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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.

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

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

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

Opiates

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

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

  • Smallpox
  • Dysentery
  • Cholera
  • Pain
  • Trouble sleeping

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

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

Recreational Use

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

The Arrival Of Morphine

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

Heroin: From Accepted Treatment To Epidemic

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

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

Synthetic Opiates Gain Prominence

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

Cocaine

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

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

Cocaine-Infused Beverages

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

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

Evolution Of Cocaine Use

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

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

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

Glamorization Of Cocaine And The Emergence Of ‘Crack’

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

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

Marijuana

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

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

Recreational Use

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

Outlawed

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

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

Evolution Of Public Opinion

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

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

How Did Marijuana Land On The Schedule I List?

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

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

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

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

Ulterior Motives

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

Ehrlichman said in the interview:

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

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

Medical Professionals’ Current Stance

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

Changing Public Perception On Illegal Drugs

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

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

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

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.

Continuing Care Programs

Read more of our newsworthy addiction-related posts.

Newsworthy Posts

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 Addicted Brain: The Dopamine Effect

The Addicted Brain-Dopamine EffectSubstance Abuse’s Effect On Dopamine

Every drug that leads to dependence has been shown to affect the brain’s dopamine system. With some drugs, such as stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine, there is a direct effect on dopamine production while others appear to affect it indirectly.

In the case of alcohol, it does not increase dopamine levels directly. However, there is an indirect link. In fact, everything that provides pleasure has the ability to perpetuate a release of dopamine in the reward pathway of the brain along with triggering an endorphin release.

Research has shown that dopamine produces feelings of “wanting” and “reward,” but this is not the same thing as “liking” or “valuation.” In other words, the dopamine produced from something pleasurable can make you crave more of it and will reinforce habitual use of it whether this is drugs, alcohol, gambling, shopping, sex, or other pleasurable activity.

The Link Between Addiction And Mental Illness

While anyone can gain the dopamine effect of drugs or alcohol, it is much more complex when it comes to someone who is also struggling with a mental illness like anxiety or depression. For these individuals, addictive substances are used to not only gain the benefits of increased dopamine, they are also used to medicate the often painful symptoms of mental illness. This makes both diagnosis and treatment more challenging. This is why it’s so important to choose an addiction treatment provider that has experience and expertise in treating co-occurring disorders.

Learn More About Our Dual Diagnosis Treatment In The San Jose Area

Understanding The Numbers Of Addiction

No one begins taking drugs or alcohol with the intention of becoming addicted. Yet, a substantial percentage get caught into the trap of drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. A few statistics to consider:

  • Nearly one in 10 Americans are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
  • It’s estimated that over 95% of individuals who need treatment for alcohol addiction do not really believe they need treatment.
  • The top five most addicting drugs are heroin, cocaine, meth, opioid prescription pain relievers and alcohol.

Do You Have A Drug Or Alcohol Addiction?

Are you concerned that you or a loved one has an addiction to drugs or alcohol? The answer can sometimes seem unclear. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Do you or your loved one use more of the substance or engage in the behavior more often than in the past?
  • Do you or your loved one experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the substance?
  • Have you or your loved one ever lied to anyone about your use of the substance?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, addiction is a very real possibility.

It’s Not Easy Admitting That You Need HelpReaching Out-Help For Addiction

Although much more is known now about addiction than in decades past, there is still a stigma and shame associated with it. It can be difficult to admit that you have a problem and that you need help. However, the first step in getting help is reaching out to get it. Call a staff member at Summit Estate today. We will treat you with the respect and care that you need.

We will be with you every step of the way. Call now.

Like What You’ve Read? Check Out More In: The Neurological Science Behind Substance Abuse Addiction

The Neurological Science Behind Substance Abuse Addiction

Substance use and abuse starts when an individual likes the way a particular substance makes them feel. For some of us, it’s possible to enjoy a drink or use a drug and never become hooked. Others cross a distinct threshold and transition into addiction.

A growing amount of research has shown that during this transitional phase into addiction, there are distinct changes that happen in the brain. Because of this evidence that clearly shows addiction is far more than just a character flaw, the science community now widely accepts that addiction should be categorized as a brain disease.

Dopamine And Addiction

Neurological Brain-Dopamine And AddictionThe human brain has evolved in such a way that we learn to survive based on a reward system. When we do things that support our survival, such as eat or exercise, our brain rewards this behavior by releasing a “feel good” chemical called dopamine. Because we enjoy the feeling when this chemical is released, we repeat these behaviors.

Along with the necessities of survival, there are also a variety of substances that affect the “reward center” of our brains. These include drugs and alcohol which release high levels of dopamine. In fact, the release of the chemical can be two to 10 times greater than what is normally released, producing a “high.” Users of these substances can develop a habit to sustain that positive feeling when dopamine is released. This can quickly turn into addiction.

This cycle is further propelled as the brain struggles to regain balance after the effect of a substance wears off. This struggle can produce symptoms of a hangover or withdrawal which can cause physical, mental and emotional pain. For the individual, the substance that is perpetuating the destructive cycle is many times used to combat this pain, further strengthening the addiction.

The Link Between Drug And Alcohol Abuse And Mental Illness

Of course, not everyone who drinks a glass of wine or takes a prescription painkiller will become an addict. Some individuals are more prone to developing an addiction than others. This further shows a connection between the brain and addiction. In those who have a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, the chance of developing an addiction is significantly higher. Often, drugs or alcohol are used to help numb the symptoms of mental illness.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are also affected by substance abuse. And, 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness. The link between addiction and mental illness is strong, and many who enter treatment discover they require treatment for both addiction and an underlying mental illness. This is why it’s so important to choose a recovery center that has expertise in dual diagnosis addiction treatment.

Are You Struggling With Addiction And Mental Illness?

Women Overlooking Lake-Struggling With Addiction And Mental Illness

You’re not alone. In fact, many people who have a mental illness also abuse alcohol and/or drugs. Don’t take chances with getting the help you need. At Summit Estate, we specialize in treating individuals who have dual diagnosis by treating both the addiction and the mental illness with a personalized treatment plan. Call us to speak with an addiction specialist now.

Learn More About Our Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Will My Loved One Be Comfortable During Detox?

One of the first questions that loved ones ask when deciding on a treatment center is if their family member will be kept comfortable during detox. Even if you don’t know a lot about the detoxification process, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about how uncomfortable it can be.

Each drug has different withdrawal symptoms associated with it, but these symptoms can be debilitating. The most common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, sweating, shaking, irritability, vomiting and diarrhea. Choosing the right detox program ensures that these symptoms will be managed.

What Can You Expect From Our Detox Program?

Will My Loved One Be Comfortable During DetoxAt Summit Estate, we make the comfort of our clients a top priority. We know that if we can get our clients through the detoxification process as successfully as possible, they will be better prepared for the recovery process.

Our goal is to control their withdrawal symptoms using the right balance of medicine.

Upon the first few hours of arrival, your loved one will meet with our physicians and have a customized detox plan created specifically for their needs and goals. Our physicians will take into account the mental and physical health of your loved one as well as their substance abuse history.

Your loved one will be monitored for their comfort and safety, and we can adjust their medication as needed.

What Makes Our Detox Program Unique?

Our program follows suit with other pain medication detox programs in that it allows all clients to detoxify in a comfortable and controlled manner. In other words, your loved one will be given the right balance of medications to eliminate the pain and discomfort that is commonly associated with the detox and withdrawal process. This way, they will be able to focus their mental and physical energy where it belongs: on their recovery.

Premier Features Of Our Program

In addition to keeping withdrawal symptoms controlled, our pain medication detox program also provides the following features:

  • High staff to client ratio
  • Luxury amenities
  • Comfortable, retreat-style environment
  • Attention to exercise, nutrition and mental health
  • Individualized treatment plans
  • Monitoring of vital signs
  • Delicious gourmet meals
  • Optional 12-step and alternative group meetings

The Start To A Long-term Recovery Plan For Your Loved One

We know how scary it can be to make detox an ultimatum for your loved one, but rest assured that you are doing the right thing. The sooner you can get your loved one through detoxification, the sooner they can start working on their long-term recovery plan and begin a life that is free from the hold of drugs and alcohol.

Summit Estate Recovery Center has a pain medication detox program that can be customized to your loved one’s needs. Call us today to learn more about how we can start your loved one on this liberating path to a clean, sober life.

Learn More About Our Detox Program In The Santa Cruz And San Jose Area

5 FAQs About Detox That You Need To Know

Destination-5 FAQs About Detox-Medical Detox In Northern CA

One of the most talked about but least understood aspects of overcoming drug or alcohol addiction is detox. The mystery surrounding the process often stems from the fact that everyone’s experience with it is different.

FAQs About Detox

To help minimize the unknowns, we’ve listed five of the most common questions we get asked about detox and have provided answers. If you’ve had questions about the process, we encourage you to keep reading!

1. What Exactly Is Detox?

Prior to entering a recovery program, you will need to rid your body of all intoxicating substances. If you’ve been abusing drugs and/or alcohol for an extended period of time, your body has built up a tolerance. The elimination process of these substances from your body is called detoxification or detox for short. This is the first step in breaking the dangerous cycle of addiction and establishes the foundation for starting on the journey of recovery.

2. How Do I Know If I Need Detox?

Anyone who is considering treatment for drug or alcohol addiction should be evaluated to determine whether or not detox is needed. Although you’ve probably been in denial for some time about your problem, this is the time to be honest with your healthcare provider. Leaving out key details about your usage may cause you to not get the help that you actually need.

There are also symptoms that you may have already experienced that signal that detox is necessary. These include loss of appetite, abdominal pains, fever, sweats, blood pressure or heart rate irregularities, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, depression, restlessness, poor concentration, insomnia, and paranoia.

3. Is Detox Painful?

This is probably the most common question asked about detox. This has much to do with how detox is depicted on TV and in movies. Fortunately, there have been tremendous advances when it comes to recovery and medically-supervised detox. Many individuals who complete detox will tell you that their experience was not as bad as they thought it would be. Of course, some have painful and unpleasant symptoms.

What is important to remember is that detox is an intense experience, and it isn’t easy to break old, destructive habits and experience the physical withdrawal as toxins leave the body. Different substances present varying detox symptoms. This is why it’s so vital to get help at a medically supervised detox center.

At Summit Estate’s medical detox program, we regularly monitor your symptoms and vitals and most importantly, we strive to keep you as safe and as comfortable as possible.

4. How Long Does Detox Last?

This is another very common question because there are no set guidelines. Just as symptoms can vary, so can the length of the detox process. In general, the longer you’ve been using the substance, the longer the detox process will take. If you’ve done any internet research on the topic of detox, you probably noticed a variety of average lengths of time. However, most of these fall into the range of several days to several weeks.

5. What Happens After Detox?

This may be the most important question of all! It’s very important to know that detox is only the first step in the recovery process and is never considered to be a stand-alone treatment option. Once you’ve achieved physical stabilization and are substance-free, it’s time to enter a recovery program that can help you understand triggers that led to the addiction, overcome cravings, and build a new life that will help sustain your goal of lifelong recovery.

Start On Your Journey To Healing And Recovery

A safe and comfortable detox is available to you through our medical detox program in Northern CA. We will create a customized rehabilitation plan for your individual needs and goals. Why not take the first step in recovery? Our caring and professional staff is waiting for your call.

To Begin Your Journey To Healing And Recovery – Call Now!