinically diagnosed with an addiction.

Signs Of Prescription Drug Abuse And Addiction

  • Excessive or extended use
  • Unable or unwilling to reduce or stop use
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Obsessing over or spending an excessive amount of time obtaining, using or recovering from the drug
  • Increasing tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Continued usage despite experiencing physical or psychological damage
  • Hazardous behaviors while using the drug
  • Retreat from social activities or work
  • Continued usage despite conflict with others
  • Problems at home, work or school due to use

Consoling-Help For Prescription Drug Or Heroin Addiction

Getting Help For Prescription Drug Or Heroin Addiction

What may have started as a solution to treat chronic or acute pain can quickly become a life-threatening addiction. Whether you or a loved one are abusing prescription drugs or are already struggling with heroin addiction, help is available. Get answers to your questions by calling our 24/7 addiction specialists at Summit Estate now.

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The Growing Addiction To Heroin In Silicon Valley

Circuit Board Silicon Valley- Heroin Addiction In Silicon ValleyAmidst the bustling Silicon Valley offices filled with driven startup executives and venture capitalists, there is a growing problem of heroin addiction. This reality came to light in 2014 when a Google executive overdosed on the drug while on his yacht in Santa Cruz.

The Trend Of Heroin Addiction In Silicon Valley

The trend in heroin use in Silicon Valley has been largely fueled by driven web developers and competitive entrepreneurs who are using the drug as a way to cope with their work-driven lifestyle. Tech workers at all stages in their careers are finding themselves struggling with addiction to heroin, as well as to other substances including prescription painkillers, stimulants and smart drugs. Some addiction specialists believe that the problem is much worse than what most people think, because many of these individuals are high functioning and very adept at hiding their problem.

In Silicon Valley, it’s not uncommon to work for days at a time without sleep to get new projects and ventures launched. Yet, this comes at a cost. Many of these workaholics are drawn to drugs to keep them functioning. When it is time to take a break, it’s not uncommon for them to reach for a substance to unwind.

Heroin is widely available throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and particularly in Silicon Valley where dealers are more than happy to sell it to tech workers with six figure salaries. Sadly, many tech employers also turn a blind eye to drug use because they are concerned more about results, than the long-term well-being of their employees.

Find Out: Is Silicon Valley Addicted To “Smart” Drugs?

The Connection Between Prescription Painkillers And Heroin AddictionPills On Desk-Prescription Painkillers, Heroin Addiction

Across the United States, there is an increasing epidemic of both heroin use and prescription painkiller abuse. This is tied to the over-prescribing of painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Many heroin addicts start their journey of addiction as patients who are prescribed opioid prescription drugs for back pain or sports-related injuries.

The progression of prescription painkiller use to abuse to heroin addiction is relatively common. For some, the need to take the drug quickly becomes necessary to function in the workplace. When pills become insufficient, or are no longer prescribed, often individuals begin smoking or snorting heroin and then eventually get to the point where they are injecting it because of their increasing tolerance.

Are You Or A Colleague Or Loved One Taking Heroin?

Heroin use has doubled nationally from 2002 to 2012. It’s important to know that you’re not alone. There are many individuals throughout Silicon Valley and beyond who are struggling with addiction to this powerful drug.

Don’t battle addiction alone. Call for help. With a single call, you can take a proactive step to regain a positive life free from the grip of heroin addiction.

Learn More About Our Prescription Drug Addiction Program

Summit Estate’s Neuroscience Advisor, Dr. Blum: Pioneers Important Advancement To Treat Reward Deficiency Syndrome To Prevent Relapse

For millions of people in recovery, relapse is a frightening word. Though there are many reasons that individuals suffer relapse, one of the more interesting discoveries is that certain people are prewired genetically to have insufficient numbers of D2 receptors in their brains, which can lead to a lack of dopamine, a chemical in the brain, which in turn can increase the chance of addiction.

Summit Estate’s Dr. Kenneth Blum’s Advancement To Treat Reward Deficiency Syndrome

Dr. Kenneth Blum

Dr. Kenneth Blum, Chief Neuroscience Advisor

Summit Estate’s very own neuroscience advisor and pioneer in Reward Deficiency Syndrome, Dr. Kenneth Blum, PhD, has published an article on preventing relapse to reward deficiency behaviors titled “Hypothesizing Balancing Endorphinergic and Glutaminergic Systems to Treat and Prevent Relapse to Reward Deficiency Behaviors: Coupling D-Phenylalanine and N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) as a Novel Therapeutic Modality.”

In the article, Dr. Blum hypothesizes that a novel combination of D-Phenylalanine (DPA), an inhibitor of the enzyme known to breakdown endorphins, and N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), an amino acid-derived compound, will have synergistic attributes to induce dopamine release, as well as dopamine stabilization at the brain reward circuitry via different mechanisms. The hypothesis is that this combination will provide a safe and effective natural way to induce stable and relatively constant levels of dopamine for the millions of sufferers of Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS).

Read Dr. Blum’s Full Article Here

The Importance Of Dr. Blum’s Hypothesis In Preventing Relapse

A relapse after recovery treatment can occur because addiction is a chronic disorder. There is no complete cure that eliminates the chance of a relapse. Rather, addiction must be managed. The rate of relapse depends on the addictive substance. For example, opiate addiction has a greater than 80 percent rate of relapse. Alcohol relapse can range from 30 to 70 percent.

The chance of a relapse can also depend on certain factors and varies from person to person. Those who have RDS have a higher rate of relapse. As well, this is the case for individuals who suffer from mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. External psychological and social stressors can also contribute to a relapse. Even happy occasions such as holidays, weddings and celebrations can put someone at risk.

Summit Estate Is A Leader In Relapse Prevention

Watch our Relapse Prevention Counseling Training with Roland Williams:

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If you or a loved one is tempted to drink or use drugs again, time is of the essence. Treatment is required now to help better manage triggers and emotions that can lead to a relapse. Don’t wait for a relapse to happen or get worse. Obtain help and guidance from an addiction treatment specialist by calling us now.

Summit Estate specializes in relapse prevention as well as dual diagnosis treatment for those suffering from both mental illness and addiction. Our relapse prevention counseling and real-world tools can help your or a loved one today. Call us now to learn more.

Mayhem And Meth: Party Culture And Drug Use In Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is widely known as a hub of innovation. Those who are familiar with this small, southern division of the San Francisco Bay Area know that it has been the home of a significant number of start-up global technology companies. Included among them are Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google. Within the walls of these, and other, enormously profitable organizations, you’ll find some of the most brilliant minds at work. Groundbreaking inventions are a daily occurrence. Massive discoveries… the norm. Silicon Valley is a place where boundless ambition is not only valued and rewarded, it is embraced as a way of life.

Coping With The Pressure Of The Work Culture In Silicon Valley

Man Stessed At WorkIt is clear that while many outsiders may view the Silicon Valley subculture through a similar lens, not all employees in Silicon Valley are the same – they approach their experiences differently. When New York Times published a scathing criticism of Amazon’s workplace in August 2015, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos quickly responded via company memo – “The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.” Another Amazon employee, Nick Ciubotariu, took to LinkedIn to refute the assertions made in Times. He stated that “if Amazon was the type of place described in this article, I would publicly denounce Amazon, and leave.”

Although Bezos and Ciubotariu disagree, some refer to Silicon Valley’s work culture as Continue reading