Archive for December, 2014

Heroin overdose deaths surge across the state

Posted on: December 17th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

Police and drug counselors struggle to explain reasons for recent activity

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

By Sarah Schweitzer and Trisha ThadaniGlobe Staff and Globe Correspondent  December 17, 2014

Heroin and other opiate overdoses are spiking across Massachusetts, with an alarming 58 suspected deaths so far this month, the same number reported for all of November, 16 of them in one weekend, State Police said.

The deaths are being reported in urban, rural, and suburban parts of the state, baffling officials who see no clear explanation for the sudden uptick. State police said they are cataloging evidence to try to determine any “common patterns or similarities,” including the sources or composition of drugs suspected in the deaths.

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“These are real lives, people who are dying,” said Colonel Tim Alben, superintendent of the State Police. “We shouldn’t be dismissive because they are illegal drug users. Deaths like these sometimes fly under the radar. If there’s one suspected Ebola case, everyone is up in arms about it, and here we have a legitimate public health” issue.

The figures include deaths that are suspected of being caused by opiates, mainly heroin, because of evidence such as needles or other parphernalia at the scene. Overdose deaths are not officially recorded until toxicology tests confirm a cause of death.

Tuesday morning, State Police said they stopped a car in Greenfield and, after an investigation, discovered that the driver, a 39-year-old man from New Bedford, possessed what is believed to be 80 bags of heroin.

Opioid overdoses have been steadily climbing in Massachusetts since 2010, from 526 that year to 863 in 2013, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Figures for 2014 are not yet available.

‘This year is one of the worst I’ve seen. We can’t keep up with the epidemic.’ -Joanne Peterson, Director of Learn to Cope, a family-support network

In March, Governor Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency to combat the growing abuse of opiates, directing first responders across the state to carry Narcan, a drug that can counteract the effects of opiate overdoses, and pledging $20 million to increase treatment and recovery services.

Even with so much public attention on the issue, local law enforcement and drug abuse counselors said they have been caught off guard by the activity in recent weeks. State Police said some 43 cities and towns across the state had suspected overdoses. Boston, Worcester, and Springfield were not included in the State Police figures.

On Cape Cod, Yarmouth Police Chief Steve Xiarhos said the department had responded to 10 apparent heroin overdoses in a three-week period starting Nov. 23.

In the same period last year, it responded to one. All but two of the recent victims were revived after being administered Narcan.

Xiarhos said he has never seen such a sudden and extreme jump in overdoses. “It’s a clear-cut epidemic in the state, even in the Cape,” he said.

In Haverhill, where heroin is blamed for 22 deaths this year, residents were shocked this month by the apparent overdoses of a 36-year-old mother and 39-year-old father who were found dead by their two young children.

In New Hampshire, heroin overdose deaths have similarly spiraled. Through the first nine months of this year, the state recorded 65 heroin overdose deaths, compared with 70 all of last year, according to the Associated Press.

Police in Manchester, N.H., said the city had six suspected heroin overdose deaths from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

Joanne Peterson, executive director of Learn to Cope, a support network for families and loved ones of addicts, said members of her group have been hard hit on the Cape, as well as on the North Shore.

In the past week, six members lost loved ones to what are believed to be heroin overdoses, she said.
Peterson plans to attend a funeral for one of them on Wednesday.

She said a cluster of overdoses has happened before, often owing to a potent additive in the heroin. But the rise is steeper and feels more dangerous than in years past.

“This year is one of the worst I’ve seen,” she said. “We can’t keep up with the epidemic.”

More coverage:

Sarah Schweitzer can be reached at sarah.schweitzer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahSchweitzer. Trisha Thadani can be reached at trisha.thadani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TrishaThadani.

Expanding Narcan use from police to public in N.J. – Overdose training for family of heroin addicts

Posted on: December 17th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

Registered nurse Babette Richter explains how to use Narcan (also known as Naloxone) as The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation hosts its first heroin overdose prevention training program at Summit Behavioral Health in West Windsor on Tuesday, December 16, 2014. The training session was held to educate parents and friends of opiate drug users on how to administer Naloxone to anyone suffering from an overdose, from the recognizing the first signs to injecting it into the thigh or arm. (Martin Griff | Times of Trenton)

WEST WINDSOR A group of 20 people — mostly on a strict first-name basis — kept shifting their focus between registered nurse Babette Richter and the tiny plastic bag in her palms containing two disposable syringes and 2 cc of Naloxone.”We believe anyone brought back from the brink of death has a chance for recovery,” Richter said told the group assembled at Summit Behavioral Health in West Windsor.

The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation, a newly formed nonprofit founded by Hamilton resident Paul Ressler, held its first training session Tuesday to educate family and friends of opiate drug users on how to administer Naloxone to anyone suffering from an overdose. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, combats the overdose caused by heroin, Oxycontin and other opiates. Narcan use in overdose cases was approved statewide earlier this year for police and emergency responders after a pilot program in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Richter said it is crucial to also make Narcan readily available to parents, siblings and friends of those struggling with drug addiction, and train them how to use the antidote.“We’re going to get Naloxone in people’s hands. It’s great the police have it—they tend to get there before the EMTs,” Richter said. “It’s good to have it in your hands, because you’re there before the police.”

In many cases, the overdosed drug user comes to his or her senses within minutes of Narcan being administered, often jarringly spurred awake.“Good morning. You just woke up from the dead,” one person in Richter’s training video said to a friend who had just woken up from an overdose after a Naloxone treatment. Each attendee of the training session left with a new overdose prevention kit, with 2 cc’s of Naloxone, disposable syringes and instructions, provided free of charge by. The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation. For many drug users, and their loved ones charged with trying to save them, Narcan has been a life saver, said Ressler, who created TOPAC with the sole purpose of getting it into the hands most likely to need it.

Ressler has been a tireless advocate for overdose prevention since his son, Corey, died of a lethal “drug cocktail” in 2010. And while the Overdose Prevention Act, signed into law last year, allows first responders to be equipped with Naloxone, Ressler envisions it being widely available to anyone who knows they are or are living with a drug user.“My son’s loss drives me, and I don’t think anyone should get in my way,” Ressler said. “I’ve learned that it takes hard work with love.” Richter walked members of the training session through the steps of identifying an overdose from “red flags” like nodding off in the middle of conversations and extremities — particularly fingertips and lips — turning blue.

More important than the use of Naloxone itself is rescue breathing throughout the whole process, trying to put oxygen back into a drug user’s bloodstream and eventually the brain, Richter said. If the overdosed person isn’t responding, that’s where Naloxone comes in: Richter walked the crowd through the step-by-step process of using an injection, or nasal spray version, of the drug.“We want you to be comfortable with what you’re doing,” she said, demonstrating the correct way to fill the syringe with 1 cc of the drug. “You pull back that plunger until you get every drop of this out.” The presentation hit home for Hamilton resident Mark Manning: In August, his 24-year-old son, Christopher, died of an overdose in their home.

Christopher likely died overnight, before anyone had woken up for work or school the next morning, but Manning couldn’t help but wonder if things would have happened differently had Naloxone been available.“We didn’t have that shot in the township on Aug. 5. But what if I found him like this,” Manning said, referring to the overdose state shown in a training video.

“What could we have done differently? The shot is important.” Ressler has long argued the importance of “the shot.” While the state Attorney General’s office has permitted police departments to carry the drug, it’s still on a department-by-department — if not officer-by-officer — basis, Richter said. Ressler said some police departments have been slow to make Narcan kits available after Gov. Chris Christie announced the statewide expansion of the pilot program in June during a press conference at the Trenton Rescue Mission.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office provided 600 Narcan kits to police departments in November. Ressler encouraged those at the training session to make sure their hometown police department has started equipping every officer Narcan. For more information, visit www.overdosepreventionagency.com

Mike Davis may be reached at mdavis@njtimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @byMikeDavis. Find The Times of Trenton on Facebook.

Midstate doc charged with prescribing 102,000 pain pills

Posted on: December 16th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Dec 16, 2014 5:50 PM

(Harrisburg) — A midstate doctor is facing a new set of charges over allegedly prescribing highly addictive painkillers in exchange for cash.

55 year old Doctor David Wait of New Cumberland is accused of writing prescriptions for 102-thousand oxycodone pills for those who weren’t under his care.

He had already been indicted on similar charges in August, and his license is suspended by the state Board of Medicine.

A voicemail left with Wait’s attorney was not immediately returned.

Doctors who are the most prolific prescribers of powerful narcotic painkillers and stimulants often have worrisome records, a ProPublica analysis of Medicare data shows.

In 2012, 12 of Medicare’s top 20 prescribers of drugs such as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and Ritalin have faced disciplinary actions by their state medical boards or criminal charges related to their medical practices, and another had documents seized from his office by federal agents. These drugs have a high potential for abuse and are classified as Schedule 2 controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The No. 1 prescriber Shelinder Aggarwal of Huntsville, Ala., with more than 14,000 Schedule 2 prescriptions in 2012 — had his controlled-substances certificate suspended by the state medical board in March 2013. He surrendered his medical license four months later. (Aggarwal could not be reached for comment.) Prescribing high volumes of Schedule 2 drugs can indicate a doctor is running a pill mill, said Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer of Phoenix House, a New York-based drug treatment provider. “We wait ’till these doctors kill people … It doesn’t make any sense,” said Kolodny, founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, which advocates for tighter regulation of painkillers.

Medicare’s drug program, known as Part D, now covers about 38 million seniors and disabled people and pays for more than one of every four prescriptions dispensed in this country. Concerns about oversight of controlled substances date back to at least 2011, when the Government Accountability Office highlighted abuse of opioids in Part D and called on Medicare to take action. Within the past year, Medicare has started to use prescribing data to identify potentially problematic doctors, as have some state medical boards. Beginning in mid-2015, Medicare will have the authority to kick doctors out of the program if they prescribe in abusive ways.

“It’s a real area of concern for us,” said Shantanu Agrawal, a physician who is director of the Center for Program Integrity within the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The 2012 data shows the upward trend line for prescriptions of controlled substances before these initiatives took hold as USA TODAY reported in Peter Eisler’s June 2014 story, Aggarwal’s Medicare prescribing history had plenty of red flags. The pain-medicine specialist has consistently shown up in Medicare’s data as a top prescriber of narcotics. By 2012, the year before he stopped practicing, more than 80% of his Medicare patients received at least one prescription for a Schedule 2 drug, in many cases oxycodone.

It took a complaint from pharmacies near Aggarwal’s office to alert the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners to his unusual prescribing habits, said Larry Dixon, the board’s executive director. Board investigators subsequently made undercover visits to the doctor’s office and videotaped him prescribing drugs without an exam. “If you paid $1,200 in cash, they would put a VIP stamp on your medical records and you didn’t ever have to have an appointment,” Dixon said.

Medicare’s Part D data draws a roadmap to the doctors who prescribe controlled substances most frequently. In 2012, 269 providers wrote at least 3,000 prescriptions for Schedule 2 drugs, ProPublica’s analysis shows. They were concentrated in a handful of states. Florida led the country with 52 providers, followed by Tennessee with 25. (Look up your doctor using our Prescriber Checkup tool.) About one in five doctors who wrote at least 3,000 prescriptions for Schedule 2 drugs have faced some kind of sanction or investigation, ProPublica found. Because of their risk of abuse and dependence, these drugs require written prescriptions and cannot be refilled.

In September, Medicare sent 760 letters to doctors who prescribed far more Schedule 2 drugs than others in their medical specialty and state. Officials hope the initiative will cause doctors to examine their prescribing and make changes.

“Simply being an outlier doesn’t establish that you’re doing something wrong,” said CMS’ Agrawal. “What we are trying to do is give physicians the ability to assess themselves, given their comparative data.” Medicare also has sent information on 71 prescribers for possible investigation to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and on one doctor to a state medical board. Some medical licensing boards are also expanding their efforts to use data to spot problematic prescribing. North Carolina’s medical board has proposed new regulations allowing the agency that runs the state’s prescription drug monitoring program to share data with the board. The board currently can only access the data when it is pursuing an active investigation into a particular physician. Similarly, Alabama’s Legislature recently authorized its medical board to regulate pain medicine clinics and proactively access data from its prescription monitoring database.

Study pinpoints part of brain that triggers addiction

Posted on: December 12th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

by Jared Wadley

(Medical Xpress)—Activating the brain’s amygdala, an almond-shaped mass that processes emotions, can create an addictive, intense desire for sugary foods, a new University of Michigan study found.

Rewards such as sweet tasty food or even addictive drugs like alcohol or cocaine can be extremely attractive when this brain structure is triggered.

“One reason they can be so problematic for certain individuals is their ability to become almost the sole focus of their daily lives, at the cost of one’s health, job, family and general well-being,” said the study’s lead author, Mike Robinson, a former postdoctoral U-M fellow and currently an assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

The findings appear in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Most people encounter and consume highly delicious foods, such as chocolate chip cookies and candy, and addictive substances like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine on a regular basis. For many people, these rewards act as pleasurable treats that are both wanted and liked, but for the most part consumed in moderation. Robinson said it is this moderation and balance of reward avenues that allows people to lead and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

However, for a small portion of vulnerable individuals, these rewards progressively become intensely craved, skewing their normal balance of desires and leading to addiction, he said.

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“Understanding what part of the brain is involved in causing intense narrowing of focus to make one reward valued at the detriment of all others might provide crucial insights into treating addiction and excessive/compulsive consumption disorders,” Robinson said.

In the study, whenever the rats pushed a lever to earn a particular sugary reward, a laser light painlessly activated the amygdala in their brains for a few seconds, making neurons in it fire more excitedly. Their amygdala was never activated when the rats earned an identical sugary reward by pressing a separate lever.

Then, a simultaneous opportunity to earn both sugary rewards was given. Faced with a choice, the rats focused only on earning the particular sugary reward that had previously excited their amygdala, while completely ignoring the other. The rats also were willing to work much harder to earn the sweet reward associated with amygdala activation than to earn the other sweet reward. The amygdala activation focused the rats’ desire on the sweet reward with which it was associated.

By itself, the amygdala-stimulating laser appeared worthless to the rats, who didn’t seem to care if the amygdala-stimulation was on or off, unless the sugary reward was also present. Robinson said the results suggest a role for the amygdala in generating focused and almost exclusive desire as seen in addiction.

“Understanding the pathways involved in addictive-like behavior could provide new therapeutic avenues for treating addiction and other compulsive disorders,” he said. The study’s authors include Shelley Warlow, a doctoral student in biopsychology in the Psychology Department, and Kent Berridge, the James Olds Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Grand Rapids police say they’ve seen a spike in the number of heroin overdose

Posted on: December 10th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

Michigan.com 1:01 p.m. EST December 10, 2014

Grand Rapids police say they’ve seen a spike in the number of heroin overdoses in the city in recent weeks.(Photo: WZZM)

GRAND RAPIDS – Police say they’ve seen a spike in the number of heroin overdoses in the city in recent weeks, and the latest overdose led to an overnight crash near downtown Grand Rapids. It happened just before midnight at Fulton Street and Sheldon Boulevard.

Officers say a 21-year-old woman overdosed on heroin while driving. She nearly ran over two people crossing the street, and ended up crashing into a parked car just east of the intersection. The woman was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Officers say she’s facing charges of operating under the influence of drugs.

This story was reported by WZZM-TV

Michigan doctor gets 5 years in prison for distributing pain pills in Eastern Kentucky

Posted on: December 10th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

Herald-Leader staff report December 10, 2014

A Michigan doctor has been sentenced to five years in prison after admitting he conspired to distribute large amounts of pain pills in Eastern Kentucky. Anthony Jungho Choe agreed as part of his plea deal to give up his medical license and never practice again. U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar made lifetime parole supervision a part of Choe’s sentence.

Choe worked in Chelsea, Mich. People who got prescriptions from him brokered thousands of pills to drug dealers in Eastern Kentucky from around the end of 2009 through October 2012, according to court records.

Choe admitted he prescribed pills without a legitimate medical reason; that he didn’t really examine the drug runners; and that it was “reasonably foreseeable” the pills were being abused or sold, according to his plea agreement.

Pittston pharmacy tech sentenced for skimming pills

Posted on: December 9th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

Jon Ross Twadelle, 29, pleaded guilty to stealing drugs and falsifying records at a Randolph pharmacy.
By Betty Adams Staff Writer
badams@centralmaine.com | 207-621-5631

AUGUSTA — A former pharmacy technician who skimmed hydrocodone tablets from a Randolph pharmacy’s stock for at least two years was sentenced Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Jon Ross Twadelle, 29, of Pittston, pleaded guilty to stealing drugs and falsifying records in a scheme that the prosecutor says was discovered when an audit was done, which led to Twadelle being caught on camera pocketing handfuls of pills.

Twadelle was sentenced to two years in jail with all but 30 days suspended and two years’ probation. He was fined $400. He was ordered to pay $500 restitution for the missing medication, and conditions of probation ban him from being at any Community Pharmacy location.

In exchange for the pleas, a charge of aggravated trafficking in scheduled drugs was dismissed. As part of a disciplinary action by the state Board of Pharmacy, Twadelle agreed to the permanent revocation of his pharmacy technician license and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,000 in a consent agreement he signed in October 2013.

Separately, the Board of Pharmacy reprimanded his father, John D. Twadelle, the pharmacist in charge at Randolph Community Pharmacies in Randolph when the drug diversion occurred, for violating a rule by “failing to establish and maintain effective controls against diversion of prescription drugs.”

That consent agreement, signed at the end of May 2014, included a civil penalty of $1,500 and a minimum one-year probationary period in which John Twadelle, also of Pittston, must provide quarterly reports of all purchases and dispensing of scheduled drugs for businesses where he is the pharmacist in charge. He now is the pharmacist in charge at Gardiner Apothecary.

The younger Twadelle is in treatment with a mental health counselor and taking medication for depression, anxiety and other problems, according to a sentencing memorandum filed with the court by his attorney, Ronald Schneider. Part of the problem, Schneider says in his memo, stems from a head injury suffered when Twadelle crashed while riding a mountain bike down a trail at Sunday River. Schneider quotes Jon Twadelle, who prefers to be known as Ross, as saying, “I am no longer trapped in a cycle of addiction” and that he plans to seek a career in the outdoors. “In short, Ross’s behavior has its origins in mental illness and physical and mental trauma. … Ross did not take drugs to profit from them or to simply get high. Rather he took the drugs to self-medicate himself with a desire to feel normal and confident and to avoid feeling bad,” Schneider writes.

More than 40,000 hydrocodone/acetominophen tablets, an opioid pain medication, were unaccounted for between 2010 and October 2013, when the scheme was discovered, according to a memo from the prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General William Savage.

Jon Ross Twadelle told an investigator that he took 8 to 15 pills a day over a period of up to two years while working as a pharmacy technician. Savage’s memo describes an instance caught on surveillance on Sept. 9, 2013: “Pharmacy Technician John Ross Twadelle removed a stock bottle of 1,000 10/235 hydrodocone pills, walked to a corner and poured 10 handfuls of pills out of the bottle and placed them in his pants pocket.” Later that day, he used his home computer to alter the pill count in the inventory system by 800 “in order to ensure that the inventory count would trigger replenishment of the pills to keep enough on hand,”

Savage continues. “Twadelle adamantly denied that he had stolen the whole 40,039 pills.” Jon Ross Twadelle is to report to jail in January to begin serving the 30-day unsuspended portion of the sentence.

Health insurance changes open new options for addiction treatment.

Posted on: December 4th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

Nic Coury

Rebecca, a recovering meth addict at Genesis House, says she won’t return to using: “I’m allergic to it now. I break out in handcuffs.”

Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2014 12:00 am

Health insurance changes open new options for addiction treatment.

by Sara Rubin

While Congress continues bickering over President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, millions of newly insured Americans have been going to doctors. And doctors have been reconfiguring their businesses to adapt to new insurer payment models.

It’s the same for drug and alcohol abuse recovery clinics, which are seeing many newly insured patients. They’re also seeing former inmates now seeking substance abuse treatment in clinics under California’s prison realignment plan. And with Proposition 47, a ballot measure downgrading some nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors, there are likely to be more addicts seeking treatment.

“If you put all those things together, there are more people in need of services,” says Robert Jackson, who manages substance abuse programs for Monterey County Behavioral Health.

In Monterey County, some 40,000 low-income residents have enrolled in expanded Medi-Cal, according to Jackson. Community Human Services is one of four local nonprofits that contract with County Behavioral Health to provide clinical recovery services. CHS has applied for state approval to open two new clinics, in Monterey and Salinas, early next year.

Marta Sullivan, CHS program officer, says outpatient services help bridge the gap to more acute, residential care. “It’s like going to the doctor instead of the emergency room,” she says.

She hopes to help residential clients at Genesis House in Seaside transition back to independence with the help of dozens of new outpatient openings.

One client, “Rebecca,” has been living at Genesis House for four months. (Her name has been changed for her protection.) She’d been clean for more than four years when she started using methamphetamine again.

The 33-year-old has been through this before: When her son was born, she tested positive for meth at the hospital. Her kids were placed with other families while she got residential treatment. “I had to go to the real world,” she says, “and there was no stepping stone.”

When she completes her recovery at Genesis House, she’s planning to finish an associate’s degree at Monterey Peninsula College and become a drug counselor.

Rebecca, like the majority of clients at the outpatient clinics, expects to pay for her care with Medi-Cal. Only two of 38 inpatient clients at Genesis House pay the full $3,600 per month cost. The others are subsidized by Medi-Cal, though the rate is still being negotiated. Sullivan expects most outpatient clients to pay with Medi-Cal, too.

New law provides immunity for calling 911 for drug overdose

Admittedly, we as a society are slowly coming to grips with drug use and addiction, how we feel about it and how we deal with it.

Issues like chronic pain, access to powerful drugs, misuse and over-prescribing are difficult challenges. In the meantime however we are making progress in one vital area…saving lives. However we feel about the pervasiveness of drugs among our many health concerns we can all agree on the necessity of avoiding needless death.

This week Safe Communities Madison Dane County launched a campaign it’s calling Don’t Run, Call 911.
It’s meant to promote the new state law providing immunity from drug possession charges to a person who makes a good faith effort to seek medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose. Given new efforts to provide law enforcement and public safety personnel with the over-dose reversal drug Narcan, alerting authorities to a drug overdose can save someone’s life.

We say, let’s start there. Safe a life. Then worry about changing it. If you’re with someone who overdoses you no longer have to run…call 911.

The unhappy result of America’s trade in happy pills

Posted on: December 4th, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

By Peter Franklin

Back in April, the Deep End featured a story about the upsurge in heroin use in the USA. As a recent article in the Economist explains, the trend is an alarming one:

“Over the past six years the number of annual users has almost doubled, from 370,000 in 2007 to 680,000 in 2013…heroin’s resurgence means that, by some measures, it is more popular than crack cocaine, the bogeyman of the 1980s and 1990s. Its increased popularity in America contrasts strongly with Europe, where the number of users has fallen by a third in the past decade.”

Even more dramatic is the change in the demographic pattern of heroin use:

“Forty or fifty years ago heroin addicts were overwhelmingly male, disproportionately black, and very young…These days…More than half are women, and 90% are white. The drug has crept into the suburbs and the middle classes. And although users are still mainly young, the age of initiation has risen: most first-timers are in their mid-20s…”

As also noted in the earlier article, the explanation for this phenomenon can be found in America’s addiction to prescription pills:

“The 1990s saw a big increase in prescriptions of opioids for chronic pain. In some states the number of opioid prescriptions written each year now exceeds the number of people.”

This has resulted in a number of malign interactions with the illegal trade in drugs. For a start, there’s a massive black market in prescription pills – “people who would never dream of injecting heroin seem to assume that opioids in packets are safe.” Even worse, some users are selling their pills and using the money to buy heroin, which is cheaper.

It’s interesting to see the Economist – a publication which advocates the liberalisation of drug laws –  cover this story.

While some states, such as Colorado, have embarked upon the legalisation of cannabis, there are no such experiments in regard to heroin. However, the super-abundance of legal opioids does provide a parallel – after all, making narcotics available within a non-criminal and regulated environment is key to the promised benefits of liberalisation.

Prescription opioids are not the same thing as heroin, but they are the next best thing (I’m using the word ‘best’ loosely here). Furthermore, like all legal pharmaceuticals in the US, they are subject to extensive regulation. Supporters of liberalisation might therefore draw some comfort from the regulatory response to the problem of over-prescription:

“‘Pill mills’, clinics that churned out prescriptions with no questions asked, have been shut down. And drug manufacturers have made their medicines harder to abuse: the latest OxyContin pills, when crushed, turn into a gloop that cannot easily be snorted or dissolved for injection.”

These measures have had some impact: rates of prescription-drug abuse and of overdose have dipped a little in the past two years.”

Still, this is only a small improvement on an epidemic that shames America. There’s also a nasty sting in the tail:

“…as the supply of pain pills has dropped, and their black-market price has risen, many addicts have turned to heroin to satisfy their craving more cheaply.”

The idea that the state can displace the dealers by arranging a ‘safe’ supply of drugs to a discrete population of addicts is simplistic. As the American experience shows, the user-base does not remain discrete and the criminals adapt to new market conditions.

Of course, the state could try to destroy the market altogether by making pure heroin available at an unbeatable price to anyone who might like some – which really would be an experiment.

Wes Bentley: ‘I am proof drug addiction can be beaten’

Posted on: December 3rd, 2014 by sobrietyresources No Comments

By Daily Dish on December 3, 2014 11:30 AM

Wes Bentley. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Wes Bentley wants his tale of beating drug addiction to serve as inspiration for those currently struggling with substance abuse.

The actor struggled to deal with life in the limelight after shooting to fame in the Oscar-winning 1999 movie “American Beauty,” and he turned his back on Hollywood after becoming hooked on ecstasy, cocaine and heroin.

However, Bentley, 36, eventually got clean and started to rebuild his career, landing roles in films such as “The Hunger Games” and “Interstellar,” and starting a family with his wife Jacqui Swedberg.

The star now admits he hopes his story of triumph over adversity will inspire others to ditch drugs.

He tells Huffingtonpost.com, “There is a stigma that it’s (heroin addiction) the one you can’t beat, and it is an awful one. It is the devil. It’s a beast, and it creates a beast out of you. But that’s partly why I wanted to talk about it, because there’s people out there who are still addicted, and they might not think you can get past it either.

“But I want to show them that you can. I mean, I have to work on it every day still, as you know, but I just want people out there to know… that it is beatable and you can live an amazing, happy life.”

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