Category Archives: News

Drug Take Back & Disposal Programs

Up until 2010, people with leftover or unwanted prescription medication didn’t have a lot of options when it came to disposing it. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, or CSA, recommended one of three ways: self-disposal through flushing or discarding, giving them to police officers, or contacting the DEA. Then, forty years later, in October of 2010, the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act was passed. The act amended the CSA to allow for (and fund) drug disposal sites and drug take back programs.

Since then, numerous sites and programs have been in action. We will discuss the importance of having these sites and programs, where you might be able to find one, and also the extracurricular benefits drug disposal offers.

Why do this?

The main reason for initiating drug take-back and disposal programs is for public safety. Studies from the New York Department of Health show that 2,500 kids a day abuse their first prescription pill. For 12 and 13 year olds, the prescription pill is the drug of choice, and abuse of medication has come to be known as “pharming.” 4.5 million American children have “pharmed” and trust that they are getting the pills from friends and family. Go home and open your medicine cabinet. What’s really in there?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, “…more than 30 reports of accidental exposure to the powerful pain medication in fentanyl patches – most of them in children under two years old” have occurred to date. Twelve cases were fatal. Who knows how many children overdose from prescription pills acquired easily from a cabinet?

The secondary reason for these programs is environmental protection. When pills are discarded, flushed, or even passed naturally through the body, trace amounts end up in both the soil and the water. While studies show the impact on humans is negligible, the impact on microorganisms and the surrounding environment are less understood. A quote directly from the study done by the National Library of Medicine reads, “…recent monitoring studies have detected low levels of a wide range of pharmaceuticals … in soils, surface waters and groundwaters…”

Removing countless pills from the hands of minors and protecting the environment at the same time sounds like a heck of a payoff from implementing these programs.

How can I dispose of my meds?

There are now plenty of ways to safely discard unused or unwanted medication. The DEA offers annual drug take back days. Start here by seeing if there is a local collection site near you. (Note to reader: at the time of this publication, the website read that collection sites are still being confirmed, and will be searchable ASAP). Also, along the same line, is an organization known as MedReturn. They set up safe collection sites that are available for use every day. Click here to find a MedReturn site near you.

If reaching a collection site is not possible, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), recommends the following for home disposal. Do not flush or dump into the sink any medications without checking to see if they can safely be flushed. Now, remove all pills from all containers, place them into a plastic bag, and fill the rest of the bag with pungent waste, such as coffee grounds, food waste, cat litter, etc. The idea is to deter any human or animal from ingesting the drugs, even after disposal. For any sharp objects being discarded, place them in disposal containers made of hard plastic.

Amy’s Place – Recovery Home for Women by Amy Winehouse Foundation

amy-winehouseJust over five years ago, on July 23, 2011, famed singer Amy Winehouse died of accidental alcohol poisoning. On what would have been her 28th birthday, September 14 of the same year, her father started the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Their mission is, “…supporting and empowering children in need through music therapy and music education and works to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people,” according to Amy’s father, Mitch Winehouse.

Since the foundation’s start, funds have been raised through charity events and auctions. The foundation established the Amy Winehouse Foundation Resilience Programme, which provides education regarding drugs and alcohol abuse to schools at no cost to the school. Also, the Amy’s Yard Programme provides young musicians who are a part of the foundation record and distribute their music. One album has already been released.

Amy’s Place

The most recent venture of the Amy Winehouse Foundation was to build a women-only recovery house, designed to help women post-rehab integrate into society. Members of the foundation contacted some patients at the already-established, women-only treatment facility Hope House, in south London, and asked the women what their ultimate recovery house would consist of. Amy’s Place was then built according to these interviews. With help from Centra Care, a part of Circle Housing, which is one of the UK’s largest providers of affordable housing, Amy’s Place is possible.

The foundation’s most ambitious project yet, the house contains 12 apartments, four of which are 2-bedroom. Therefore, the house can comfortably shelter 16 women. According to Mitch Winehouse in an interview with the Guardian, “There is only one other women-only recovery house in London and it’s only a four-bed with a six month waiting list.” Amy’s Place is an excellent addition to the lack of women-only recovery homes.

The program lasts three months, and offers yoga, relapse prevention discussions, and even skill-based workshops to boost employability. Amy’s Place is not a traditional rehab with detoxification and intensive treatment; Amy’s Place is a recovery home for women who have just gone through all of that.

Why Women Only?

The idea here is not sexist; rather it is research-based. According to a study done by Oxford in 2006, “…support, guidance, and information from recovery home members committed to the goal of long-term sobriety may… enable persons recovering from alcohol and other drug addiction to reduce the probability of a relapse.” Essentially, long-term sobriety is much easier with support from peers. A group of women seems more of a match for a female addict than a group of men and women together. The idea here is the same as separating men and women in college dormitories. The separation makes it easier to focus, and creates a more familiar and at-ease environment.

Not many women-only recovery homes exist. Two quotes ought to sum up why the facility opted to be women-only. The first, from an interview with People, is from the Amy Winehouse Foundation special project director, Dominic Ruffy: “There are about six women-only rehabs… They [clients of Amy’s Place] wanted to ensure they were either safe and away from ex-partners, or safe from their issues of co-dependency around men.”

The next quote comes from Laura, last name omitted, a former heroin addict who will be moving to Amy’s Place: “I think it’s really important to have a place like this when you’re in recovery. There are no men around, no distractions to help you run away.”

In Summary

It’s wonderful that the Amy Winehouse Foundation was able to create Amy’s Place. Perhaps this can be the start of an increase in the number of women-only treatment centers. To donate to, contact, or apply to Amy’s Place and/or the Amy Winehouse Foundation, click here.

Lessons learned from Prince’s Death

It’s Never Too Late to Ask for Help

Whether or not you listen to the music, you know who Prince is. One of music’s biggest pop stars of all time, his recent passing made millions mourn. Soon after his death, it was revealed Prince’s death resulted from a drug overdose. Throughout his career, Prince never used drugs, advocated against them, and refused to let his bandmates use them to excess. The sad story of Prince proves that addiction can happen to anyone.

Details around Prince’s Death

According to E! OnlinePrince's-death, Prince took the stage in Atlanta on April 14, 2016 and apologized for having missed two concerts the week before. He explained how he was feeling sick, and to “wait a few days before you waste any prayers.” One week later, on April 21, Prince was found dead in his home. Perhaps he knew something then about his failing health or about his possible addiction to painkillers.

While still all speculation, due to official autopsy reports still withheld, evidence strongly suggests Prince had a hidden addiction to pain medication. According to Time Magazine, Percocet, OxyContin and Tylenol were found in Prince’s body. Also, on April 15, Prince’s plane reportedly made an emergency landing to administer Narcan to him, as he had overdosed on Fentanyl.

Further, CBS reports that Prince was scheduled to meet with an opioid addiction treatment specialist on April 21, the day of his death. The specialist’s name is Dr. Howard Kornfeld, but the doctor was busy that day and sent his son Andrew Kornfeld in his place. Andrew Kornfeld ended up being the one to dial 911.

Lessons to be Learned

Stories like Prince’s probably (unfortunately) occur every day. When it happens to an iconic celebrity, more people tend to pay attention. Aside from being an award-winning artist, Prince was an addict. It is still not yet known how he received the drugs, much like many parents do not know how their children end up with drugs. Prince hid his addiction from his loved ones, much like most addicts do. The important thing to remember here is that this can happen to anyone. Nobody expected Prince to die of a drug overdose, especially due to his hardworking, sober lifestyle presented to us during most of his career. Maybe you are an addict who needs help and nobody knows. It’s time to speak up.

You may have heard of Aerosmith, a band with several huge hits, led by singer Steven Tyler. Prince and Tyler were close friends. In an article for People Magazine, Tyler speaks of Prince’s death and the possible addiction surrounding it: “I had no idea that he was taken to the hospital because he took too much of something.” Tyler later goes on to say, “…the only way to stop me from crying is to say, ok maybe Prince died so others can live.”

What a beautiful sentiment. Let Prince’s Death be a lesson to always speak up about any and all addiction in your life. Help is available for just about every sort of addiction out there. Don’t bottle up something that needs attention. Nobody that loves you wants to lose you.

Elephant Tranquilizer, Carfentanil, found in Heroin

The average elephant weighs over 8,300 pounds. The male African elephant is the largest land-dwelling creature on the planet. Sometimes elephants injure themselves badly, and a veterinarian needs to perform a surgery. Just as with humans, the elephant feels pain and requires an anesthetic to help it cope with the pain of surgery. The anesthetic vets use specifically for these incredibly massive elephants is called Carfentanil. In an ungodly act of unkindness to humanity, this drug is finding its way into heroin.tranquilized-elephant


CarfentanilCarfentanil is an opioid first synthesized in the 1970s and designed specifically for the anesthesia of large mammals. It is considered the strongest opioid known to man, and is 10,000 times stronger than morphine. The most potent opioid medically allowed to be given to human beings is called Fentanyl, and this drug is 100 times stronger than Fentanyl. Illustrated in the article by the previous link is the case of a veterinarian who was accidentally splashed in the eyes by a tranquilizer dart containing just 1.5mg of Carfentanil (diluted by 50mg xylazine hydrochloride), and within two minutes he was uncontrollably drowsy. Imagine the effect of direct insertion to be essentially a deathwish.


Recently, large amounts of heroin were discovered within the border of Ohio that contained Carfentanil. The day this article is being written is July 28, 2016. In less than three weeks there have been 141 heroin overdoses, 14 of them fatal, in the city of Akron alone. This is beyond disturbing; it is clear evidence we need to amplify the amount of effort that goes into the ridding of heroin (and other illicit substances) from our country.

Dr. Kimberly Cook is the director of animal health at the Akron Zoo, remarked on the extreme potency of Carfentanil, and is quoted as having said, “We’re concerned that even a drop could get in an eye so we wear eye protection. We wear long sleeves. We wear gloves.” The trained expert wears armor against the drug. Imagine the damages from putting it inside your body. The evidence lies in the deaths of these Ohio citizens.

The problem is spreading. Overdoses in Akron first alerted authorities about the new potent mixture, but it is quickly finding its way elsewhere. Muskingum Behavioral Health worker Steve Carrel spoke on the spread of Carfentanil, saying, “This is relatively new. I’ve heard that it has gotten as close as Columbus.” Hamilton County is being affected. A very blunt remark was made by the Hamilton County Coroner, Dr. Sammarco: “Narcan may not save you from this one.”


The bottom line is do not abuse illicit drugs, but for those of you still fighting the grasp of heroin, perhaps this is a scare you needed. Elephant drugs being put into heroin sounds like something made up until you see the recent news of Ohio. Jim Nice is the police chief of Akron, and his quote from CBS News sums this issue up with a cold, hard fact: “Most of the deaths from heroin overdoses are coming from too much fentanyl being cut into that.” Carfentanil, remember, is 100x stronger.

If you or a loved one is addicted to or recovering from an addiction to heroin, there is help available.

The Heroin Epidemic is Real

Heroin use in the United States remains a major problem, with approximately 669,000 Americans using the drug every year. If this statistics doesn’t open your eyes, consider these (also courtesy of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health):

  • The number of heroin users has been increasing since 2007.
  • This trend is driven primarily by use among adults in the 18 – 25 age range.
  • The number of first time users continues to increase, reaching 156,000 in 2012.

With numbers like these, the impact of heroin can be severe. In addition to a variety of mental and physical health concerns, heroin use kills thousands of people every year.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 4 million people have used heroin at least one time. Using the drug one time does not always lead to a problem, but this can happen. The agency also noted the following:

“It is estimated that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.”

This is an extremely high number, as it means that approximately 1 out of every 4 people who experiment with heroin eventually develop a dependency on the drug.


Heroin’s Ease of Access, Ease of Use


Think about it this way: if heroin was unavailable in the United States, even if it was available in small quantities, the epidemic would not be nearly as advanced.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. With each passing year, the availability of heroin continues to rise. This allows people of all ages to get their hands on the drug.

Furthermore, heroin can be taken in a variety of ways, which again increases use. It can be injected, which is most common, as well as snorted, sniffed, and smoked. It does not matter how the drug is taken, it makes its way to the brain in a hurry. This contributes t the high risk of addiction, as well as the many associated health risks.


Young People Get on the Wrong Path


For many people, especially those in the younger age groups, heroin is not the first drug they experiment with.

Prescription opioid pain medications, including but not limited to Vicodin and Oxycontin, can have similar effects to heroin. These drugs are commonly abused in the United States. Additionally, they have been linked to future heroin abuse.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that approximately half of young people who inject heroin first used prescription opioids. Many of these people ended up moving onto heroin because it was easier to access and more affordable.

When young people get on the wrong path, there is a chance they will continue in this direction in the years to come. This only adds to the epidemic, as people are getting started at an early age.

With increased access to heroin (noted above), it is easier than ever for individuals to get their hands on the drug, thus forming an addiction at an early age.


Intense Short Term Effects


Short-term_effects_of_heroinLike many drug, heroin is used because the person likes how it makes them feel. Once this drug enters the brain, it is converted to morphine, leading to an almost immediate pleasurable sensation. This rush is what keeps the person coming back for more. The more heroin a person takes the more intense the rush becomes.

Along with the pleasurable feeling, heroin use is often accompanied by dry mouth, flushing of the skin, severe itching, vomiting, and nausea. Soon enough, once the effects wear off, the person will have decreased mental function accompanied by a sense of drowsiness. During this time, breathing and heart function also slow down, which is often the cause of overdose death.


Long Term Effects


Many people have successfully overcome a heroin addiction, but it is not easy. The more a person uses the drug the more addicted they become. Also, they will begin to face a variety of long-term effects, including:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Infectious diseases
  • Bacterial infections
  • Abscesses
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Infection of the heart lining
  • Arthritis

These long term effects may not kill a person right away, but over time they can lead to the extreme deterioration of one’s health, eventually causing death.


Alarming Heroin Statistics


The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is dedicated to sharing the truth about drugs. More specifically, the organization shares detailed statistics concerning a variety of drugs, including heroin. Here are five of the most alarming stats, all of which point to a growing epidemic:

  • An estimated 9.2 million people in the world use heroin.
  • The 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported 153,000 current heroin users in the US in 2007.
  • Opiates, primarily heroin, account for 18 percent of drug and alcohol treatment admissions in the United States.
  • Opiates, primarily heroin, were responsible for 80 percent of drug related deaths in Europe, according to a report published by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction.

Where does the world’s opium supply come from? It goes without saying that cutting off the supply of opium would go a long way in curbing this growing problem. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World added another interesting data point in regards to the supply, noting the following:

“In 2007, 93% of the world’s opium supply came from Afghanistan. (Opium is the raw material for heroin supply.) Its total export value was about $4 billion, of which almost three quarters went to traffickers. About a quarter went to Afghan opium farmers.”

With roughly 75 percent of the world’s opium supply ending up in the hands of traffickers, not those who need the drug for good reason, it is easy to see why the heroin epidemic continues to grow throughout the world.


U.S. Health Officials Continue to Monitor Epidemic


According to U.S. health officials, heroin overdose deaths quadrupled between the years 2002 and 2013. Coupled with the fact that heroin use increased by more than 60 percent during the same time period, the government is well aware that this remains a major problem throughout the country.

Due to the sheer number of people who abuse the drug, it is only natural for many to die of a heroin overdose every year. In 2013 alone, approximately 8,200 people died as a result of taking too much heroin.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently discussed the epidemic in a Reuters interview, noting that some prescription medications, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, increase the chance of developing a heroin addiction. He said the following:

“Everything we see points to more accessible, less-expensive heroin all over the country.”

Frieden also discussed what it will take to reverse the epidemic, noting that an “all society response” is necessary in order to increase awareness. He added:

“There are lots of people who have not yet gotten an opiate and we need to protect them from the risk of getting addicted.”

By eliminating access to opiates, the number of people who develop a heroin addiction would decline. This includes prescription painkillers, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes:

“45% of people who used heroin were also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.”


The Future of the Heroin Epidemic


U.S. health officials are well aware that the heroin epidemic has spiraled out of control. There are steps the country can take to help curb this problem, however, progress will not be made until a targeted plan is put into place.

With heroin use doubling among people in the 18 – 25 range over the past 10 years, it is imperative to help young people avoid the use of the drug (as well as prescription painkillers).

Please do your part to help, and review the following resources if you know someone that is struggling with heroin addiction: