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.”

Maryland Governor Spends $3 Million to Fight Drug Abuse & Crime

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

The state of Maryland has a heroin problem. Baltimore has even been dubbed the “heroin capital of America.” Studies have shown 1 in 10 Baltimore residents to be heroin addicts. The rest of the state is plagued as well, with overdose rates soaring in multiple counties. The state of Maryland also has a crime problem. The FBI recently named Maryland as the ninth most dangerous state in the country, more dangerous than Michigan, California, and even New York.

Maryland Governor Hogan Pledges Millions

To help stop the madness in Maryland, the state’s governor, Larry Hogan, pledged $3 million earlier this month. Approximately one-third will be spent providing heroin coordinators to every region in the state, and the rest will be used as funding for the Safe Streets Initiative. Heroin coordinators will provide data-sharing between law enforcement agencies, the state’s attorney offices, the Health Department, and the general public. This is essential to combating the problem, as research yields results which can then be rendered. Basically, the more that is known, the more that can be done about it.

The Safe Streets Initiative is the main focus, a program designed to reduce violent crime in Maryland. Over $2 million was allocated to it, and it has proven itself to be effective for crime reduction in Maryland in the past. The first Safe Streets Initiative was launched in Annapolis in 2008, and the second in Salisbury in 2010. After showing success, seven more were launched. Similar to what heroin coordinators will be doing, the Safe Streets Initiative utilizes data-sharing, however more so acts as the governing body behind policy. Personnel of the initiative ensure protocol is being followed, and that all agencies involved in justice for violent crimes are coordinated and open with one another.

Among Other Things…

Eighteen heroin coordinators will be employed, covering all regions of the smaller-sized state. Also, nine Safe Streets Initiative locations will receive ample funding to now include “the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force to devise a plan to address the… growing heroin epidemic across Maryland.”

While large portions will be allocated to funding new positions within both the task force and Maryland law enforcement agencies, a plethora of other helpful things will be funded. These include adding beds to treatment centers on the Eastern shoreline, increased funding to drug-dealer apprehension, a public awareness campaign on addiction, and training law enforcement on how to properly administer anti-overdose medication.

Fighting Crime and Drug Abuse at the Same Time

The Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force will perhaps be the most effective part of Governor Hogan’s initiative. On top of the aforementioned actions being taken to fight the epidemic, the task force implemented Peer Recovery Specialists into every Safe Streets Initiative in the state. (One exists in every major county’s police department, ensuring all regions are covered).

Peer Recovery Specialists will specialize in giving treatment to those arrested who have drug addictions. According to Maryland Governor Hogan’s office, “Peer Recovery Specialists are individuals in recovery from substance abuse or co-occurring mental health disorders that have been trained and certified in specific areas of knowledge and skill sets which allow them to provide effective recovery and support services.”

All those arrested in Maryland deemed by the specialists to have substance abuse problems will receive treatment. “Throughout Maryland, from our smallest town to our biggest city, heroin is destroying lives,” said the governor of an already crime-ridden state. We hope $3 million is enough.

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.

Luvo Manyonga: From Meth to a Medal

luvo-manyonga

It’s 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa and 20-year-old Luvo Manyonga is practicing for the World Championship in men’s long jump. This will be Manyonga’s first time participating in the event, and he will finish fifth overall at the international competition. Two weeks later, he will take gold in the All-Africa Games. His earnings exceed 80,000 Rand, which is equal to about $6,000. He continued to participate in long jump events throughout the year, gaining popularity and acclaim.

However, having previously been extremely poor, Manyonga’s first run-in with a large amount of money nearly destroys his life after he becomes addicted to tik, the South African equivalent of crystal meth. The drug is highly addictive and can cause psychotic episodes, as well as sleeplessness, anxiety, and increased heartrate.

 

The Downfall

Tik is simply the slang term South Africans have given methamphetamine. Tik began showing up in the country around 2003 in sparse amounts. By 2008, it was the most popular drug in Cape Town. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that in just a four year period, the amount of people using tik rose from 1% to over 50%. Not even the US has seen drug use spikes of such magnitude over such little time.

It’s 2012 in Cape Town, and Luvo Manyonga is set to compete in a national competition. The South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) tests athletes for performance-enhancing drugs at such events. Manyonga tests positive for tik. At the disciplinary hearing, he fully admits to having used tik, explains why he used it, and is banned from long jump events for 18 months. “I can honestly say that I hit rock bottom,” said Manyonga. He was even “stealing mobile phones just to get money to buy the drug. You lose all perception of what is right or wrong. All that matters is to get your fix.”

From the hearing: “He had used tik on several occasions, after he had observed a friend using tik to recover from a drunken spell. [Manyonga] did not want to go to his mother’s house whilst under the influence and therefore used tik to ensure he was sober. After this he became a user.” He also claims not to have used tik to enhance his performance, as SAIDS considers tik a non-specified stimulant under the World Anti-Doping Code.

Manyonga agreed to enroll in the Harmony Addictions Clinic in Cape Town.

 

The Rise

It’s 2015 in Cape Town, and Luvo Manyonga is sober from tik, and fresh from rehabilitation. Knowing that his hometown is infested with the drug that nearly destroyed him, Manyonga packs up and moves to Pretoria, South Africa, near the High Performance Centre. He trains under strength and conditioning coach John McGrath and former Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling. He gets his long jump back to top shape, and is chosen for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He is rated among the top ten globally.

In 2012, Luvo Manyonga said he was “ten, maybe five percent away from death. On August 13, 2016, Luvo Manyonga participated in the Olympic long jump and achieved a distance of 8.37m, a personal best. Then, on his final jump, American Jeff Henderson achieved 8.38m, taking the gold medal. Manyonga won the silver medal.

His story of recovery is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. Although he won silver, it might as well have been gold. Surely Luvo Manyonga took the furthest leap.

John Gotti’s Grandson Arrested for OxyContin Possession

John Gotti, the 23-year-old grandson of infamous mob boss John Gotti, was arrested inside his Queens, NY home on Thursday, August 4th. Police had long suspected Gotti of selling powerful opioid painkillers. On June 30th he was caught with 205 oxycodone pills, 18 methadone pills, testosterone, Xanax, and marijuana. Also, for the last three months, undercover police had been purchasing pills from Gotti. The total amount exceeds $45,000. Gotti has previously been seen selling pills at a local tattoo parlor, and has also been caught on a wiretap bragging about selling 4,200 pills a month. When he was arrested Thursday, police found 500 oxycodone pills and $40,000 cash.

 

John-Gotti-Grandson

Operation Beach Party

The Gotti home sits on Howard Beach in Queens. It is the same house the original John Gotti used to run the Gambino crime family in the 1980s and 90s. Reportedly though, during this time, no gangster activity was allowed in the house. Lewis Kasman, close friend of the Gotti family, said, “No wiseguy was allowed in that house and the only non-blood family member permitted inside was me.” Apparently, the grandson John Gotti thought differently, as he and 8 others were arrested.

Operation Beach Party was the name given to the takedown by police. Gotti had sold pills at least 11 times to undercover officers, and had been heard discussing the business on the phone. He and his girlfriend Eleonor Gabrielli, along with seven others ranging in age from 23 to 57, had been running an operation out of the beach home. Along with the pills and cash found at the Gotti residence, $200,000 cash was recovered from others involved.

Police kicked the door in, and stormed into the bedroom where Gotti and his girlfriend were. The other seven were scattered around the house. This was the first time ever the Gotti house had been raided.

 

What he’s doing now

At the time of arrest, Gotti said he was being “stupid, young and dumb,” and even called the Howard Beach community a “toxic environment.” Whether he was being earnest remains to be determined, but Mr. Gotti did make one move in the right direction following his arrest. He has entered into a drug detoxification program inside of Rikers Island Correctional where he’s being held.

Maybe this can do John Gotti some good, seeing as Rikers Island boasts the longest-running opioid treatment program in the entire country. If all charges stick, he is looking at 25 years in prison. That should be sufficient time for him to sober up.

Kilogram of Elephant Tranquilizer, Carfentanil, Seized in Canada

 

Carfentanil is the sedative zookeepers and veterinarians use to tranquilize elephants and other extremely large mammals. It is 100 times stronger than Fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine. Unfortunately, it is also a recent addition to heroin, and it is killing people at alarming rates. July in Ohio this year produced 141 overdoses from Carfentanil laced heroin. Recently, well over 50 overdoses were reported in the Pennsylvania area.

In June, the largest illegal concentration of Carfentanil to date was discovered at a mail center in Vancouver, Canada. Weighing one kilogram, the amount discovered is enough to kill the entire population of Canada and NYC combined. Over 50 million fatal doses can be made from the one kilogram seized.

 

How was it found and what is it used for?

The package was discovered by the Canadian Border Services Agency in a mailroom in Vancouver. Addressed to a man named Joshua Wrenn in Calgary and sent from China, the package said it contained printer accessories. This isn’t the first time Carfentanil was seized in Canada, although the first seizure was much less substantial.

Drug dealers use Carfentanil as an additive to heroin, making the drug much more potent. The problem is that less than a microgram can be fatal, and drug dealers surely aren’t out to save lives. The amount of Carfentanil put into heroin, when added, is impossible to detect.

Forensic chemist Brian Escamilla weighed in on the fatal aspect of such little Carfentanil being needed to kill. Escamilla said, “You’d have to really be looking, especially if you mixed it with another drug like heroin — there’d be a hell of a lot more heroin in there than there would be Carfentanil, and so it would just be a blip on the screen. Whether the toxicologists pick that up or not … that could easily be missed.”

 

Elephant sedatives are becoming an epidemic?

Use of Elephant tranquilizers and similar substances in heroin is becoming an epidemic. In Canada alone, this is the second Carfentanil bust. Fentanyl is also commonly used in heroin. Over the last six years, Canada has seen 84 seizures of Fentanyl. British Columbia has even declared a public health emergency regarding the two substances.

Let’s bring it home. Carfentanil as used in heroin is a relatively new phenomenon. Still, busts have occurred in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and even Florida. Regarding Fentanyl, major busts have recently occurred in New York, Maryland, New Hampshire, and even in Georgia. Respectively, 6,000 doses, 510 grams, 2.5 kilograms, and 40 kilograms were seized.

Unfortunately, do enough research and you can find a bust for Fentanyl or Carfentanil in every state; apparently now too, other countries. As if there were not enough reasons to avoid heroin, the risk of there being elephant tranquilizers in it should be enough to make anyone stray. As Jim Nice, police chief of Akron, OH said in an interview with CBS, ““Most of the deaths from heroin overdoses are coming from too much fentanyl being cut into that.” Carfentanil, remember, is 100x stronger.

Get Help – There’s No Excuse

You have an addiction, but you’re too busy to get help. Maybe you work two jobs and come home to a hungry family. Maybe you travel often and spend more time in airplanes than in bed. Maybe you just have a million hobbies and can’t find the time to get help. Well, it turns out you just don’t want help, because there is no such thing as being too busy to get help with your addiction.

You have several options across a wide range. There are hotlines you can call, meetings you can attend, outpatient recovery facilities you can join, and partial hospitalization options for you. Never say you’re too busy again.

Hotlines

A gigantic number of help hotlines exist, and for all types of needs. The calls are always free of charge. Literally type your addiction and the word ‘hotline’ into a search bar and pick up the phone. American Addiction Centers offers a hotline for addiction and its co-occurring disorders, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a national helpline offering information, support, and referral if necessary, for a wide array of disorders. Both are open 24/7/365. For the addiction hotline call 1-888-986-1295 and for the helpline call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Meetings

At no cost to you other than the gasoline to get there, meetings for all types of addictions are held nationwide. They last about an hour, but people are welcome to stay however long they like. You may have heard of AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous. They paved the way for the many other 12-step programs out there. Find an AA meeting near you here, or a NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting near you here.

Outpatient Recovery

Not all rehabilitation programs require an upheaval or your life. Outpatient recovery allows you to check in with appointment-like structure to a treatment facility. Most insurance companies will cover most of or all of the cost. The best part of outpatient recovery is being able to balance it with work, family, school, or whatever else may be going on in your life. Discussions, detoxification, medicine management, exercise, and education are all part of outpatient recovery.

Partial Hospitalization

Enrolling in partial hospitalization is for those addicts with severe symptoms. All the benefits of a hospital are available, including the knowledgeable staff, the equipment, and the medications. Partial hospitalization as defined by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities is “time limited, medically supervised programs that offer comprehensive, therapeutically intensive, coordinated, and structured clinical services.” Most programs are five days a week, but there are weekend sessions, half-sessions, etc. A partial hospitalization will still allow for a normal life outside of recovery, but will consume more time than the previous methods.

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.