Category Archives: Heroin

Vermont Opioid Epidemic

On June 6th, 2017 Dutchess County of New York State filed a lawsuit against 11 pharmaceutical companies on several allegations regarding their production and distribution of prescription opioid painkillers. The lawsuit alleges that pharmaceutical companies have used deceitful tactics to market prescription opioid painkillers, an epidemic that has swept across the nation resulting in several deaths that only continue to increase by the year. Keep in mind, considering the date of the lawsuit, that nothing has come of the it and Dutchess County is not necessarily setting a precedent as 5 other New York State counties have filed similar lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and individual providers. There are 62 counties in New York State.

vermont opioid epidemicAs has become the norm in a capitalist society like the United States, money is a powerful and nearly undefeated entity. How often do you see money being the driving force behind evil and selfish acts? It’s safe to assume money is the driving force behind the companies and providers turning their back on a public health crisis, even if it didn’t start that way. Addiction is a disease, as is cancer, and the former is much easier to turn your back on.

In addition to the lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies, Dutchess County has named a handful of prescribing providers alleging that they were responsible for promoting opioids for sale and distribution locally and nationally. Dutchess County Legislator, Jerry Landisi, is quoted saying “We have been fighting this war on drugs and addiction, but the enemy has been supplied by these pharmaceutical companies who have chosen to put profit ahead of patient safety.”

The problem is spreading and there does not seem to be an end in sight. Several states are seeing the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic, including Vermont. In fact, Vermont ranks ninth among the National Safety Council’s top 10 states with the highest heroin fatality rates per capita.

So, what gives them a right to blame the companies and prescribers? Is it pure ignorance? As it is for many professionally licensed providers, there are annual continuing education requirements. Any responsible doctor would take note of the rise in deaths due to prescription opioid use.

Let’s look at the numbers

National Heroin/Opioid Statistics

  • In 1999 there were 7,523 deaths due to prescription opioids
  • In 2015 there were 29,728 deaths due to prescription opioids
  • In 1999 there were 2,675 deaths due to illicit opioids
  • In 2015 there were 19,884 deaths due to illicit opioids

If you’re wondering why pharmaceutical companies and individual providers are being held accountable, the above statistics should be telling. Not only have patients become addicted to pain management medications prescribed by their doctors, they seem to be seeking out the drug after the prescription has lapsed.

To the naysayers that may point to our population growth in America, which has grown 14% between 1999 and 2015. The population growth of 14% pales in comparison to the 295% increase in prescription opioid deaths over the same time frame. If we’re aiming for population control then we have the answer.

There are some states that are considered to be doing it “right”, most notably, the state of Vermont, which is just a mere ninety miles from the center of Dutchess County, NY.

Now that we’re shifting away from the most recent lawsuit in New York, let’s see what their neighbors are up to, besides filing lawsuits.

Vermont Opioid Statistics

  • In 2010 there were 38 deaths in Vermont due to prescription opioids
  • In 2016 there were 38 deaths in Vermont due to prescription opioids

Wait, the opioid deaths did not increase 295% in Vermont? Yes, the same number of people died at the hands of prescription drugs but they must be doing something “right” in Vermont.

Before we dive into the treatment programs and legislation associated with Vermont’s success let’s widen the spectrum again briefly. On a national level, for those addicted to opioids the people closest to them are the most dangerous enablers. In 2015, a survey determined that 36% of people that misused a prescription pain reliever received the drug directly from their doctor. Another 54% of misuses were taken, bought or given to the person by a friend or relative. The remaining 10% fell into the following categories:

  • 9% bought from a drug dealer or stranger
  • 9% obtained the prescription pain reliever “some other way”

It’s not the dark alley dealer we have to worry about. It’s the people that are supposed to care about our health and well-being.

How is Vermont Preventing Prescription Opioid Misuse?

While the following list is seemingly vague, we get an idea of what programs and prevention tactics are being employed and we’ll take a close look at a couple of the programs and the elements that make them successful. Vermont reportedly has the following prevention and treatment programs in place:

  • Mandatory Prescriber Education
  • Opioid Prescribing Guidelines
  • Eliminating Pill Mills (VT doesn’t have them but also doesn’t have legislation to eliminate/prevent them)
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
  • Increased Access to Naloxone
  • Availability of Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Particular to mandatory prescriber education and opioid prescribing guidelines, at first glance, it could seem like just more charting in an attempt to decrease liability with a smoke screen of caring for the patient. However, it seems the amount of charting that needs to occur cannot be fudged or faked as there are too many stipulations in place that call upon the doctor to be, well, a responsible doctor! For example, when prescribing an opioid painkiller the prescriber must evaluate the benefits and risks, including risk of misuse. Additionally, the provider will need to produce a diagnosis that supports prescription opioids and consider and document the possibility of a non-opioid alternative as well as a non-pharmacological treatment.

These doctor and patient education attempts will help prevent the patients from confusing the drowsy eye warning on the bottle as a “wink, wink” suggestion, much like Lucille Bluth, of the cult television show, Arrested Development.

Beyond the Initiation Point

If you’re looking for a hole in Vermont’s approach, you must read on to determine if you feel it’s a credible approach. What’s been described in the preceding section is a small part of the process, the opioid initiation stage. How should we expect doctors, especially ones that see dozens of people on weekly basis, monitor opioid use after the initial prescription?

For general practitioners that aren’t seeing improvement in their patient’s condition they must be comfortable with a referral to a pain management specialist and/or a substance abuse specialist. Mainly, don’t be so damn arrogant! Some of the risk indicators are listed below:

  • Treatment goals are not met despite escalating doses.
  • The patient’s history and/or a screening indicate high risk for misuse, abuse, diversion, addiction, or overdose.
  • The prescriber knows or suspects based upon reasonable grounds that the patient has engaged in misuse of opioids or other substances.
  • The patient obtains prescriptions from multiple prescribers and/or multiple pharmacies.
  • The patient has been prescribed multiple controlled substances

Relating back to the more charting phenomenon, it seems that a common theme within Vermont’s model is documenting their treatment of the patient. Vermont’s laws indicate that the patient must be seen within 365 days of the initial prescription, otherwise the provider will be held accountable for being in violation of a state law. The annual review of a patient’s prescription mirrors the initiation stage and what’s important about the annual requirement is that patients that are misusing or are addicted have to come back and evaluate their use themselves. That way the provider and patient are being held accountable. The annual reevaluation period has the following salient elements:

  • Reevaluation of effectiveness and safety of the pain management plan and the patient’s adherence to the treatment regimen.
  • Potential for non-opioid/non-pharmacological treatments.
  • Functional status examination of the patient.
  • Review of the Controlled Substance Treatment Agreement and Informed Consent, and any revisions to the conditions.
  • Assessment of co-morbid conditions.
  • Related actions that may prompt adjustments to treatment, including aberrant behavior, early refills, or other factors reasonably suggesting risks associated with misuse, abuse, diversion, addiction, or overdose.

Of the aforementioned elements, especially within the one year mark, what sticks out the most the requirement to assess for comorbidity. Yes, the patient may have come with back pain due to recent surgery however, he or she may have developed an addiction over time, especially due to the vulnerability a physical ailment can create. Those suffering from an injury or that are in recovery cannot always participate in regular activities, may be bed ridden at times and feel alienated from their social group. All of those elements could result in depressive symptoms, which put someone at much higher risk to misuse or abuse drugs.

As indicated earlier, addiction is a disease and must be recognized and treated as such. While Vermont is seeing their most significant decrease in prescription opioid misuse in the 18 to 25 age range, the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration found that the rates for mental illness and substance use disorders were the highest (35.1%) for people in the same age range.

Conclusion

While the opioid epidemic is alive and well, it’s a welcome sight to see Vermont attempting to increase their treatment capacity to deter the effects to their residents. Much like the tobacco industry’s settlement with 46 states in 1998, the wave of lawsuits may force the pharmaceutical companies to take more responsibility for ignoring or downplaying the addictive nature of opioids. In the tobacco settlement the tobacco industry agreed to make ongoing payments to the 46 states involved to fund anti-smoking campaigns and public health programs. With the current climate of healthcare and the increasing cost, a similar settlement could be applied to the opioid epidemic. In the meantime, other states should be following in the footsteps of Vermont because, just like tobacco, much of the damage is already done. The patients are hooked. What makes this even worse is that many of those hooked started with trying to get help. We’ve learned quite a bit since the time period of doctors recommending smoking. Let’s not be so naive again.

World’s Most Dangerous Drug? Carfentanil makes its case

You’ve heard of Morphine. It’s an opioid painkiller administered by health professionals worldwide every day. If you’ve ever been hurt badly enough to be hospitalized, there’s a good chance you were given Morphine for the pain. Morphine is actually listed as one of the two most important opioid painkillers by the World Health Organization, making it a crucial part of a basic healthcare system.

Morphine and other opioid painkillers are involved in 40% of all drug overdoses, and Morphine itself is essentially heroin, just less refined.

You may not have heard of Fentanyl. It’s an opioid painkiller as well, used mainly for anesthesia and pain management, and it’s up to 100 times stronger than Morphine. You may have been given Fentanyl prior to a surgery, and it is often used by veterinarians on smaller animals requiring surgery. Fentanyl has also helped produce drugs to alleviate cancer pain. When used properly, it is an effective medicine.

Fentanyl patches have been killing children under 2 for over fifteen years, and starting around 2006 there has been a steady rise in the amount of deaths caused by Fentanyl.
You likely haven’t heard of Carfentanil, unless you are in the veterinary field and deal with large mammals. Carfentanil is extremely close in chemical makeup to and can be derived from Fentanyl. Similar to Morphine and Fentanyl, it too is an opioid painkiller, primarily marketed as Wildnil, for use as an anesthetic for large animals such as elephants. It’s 100 times stronger than Fentanyl, and is therefore 10,000 times stronger than Morphine, making it “one of the most potent known and the most potent commercially used opioids,” according to the US National Library of Medicine. Carfentanil is never administered to human beings.

Due to its limited medical use, the US government only allows an annual production quota of 19 grams. Ingestion of this powerful drug can cause near-automatic respiratory failure, as the entire nervous system slows down to a point where death is imminent.

Carfentanil has lately been being mixed into heroin, and bad batches have killed tens of thousands of people. An amount the size of a poppy seed can be lethal.carfentanil

A New Epidemic

Heroin use in America is an overwhelming epidemic. It’s estimated that 900,000 Americans use heroin, and it’s a fact that heroin abuse rates have skyrocketed in the past decade. 2014 set a new record for heroin overdose deaths at 10,574. Every day in the news there are sad stories of heroin running rampant and killing young people.

Carfentanil plays a major role in this current heroin-caused death spree.

Drug dealers are lacing heroin with Carfentanil all across the country and even in Canada. Those who use the laced heroin are overdosing in huge numbers. In fact, no compiled data exists yet for how many people have died in total from Carfentanil-laced heroin, likely because of how quickly this is all happening. In order to see the scope of the problem, individual episodes must be examined.

Carfentanil on the Rise

July of this year marked the essential start of the Carfentanil epidemic. Since then, strings of fatal overdoses have been reported all over North America, and continue to be reported this month. These deaths are predominantly occurring from Carfentanil-laced heroin, but the deadly effects of Carfentanil made international headlines in 2002.

Movsar Barayev, a Chechen warlord, held 912 people hostage at the Dubrovska Theater in Moscow, Russia. After a three day holdout, Russian police pumped what was called a sleeping gas into the building, effectively killing Barayev and his 40-person team, but also killing 130 of the hostages. Much controversy surrounded the subsequent investigation. It was discovered, however, that the gas was made mainly of Carfentanil. It was literally used as a chemical weapon. (This implication is further investigated below).

Now, in America, fourteen years later, Carfentanil is again making headlines.

Ohio, USA

In early July, Ohio police seized large amounts of heroin which was laced with Carfentanil. Apparently some had gotten distributed already. By the end of the month, the city of Akron alone saw 141 Carfentanil-laced heroin overdoses, ten percent of them fatal. Columbus saw ten fatal overdoses(apr link) from the concoction in just a nine-hour period. Last month, over 200 Cincinnati residents died this way in just two weeks’ time.

The state has recently been strengthening its police force and creating anti-heroin coalitions. Hamilton County coroner Dr. Sammarco told the New York Times, “We’d never seen it before. I’m really worried about this.” Another quote that drives the point home of just how bad it is in Ohio comes from Akron Police Chief Jim Nice: “Most of the deaths from heroin overdoses are coming from too much Fentanyl being cut into that.” The Fentanyl he speaks of is oftentimes Carfentanil, which remember is the 100x stronger version.

Pennsylvania, USA

In early August, a report from officials in Philadelphia said users of Carfentanil-laced heroin are “dropping like flies.” John Libonati, coroner for Mercer County, is reportedly “desperate to get that information out to the public.” Up until August, there had been 10 Carfentanil-related deaths in the county. During the first week of August there were four more. Regardless, the number of accidental overdose deaths in the county is down from last year.

Statistics can be misleading, however, and this string of fatal overdoses in a highly populated area of Pennsylvania serves as proof. Libonati credits the drop in accidental overdose deaths to “quick emergency responses, accurate diagnosing and the availability of Naloxone, and not a reduction in drug abuse.” While it is good news that this response is happening, abuse is still rampant. Libonati went on to say, “The number of calls that we and other ambulance services are getting is skyrocketing… The number of deaths may be down but usage is not. Literally every part of Mercer County is affected.”

Maryland, USA

In September, the Maryland Poison Center published an update concerning Carfentanil overdoses, explaining and warning people how the drug has been laced into heroin recently. The publication also reads: “Safety protocols are being developed by agencies in many Maryland jurisdictions and throughout the U.S. to minimize the risk of exposure. Many agencies are recommending that field-testing of suspected heroin be suspended.”

This means Carfentanil is so dangerous that even testing heroin laced with it could be fatal for the testers. Imagine what this drug does inside the body…

Alberta, Canada

Earlier this month, one Edmonton man and one Calgary man each died from Carfentanil-laced heroin overdoses. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Karen Grimsrud, issued a warning afterward: “Albertans need to know that the drug Carfentanil has made its way into our province and that it is an extremely dangerous and deadly opioid. The smallest trace of Carfentanil can be lethal and Albertans should be aware of the life-threatening dangers in using this drug.”

Over 150 Albertans have died from Fentanyl-laced heroin this year, but evidence suggests that Carfentanil may be to blame in some cases but is untraceable. Due to the extremely low amount required for a fatal overdose, Carfentanil detection requires highly-sensitive equipment only recently even being made. Alberta’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim: “There are very few labs in North America capable of measuring Carfentanil in human blood.”

Michigan, USA

Just days ago, Wayne County chief medical examiner Carl Schmidt reported 19 fatal overdoses from Carfentanil-laced heroin. Also, the Michigan Regional Poison Control Center has reported a rise in severe opioid-related toxicity levels among patients.

Analysis of heroin samples from surrounding counties is currently underway. Only time will tell if Carfentanil has found its way into other areas of Michigan, but already there have been suspected instances in Port Huron and New Haven. Chairwoman of Governor Snyder’s commission on opiate prevention, and president of Families Against Narcotics, Judge Linda B. Davis, told USA Today, “This is really scary. It makes it more deadly than heroin already is. It is devastating communities.”

Oregon, USA

In the past two months, two Oregon residents have overdosed from Carfentanil-laced heroin. Miraculously, both people survived. Dr. Zane Horowitz, medical director of Oregon Poison Center, knows this is not usually the case. “It doesn’t take much. The first time most people use it is the last time they use it,” said the doctor to local news network NWCN.

Vancouver, Canada

A huge success for Canadian border officials in early August was also a sign of how bad the Carfentanil epidemic has gotten in North America. In Vancouver, an entire kilogram of the stuff was intercepted in the mail by the Canadian Border Services Agency. It was discovered in a package addressed to 24-year-old Calgary native Joshua Wrenn. He faces a charge of importation of a controlled substance.

The single kilogram contained enough Carfentanil to kill 50 million people, more than the number of people in all of Canada. Where the Carfentanil came from brings us to an entirely different continent: Asia.

China Sells Carfentanil, and it’s a Chemical Weapon

CBS recently reported on Chinese businesses that are willing to sell Carfentanil “openly online, for worldwide export, no questions asked,” according to the Associated Press, who investigated these Chinese businesses. Twelve different Chinese vendors were discovered to offer Carfentanil by the kilogram via their websites. China does not list Carfentanil as a controlled substance, and as a nation leads the world in synthetic drug sales. The US has pressed China to outlaw the substance. Nothing has happened yet.

The Freedom of Information Act has made it public knowledge that since its creation in 1974, the US, the UK, Russia, Israel, China, India, and the Czech Republic have all researched Carfentanil as a possible chemical weapon. It has since been banned entirely from warfare according to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs Andrew Weber said, “It’s a weapon. Companies shouldn’t be just sending it to anybody.” However, if you live in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia or Belgium, one kilogram of death powder goes for $2,750. An email sent in September from a representative of China-based Jilin Tely Import and Export Co. to Associated Press amidst their investigation read, “We can supply Carfentanil… for sure. And it’s one of our hot sales product,” broken English and all.

Weber, in response to the ease with which the Associated Press found in ordering Carfentanil from China, said, “Countries that we are concerned about were interested in using it for offensive purposes. We are also concerned that groups like ISIS could order it commercially.” This has some terrifying implications.

China’s Stance

Fentanyl is a controlled substance in China, along with 18 other related chemical compounds. However, Carfentanil remains uncontrolled. This is rather unfortunate considering the effect China controlling a substance has on the United States.

For example, last October, China added Acetylfentanyl, a weaker version of the very-strong Fentanyl, to its controlled substance list. Six months later, Acetylfentanyl overdoses in the US were down by 60%.

The problem lies in the “freewheeling chemicals industry” of China, as CBS calls it. Here’s what happens. Vendors that produce these chemicals lie on their customs forms. This enables them to guarantee delivery of Carfentanil to countries where it is illegal. These vendors even go so far as to offer advice to buyers on how to sneak the packages past law enforcement and into their homes.

Here’s what Xu Liqun had to say, president of Hangzhou Reward Technology, a company that offers Carfentanil on its website: ““The government should impose very serious limits, but in reality in China it’s so difficult to control because if I produce 1 or 2 kilograms, how will anyone know? They cannot control you, so many products, so many labs.”

In Conclusion

This is some scary stuff. The drug used to immobilize elephants, the largest land mammals on Earth, is being put into heroin all over North America, and most of it is coming from Chinese websites that allow free sale of the stuff, even offering advice on how to sneak it past the cops and the post office.

The heroin it’s being put into is killing Americans by the tens of thousands, in all corners of the country. The worst part of all is how undetectable Carfentanil is; heroin addicts are unsuspectingly buying their own deaths. The heroin epidemic is becoming a Carfentanil epidemic, and it needs to stop.

Heroin Overdose: A Picture of Abuse

I can describe a cactus. I can tell you about its thick, bulbous leaves, and how they’re covered in spines. I can explain how the cactus has dry, tannish spots on its leaves, and how tall the cactus is. I can literally read the dictionary definition of ‘cactus’ to you, but if you have never seen a cactus, all of my words are useless. Take a look at one, though, and you know exactly what a cactus looks like, no words required.

Sometimes a picture says it all.

Such is the case with this couple from Ohio. Both are passed out from heroin use, inside a vehicle, with a small child in the rear seat. The story makes you cringe, but it’s a story that needs to be heard.

heroin overdose ohio

What Happened?

Last Wednesday in East Liverpool, Ohio, James Acord was pulled over by Officer Kevin Thompson. Acord was driving erratically and weaving in and out of traffic. He told Officer Thompson he was bringing his girlfriend, Rhonda Pasek, to a nearby hospital. She was passed out in the passenger seat. An affidavit from the arrest says Acord’s head was “bobbing back and forth,” and that “his speech was almost unintelligible.” Immediately after speaking to the officer, Acord fell unconscious himself. That was when Officer Thompson noticed a little boy in back of the car.

Rhonda Pasek’s 4-year-old son was in the back seat, witnessing his mother and her boyfriend overdose on heroin before his very eyes.

Officer Thompson noticed Pasek turning blue and called emergency medical technicians to the scene. The technicians administered Narcan, a powerful anti-overdose drug, to Pasek, possibly saving her life.

Acord pled guilty to the charges of operating a vehicle while impaired as well as endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to one year in jail, had his driver’s license revoked for three years, and was fined $475. Pasek pled non-guilty to the charges of endangering the welfare of a child, disorderly conduct, and public intoxication, and has a bond set for $150,000.

Setting an Example

The pictures of them unconscious in the vehicle were taken by the arresting officer. Less than a week after the incident, the city of East Liverpool decided to publish the pictures on the city Facebook page. Their reason for doing so, (from the page):

We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.

The pictures are graphic, but they reveal so much about the heroin epidemic that has swept our country. Heroin addiction is so awful that couples with children are passing out behind the wheel. These two were made examples by a state that knows firsthand how terrible the heroin epidemic can be.

Ohio has a Heroin Problem

“We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis.” This was published along with the pictures on the East Liverpool Facebook page. The city speaks from experience.

Heroin overdoses rose by over 70% in Ohio from 2012 to 2013. The following year, they rose by 300%. Ohio had the second most drug overdose deaths of all fifty states in 2014. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) called Ohio’s heroin problem “an emerging threat to public health and safety.” As of this year, 18 Ohio residents die per week of heroin. 92% of those imprisoned in Ohio have a history of drug addiction. The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) website sums it up well: “Heroin addiction is an epidemic in Ohio, affecting countless individuals and families.”

The OSBA site also deals with some legislation recently passed in Ohio to combat the problem. The Attorney General’s Office has established a Heroin Unit for prosecution support and extending education. A plethora of laws have been passed recently to further criminalize heroin dealers. The site says the state “is mounting a vigorous fight against heroin.” Casey’s Law was passed in 2012, strengthening the rehabilitation process for heroin addicts by allowing for court-ordered involuntary drug treatment by request. The Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System requires those receiving opioid-based prescriptions to undergo a patient review process.

Countless more legislation is being tossed at the heroin epidemic in Ohio. Unfortunately, Ohio is not alone in this fight. The heroin epidemic is national, not contained within any state’s borders. Although Ohio has it bad, America has it bad, and the numbers prove it.

America has a Heroin Problem

Current estimates show there to be about 900,000 heroin users in America, with 586,000 of them addicted. Approximately 10,000 people die from heroin overdoses a year. To put that in perspective, by the time you finish watching a two-hour movie, three people will have fatally overdosed on heroin. The people overdosing are not suicidal maniacs running around with multiple needles in their arms, either. The CDC determined 81% of drug overdose deaths to be unintentional. Regardless of what the picture on the East Liverpool website may look like, and regardless of what you may have in your mind as an image of a heroin addict, these are real people, most of them young, and they need help. The average of an American heroin addict is 23.

We part with more words posted alongside the picture of James Acord and Rhonda Pasek on the East Liverpool Facebook page: “The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours, the difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it’s gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that.”

Tara Bealer: College Professor. Community Activist. Heroin Dealer.

The story of a heroin dealer all too often ends with an overdose. In the case of 42-year-old Northampton Community College professor Tara Bealer, the story begins with an overdose.

Tara Bealer Arrested

Tara Bealer Arrested

Last year, Tara Bealer was living a normal life with her daughter in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. She was a sociology professor at both Stroudsburg University and Northampton Community College. She had recently founded Renew LeHigh Valley, a program designed to employ local young professionals in various fields. Everything about Bealer seemed wholesome.

Then, on November 21, a heroin overdose occurred inside the Bealer residence. During the course of the investigation, “heroin packaging was found,” according to Police Commissioner Randall Miller.

Leading a Double Life

The discovery of heroin packaging was not enough to charge Bealer with a crime, but she was under watch by the police. Then, in January, an anonymous tip was given to the police about Bealer. She was apparently selling up to 50 bags of heroin a day out of her home. The investigation from November promptly continued, and police discovered “cash, 68 used bags of heroin, and straws for inhaling the drug,” according to LeHigh Valley News.

She was arrested and committed to Northampton County Prison on the following charges: four counts of felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, one count of felony endangering the welfare of a child, six counts of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, two counts of possession of marijuana, and a whopping 71 counts of misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession.

The trouble didn’t stop there.

The True Self Appears

Bealer posted the $50,000 bail after being arrested and still faces the above-mentioned charges. However, since posting bail, Bealer has failed two marijuana drug tests and was charged with a DUI for alcohol in February, her third DUI offense. She now must wear a SCRAM bracelet, which monitors alcohol use 24/7. Literally embedded in the skin, the bracelet can detect alcohol consumption at any level.

To Bealer’s credit, four other drug tests came back negative, and she has yet to miss either a court session or a drug rehabilitation class. She is allowed contact with her daughter while on bail, however her teaching positions have been suspended.

The fact of the matter is that drug dealers have no visual identity. From the man on the street to literally the woman teaching sociology at the local community college, drug peddlers can be anywhere.

The American Opioid Epidemic

 

Between 2000 and 2014, American rates of death from opioid overdose have tripled from three deaths per 100,000 people to nine per 100,000. That adds up to 28,647 deaths in 2014. While the number of heroin overdoses has made a rapid climb, the majority of the lethal overdoses involve prescription opioids  –  and the heroin crisis is closely tied to prescription drugs, since many users become addicted to a prescription opioid before switching to the street drug. In March 2015, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced an initiative targeting three priority areas to tackle the opioid epidemic and help save lives. These include: improving prescribing practices, expanding access to and the use of medication-assisted treatment, and expanding the use of naloxone.

The abuse of opioids, a group of drugs that  includes heroin and prescription painkillers has had a devastating impact on public health in this country. According to the CDC approximately 100 Americans died from drug overdose every day in 2010. Prescription drugs were involved in well over half of the 38,300 recorded fatal overdoses and opioid pain relievers were involved in 16,600 of those deaths.

Overdose Deaths Involving Opioid Analgesics

Research shows that many non-medical users obtain prescription medications from family and friends.

How Different Misusers of Pain Relievers Get Their Drugs

Today, more Americans die from drug overdoses than car crashes or gun fatalities. In total, drug overdoses killed 47,000 people in the United States in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. That’s 130 deaths per day, on average.

 

The majority of those deaths – 29,000, or 80 per day – involved an opioid.

Between 1999 and 2014, the overdose epidemic spread from a few concentrated pockets in Appalachia and northern New Mexico to nearly every corner of America. The opioid overdose crisis began early in central Appalachia, a region encompassing much of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. The largely rural area – dominated by physically taxing industries, including coal mining, agriculture and timbering – was susceptible to the pain-relief promise of prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin. These painkillers were aggressively marketed throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. As prescriptions proliferated, so did misuse and abuse. In central Appalachia, as in many parts of the country, the prescription painkiller epidemic also fuelled the influx of a cheap, alternative opioid: heroin. As painkiller-related deaths began to fall in the early 2010s following federal and state crackdowns on prescription opioids, heroin-related deaths began to rise.

In the west, New Mexico showed earliest signs of the looming overdose crisis, but Utah was not far behind. The state’s overdose death rate climbed steadily during the early 2000s, driven by growing prescription opioid dependence. But Utah lawmakers took action early. In 2007, they established a two-year public health-based program to combat painkiller misuse. Over the next three years, prescription opioid-related overdose deaths dropped more than 25%, but the success was short lived. After funding ran out in 2010, deaths began to climb again. Drug overdose deaths in Utah continue to be fueled by prescription painkiller misuse, often in combination with other depressant drugs . Though heroin deaths have made a smaller impact in the state, they are also on the rise. Now, six years after the Prescription Pain Medication Program program ended, the Utah house of representatives declared drug overdose deaths to be a public health emergency, and passed a slate of new public health measures, including the legalization of needle-exchange programs.

New England Opioid Overdose RatesNew England is grappling with a more recent scourge. Since 2013, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and other north-eastern states have seen large spikes in overdose deaths attributed to increasing heroin use and the introduction of a new deadly drug: Fentanyl. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin, first appeared in the region around 2012, making its way down from Canada. Suppliers often cut the drug into heroin or other substances before selling it to users who may not know exactly what they’re buying. Because of its strength – and users’ unfamiliarity with it – fentanyl has proven particularly deadly.

In the face of these new challenges, Massachusetts and other north-eastern states have begun to expand prevention efforts and access to treatment programs. Naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, has become more widely available throughout the region and local harm-reduction initiatives are being tested.

 

Meanwhile, Fentanyl has surfaced in several more states, including Ohio and Florida.

Florida, once known as the prescription drug capital of America. began cracking down on “pills mill” clinics in 2010. Soon after, the state’s drug overdose death rate took a downward turn, declining through 2013.But by 2014, deaths were inching back up in Florida too.

Florida did a good job of cracking down on the supply side, but at the same time they actually cut treatment funding. Not addressing the demand side of the problem has contributed to the continuing of the epidemic.

Though postponed for a few years, Florida’s overdose crisis has progressed along a familiar pattern: a wave of prescription opioid abuse followed by heroin and, soon after, fentanyl.

More recently, fentanyl has cropped up in a previously unseen form: fake Xanax pills. The “death pills”, as they have become known, have also been found in California, Indiana and other parts of the mid-west.

Opioid Overdose DeathsIn October 2015, the President issued a Memorandum to Federal Departments and Agencies directing important steps to combat the prescription drug abuse and heroin epidemic. You can find it here.

In March 2016 HHS awarded $94 million to health centers in Affordable Care Act funding to help treat the prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic in America. This funding covers 271 health centers in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to improve and expand the delivery of substance abuse services in health centers, with a specific focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations.

Administered by the HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), these awards to health centers across the country will increase the number of patients screened for substance use disorders and connected to treatment, increase the number of patients with access to MAT for substance use disorders and opioid treatment, and provide training and educational resources to help health professionals make informed prescribing decisions. This $94 million investment is expected to help awardees hire approximately 800 providers to treat nearly 124,000 new patients.

Research demonstrates that a whole-patient approach to treatment through a combination of medication and counseling and behavioral therapies is most successful in treating opioid use disorders. In 2014, over 1.3 million people received behavioral health services at health centers, This represents a 75 percent increase since 2008 and was made possible with support from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Recovery Act.

 

Opioid Treatment Options are Available

If you can’t stop taking a drug even if you want to, or if the urge to use drugs is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm, you might be addicted to opiates. Are you thinking about opioid treatment? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you think about drugs a lot?
  2. Did you ever try to stop or cut down on your drug usage but couldn’t?
  3. Have you ever thought you couldn’t fit in or have a good time without the use of drugs?
  4. Do you ever use drugs because you are upset or angry at other people?
  5. Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?
  6. Have you ever taken one drug to get over the effects of another?
  7. Have you ever made mistakes at a job or at school because you were using drugs?
  8. Does the thought of running out of drugs really scare you?
  9. Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to pay for drugs?
  10. Have you ever been arrested or in the hospital because of your drug use?
  11. Have you experienced an opioid overdose?
  12. Has using drugs hurt your relationships with other people?

If the answer to some or all of these questions is yes, you might have an addiction. People from all backgrounds can get an addiction. Asking for help is the first important step. Visiting your doctor for a possible referral to opioid treatment is one way to do it. You can ask if he or she is comfortable discussing drug abuse screening and opioid treatment. If not, ask for a referral to another doctor. You can also contact an addiction specialist about opioid rehab. There are 3,500 board-certified physicians who specialize in addiction and opioid treatment in the United States.

Recent Heroin Spike in New Jersey

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that the rate of heroin overdose deaths has nearly tripled since 2010.

“Heroin use is increasing rapidly across all demographic groups,” said Thomas Friedan, the director of the CDC. “In just a decade, the landscape changed … Around one in 50 (heroin-users) may die each year from their addiction.”

It was a stark statement directly addressing the startling rise in heroin use across the country in recent years.

As dire is the situation nationwide, the epidemic is much worse in New Jersey.

An analysis by NJ Advance Media shows that the heroin overdose death rate in New Jersey is more than triple the rate released by the CDC on 7/6/16 and now eclipses homicide, suicide, car accidents and AIDS as a cause of death in the state.

In Camden and Atlantic counties, heroin kills more people annually than the flu and pneumonia combined, state Department of Health data show.

Heroin is pouring into New Jersey via Port Elizabeth and Port Newark.

It’s often the first port-of-call for the drug, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said heroin in the state is purer than it’s ever been.  Bags are increasingly being laced with other substances, like powerful fentanyl, which itself was related to 143 deaths in the state last year – adding another twist to an already intractable problem for law enforcement officials.

During a briefing, the CDC said one of the most glaring revelations of their study was how heroin usage was growing across the country. Women, white people, adults aged 18 to 25 and people in higher income brackets – historically at low risk for heroin usage – have all been part of the dramatic spikes in abuse of heroin and prescription opioids in recent years.

Increased Legislation

Democratic Senator Joseph Vitale of Woodbridge Township, NJ introduced 21 bills to bolster substance abuse education, treatment and prevention in New Jersey. Most of which were passed into law or sit at Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.

Christie has made it a priority of his administration, announcing in his state-of-the-state that a new treatment hotline would be launched (it did July 1) and millions of dollars would be pushed toward launching jail re-entry programs in five counties. The implementation of heroin reversal drug Naloxone among law enforcement in 2014 saved hundreds of lives across the state, providing a last line of defense against heroin and opioid abuse.

The CDC study also noted that users of prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to use heroin than others, a figure that merges commonly prescribed medication as a threshold for use of more threatening substances.

Such measures, like a voluntary prescription management program have sought to clamp down on overprescribing by doctors, the use of drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin remains pervasive in New Jersey and across the country.

While prescription drugs and heroin are chemical cousins, local enforcement officials said heroin only costs $4 to $6 dollars a bag on the street, while prescription drugs can run a user between five and six times that.

“The conflation between prescription drug use and heroin underscores the need, frankly, for an agonizing reappraisal of access to opiate painkillers,” said former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who now helps administer substance abuse treatment in the Hudson County jail.

Virtually every indicator, from drug arrests to overdoses to treatment figures, show that the heroin crisis has a firm grip on New Jersey.  To McGreevey, word from the CDC that the nation is following in the state’s footsteps is no surprise.

Heroin Addiction Rates are Soaring

Calling heroin addiction in America an epidemic does little justice.  The figures regarding its use, abuse, and overdose rates, both fatal and non-fatal, are bewildering.  Over the last 15 years, heroin addiction rose from being a sincere issue to being an overwhelming tragedy.  Five people died per day in the year 2001 from heroin overdoses, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  In 2014, just thirteen years later, the number of people who died daily from heroin overdoses rose to 29.  Nearly six times the number of people died, just thirteen years later.

 

THE HEROIN ADDICTION CRISIS

The government’s war on drugs pales in comparison to the war being fought between heroin and everyday people.  Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that heroin abuse rates are rising most rapidly “…in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use.”  The CDC also says those in metropolitan areas are most at-risk of becoming addicted to heroin, and that there has also been a significant increase of abuse in non-Hispanic whites, aged 18-25.  So, according to the CDC in a report by US News, those most at risk are people in cities and young white adults.  That seems to be a lot of people, mostly considering that every year the populations of metropolitan areas grow quickly.

Not only have heroin overdose rates sky-rocketed, so have abuse rates and first-time user rates.  According to the same US News report aforementioned, the rate of heroin dependence literally doubled from 2002 to 2013.  Let it be noted that these statistics take time to compile and verify, and so on a rather grim note, one can only imagine what these numbers will be for this year.  Let us only pray that for 2017 and beyond we can end, or at least start to end, this heroin addiction crisis.

heroin-addiction-rates

OUR YOUTH NEEDS ATTENTION

Because child studies are handled differently and are more confidential, proven statistics regarding heroin (and other drug) addiction are more readily available for those aged 18 and over.  That being said, our youth are the age-group most affected by heroin abuse in the 2000s.  The CDC reports five times as many deaths from overdoses for those aged 18-25 from the year 2001 to the year 2013.  Evidence proves our youth need the most attention regarding drug abuse, and this starts with education.  If the perils and hardships of drug abuse are taught at a relatively early age, more so than now, compiled evidence suggests drug abuse rates will diminish.

Just because a young person either has not been exposed to or is not interested in the use of heroin does not mean that young person will not try it.  Again according to the CDC, alcoholics are twice as likely to try heroin than non-addicts, marijuana abusers are three times as likely, cocaine abusers are 15 times as likely, and opioid abusers are 40 times as likely.  The idea of a gateway drug should not be forgotten; it is proven.

 

A SAD CONCLUSION

The American Society of Addiction Medicine compiled a list of facts and figures regarding heroin addiction and overdose.  According to it, drug overdose is the single leading cause of accidental death in the US.  Over 47,000 occurred in 2014.  Nearly half of them were opioid-based, with over 10,000 heroin-related.  At that rate, it’s safe to say that you, the reader, or someone you know is in some way affected by heroin use.  Let’s stop this problem today.

How Heroin Effects Your Brain

heroin-effects-your-brainHeroin effects your brain in more ways then one. When heroin enters your brain it takes over the brains ability to deliver pleasure from anything else. A region of the brain that controls pleasure is the ventral techmental area, or VTA. The VTA is located in the middle of your brain and is stimulated by natural activities such as eating, exercising, and sex. When your VTA is stimulated it releases dopamine which produces pleasure and euphoria throughout your body.

 

How Heroin Effects Your Brain

Heroin binds to opioid receptors in the VTA. As you continue to use heroin and increase the doses you gain a tolerance to it. This turns into the user having to use higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect. This tolerance makes users susceptible to withdrawal symptoms and physical dependence. When withdrawal symptoms begin to emerge the user no longer feels any euphoria or pleasure while using heroin, they only feel relief from warding off the pain of their withdraw symptoms by using more heroin. This produces long-term consequences to where a user will not be able to feel pleasure without using heroin.

 

Don’t Get Caught in the Cycle!

Users are caught into an unforgiving cycle from their first time using. After one use a user will want more. As the users uses more their tolerance will rise without them having any control. When tolerance rises physical dependency comes along with it and using the drug is a necessity. If users try to stop withdraw symptoms will take over their reality, these include nausea, abdominal pain, sweating, shaking, nervousness, agitation, depression, and muscle spasms. At this point of the cycle users feel no pleasure from their heroin intake, only relief from the pain of their withdraw symptoms. Withdraw symptoms are extremely severe and can last about a week however it is possible to battle thru them. It is very likely that after this week long battle the desire for the drug can still last for a life time. For most patients counseling is required to fight thru the viscous cycle that is heroin.

 

Don’t Let Heroin Effect Your Brain!

You can overcome your heroin addiction with the help of addiction treatment professionals. Start the treatment process by calling us today! When being admitted into an addiction treatment center you will go through an initial intake assessment to help staff get you into an individualized treatment plan.

From there, you will move onto a detoxification process to cleanse your body of the harmful toxins related to heroin abuse. This will include professionals helping you to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. After you have cleansed your body of heroin you will be admitted into an addiction treatment facility to begin the rehabilitation process.
In rehab, you will go through various therapy and counseling sessions to help you see past your addiction and begin living heroin free. Don’t let heroin effect you any longer!

Quitting Heroin Cold Turkey

Heroin is a highly addictive street drug that claims the lives of thousands of men and women each year. After just one use, many individuals have found themselves drawn to its effects and going back for more. The stigmas of a heroin addict do not deter those looking for relief from pain or an easy escape from reality. Unfortunately before many of those who are just “trying out” the drug, before they know it they are fully addicted and unable to stop its use without pain of withdrawal.

 

Stopping Heroin

long-term-effects-of-heroinFor many heroin addicts the second symptoms of withdrawal start they rush to get a fix. This is because the brain becomes dependent on the drug to function, taking it away causes the body to go into shock and sends nerves backfiring and causing painful symptoms of withdrawal.
Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Cold sweats
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unstable moods
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures

Cold Turkey

While quitting heroin cold turkey is not the best option it is possible to quit on your own. It is important to keep in mind the withdrawal effects you will experience can range in severity from mild discomfort to unbearable pain. Depending on the severity of your addiction you may choose to enter into a detoxification program to find relief from withdrawal symptoms.

Before You Start

Before you start the process of detoxing at home you will need some supplies. For the next 7 days you are going to need to shut yourself off from the outside world. Stock up you home with water and easy to make meals (for when you get an appetite). While you can go without food for a few days you body requires water and during the detox process you could easily dehydrate if you are not drinking water regularly. Water will also help to detoxify the body, regular your body temperature and ease muscle pain. When quitting cold turkey water is one of the most important elements you will need.

You will also what to pick up a few OTC (over the counter) medications.

  • Imodium, anti diarrhea drug containing Loperamide (an opioid drug) that will help to relieve diarrhea, stomach cramps and other withdrawal symptoms when taken at high dosages every 5 to 6 hours or as needed.
  • While heroin withdrawal is 100 times worse than the flu, NyQuil nighttime flu medicine can offer you some relief and help you sleep longer increments of time.
  • Valerian Root Capsules, which is also known as nature’s Valium, is an herbal supplement that can be used to relieve anxiety and restlessness.

There are many other over the counter medications that you can use to find relief when withdrawing from heroin: Phenibut, Pepto-Bismol, Maalox, Mylanta, Emetrol, Nauzene, Dramamine, Kratom, vitamins and supplements.

It’s Easier Said Than Done

Quitting heroin cold turkey is easier said than done. Before you begin the process it is important to speak with your primary care physician to determine if you are in overall good health and can handle the detox process. Heroin withdrawal can be dangerous, be sure to set up to have a friend or family member check in on you on a regular basis to ensure your safety. With commitment and strength you can quit heroin cold turkey.

 

Overcoming Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a growing problem throughout the United States. It does not discriminate on who it consumes, affecting men and women of all walks of life. This highly addictive drug is ripping families apart, taking a once happy person and turning them into a drug seeking zombie that only cares about getting their next fix. With no end in sight, the only thing that can be done is educate the public on the dangers of heroin, speak to our children, and offer our support to those who have fallen victim to heroin addiction.

overcoming-heroin-addiction

Getting Out of the Hole of Addiction

When addicted to heroin is can feel like there is no way out. Stopping heroin results in horrible pain as the body withdrawals, only sending you back to the drug for comfort. If you manage to get past the first 72 hours in withdrawal, if you don’t have the right mindset you can easily fall victim to temptation again. To get out of the hole of addiction you do not only need to admit that you have a problem but to seek treatment to help give you a true foundation to start in your recovery.

 

Turning to Chemical Dependency Treatment Professionals

Sure it is possible to quit cold turkey, but the likelyhood of this being an effective way to kick your heroin addiction is slim. Turning to chemical dependency treatment professionals to undergo detoxification, rehabilitation and aftercare will give you the medical treatment, educational tools and support needed to overcome your addiction to heroin.

 

Starting The Treatment Process

You can overcome your heroin addiction with the help of chemical dependency treatment professionals. First you will go through an intake assessment, this will help staff to determine the severity of your addiction and start putting together an individualized treatment plan.

 

Next you will move onto the detox process where you will begin to cleanse the body of the harmful chemicals and toxins related to heroin abuse. During this time you will be monitored to ensure your health and safety, the doctor will prescribe you medications to ease symptoms of withdrawal.

 

After the physical symptoms of withdrawal have been controlled you will move forward to begin the rehabilitation process. There you will go through various therapy and individual counseling sessions, as well as daily group therapies to help you get a true understanding of your addiction and develop the skills needed to maintain your sobriety in your day to day life.

 

When your Therapist and other clinical staff feel you are ready to return home you will work together with them to create an aftercare plan. This will include an outpatient therapy program, NA meetings, a doctor to monitor your medications and to create a support system for when you return home. All of this will help to keep you on the road of recovery, helping you to overcome heroin addiction and move forward to create a more fulfilling and healthy life for yourself and your family.

 

Want to Learn more about Heroin Addiction?

Resources and Organizations

  1. DrugAbuse.gov – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction
  2. DrugPolicy.org – http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/heroin-facts
  3. HHS.gov – http://www.hhs.gov/opioids/
  4. American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry