Archive for October, 2016

Another parent’s overdose, another child in the back seat: A ‘new norm’ for drug users?

Posted on: October 31st, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Kristine Guerra October 28

 When police officers found Erika Hurt, she was sitting in the driver’s seat of her car, still holding a syringe in her left hand.

Her mouth was open and her head was tilted back.

And her 10-month-old son was restrained in a car seat in the back, according to police.

The car was parked outside a Dollar General store in rural Indiana on Saturday afternoon when someone called 911 after noticing that the woman behind the wheel was unconscious.

Police in the town of Hope believe the 25-year-old mother had overdosed on heroin.

Matthew Tallent, the town marshal, said Hurt regained consciousness after she was given two doses of Narcan, which reverses opioid overdoses in emergency situations.

The incident in Hope, about 45 miles southeast of downtown Indianapolis, happened less than two months after authorities in Ohio stopped a car and found a man and a woman barely conscious in the front seats. The woman’s 4-year-old grandson sat in the back seat.

A disturbing photo of the scene — the driver with his head tilted back, the woman slumped across the passenger seat, and the boy staring at what’s in front of him — spread like wildfire.

So, too, has the photo of Hurt.

Such incidents are becoming the “new norm” for drug users, Tallent told the Indianapolis Star.

“They’re traveling to other places because they don’t want to be caught by someone that disapproves of their drug abuse,” the marshal explained to The Washington Post.

Brian Allen, public safety director for East Liverpool, the Ohio city where the man and the woman overdosed, agreed. The explanation as to why some choose to take drugs while in public is simple, he said: They’re more likely to survive.

“If they overdose in their home, the odds of them dying is much greater,” Allen said. “No one can see them, and no one can get to them.”

Tallent said he knows of several instances involving people who injected themselves with heroin while in public.

Allen said he sees similar incidents at least once a day, many of them involving adults who overdosed in their cars while children in their custody sat in the back.

Shortly after the East Liverpool overdose, a grandmother in Elyria, Ohio, about 120 miles away, was found passed out while her pickup truck was running at a gas station, according to ABC affiliate WEWS-TV. The woman’s 8-month-old grandson was in the back, without a car seat. First responders had to break the passenger side window to put the truck in park, the station reported.

More recently, on Tuesday afternoon, a Michigan woman was found unconscious in her pickup truck at a gas station in Detroit, according to WJBK-TV. Two young children, ages 2 and 4, were in the back. The woman was “down to about two breaths a minute,” a paramedic told the Fox affiliate.

On the same day, a Kentucky high school teacher was charged with driving under the influence after he was found unconscious in a crashed vehicle.

In all instances, the unconscious people were revived with Narcan, a lifesaving medication now used by many law enforcement agencies across the country.

[A 7-year-old told her bus driver she couldn’t wake her parents. Police found them dead at home.]

Nationwide, opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least half of all deaths from an opioid overdose involved a prescription drug, the CDC said, adding that the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has nearly quadrupled nationwide since 1999.

Fourteen states, including Indiana and Ohio, had significant increases in drug-related deaths from 2013 to 2014, according to the CDC.

Behind the grim statistics are haunting scenes of overdosed victims — and the children affected by their parents’ addictions.

Last month, a Family Dollar store employee in Massachusetts recorded a toddler in pink pajamas crying and pulling on her unconscious mother, who had overdosed and collapsed in the toy aisle.

The mother, who survived, was charged with child endangerment. Her daughter was placed under the care of child protective services.

A photo of a Birmingham, Ala., police officer comforting a 1-month-old girl in a tiny purple gingham dress raced around the Internet after her father died of an apparent drug overdose and her mother was found near death.

[This photo of an officer comforting a baby went viral. But there’s more to the story.]

The officer in the picture, Michelle Burton, told The Post about the moment that night that saddened her the most. The couple’s 7-year-old daughter asked the officer to sign her homework so that she could turn it in at school the next day.

“That broke my heart,” Burton said. “She said, ‘I did my work.’ She pulled it out and showed it to us. It was math homework — ‘Which number is greater? Which number is odd or even?’ … I told her, ‘Sweetie, you probably won’t have to go to school tomorrow. … But where you’re going is going to have everything you need.’ ”

She added: “It was horrible. It was a very sad situation.”

In the East Liverpool incident, city officials faced criticism for releasing the photo of the overdosed adults and the child.

Someone had snapped a photo of the gruesome scene, and the city posted it on Facebook “to show the other side of this horrible drug.” Officials defended that decision, saying the public needs to see what health officials and emergency responders deal with “on a daily basis.”

“We feel the need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess,” the city wrote in a Facebook post. “This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another use to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.”

[‘Mommy died last night’: Father videotapes moment he tells 8-year-old of mother’s heroin overdose]


Weeks later, in northeast Ohio, a recovering addict, Brenden Clark, delivered some devastating news to his 8-year-old son.

“Mommy died last night,” Clark said. “Okay?”

“What do you mean? My mom?” his child said.

“Yes,” Clark said.

“How!” the boy cried out.

“From drugs,” Clark said.

Clark posted video of the heart-wrenching discussion on Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 35 million times.

Just like that, in an instant, the 8-year-old boy became the sobbing face of the collateral damage from the nation’s opioid epidemic, which claims about 78 lives each day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leaving many children without a parent.

In the Indiana incident, the mother survived.

Hurt was arrested after she was released from a hospital. She is charged with possession of paraphernalia, neglect of a dependent and violation of her probation in another drug-related conviction.

Her mother, Jami Smith, told Fox affiliate WXIN that Hope officials never should have made her daughter’s overdose photo public.

Tallent, the town marshal, said he never intended to embarrass or shame Hurt. Instead, he said, he wanted the photo to serve as an “educational tool, because I want people to see what this drug is doing.”

But some experts in drug addiction and policing said releasing such images may not be an effective deterrent.

Patty McCarthy Metcalf of Faces & Voices of Recovery, a national advocacy group, told The Post’s Tom Jackman that “what helps is helping people get help. Helping people see they can recover. What doesn’t work is public shaming. It just reinforces the negative public perception we’re trying to eliminate. Stigma is one of the major reasons people don’t get help when they need it.”

Adam Brooks of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia told Jackman that “publishing photos of unconscious individuals regardless of the circumstance is an insensitive and demoralizing approach to teach anyone a ‘lesson.’

“People struggling with addiction are dealing with a serious, chronic health condition that can’t be curbed through shaming. Would we post a photo of someone suffering a diabetic coma because they didn’t take their medication? Absolutely not.”

Hurt had recently gone through rehab before her overdose in Hope, her mother told WXIN.

“Heroin is the devil,” Smith said.

The toddler is now in the custody of his grandmother, according to Tallent, the Hope marshal.

“It’s a sad reality that she did this — and put her son in danger on top of that,” he said.

This post has been updated.

Lindsey Bever, Amy B. Wang and Cleve R. Wootson contributed to this article.

In new song, Macklemore condemns ‘big pharma,’ docs for opioid addiction

Posted on: October 27th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

In a newly released video for his single called “Drug Dealer,” the Seattle rapper talks mournfully about an epidemic that’s swept the nation from “Seattle to South Philly” and into the suburbs where it’s become everyone’s problem.

 By Christine Clarridge The Seattle Times

Originally published October 27, 2016 at 9:04 am Updated October 27, 2016 at 9:32 am

 In a newly released single called “Drug Dealer,” Seattle rapper Macklemore condemns physicians and drug companies for hoisting legal but addictive pharmaceuticals on an unsuspecting population.

Seen curled up a shower, looking like a picture of addiction himself,Macklemore talks mournfully about an epidemic that’s swept the nation from “Seattle to South Philly” and into the suburbs where it’s become everyone’s problem.

He calls out the names of celebrities whose deaths have been reportedly attributed to the use of opioids, which public health experts say are most often fatal when used in combination with other pills, drugs or alcohol.

“That’s Prince, Michael and Whitney, that’s Amy, Ledger and Pimp C

That’s Yams, that’s DJ A.M.
God damn they’re making a killing
Now it’s getting attention cause Sara, Katey and Billy
But this (expletive’s) been going one from Seattle out to South Philly
It just moved out about the city
And spread out to the ‘burbs
Now it’s everybody’s problem, got a nation on the verge.”

Opioid addiction has now become the leading cause of accidental death in the nation, higher even than car crashes. The epidemic of addiction has been called a public health crisis by local and national leaders.

Public health officials believe the epidemic established roots during a period of time when physicians routinely prescribed opioid-based pain killers such as Percocet, Oxytocin and Vicodin. When states such as Washington passed laws that both educated physicians to the potential for addiction and made it harder to prescribe the drugs, some addicts turned to street heroin, according to Caleb Banta-Green, senior researcher at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and a member of the newly formed King County Heroin Task Force.

Banta-Green has said that while there are good tools for addressing opioid addiction, routine use of opioids can cause permanent biochemical changes to the brain that make combating the addiction difficult.

In previous interviews, Banta-Greeen  has said the most important tool in the battle against the epidemic is the need to reduce the number of people who are prescribed opioids in the first place. “Otherwise,” he said, “you are trying to close the door after the horse is out of the barn.”

Macklemore goes further, calling out the  “billionaires” and “murderers who will never face the judge” who he claims are the real pushers.


“My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor
Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma
He said that he would heal me, heal me
But he only gave me problems, problems.”


Designer Drug ‘Pink’ Is More Potent Than Heroin, Legal in Most States

Posted on: October 21st, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By McCarton Ackerman 10/19/16

One Utah police chief claims that Pink AKA U-47700 is so powerful that “if you touch it, you could go into cardiac arrest.”

A drug that’s eight times stronger than heroin is legally floating on the market in most U.S. states—and the potentially deadly impact of the synthetic opioid is causing some alarm.

Pink, otherwise known asU-47700, is part of a family of powerful synthetic opioids including carfentanil, ifentanyl and furanyl fentanyl. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime described it as having “effects very similar to morphine and heroin, but with a significantly shorter duration of action.”

It’s only illegal in four states and can be purchased online for as little as $5. The drug comes in pill form, a powder and even a mist.

“This stuff is so powerful that if you touch it, you could go into cardiac arrest,” said Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter to NBC News. “The problem is if you have a credit card and a cell phone, you have access to it.”

Data from Pennsylvania-based NMS Labs, which conducts forensic toxicology tests, showed that Pink has been implicated in 80 deaths throughout the U.S. since January. The Drug Enforcement Administration has recorded 15 deaths across five states from the drug, but suggested the number is likely higher due to delays and challenges in reporting.

Last month, two 13-year-old boys in Utah fatally overdosed on Pink after legally purchasing the drug and having it sent to them by mail. Pink deaths have also been reported throughout Europe, prompting Sweden and Finland to ban the drug.

The DEA took steps last month to impose a federal ban on Pink by announcing its intent to temporarily classify it as a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The ban would give the agency three years to conduct research on the drug and determine whether it should remain a Schedule I substance or drop back down to a non-controlled status. Four states have already imposed bans on Pink, including Florida, Ohio, Wyoming and Georgia.

However, the bans don’t entirely address the problem. Chemists can slightly tweak the compounds of the drug and release a new substance that can stay on the market for months before states recognize it and impose a ban.

Opioid overdose deaths continue to remain an issue throughout the United States. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that prescription opioid overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, soaring 8,050 to 28,647. Synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased nearly eight-fold during that same period, rising from 730 to 5,544.

Known Drug Raises Alarm Amid Opioid Crisis

Posted on: October 17th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Dina Fine Maron on October 14, 2016

The powerful effects of carfentanil are hard to fight with traditional medications that counteract related drugs and save lives 

Veterinarians know this opioid as a powerful elephant sedative. Security hawks know it too, thanks to its apparent use by the Russian government to put down a hostage crisis in 2002 (yes, really). But in the past year more U.S. doctors and paramedics are getting first-hand knowledge about the deadly effects of carfentanil from users who have overdosed on it. The drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl, the drug that pop star Prince overdosed on earlier this year. When carfentanil is used to cut other opioids such as heroin it can offer users a longer or more intense high—if they survive it.

A recent wave of overdoses in states including Ohio and Kentucky has taught law enforcement officers and first responders that the medication used to reverse opioid overdoses—a powerful chemical called Narcan, or naxolone—often fails to rouse patients who have taken too much carfentanil. This is because the drug binds so tightly to the brain’s opioid receptors that naloxone, at currently common doses, is unable to dislodge that bond and reverse its sedating effects to get patients breathing again, says Michael Lynch, the medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center.

As a result, hard-fought state efforts to make naloxone available over-the-counter to drug users or their friends or families—to quickly address overdoses and save lives—could be rendered useless in cases when heroin is cut with carfentanil. At standard doses of one or two milligrams, naloxone may not be powerful enough to counteract the drug. “It just takes micrograms of this stuff [carfentanil] to potentially cause an overdose,” Lynch says. Drug users who unwittingly use the substance (thinking they are consuming only heroin) may overdose and die before paramedics can arrive.

“Too often drug users who overdose may be headed straight to the morgue, not the hospital,” agrees Hallam Gugelmann, an attending physician at California Pacific Medical Center–St. Luke’s Hospital Emergency Department in San Francisco. For now, even hard estimates about the scale of carfentanil use remain elusive: There are no standard, hospital-level lab tests that can quickly identify the drug. Pricey private lab testing remains out of reach for most patients and hospitals. So for now most clinicians proceed with their best guesses about when a patient has used carfentanil versus other opioids.

Gugelmann says he recently treated a woman in her 80s who had quickly used all her prescription morphine for her leg pain and had resorted to taking a drug a family member had illegally purchased for her. The family thought it was morphine because it looked like her prescription medication, but minutes after she took the drug they knew something was wrong. It was likely laced with carfentanil, Gugelmann says, adding that the woman quickly stopped breathing and remained unresponsive after emergency responders applied their standard dose of naloxone. Even a second dose only barely—and temporarily—got her breathing again with help from an air mask. At the hospital she had to receive more naloxone intravenously, and the incident led to a 10-day hospital stay.

The doctor says he sees at least 20 similar cases each month, roughly two patients per shift. Yet he cannot even be sure they had used carfentanil. He assumes that they were exposed to it, or to a different fentanyl-related drug, because they were not revived by naloxone.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also lacks national or state tallies on carfentanil use and deaths, the agency told Scientific American. So far, however, limited data from medical examiner’s and coroner’s offices indicate that Ohio is the hardest-hit state. Others are also bracing for carfentanil problems, according to the DEA. Several states—West Virginia, Georgia, Rhode Island, Florida and Michigan among them—have recently asked the DEA for carfentanil samples for comparison testing to confirm other suspected cases, the agency said.

Last month the DEA issued a nationwide warning to the public and law enforcement agencies about the opioid. Medical personnel may have to administer multiple doses of naloxone if someone has used carfentanil, the agency instructed. “Continue to administer a dose of naloxone every 2-3 minutes until the individual is breathing on his/her own for at least 15 minutes or until EMS arrives,” it said. That means a single patient might get five or seven doses of the life-saving chemical—and that is before the patient gets to the hospital and likely receives even more.

Heavy naloxone use could quickly take a toll on local and national supplies—and prices—says Gugelmann, who is also the assistant medical director for the San Francisco Division of the California Poison Control System. At his hospital, he says, staff have had some close calls in the middle of the night when they ran out of the substance and had to call in emergency shipments from a different hospital. “Obviously,” he says, “this carfentanil situation is extremely concerning.”

Heroin Is Like Licking The Breath Of God

Posted on: October 17th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

10/13/2016 03:28 pm ET

by Richard Farrell

There is nothing on this planet more euphoric than sticking a needle into my vein, watching the blood register like a snake slithering quietly before it strikes its prey, slowly pushing down on the plunger, feeling the warmth moving up into my shoulder, exploding into a head-to-toe rush the instant the white liquid hits my heart. It’s without a doubt, a hundred times more exhilarating than that millisecond right before you explode in a massive orgasm.

I’m in love. Nothing can stop me from getting heroin. I will rob you. I will manipulate you. If my mouth is moving, I am lying. I don’t care who you are or what kind of history we had together. You are nothing to me. Heroin is my god.

But I wasn’t always a scumbag. I was a star athlete in high school. I graduated from a prep school near Boston. My parents were both teachers, and I grew up in the best section of town. We weren’t rich, but I had plenty of food, new clothes, access to my parents’ cars and girlfriends. I was popular too.

Then, the night my father died, Lady Heroin spread her legs and sucked me inside of her. I only took heroin once. But after that night, heroin took me anyplace she wanted to. Nobody could save me.


That was 29 years ago.

I beat it. The truth is, the first year sucked. It was like wrestling a black bear. The guilt, the shame, the trails of destruction I left behind me were almost insurmountable.

How did I do it?

It was five words, a simple phrase, perhaps the hardest concept on the planet to grasp: One Day At A Time. I combined education, exercise, meditation and God to accumulate 10,771 days. The days added up to months. The days added up to years. The days added up to decades.

In the summer of 1991, I covered the war in Bosnia and recorded Serbian snipers systematically picking off women and children as they attempted to cross the Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia to fill jugs for drinking water.

That following winter, I witnessed the crimson-red snow on the streets of Sarajevo. But I have never seen anything to compare with the deaths of America’s youth at the hands of heroin.

How did we get here?

I don’t want to beat a dead horse. A July 10, 2016 Los Angeles Times investigative report provided details to prove what I wrote about in a Huffington Post Blog on October 2, 2015. Purdue Pharma, recklessly and without any regard for human life, orchestrated the heroin epidemic with its fraudulent and deceptive marketing of its wonder-drug OxCycontin.

From there, the market was massive and the Mexican cartels capitalized by cutting the cost of a kilo of heroin in half and flooding the streets of America with cheap powerful heroin. When I shot heroin, a bag cost 30 dollars. Today, in some American towns, heroin costs less than a six-pack of beer.

Can we stop the epidemic?

Yes, but the federal government must intervene. Heroin addiction is no longer a moral issue. Heroin use is no longer a black thing or a brown thing. Heroin overdoses are no longer a question of “if.” Now it is a matter of “when.”

Every U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative must unite and clear the way for “on-demand-recovery-centers” in states across this nation. If a heroin addict is dope-sick today and reaches out for help, they must be able to get immediate help. If not, they have only one option — to get high. That means robbing or stealing to acquire heroin.

The jails are filled with heroin addicts like me. The cost to keep us locked up has become a burden on society. The crime rate in cities across America are climbing every month due to the heroin epidemic.

The answer is simple.

From the West Coast to East Coast, from North to South, we must model recovery centers like the W House in Hagerstown, Maryland. There, regardless of ability to pay, female addicts can acquire a bed.

This month, the women at the W House started a Facebook magazine titled, A Life Worth Saving. There they share their stories of recovery and healing.

It is an amazing example of what we can do in America if we collectively make up our minds that all lives matter. As a nation, we must stop the whispering about heroin. We must all pitch in to end the madness.

I am a Heroin Addict

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

Dad films himself telling son his mom died of heroin overdose

Posted on: October 13th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Sophia Rosenbaum

October 12, 2016 | 10:27am

When an Ohio man decided to tell his young son that his mother had died of a heroin overdose, he did what most dads would never dream of doing: He filmed the moment and posted it to the internet.

Brenden Bickerstaff-Clark’s 2-minute Facebook video, which purports to show the moment his 8-year-old learned the terrible news, has gone viral, with more than 596,000 shares and over 23 million views.

Many viewers were disturbed that a father would ever record such a thing, but Bickerstaff-Clark insists he made the video as a wake-up call for other drug addicts with kids.

In the footage, Bickerstaff-Clark holds the boy’s hand as he says: “I have something to tell you, OK?”

“Mommy died last night.”

“What? What do you mean, my mom? How?” the distressed child replies.

“From drugs,” Bickerstaff-Clark says before his son breaks down in tears.

He then climbs over the picnic table, wrapping his son in a big hug while telling him, “I love you.”

Bickerstaff-Clark shared the video Monday, pleading with his friends to share his family’s story.

“Don’t let this disease have to make someone tell your child that your dead because of drugs. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” he wrote on the post. “My son has no mother because of heroin.”

He continued, “Please get help so our children don’t have to suffer. This wasn’t staged. This was real.”

Some commenters were aghast that the dad would record such a personal moment.

“If u love your son so much, why would u film his grief and post it all over facebook,” one wrote. “Doesn’t need to be here. Sorry for your son’s loss, but this was not the way to tell him.”

Bickerstaff-Clark revealed in the post that he too is a recovering addict who has been clean for more than three months.

“Keep up your sobriety. Your son needs you more than ever,” one person commented.

Parents found unconscious with toddler and infant in back seat of car

Posted on: October 12th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

OCTOBER 11, 2016 8:53 PM


[email protected]

 On Tuesday morning, a couple were found unconscious in a car in the southbound center lane of Northwest Seventh Avenue, near Northwest 77th Street. The couple’s two children, ages 2 years old and 2 months old, were found in the back seat, appearing to be hungry and soiled, police said.

Miami police charged Carlos A. Roboyras-Rodrigues, 35, of Hollywood, with child neglect and driving with a suspended license. The woman, Catherine Lobb, 26, of Miami Beach,was charged with child neglect and letting an unauthorized operator drive.

According to the police report, Miami Fire Rescue banged on the windows of the blue Hyundai Sonata around 9 a.m. to wake the unresponsive couple. When they awakened, firefighters opened the door and found the car still in drive. They also found a toddler and an infant.

After firefighters put the car in park and turned off the ignition, Roboyras-Rodrigues exited the vehicle but was “unsteady on his feet and disoriented.” The police report said the man and woman had bloodshot eyes and constricted pupils and woke up in a daze, unaware of their surroundings.

Firefighters performed an evaluation that checked for vital signs, but no medical treatment was given.

Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said investigators are unsure if a drug overdose occurred.

“It’s kind of difficult to determine what causes a person to go unconscious until [he’s] been evaluated at a medical facility,” he said.

The couple were booked at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.

A record check later revealed that the driver, Roboyras-Rodrigues, had four suspensions on his license.

Police called the Florida Department of Children and Families, who took custody of the children.

This is the second time in a month that a baby has been found in a back seat of a car in South Florida with a couple who were incoherent when police found them. That baby, too, was 2 months old.

Miami-Dade police and fire officials have witnessed a spike in opioid abuse, stemming fromFentanyl, a synthetic narcotic painkiller that has flooded the market through pipelines from China and Mexico.
Read more here:

How a 22-year-old's overdose death saved lives

Posted on: October 12th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Updated 2:03 PM ET, Tue October 11, 2016

 (CNN)Kyle Casey was an exceptional athlete, a star baseball player in high school. He had a contagious smile, dark hair and glimmering blue eyes. He stole the hearts of everyone around him — all while developing a deadly drug addiction.

Last year, Kyle died from a drug overdose. He was 22.

As she reflects on his life, Lisa Sullivan, 56, said she didn’t know how long her son Kyle was experimenting with drugs. But after he graduated from high school in Maine, she saw her healthy son spiral into a depressed and sickly young man. She felt helpless.

“In my son’s instance, I really feel that he thought he was going through a phase. I don’t think he looked at himself as a drug addict. I don’t think he felt he was addicted to drugs,” Sullivan said.

Over time, the money Kyle made from working up to 70 hours a week as a landscaper was swiftly disappearing, buying opioids at $40 per pill and eventually going toward heroin to snort.

“You try to figure out, being a parent, why was he taken from me? Why, why did this happen? But I really feel that God had a purpose for him and that it was for him to help others,” Sullivan said. “Though he couldn’t do it on Earth, he’s doing it from heaven.”

After Kyle died, his heart, liver, two kidneys and intestines were all donated to help people in need of organ transplants — from a mother in her early 20s to a grandfather in his late 60s, Sullivan said. In her grief, Sullivan now finds solace in the fact that Kyle’s tragic death changed lives.

“He helped five people. Not only the five people who got his organs but also all of their families,” she said.

‘A changing face of organ donation’

Sullivan, a single mother who raised Kyle and his older sister, Stacey, said that far too often, she is learning about young men and women who are dying of similar overdoses. She hopes Kyle’s death can raise awareness and make a difference.

While heartbreaking, it turns out that the recent rise in drug overdose deaths — especially those involving opioids and heroin — across the country has resulted in an unexpected increase in organ donations.

“The opioid epidemic is a tragedy that has had an unexpected lifesaving legacy in donation and transplantation,” said Alexandra Glazier, president and CEO of the New England Organ Bank.

“While this doesn’t lessen the tragedy in any way, there is something meaningful happening in saving lives through donation and transplantation that’s coming from these deaths. We have seen a changing face of organ donation over the past several years related to the drug epidemic.”

Epidemiologists across the country point to heroin and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, as the main contributors to the increasing number of drug-related deaths in the United States.

From 2001 to 2014, the country experienced a 3.4-fold increase in the total number of overdose deaths from prescription opioid pain relievers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. During that same time period, there was a whopping sixfold increase in the total number of overdose deaths from heroin, the data showed.

“In the last few years, the number of deceased donors has increased fairly significantly, and looking at the reasons for that, the largest group accounting for that increase is in the drug overdose cause of death,” said Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer at the United Network for Organ Sharing.

About a decade ago, Klassen said, drug overdoses accounted for 3% of the donor population. That number is expected to rise to 12% this year.

“The fact that the need for transplantable organs is so great and that, statistically, 22 people die every day for lack of an organ has probably contributed to more transplant programs considering organs from individuals dying from drug intoxication,” said Kent Holloway, CEO of Lifeline of Ohio, a nonprofit organization that promotes and coordinates the donation of organs and tissue for transplantation.

Ohio is one of the five states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2014, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention; the other four are West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Kentucky.

“When all of this is said and done, what this means to us is that donors, in advance of their passing, or their families made the decision to make something very good come out of a tragic situation,” Holloway said. “These donors have saved lives. They have given complete strangers a second chance for a healthy future.”

Kyle’s choice to save lives

Sullivan remembers the day Kyle registered to be an organ donor. It was a cheery spring afternoon in Maine, she said. Kyle had just gotten a new truck and was getting his driver’s license for the first time at 18 years old.

“I remember that day so well because he had waited to get his license, so he was really excited that the day had finally come,” Sullivan said.

“When we finally did go to get his license, I mentioned organ donation to Kyle, and he didn’t even have to think about it. It was an automatic yes. That’s just how Kyle was,” she said. “He had such a loving personality. He didn’t want anyone to be sad. He wanted everyone to be happy, and that’s why I know he’s looking down on those people that he saved and smiling. I know he is.”

When Kyle registered to be an organ donor, he joined about half of the nation’s adult population. More than 130 million adults in the United States have registered as organ donors as of last month, according to the national Department of Health and Human Services.

“That’s approximately 50% of the adult population, and we definitely see that reflected in this sub-population” of donors who have died of a drug overdose, Glazier said. “Many of these donors have registered their own decision to be a donor.”

Sullivan said she told Kyle’s doctors about his decision to be an organ donor on the day he died.

Ohio is one of the five states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2014, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention; the other four are West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Kentucky.

“When all of this is said and done, what this means to us is that donors, in advance of their passing, or their families made the decision to make something very good come out of a tragic situation,” Holloway said. “These donors have saved lives. They have given complete strangers a second chance for a healthy future.”

Kyle was visiting some friends in Massachusetts last year when he overdosed, Sullivan said. It was a cold and snowy day in March, and he was admitted to Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington. A combination of drugs was found in his system.

When Kyle was brought to the hospital, he was immediately put on life support.

“Kyle was in the hospital for three days,” Sullivan said. “When his doctor that was taking care of him stated that there’s nothing we could do … I did say that Kyle, by his own choosing, is an organ donor.”

Within a minute or two, Sullivan said, she was placed on the phone with the New England Organ Bank, which facilitated Kyle’s organ donation.

Organs after overdoses

Even though people are dying from drug overdoses, that doesn’t necessarily affect whether their organs can be donated, experts said.

“Narcotics in and of themselves are not necessarily toxic to organs. You know, narcotics cause people to stop breathing and cause their heart to stop, and in those situations, people become brain-dead within a matter of minutes,” said Klassen, of the United Network for Organ Sharing.

“But in fact, their organs are potentially very suitable for plantation, so kidney function, liver function, even heart and lung function can be quite good. People dying of drug overdoses also tend to be younger and healthier,” he explained. “It turns out actually the organs that are donated by patients who die of overdoses really can be, from a transplant perspective, really good organs.”

When an organ donor dies of a drug overdose, the nation’s Public Health Service and CDC categorize them as an “increased risk” donor, Glazier said.

In other words, organs from the potential donor might be at an increased risk for certain infectious diseases — and to determine such, the donor’s family is typically interviewed about the donor’s medical and social history and behaviors.

“But I think our understanding collectively in the field of organ donation and transplantation of how to view that risk has changed,” Glazier said. The incidence of disease transmission in organ transplantation is estimated to be as low as 1%, according to a 2012 study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“The risk of dying waiting for an organ is the biggest risk that many of these patients face and so in evaluating the potential increased risk that comes with an organ from a donor who died of an overdose, it needs to be in that context,” she said. “In that context, the bigger risk is the risk of not getting a transplant, versus the potential for a disease transmission.”

‘His heart’s beating in someone else’

Some of the people who received Kyle’s organs were facing the risk of not receiving an organ at all — and now they feel as if they have a new life, Sullivan said.

The recipient of Kyle’s left kidney hopes to connect with Sullivan and her family, she said. Sullivan added that she also wants to meet the 66-year-old grandfather who was the recipient of Kyle’s heart.

“His heart’s beating in someone else,” Sullivan said of her son before falling into a deep sob.

“I’m sorry,” she said with a sniffle. “Organ donation … it just gives you a reason to keep going, to know that something good came out of something so tragic. … What I’m looking forward to right now is one day hearing Kyle’s heart beat again.”

How America Is Battling Its Horrific Opioid Epidemic

Posted on: October 3rd, 2016 by sobrietyresources

AUTHOR: LIZZIE WADe 10.03.16 8:00 AM

 THAT WE’RE IN the middle of a horrific opioid epidemic is no longer news. In bathrooms, bedrooms, and alleyways across the country, people are overdosing and dying every day. So we need to start talking about solutions. As Congress finally earmarks funding for public health initiatives, doctors, prosecutors, police, and local lawmakers are fighting to slow the death toll in their communities—with wildly different strategies.

Immunity Laws

Drug users often fear that calling 911 when a friend overdoses could result in their own arrest. That’s why most states have Good Samaritan laws intended to protect callers from prosecution. When Washington introduced an immunity law in 2010, researchers surveyed opioid users and police officers in Seattle to see how behavior would change. While most users said knowing about the law would make them more likely to call the police, only 33 percent of them had heard of the policy. That percentage was even lower among police officers, with 16 percent of them aware of the law and only 7 percent able to correctly describe whom it protects.

Police Crackdown

In the summer of 2015, opioids ravaged western Pennsylvania. “People were dying within hundreds of yards of each other,” says US attorney David J. Hickton. He believes drug dealers are no different than murderers—and federal law agrees: Prosecutors can seek sentences of 20 years to life if they prove a dealer’s product killed someone. So far, Hickton has sought enhanced sentences for 15 people. States like Ohio and Virginia are considering similar measures.


A daily dose of methadone is one of the most effective ways to keep an opioid addiction under control. But among patients surveyed in New York City, nearly 40 percent said they’d been stopped and frisked by police outside of clinics.

Doctor Training

After performing a C-section on a patient earlier this year, Sean Maloney prescribed her an opioid painkiller. Three months later, she was back in his office, asking for more. “Having a patient develop signs of addiction is something that scares every physician,” he says. Fortunately it was just role-play. Maloney was participating in a new “opioid-conscious curriculum” at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, which teaches students how to treat patients in pain. Now a surgical resident, he says he feels better prepared to make real-world decisions.

Overdose Prevention

Just as public health officials were getting a grip on the heroin boom, an even scarier drug hit the streets: fentanyl. It’s up to 50 times more powerful than heroin and can be manufactured in a lab. In Baltimore, deaths from fentanyl overdoses increased 600 percent from 2013 to 2015, mirroring a trend in other eastern cities. To deal with the crisis, the city’s health commissioner, Leana Wen, prescribed the antidote naloxone, which can halt an overdose, to all residents. “Everyone should carry this medication with them,” she says. Go through a 10-minute basic training and you can pick up a dose.

Rehab Aids

In May, the FDA approved Probuphine, an implant that releases buprenorphine into the body. The drug attaches to the same receptors in the brain as heroin, protecting a patient from withdrawal symptoms for at least six months. “I’ve watched people get their lives back together,” says Steven Chavoustie, a doctor at Miami’s Segal Institute for Clinical Research. He’s training 4,000 physicians to use the implant by the end of the year.

Since 2003, Vancouver has allowed addicts to shoot up in sterilized cubicles, safe from arrest and under the care of trained specialists. Inspired by the success of that program, California state assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman introduced a bill that would let municipalities open similar facilities. It didn’t pass, but she’s hopeful that, like needle exchanges and naloxone access, supervised injection will one day be accepted as a way to fight the epidemic.

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