Archive for November, 2016

Pregnant woman who overdosed struggled with heroin addiction

Posted on: November 28th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

JACK TOMCZUK Staff Writer Nov 26, 2016

LOWER TOWNSHIP — The family of a pregnant township woman found dead after an overdose last week said she struggled with heroin addiction and was trying to improve her life before relapsing.

Amanda Albee, 30, was discovered dead by her 9-year-old daughter Nov. 15 in the room they shared, according to Albee’s sister Amy Toomin.

Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor said it is too early to tell if the substance was heroin, fentanyl — a dangerous synthetic opiod that has been showing up in the county — or a mix.

Fentanyl is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Toomin and Albee’s mother, Theresa Crompton, said police told them the heroin Albee thought she was using was actually fentanyl.

“They knew that she was pregnant and they sold it to her anyway,” said Toomin, 29, who said she is in recovery for addiction.

Alycha Rodriguez, 22, of Brooklyn, New York, has been arrested and charged with first-degree strict liability of drug-induced death for allegedly selling Albee the drugs, the Prosecutor’s Office said.

Albee was three months pregnant, family said.

It wasn’t Albee’s first battle with drugs. Her heroin use prompted her older daughter to be placed in the sole custody of Toomin’s father, Toomin said.

“She was a great person when she was clean,” Toomin said. “She was always so overwhelmed, trying to strive for perfection.”

Rodriguez was staying temporarily at the Beach House Motel in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township.

On the same day Albee overdosed, officers saw Rodriguez chasing two men away from her motel room with a knife, Middle Township police said.

In September, Rodriguez was arrested in front of the Catalina Motel in Middle Township along with Jason Weaver, 39, also of Brooklyn, police said.

Rodriguez and Weaver were charged with various drug offenses, and Weaver was found to have an arrest warrant out in New York for handgun possession.

Toomin said Rodriguez was staying in a room at the Beach House Motel rented by Albee’s ex-boyfriend’s brother.

Several residents of the motel interviewed Friday said they never met Rodriguez but that drug and law enforcement activity was common at the motel.

“Some people come here selling drugs,” said Felix Santos, who added that he’s trying to find another place to live.

“We’ve been working so hard to clean this place up,” said Joe Berdel, the motel’s manager.

Rodriguez was not a resident of the motel, she was just visiting a friend, Berdel said. He said he threatened to kick her out a couple of times.

“Should have kicked her out sooner,” Berdel added. “She wasn’t even supposed to be here.”

Erin Miller, 30, said she’s living at the Beach House Motel with her three children while she waits to move into a house in Lower Township. She said she pays $400 a week in rent.

“I don’t like the kids being out here,” Miller said. “The cops are always here.”

Berdel said he showed police surveillance tapes that captured Ablee entering and leaving the motel.

“The whole thing took about ten minutes,” he said.

Crompton said she greeted people for two hours at Ablee’s memorial services. More than 200 people attended, Crompton and Toomin said.

“She was just absolutely beautiful,” Crompton said. “I miss her smile.”




Surgeon general: 1 in 7 in U.S. will face substance addiction

Posted on: November 17th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

USA TODAY NETWORK Josh Hafner , USA TODAY11:44 a.m. EST November 17, 2016

A new federal report released Thursday calls for a shift in the way America addresses substance addictions, finding one in seven Americans will face such disorders. Only 10% of those now addicted receive treatment, the study said.

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Healthmarks the first report from a U.S. surgeon general dedicated to substance addiction, raising the profile of the widespread epidemic and advocating proven treatment options.

An American dies every 19 minutes from opioid or heroin overdose alone, and Thursday’s report spells out the cost of substance abuse. The economic impact of drug and alcohol misuse and addiction amounts to $442 billion each year — topping diabetes at $245 billion, said Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general.

“At a time when we are resource constrained already, we cannot afford, for humanitarian reasons or financial reasons, to not address addiction in America,” Murthy said in an interview with USA TODAY.

Every $1 invested in viable treatment options for substance use disorders saves $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs, Murthy said. That’s one reason why the report advocates for a paradigm shift on addiction that removes the stigma from addiction, creating more patients and less prisoners.

“We have to recognize (addiction) isn’t evidence of a character flaw or a moral failing,” Murthy said. “It’s a chronic disease of the brain that deserves the same compassion that any other chronic illness does, like diabetes or heart disease.”

Nearly 21 million Americans struggle with substance addictions, according to the report. That’s more than the number of people who have all cancers combined.

That only one in 10 people with substance addictions receive treatment points to the significant holes in America’s health care system. High costs, a lack of screening for addictions and a fragmentation of health care services worsens the problem, according to the report.

One bright spot for those seeking treatment has been the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which opened up 20 million to receive health insurance, Murthy said. The law, along with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, increased access to addiction treatment services.

In the wake of last week’s election, the Affordable Care Act seems all but doomed. Whatever happens over the next four to eight years, Murthy said, continuing to expand coverage will remain key to addressing addiction.

But it’s going to take much more, he noted.

“Solving this problem is not going to take place if we just pass a few laws or if public health experts just start a few more programs. It’s actually going to take all of us coming together to do our part.”

That means parents talking to kids about addiction — early, he said. People who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become addicted later in life than those who start at 20 or later, according to the report. It means schools implementing prevention programs and doctors receiving training on how to screen, diagnose and treat substance use disorders.

And of course, policy makers must put resources into prevention and treatment programs, too, Murthy said.

The report stresses that successful treatment of addiction requires more than a stint with a treatment program. Professional counseling and a supportive relationships both play key parts.

“I’ve just understood that addiction really touches everyone’s life,” the surgeon general said. “It’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate, and it’s one that’s taking an extraordinary toll on our communities across the country.”

Synthetic opioid nicknamed ‘pink’ blamed for deaths of two 13-year-old Utah boys

Posted on: November 7th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Ben Guarino, November 4

Ryan Ainsworth and Grant Seaver, both 13, were students at Treasure Mountain Junior High School in Park City, Utah. They were best friends who shared the hobbies of adventurous Utah teenagers — spending afternoons on skis, dirt bikes or skateboards. Relatives spoke of their bright and beautiful smiles. “Grant was a happy boy,” as Lisa Sippel described her nephew to Utah’s Fox 13, “who lived every minute of his short life to the fullest.”

In September, the young teens died within 48 hours of each other.

The cause was the same.

On Thursday, the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office announced the results of toxicology tests: Acute drug intoxication was to blame, Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter said in a statement. The chemical culprit was an opioid so obscure it did not have an official name, just a designation, U-47700.

It did, however, have a nickname. Called “pink,” “pinky” or “pinkie,” these were not a reference to its color. U-47700 is a chalky white powder, like crushed Tylenol, unless it is dyed.

“Narcotics users will grow out their pinky finger and take it in their nose, so that’s why it’s called pinky,” Sgt. DeeAnn Servey of the Davis County Sheriff’s Office told Utah’s KTVX News in September.

Until recently, the synthetic opioid U-47700 was not much more than a curiosity, one of many dead-ends in the hunt for superior painkillers. Jacob Szmuszkovicz, a chemist at the Michigan-based Upjohn Company, derived U-47700 from morphine (the “U” taken from Upjohn). But, like fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, U-47700 was a more potent compound. Animal tests indicated the chemical was about eight times stronger than morphine.

And like many synthesized cousins of morphine, if experimental tests of the drug existed they were limited. U-47700 spent most of its prior existence confined to a 1978 patent and a handful of scientific papers. The Food and Drug Administration did not approve it for human use. Doctors at the University of California at San Diego reported in July that they were unable to find pharmacokinetic information — basic details like drug absorption and excretion rates — or therapeutic human data in the medical literature.

In December 2012, U-47700 took a deadly turn, with the first report that it claimed a life — of someone in Norway. The transition from obscure patent to designer drug to death agent followed a path taken by other synthetic opioids. As Katie Mettler reported at The Washington Post in April, W-18 — another powerful opioid — did not exist on the street until “a Chinese chemist found it.” Afterward, “labs halfway around the world started developing the drug for consumers in search of a cheap and legal high.”

U-47700 appeared to have fit this global pattern, traveling some 6,800 miles to arrive in Utah.

The deaths of the 13-year-old boys rocked the Park City community. A fellow 15-year-old classmate attempted to commit suicide. Police searched school lockers with K9 dogs. At the time, Carpenter told Fox 13 that police had “received a lot of different social media hits during our investigating” that indicated ” ‘pink’ could be, could possibly be, a cause.”

It was. The police later traced the drug to China. The teenagers had ordered it online, according to unsealed search warrants, and had shipped it to a friend’s house from Shanghai, KSL Newsradio reported. The affidavit stated the delivery held “a clear bag containing a white powder substance.” At the time, U-47700 was legal to own in the United States.

That is no longer the case. The Drug Enforcement Administration declared in September that U-47700 would become a Schedule I controlled substance, saying it was “necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.” A temporary scheduling went into effect Oct. 7.

The DEA determined the drug had “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” joining other Schedule I chemicals such as heroin, LSD and marijuana.

Beginning in 2015 and into 2016, deaths from U-47700 cropped up around the country. The DEA reported 15 confirmed fatalities; other estimates are as high as 50 to 120. It has appeared in Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. A Toledo man died in May. A 19-year-old died in a Detroit suburb in October. The Associated Press reported that investigators discovered U-47700 in pills at Prince’s estate.

“The population likely to abuse U-47700 appears to overlap with the populations abusing prescription opioid analgesics and heroin, as evidenced by drug use history documented in U-47700 fatal overdose cases,” the DEA noted in its notice of intent to schedule the drug.

Health-care workers were alarmed by the drug’s toxicity. “It’s causing psychotic disorders like we’ve never seen before,” Tommy Lloyd, program director at Springs Recovery Center in Florida, told CNN affiliate WESH in October. “It’s causing people to completely lose a sense of reality.”

Park City Police Captain Phil Kirk said that the drug can cause a sense of euphoria, but also numbness, sedation and slow breathing, CNN reported.

The police department concluded its Thursday statement with descriptions of the drug. Although typically a powder, it may exist in liquid form, delivered in dropper bottles and nasal inhalers. It is shipped in what the officials called “stealth” delivery boxes, often postmarked from Asia. Inside, containers — boxes, vials or plastic baggies — may be labeled “Not for Human Consumption” or “For Research Purposes Only.”

The officers also had a warning. “U-47700 is extremely toxic, even in small doses,” the police department said. “Exposure to U-47700 by inhalation or contact with skin can be fatal. If you believe you have encountered the drug, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.”



This legal opioid is leaving a lethal trail in the US

Posted on: November 7th, 2016 by sobrietyresources


By Max Blau, CNN Updated 12:21 PM ET, Tue November 1, 2016

(CNN)By the time the box arrived at the McGeachy residence, it had traveled more than 6,000 miles from China to the small Detroit suburb of White Lake.

Inside lay a USB drive, based on what the shipping list said, that seemed as harmless as the computer it was destined for.

For 19-year-old Brennan McGeachy, a drug offender discharged from prison earlier this year, the package contained something else that brought him back to his old life — one cut off by the monitoring bracelet on his ankle.

On the morning of October 5, Brennan went to the bathroom with a syringe in his hand and took a drug he ordered online from China, a friend at the house told police.

Out of concern, his father Todd eventually broke down the door and found his son lying unresponsive on the floor, police said. Todd performed CPR. His efforts were in vain — the drug had already found its way into his son’s veins, leaving him without a pulse.

First fentanyl, then carfentanil, now this…

The police first suspected the drug was heroin. However, it turned out to be a drug they’d never seen before — a synthetic opioid called U-47700 — known to some as “pink” or “pinky.” While nearly eight times stronger than morphine, it’s still legal in most states including Michigan.

“We knew there was heroin in Michigan, we knew there was carfentanil that could potentially come here, but this is new to us,” White Lake Police Chief Adam Kline told CNN.

McGeachy joins a growing number of people who have died from using U-47700 — the drug now is responsible for dozens of deaths across the country.

In recent months it’s taken the lives of two students in Park City, Utah, according to local school officials, and a young twentysomething couple in Bloomington, Indiana, according to local police.Fentanyl, which is more than 50 times stronger than morphine, and carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer nearly 100 times more potent than fentanyl, are both often sold and used illegally. The abuse of both drugs this summer has led to strings of overdoses in cities such as Cincinnati and Akron, Ohio, and Huntington, West Virginia.

To a large degree, U-47700 has flown relatively under the radar compared to synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil.

Though not as potent, Kline said U-47700 can legally be purchased on the “dark web” in the form of a nasal spray, powder or pill.


Untested on humans

In the late 1970s, the former pharmaceutical company Upjohn created U-47700 as an alternative to morphine. However, it became classified as a “research chemical” after it never got tested on humans. The drug failed to receive FDA approval and, as a result, never made it into the market.

Over the years, U-47700 slowly made its way into the hands of foreign drug manufacturers who found old patent filings and academic journals containing the formula, numerous local media outlets reported.

According to the Utah Statewide Information & Analysis Center, foreign suppliers have made the drug available for sale online for as little as $40 a gram.

Two months ago in Utah, Park City Police Captain Phil Kirk warned the drug can make users feel numb, sedated and slow one’s breathing. His warning came after the fatal overdoses of two 13-year-old boys believed to be caused by U-47700. While the drug can make users feel euphoric, he said it remains “extremely toxic, even in small doses.”

“It’s causing psychotic disorders like we’ve never seen before,” Tommy Lloyd, program director at the Florida-based Springs Recovery Center, told CNN affiliate WESH. “It’s causing people to completely lose a sense of reality.”

‘It’s like Russian roulette’

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, U-47700 has killed people in several states including New Hampshire, North Carolina and Texas — and appears to be spreading.

This past spring, officers in Lorain County, Ohio, seized 500 blue pills that initially appeared to be oxycodone, complete with “A 215” markings usually found on the prescription painkiller, according to the DEA.

However, lab tests found no traces of oxycodone. Instead, they found U-47700. Dr. Joshua Stephany, medical examiner for Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties, told CNN affiliate WESH the highly addictive drug is often mixed with other substances.

“It’s like the wild west out there,” Stephany told WESH. “Really, you don’t know what you’re getting, so every time you buy something, it’s like Russian roulette.”

In Florida, where U-47700 has killed at least eight people, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi felt pressured to sign an emergency order outlawing the drug. Possession of the drug is now punishable as a third-degree felony that can carry a prison sentence of up to five years.

“It’s coming in a pill form now,” Bondi told reporters last month. “[Drug users] don’t know what they’re taking, and it’s more important than ever to please stop buying these drugs on the street. … It can kill you.”

Florida now stands with Georgia, Ohio, Wyoming and a few other states in approving U-47700 bans.


Feds eye ban

As U-47700 deaths continue to climb, lawmakers in states including New York and Rhode Island have also eyed bans of their own.

“It’s difficult for the law to keep up with the new kinds of drugs,” Rhode Island state Rep. Joseph McNamara, a Democrat from Cranston said in a statement. “Synthetic marijuana and bath salts showed up, but we took steps to ban them because of the serious health issues attributed to them. Now other manufactured psychoactive substances, such as U-47700 are showing up. And it looks like it may be even more dangerous.”

In late August, DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg issued notice to temporarily place the drug into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to “avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.” The DEA’s ban of U-47700 is still pending.

Since the Bloomington, Indiana, couple’s death, the state’s Board of Pharmacy has enacted a temporary U-47700 ban that will stay in effect until June 2017 .

Police Chief Kline hopes state or federal officials take action soon before another drug death occurs near the calm lakes in his small Michigan town.

“These are the types of things that come in groups,” Kline said. “If it happens once, it’s more than likely going to happen again.”






Posted on: November 2nd, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Kenny Ocker October 31, 2016 6:37 PM

A Parkland, Wash., woman accused of giving her three small children heroin as “feel-good medicine” was arraigned Monday afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court.

Ashlee Hutt, 24, faces three counts each of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance to a minor, second-degree criminal mistreatment and second-degree child assault. Her bail was set at $100,000 by Court Commissioner Meagan Foley.

Hutt’s boyfriend, Mac McIver, 25, faces the same charges and was arraigned Sept. 7. He is still held at Pierce County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

According to court documents:

On Nov. 15, 2015, Child Protective Services investigators removed a 6-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old girl from Hutt and McIver’s home because there was heroin in the house, as well as needles and rat droppings.

CPS employees noticed marks, bruising and cuts on the youngest’s body, indicative of heroin injection.

The oldest was interviewed a month later, describing being choked by McIver, then describing being injected with “feel good medicine.” He said both his parents mixed a white powder with water, then used a needle to inject it into him and his sisters. He said they would usually go to sleep afterward.

The 2-year-old girl tested positive for heroin through a hair follicle test two months later.

CPS investigators interviewed Hutt and McIver, who admitted to being heroin addicts and talked about other people at their house using heroin.

McIver later told police he believed the kids’ baby-sitter may be responsible.

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