Tag Archives: California Drug Problem

Substance Abuse and the Legal System

How Many Chances Should a Drug User Get?

Recently, a letter to the editor in a newspaper from the managing director for policy at the Drug Policy Alliance asked the rhetorical question above. He’s a psychiatrist with a background in public policy and bioethics, and he wrote to the paper after reading that a patient with endocarditis was denied necessary surgery because of intravenous drug use. He called it abandoning a patient. Endocarditis, an infection of the heart, is life-threatening but treatable. Just as drug use has been compared to having cancer—a disease that we treat even if the person has smoked, when smoking is a known carcinogen—the psychiatrist argues that a known drug user shouldn’t be denied care. Should someone with a second heart attack be sent to hospice instead of being treated, just because he didn’t take his medication after the first one, he asks? He notes that several illnesses are accompanied by behavior that is self-destructive. And when the writer asks about how many chances drug users should get, he answers his own question: “The same number as a smoker with cancer, a drunken driver in an accident, and a father after a heart attack. The same number you would want for your loved one.”

Felons Becoming Lawyers

There’s one area in which the legal system is surprising a number of people—allowing former drug addicts who have been incarcerated to become lawyers. Yes, you read that right. If you watch 60 Minutes, you may have seen the segment where a man robbed banks, spent years in prison and went on to become one when he was released. But Tara Simmons seems to be one of the first people suffering from substance use disorder to get her law license. As an article about felons becoming lawyers explains, “Whether people like Ms. Simmons should be allowed to practice law is a hot question these days. Acceptance for those with less-than-impeccable pedigrees seems to be rising.” Ms. Simmons had to appeal after her application to even take the bar exam was rejected. And even if you pass in a similar situation, it may be difficult to be sworn into the bar. A former cocaine trafficker who did time spent $25,000 “going through the process.”

find a rehab in California

Relapsing Shouldn’t Be a Crime

Along these same lines, an editorial in The New York Times used the case of Julie Eldred to discuss the argument noted above—sending people to jail for relapsing because she broke her probation when she tested positive for fentanyl. That’s what often happens in the U.S. justice system, the paper noted. But her case is now being heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Wil it change drug policy? That remains to be seen. Her lawyer is challenging the notion that it’s OK to require people with a substance use disorder not to use drugs while on probation, and of sending them to jail if they do. The prosecution rebutted the disease model of addiction as her defense. Using that very disease model, the editorial goes on to give a cogent argument for keeping addicts who relapse out of jail. The argument in favor is that those who suffer from a substance use disorder cannot choose rationally and consistently because their ability not to relapse is impaired by brain changes due to chronic drug use and the colossal force of addiction. Policies like the one that caught Julie Eldred in their net are part and parcel of the criminalization policy. While not everyone suffering from substance use disorder should be freed from all consequences, the consequences should be fair, says a professor of public policy.

Treatment of Opioid Use is Not a Mystery

In response to the editorial mentioned previously, a clinical professor of population health felt the need to point out a few facts about the fight against the opioid epidemic. People with opioid use disorder who are successful in overcoming it take methadone or buprenorphine and undergo behavioral therapy and counseling, he says. And sometimes it doesn’t even take doing both for them to succeed. He, too, complains that we criminalize the patient, the disease, and the treatment when we don’t have to. The writer is also the former chief of addiction medicine at the notorious Rikers Island prison, by the way, which was a big part of the movie “The Night Of.” Another writer, a director of the Program in Addiction Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, had a great thought: “We need to teach addiction with the same attention to genes, physiology, cells receptors, transmitters and scientific evidence as we do cancer to try to capture trainees’ interest.” For more information or to find a Rehab in California, please contact Summit Estate at (866) 569-9391.

 

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

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

Heroin And Opioids In NorCal: Surprising Statistics

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

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

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

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

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

Overdose Deaths In California

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

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

The Relationship Between Opioids And Heroin Abuse

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

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

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

Sources Of The Heroin And Opioid Problem In Northern California

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

Easy Access To Prescription Meds Through Family

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

Methods Addicts Use To Obtain Drugs

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

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

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

Easy Heroin Availability And Low Prices

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

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

Effects Of Heroin And Opioid Addictions

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

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

Effects On The Human Body

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

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

Costs Of Addiction For The Addict And The Community

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

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

California’s Lost Work Productivity

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

Violent Crime Increases Across Counties

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

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

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome In California

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

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

Finding A Solution For Opioid And Heroin Addiction

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

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

Reduce Future Drug Abuse

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

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

Support Sufferers And Addiction Research

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

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

Get Professional Help

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

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

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

Summit Estate News Blogs

Trends in Opioid Use, Strength, and Addiction

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

Identifying the Problem

An estimated 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. In 2001, The Joint Commission labeled pain as thefifth vital sign” in pain management. It required physicians to obtain a subjective measurement of a patient’s pain on a scale of 1-10. Feeling pressure to adhere to new quality standards, physicians overprescribed opioids for pain management. The result is an epidemic in opioid abuse. Opioid overdose-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Opioid addiction affects the health and well-being of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, and classes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates 2.1 million Americans abuse opioids. The Obama administration recently allocated $1.1 billion for drug abuse initiatives and treatment options.

Types of Pain Management

Opioids take different forms and strengths. Each type has a unique half-life (the amount of time it takes for half of a drug to metabolize). Below are some commonly prescribed opioids. Morphine – is known as the “gold standard” of opioids—the yardstick by which all other opioid analgesics are measured. Morphine has a half-life of 1.5-7 hours. Morphine is prescribed only in a clinical setting. It’s typically administered intravenously though it may be taken orally. Like other opioids, morphine may cause nausea, dizziness, constipation, respiratory distress, and certain cardiac problems. Unlike other opioids, morphine may also cause a histamine reaction. Tramadol –  is a synthetic opioid. It’s a relatively weak opioid with a half-life of 5-7 hours. Tramadol’s efficacy is about 10-20% of morphine. Tramadol is a centrally-acting pain reliever. It treats post-surgical, obstetric, and chronic pain of neurogenic or mechanical origin. Tramadol is the opioid of choice for those with poor cardiopulmonary function (such as the elderly, the obese, and smokers) or patients with impaired renal and/or hepatic function. Tramadol can be an effective treatment option for those who can’t take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or for whom these drugs ineffectively manage pain. Codeine – is another fairly weak opioid with a half-life of 9-11 hours. It’s often prescribed to combat chronic back pain. When combined to paracetamol (e.g., acetaminophen and Tylenol), it provides effective management for moderate-to-severe chronic pain and acute pain after dentistry. Codeine is more easily tolerated than tramadol and has fewer common side effects. However, tramadol is more potent than codeine and has fewer cardiopulmonary effects. Pethidine – also known as Demerol, is a synthetic opioid that works on mu and kappa receptors to relieve pain. Pain relief occurs quickly, making pethidine the logical option for relief of labor pains—particularly during the second stage. However, pethidine has a relatively short half-life of 2-3 hours. Pethidine is associated with a high risk of suicide. It has a high side-effect profile compared to other opioids. Hydrocodone – is a schedule II opioid with a half-life of 2-4 hours. Hydrocodone is reportedly equal to the gold standard morphine. In fact, some doctors have suggested that hydrocodone may be even more potent in analgesic quality than morphine. Hydrocodone is also more powerful than codeine or tramadol. It’s more efficacious in providing pain relief for acute musculoskeletal pain. Even though it has a fairly low bioavailability, hydrocodone isn’t available in pure formulations. It’s typically combined with acetaminophen for pain relief (e.g., Vicodin). Oxycodone – more commonly known as Oxycontin, oxycodone is a strong synthetic opioid with a half-life of 3-4.5 hours. It’s approximately twice as strong as morphine. Because of its high potency, oxycodone is only used to treat acute pain. Chronic pain sufferers are more likely to be prescribed tramadol or codeine.

Mechanisms of Action: How Do Opioids Work?

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

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

How Does an Opioid’s Potency Relate to Its Addictive QualitiesAny opioid can be abused, but some have a higher likelihood than others. The distinction lies in both tolerance and potency. Opioids work by triggering natural opioid receptors, but over time, synthetic opioids can actually inhibit the body’s endogenous endorphins. When the body can’t produce enough endogenous opioids on its own, patients experience the following feelings of withdrawal:

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

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

Other Forms of Abuse

Abuse may begin when patients seek alternate delivery routes to achieve the “high” associated with a rush of endorphins. Patients may take their oral medications and crush them into a fine powder and snort them. For example, oxycodone is known for both its high potency and long half-life. Yet when an oxycodone pill is crushed and snorted, it not only produces a strong high, but it also increases the risk of negative side effects—such as respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, coma, or death. Extended release formulations are particularly dangerous. Abusers have access to all of the medicine at one time if they crush, snort, or smoke them. This increases the strength of the opioid and thus the high. Addicts may also find other ways to increase the relative strength of an opioid. A patient may take a relative’s Vicodin when a codeine prescription runs out. Since Vicodin has a stronger potency and a longer half-life relative to codeine, the patient’s body will inhibit his or her own endogenous opioid systems more quickly.

Spotting Addictive Behaviors in Opioid Abusers

Those who abuse opioids may display behaviors similar to alcoholics or other addicts. Much like an alcoholic may downplay how much he or she drinks in a day, an opioid abuser may downplay his or her habit. While admitting to taking a much weaker Tylenol with codeine recreationally, he or she may actually be taking hydromorphone or oxycodone, which are extremely potent and dangerous opioids. Addicts can become incredibly good at lying (even to themselves) about the extent of their problems. It’s important to realize that many opioid prescription problems have roots in real moderate to severe pain. When prescriptions run out, addicts may turn to other drugs of abuse, like heroin, to dull the pain and trigger a euphoric feeling. Indeed, heroin use is on the rise: according to NIDA, the number of heroin users doubled from 380,000 in 2005 to 670,000 in 2012. Prescription drug addicts are at risk for more than just an overdose, especially if they turn to heroin. Intravenous drug abuse can lead to other complications, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne disease transmission from dirty needles.

The Dangers of Opioids and The Solution

The addictive qualities of an opioid depend on its potency and half-life. The stronger the drug, the quicker the path to addiction. As tolerance develops, abusers may turn to alternate avenues to experience the “high”, from crushing and snorting pills to switching to a stronger opioid to using heroin. Addicts are creative with the way they administer prescription pills, leading to an increased risk of overdose because opioids continue to build in their systems. High amounts of opioids can lead to organ damage, tissue death, respiratory depression, and cardiac arrest. As the full extent of the opioid epidemic comes to light, opioid abuse is becoming less stigmatized. Loved ones should be on the lookout for potentially abusive behaviors, such as downplaying the number of pills taken. Early intervention produces the best chance of opioid abuse recovery. Our staff here at Summit Estate specializes in Opioid addiction, let us help you or your loved one recover from this dangerous addiction. Click the button below to see more about our services offered on opioid addiction.

Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment Center

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!

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