Archive for March, 2017

Heroin and Addiction Rates Rise Sharply

Posted on: March 30th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Whites, aged 18 to 44, accounted for the biggest rise in heroin addiction. This has been fueled partly by opioid abuse.

March 29, 2017, at 12:33 p.m. By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Heroin use in the United States has risen five-fold in the past decade and dependence on the drug has more than tripled, with the biggest jumps among whites and men with low incomes and little education, researchers said on Wednesday.

Whites aged 18 to 44 accounted for the biggest rise in heroin addiction, which has been fueled in part by the misuse of opioid prescription drugs.

The findings are troubling because the people most affected have few resources to deal with the problem, said Dr. Silvia Martins, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and her colleagues.

“We are seeing that heroin use has increased in the past 10 years,” Martins said in a phone interview. “It is more prominent among whites with lower incomes and education and young adults.”

Heroin use, which includes those who have tried the drug but not become dependent on it, and addiction also rose more among unmarried adults. Although a jump was seen among women, it as was not as prominent as for men.

The researchers found no differences in heroin use or addiction among the major regions of the country.

The findings, published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, followed a statement from the American College of Physicians calling for drug addiction and substance abuse disorders to be treated as a chronic medical condition like diabetes or hypertension.

It also coincided with the expected appointment of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to head a federal commission to combat the problem. Christie has declared opioid drug abuse a public health crisis.

Martins agreed drug addiction should be treated as an illness.

“By recognizing it is a disease, more people will become aware that they need to seek help, or if they are frequent users, to know that addiction is preventable,” she said.

Martins and her colleagues uncovered the trend by analyzing two studies, one from 2001-2002 and another from 2012-2013, and data from 43,000 long-term heroin users.

In 2001-2002, there were similar rates of heroin use between whites and non-whites, but by 2013 there was a significant race gap, according to the study.

Martins called for expanding treatment programs, overdose prevention and medication-assisted treatment, and for a change in doctors’ prescribing practices for opioids.

“I think some level of regulation is needed,” she said. “At the same time people who truly need that medication should get it but with greater supervision.”





Disease or bad behavior: Does addiction call for compassion or punishment?

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Drugs with the power to disorient a user’s moral compass create a fundamental split in how addicts are perceived, and the difference trickles into the public policy and resources meant to combat the crisis. Meanwhile, as the societal response wavers, people are dying.

BY ERIC RUSSELL STAFF WRITER Posted 4:00 AM, Updated at 8:07 AM, March 28, 2017

 PERU — Last April, as her addiction was spiraling out of control, Lauren Leonard was stopped by drug enforcement agents in Auburn with 20 grams of heroin in her car.

Like many addicts, she had become a low-level dealer as a way to have access to the drugs she craved so badly.

Police charged her with felony drug trafficking, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Nearly a year later, Leonard, 24, has been in recovery for more than six months and is trying to turn her life around. But she faces a significant jail sentence for the drug offense, and her future is uncertain.

Is Leonard a criminal who deserves to be punished? Or is she a sick person, grappling with a chronic brain disease, who needs compassion and treatment?

Such questions reflect a fundamental divide in how society responds to the drug crisis – a divide between those who see addiction as the consequence of bad behavior and those who see it as a disease or disorder that takes over the brain.

The divide is important because it affects public policy.

When addiction is viewed by lawmakers as bad behavior, the response is to increase drug enforcement efforts. That was the thinking behind the nearly 50-year war on drugs, a largely failed effort that packed jails with drug users and mostly low-level dealers but did little or nothing to reduce the addiction problem.

Interviews with dozens of family members of overdose victims and of people in active recovery revealed that criminal charges were a major barrier to treatment and to long-term recovery. Jails offer little or no treatment and, in most cases, if someone is on probation and fails a drug test, they will go back to jail, even though relapses are a common part of recovery.

But criminalizing addiction takes focus away from harm reduction efforts. Policymakers who see addiction as bad behavior are less likely to support increased use of naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, or to fund needle exchanges or even safe injection sites – all of which are proven to both save lives and steer people toward treatment. Maine Gov. Paul LePage is among those who has been outspoken against these types of efforts.

When addiction is treated as a disease, the response also tends to be more humane and more medically driven. A review of government efforts in several communities and states shows that a compassionate approach has yielded success. Launched in 2015, the Gloucester, Massachusetts, Police Department’s “angel” initiative, which effectively offers amnesty to drug users in exchange for enrollment in treatment programs, became a model for cities and towns across the country.

States that have made noticeable investments in medication-assisted treatment such as methadone and Suboxone or in more in-patient treatment beds, as Vermont has done, have been successful in slowing the rate of deaths.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy last November released a report on addiction
, the first of its kind. He said he hoped it would do for addiction what previous surgeon general reports had done for smoking in the 1960s and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s: force the public to pay attention. One of his main points was that society has a big role to play in fighting the crisis.

“But you can’t legislate or mandate culture change,” Murthy said in an interview with the Press Herald. “It has to come from people and the language that they use.”

Leonard still struggles with that. She still has trouble thinking of her addiction as a disease, but she said talking about it helps fight the stigma because she takes back some control.

“I think people are so quick to apply this label of addict,” she said. “People are so much more than that. I’m more than that.”


Peter Leighton, a primary care doctor in Bridgton, said the 90 or so patients he sees with substance use disorder don’t fit neatly into one category but there are similarities. He said people who view addiction as a choice or a moral failing are looking at it wrong.

He doesn’t see addiction as any different from someone who develops Type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

“In almost every case, people with diabetes or high blood pressure have made choices that led to those conditions – what they ate or whether they exercised,” he said. “But we don’t make the same judgments about them when they seek treatment. Why should addiction be different?”

Stephen Barbour had tried detox in 2013 and again in 2015. He also tried managing his heroin addiction with Suboxone but without success. Late last spring, the Westbrook native ended up at Operation Hope, a program offered by Scarborough police.

In less than 24 hours, Barbour was on an Amtrak train headed to a residential treatment facility in Massachusetts. The staff there treated him like a patient with a disease, but in some ways, that scared Barbour. The idea of having to live with this for the next several years, having to manage his sobriety, weighed on him.

Just as people with addiction struggle with seeing it as a disease, so too do people who have studied the topic extensively.

Gene Heyman, a professor of psychology and addiction at both Boston College and Harvard University, has written extensively about addiction and argues that addiction is voluntary and driven by choices.

“Most addicts keep using until the penalties of excessive use become overwhelming. The signs are the staggering monetary costs addiction exacts on society and the tragic personal costs for those closest to drug users, particularly children,” he wrote in a 2014 New York Times piece. “What research shows is that those we label addicts have the capacity to take control of their lives.”

Heyman is right, but people often need help, like resources and a support system. Those aren’t there for many.

Another professor of psychiatry who has studied addiction – Carl Hart at Columbia University – rejects the premise that addiction is a disease. In a recently published article in Nature, Hart said the collective push to call addiction a disease was driven to help engender empathy in a way that would promote better public policy.

“We are nowhere near being able to distinguish the brains of addicted persons from those of non-addicted individuals,” he wrote. “Despite this, the ‘diseased brain’ perspective has outsize influence on research funding and direction, as well as on how drug use and addiction are viewed in society.”

At some point, though, the language is semantic. The collective response to the drug crisis has still fallen short in almost every metric, particularly the most important one: the number of people dying.


Those who see addiction as a disease point out that opioids change the functioning of the brain and body.

As many as 50 percent of people with a substance abuse problem have a severe, chronic disorder that’s managed only through intensive treatment and continuing aftercare, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

If left untreated over time, addiction becomes more severe, disabling and life-threatening.

Leonard, who has learned through counseling that her upbringing, her relationship with her mother and her genetics all contributed to her addiction, was barreling down that path.

The period between when she started using and when she realized things were out of control was blurry – and remarkably short.

“At first, it would be my reward after a (lousy) day at work,” she said. “Then that turned into: waking up in the morning feeling like (crap). That turned into: It was the only thing on my mind. There was no rational thinking with any of it.”

The first wake-up call came in September 2015 when drug agents came to the house she shared with her boyfriend. He was on probation that included regular unannounced check-ins. On that day, there was heroin in the house. Leonard tried to get rid of it by snorting it. Agents saw her, and she was charged with falsifying evidence. She paid a fine, but her boyfriend went to jail.

“At that point, I hated my life,” she said. “I hated my boyfriend. I couldn’t even look at him. I blamed him for all of this.”

The incident put Leonard on police radar. After she was arrested in April 2016, her father left her in jail for three days. From there, she went to treatment at a residential rehab facility, Crossroads in Portland. She stayed for two weeks before her insurance company informed her that it would no longer cover the cost because it wasn’t necessary.

When she came back home to Peru, she entered an intensive outpatient program, which included Suboxone. She’s not on medication-assisted treatment now and like many in recovery has mixed feelings about it, although she does recognize its value.

Leonard’s support system at the moment is her dad, whom she lives with. She also is on his health insurance, at least for a little while longer, which helps pay for any treatment.

“I’m so lucky to have the resources I do,” she said. “There are so many people who don’t.”

Her legal case has given her incentive to stay clean, but that’s not the only thing.

“I just had this realization that I could easily die alone in my bedroom,” she said. “And I don’t want to do that.”


Even when patients are treated with compassion and medicine, it doesn’t guarantee success.

From the moment Stephen Barbour checked into rehab last year, he rarely left his room. He was given Suboxone to control his cravings but he felt terrible. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t regulate his body temperature. The constant check-ins by staff there drove him crazy.

By the time his third night arrived, Barbour couldn’t do it anymore. He left the facility against medical advice and returned home. He still had some Suboxone stashed away there. He would try to manage it on his own even though he knew he had tried and failed so many times before.

A few weeks after returning home from the treatment facility, Barbour stopped answering his phone or responding to text messages. Notes left on his door also went unanswered.

Treatment experts have come to agree that counseling, sometimes intensive and long-term counseling, coupled with medication-assisted treatment, is the best option but not everybody sticks to it.

Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, said the 21st Century Cures Act, the largest piece of health care legislation since the Affordable Care Act, is an unprecedented step toward addressing the crisis. Enacted late last year, it includes $1 billion for states to spend, mostly to expand treatment.

Meanwhile, drug agents are arresting more people than ever for trafficking in opioids. Sometimes it’s higher-level dealers, but more often it is people like Leonard, caught between crimes and their addiction.

On Feb. 9, she celebrated six months clean, the longest period since she began using. Her treatment consists of group meetings once a week. She worries whether it’s enough.

She wants to learn a trade and have a career but also worries about what kind of opportunities she’ll have with a felony drug conviction. She’d like to get into a deferred sentencing program, like drug court, but the county where she lives doesn’t offer it.

That means she could likely spend time in jail. Her lawyer has been talking to prosecutors about a plea deal and she is scheduled to be back in court in April.

What she really wants is to get out of western Maine, which is rife with opioid use.

“It’s like a war zone,” she said. “I don’t have enough clean time to be around people using, I know that.”

When she feels a craving, she remembers it’s the disease and that it will pass. She gets in her truck and drives. She turns the music on and tries to think about life six months or a year down the road. Life without opioids.

“I’m just trying to do the next right thing,” she said. “If you put enough good karma out there, eventually you get to watch it come back.”



'I knew he was struggling': Prince's ex-wife speaks out about the pop icon's devastating addiction, secret overdoses and drug stashes

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

  • Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia has written a book about the couple’s marriage
  • She describes a number of concerning incidents with the pop icon
  • The couple’s child died just two days after he was born – which was said to have exacerbated Prince’s addiction


By Anna Hopkins For

PUBLISHED: 13:55 EDT, 28 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:05 EDT, 28 March 2017
Pop icon Prince’s decades-long struggle with drugs has been revealed by his ex-wife in her explosive new memoir The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince. Mayte Garcia, now 43, spoke of concerning red flags throughout the couple’s relationship, including a secret overdose, and hidden drug stashes. The two were married for four years, during which they tragically lost a child just two days after he was born, which is said to have further derailed the singer. Garcia exclusively told Radar that she tried for years to dismiss her ex-husband’s addiction – and believed him when he told her it was nothing. ‘Looking back, I can see it was something else. I didn’t see it then. Maybe because I didn’t want to,’ she said. She goes on to describe a number of times in which he was acting ‘loopy,’ which was out of character for the artist, because he rarely got sick.
Garcia said that she never saw Prince consume any drugs, other than Vitamin B shots. However, on a number of ‘disturbing’ incidents, she said that her then-husband told her that he had migraines, which nearly a year after his tragic death, haunt her as the predecessor of something much more serious.

One particularly severe incident occurred near the end of the couple’s marriage, when she found him extremely ill and on the verge of tears in Los Angeles.


‘He told me there were pills in the hotel room,’ she said. ‘He wanted me to go back up there and flush them down the toilet.’
Radar reported that soon after Garcia found out she was pregnant with the couple’s son Amiir, Prince was taken to the hospital after suffering an apparent overdose.

One of his security guards reportedly found him unconscious, with ‘vomit on the floor,’ and the pop prince needed his stomach pumped and a charcoal treatment.

He told them he’d only mixed aspirin and wine – and insisted to Garcia that it was a ‘stupid mistake’ that would never happen again. She took his word for it, and the two never discussed it for the remainder of their marriage. The couple’s son Amiir – which means Prince in Arabic – died of a rare congenital disease just two days after he was born in October of 1996.

Following Amiir’s death, Garcia said that she ‘knew he was struggling’ after finding red wine spilled in a hallway and more vomit in a bathroom. Prince spiraled into a depression after his son’s death, and cancelled two of his tour stops in December 1996. Garcia, meanwhile, was prescribed powerful Vicodin following her painful cesarean section from the tragic birth. When the pills started disappearing, she assumed Prince had done it to benefit her.
‘I assumed he was hiding them to keep me from hurting myself,’ she said.

‘In retrospect, I don’t know what to think.’

Doctor D – who exclusively revealed Prince’s long term prescription drug addiction to the at the time of the star’s death – said: ‘The mix of hydrocodone and fentanyl is not something that happens by mistake, it’s a combination that a dealer can make up for his client.
Officials tested pills seized from Prince’s Minnesota estate on the day he died. The stash included two dozen hydrocodone pills – commonly known as Vicodin – that officials found concealed in an Aleve bottle. The pills were engraved with the standard hydrocodone labeling of ‘Watson 385,’ but after they were tested officials learned that they actually contained fentanyl, the very potent and highly addictive opioid responsible for the Purple Rain singer’s death.

America’s opioid epidemic is worsening

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

States are losing the battle against deadly drugs like heroin and fentanyl

Mar 6th 2017 by THE DATA TEAM

 ON TUESDAY February 28th, in an address to a joint session of Congress, Donald Trump vowed to end America’s “terrible drug epidemic”. When discussing America’s social ills, Mr Trump has a tendency to exaggerate. But on the subject of drugs, the president’s characteristically dark and apocalyptic tone may well have been warranted.

In 2015 more than 52,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. That is an average of one death every ten minutes. Approximately 33,000 of these fatal overdoses—nearly two-thirds of them—were from opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin. Although the absolute death toll from opioids is greatest in big cities like Chicago and Baltimore, the devastation is most concentrated in rural Appalachia, New England and the Midwest (see map). Many of the victims hail from white middle-class suburbs and rural towns.

The opioid epidemic has its roots in the explosive growth of prescription painkillers. Between 1991 and 2011, the number of opioid prescriptions (selling under brand names like Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet) supplied by American retail pharmacies increased from 76m to 219m. As the number of pain pills being doled out by doctors increased, so did their potency. In 2002 one in six users took a pill more powerful than morphine. By 2012 it was one in three.

States have since cracked down on prescription opioid abuse, creating drug-monitoring programmes and arresting unscrupulous doctors. Pharmaceutical companies have reformulated their drugs to make them less prone to abuse. Unfortunately, as the supply of painkillers has dropped, many addicts have turned instead to heroin (see chart), which is cheap and plentiful. In 2014 more Americans sought treatment for heroin than for any other drug. In 2015, as total opioid deaths grew by 15%, heroin deaths increased by 23%.

To stem the tide of deadly overdoses, states rely increasingly on naloxone, a drug that reverses heroin’s effect on the brain and jump-starts breathing in addicts who have overdosed. First approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1971, naloxone has been used by doctors and paramedics for decades. In recent years, states struggling with a surge in overdose deaths have passed laws making the drug available to police officers, firefighters and addicts’ friends and family. A recent working paper suggests that such laws—which are now on the books in 45 states and in Washington, DC—reduce opioid-related deaths by 9-11%.

That is still not enough. Data released in recent months show that the opioid epidemic is worsening, driven largely by the rise of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. In 2016 fatal overdoses increased by 26% in Connecticut, 35% in Delaware, and 39% in Maine. During the first three quarters of 2016, deadly overdoses in Maryland jumped by a whopping 62%, prompting the state’s governor to declare an official state of emergency. Mr Trump’s promise to end the scourge of opioid abuse in America is looking more challenging by the day.




Drug & Alcohol Interventions – What Drug Addiction Treatment Specialists Think

Posted on: March 27th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Accesswire March 23, 2017


The Drug Addiction Treatment Specialists at Summit Behavioral Health Treatment Centers in NJ, PA, and MA Weigh in on the Effectiveness of Drug Interventions

UNION, NJ / ACCESSWIRE / March 23, 2017 / Addiction doesn’t only affect the person suffering from the disorder. It affects the problem drinker or drug taker’s family and friends in a major way. It’s often difficult to get the person in active addiction to see that they need help for their substance abuse problem, no matter how many times a loved one says it. Many times, the substance abusers are in denial about their drug or alcohol use or they minimize it, so they don’t believe that they need treatment. Other times, it is fear that keeps them from seeking help, offer the drug addiction treatment specialists at Summit Behavioral Health.

If your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you may have considered taking action through a formal intervention to get your loved one to accept help. This option provides your loved one with a choice to change his or her life before suffering more negative consequences.

This post will look at the pros and cons of drug and alcohol interventions, as outlined by Summit’s drug addiction treatment specialists, and then you can make your own decision whether it’s right for your loved one.

What is an Intervention?

Interventions are thoughtfully planned out processes that are typically done by a chemically dependent person’s family and friends, in consultation with a doctor, addiction therapist, or an interventionist. Sometimes others are present, including coworkers, clergy, or those who are close to and care about the person who is addicted.

The intervention involves these people gathering together in an effort to confront the addict about the consequences of addiction and make an offer of drug or alcohol treatment. Each person attending tells the person suffering from addiction how his or her addictive behaviors are destructive and how they impact those around them. A prearranged offer of treatment is extended to the drug or alcohol addicted person, and then each person explains what they will do if the addicted person refuses to accept the offer of treatment. The hope is that they will see how his or her addiction is causing negative consequences, that they will not have the support of their loved ones if they continue to use, and that going into drug addiction treatment is really their only good choice.

What Happens During an Intervention?

Usually, an intervention follows these steps:

  1.   A loved one usually initiates the intervention and gathers a group of people who care  about  the addicted person to form a planning group. It is a good idea for the groups to  have a  professional, neutral third-party to help organize the intervention – a psychologist,  interventionist, or addiction specialist.
  2.  Collect information.The group members discuss the substance abuser’s situation, the  extent of his or her addiction and negative consequences, and research possible treatment  options. At this point, the group may make arrangements to enroll the addicted person into  a treatment program.
  3.  Form the team.The planning group decides on who will participate in the intervention. A  date is set for the intervention and the members work on how they will present the  message to their loved one.
  4.  Determine consequences. Each person on the intervention team has to decide what the  consequences will be should the person with the addiction problem refuse treatment. For  example, they will no longer be welcome in their homes, or they will no longer give the  addicted person any money.
  5.  Decide what to say.Each team member decides specifically what he or she will say to their  loved one about how his or her addiction has negatively affected both the addict and the  family member or friend. Team members may write letters to the person in active addiction  or speak from notes, but preparation is essential.
  6.  Hold the intervention.The addicted individual is asked to the intervention meeting site  without having the reason revealed. The team then takes turns expressing their feelings  and concerns, reading their letters or notes. Then the chemically dependent person is  presented with a choice to go to the prearranged treatment program on the spot. The team  members present the consequences they will face should he or she refuse treatment.
  7.  Follow through.This step involves the person suffering from addiction going to treatment  or the team members will follow through on their consequences. The hope is that the  substance abuser will go to treatment, and that the family members will take an active role  in his or her recovery, often seeking help for themselves, as well.

The success of an intervention requires that the whole intervention process is carefully planned and executed. The message to the addict shouldn’t be confrontational, otherwise it could worsen the situation.

Do Interventions Work?

There isn’t a lot of information available on the effectiveness of interventions, due to the fact that effectiveness isn’t easily defined. Addicts are more likely to accept treatment when they are presented with an intervention than to seek it out themselves, but interventions don’t affect the overall outcome of addiction treatment. The drug dependent person has to be committed to getting and staying sober rather than just caving to the pressure applied in an intervention in order to attain long-term recovery.

Interventions are best used as a last resort for people suffering from drug disorders who have consistently refused to go to treatment or who continually relapses when they try to stay clean. When people with addiction problems who are deeply into their substance abuse have strong support and access to treatment, they are more likely to accept and benefit from the help they receive.

Risks Associated with Interventions

Staging an intervention, even if it is unsuccessful, doesn’t pose a psychological risk to the addicted individual or make their addiction worse. The risk is a disruption or disturbance in the relationships between the addict and loved ones. If the sufferer who is in active addiction refuses treatment, the intervention team must be prepared to follow through on the consequences they have named. This may be very difficult for those family members who have a history of enabling their family member.

Making Interventions More Effective

Using an interventionist or other drug addiction professional to guide you through the intervention process is very helpful. They can act as a mediator if things get off track during the intervention, defuse tense moments, and improve the possibility of success. The following steps are also helpful when intervening with your loved one:

  • Try to schedule the intervention at a time when the person who is in active drug/alcohol addiction will be the least stressed. If they are distracted, it will be hard for him or her to hear what is being said.
  • Don’t use shame or guilt during the intervention. Talk about how drug addiction has caused the problems and behaviors and has harmed the addict’s loved ones. Make a distinction between the sufferer and his addiction.
  • Be specific, but concise. Offer very specific ways that their addiction has affected you, but don’t ramble on – that can be overwhelming. Have what you plan to say written down so you stay on track.
  • Have a treatment plan ready. The goal is to get them to go to alcohol or drug treatment immediately following the intervention. This point is crucial because you don’t want to allow any time for them to change his or her mind.
  • Follow through with consequences. This may be hard, but it is the only way to help the drug abuser. Make sure that he or she knows that your help is available as long as he or she is getting help and staying clean, but that you will not help him or her continue with their active addiction.

For additional reading on this topic please go to, Is an Intervention Right For Your Loved One?

Interventions are emotionally exhausting for everyone involved, but they are often the only thing that can get the person with the substance abuse disorder to treatment. Whether interventions work or not depends on the willingness of the individual suffering from substance abuse and the support of the family. To learn more about interventions, reach out to the drug addiction treatment specialists at Summit Behavioral Health.

Media Contact HQ:

Rene William
(908) 364-5755


Critics: GOP health plan risky for mental health, addiction progress

Posted on: March 23rd, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Jayne O’Donnell , USA TODAY Published 10:57 a.m. ET March 22, 2017


House Republicans’ Affordable Care Act replacement plan would dramatically change who is eligible for free or low-cost health coverage, which critics fear could drastically slash mental health and addiction coverage, which many people got for the first time under the law.

USA TODAY hosted a Facebook Live with Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health and Samuel Hedgepeth, who was able to get treatment for his mental health and substance abuse disorders through the expansion of Medicaid in Maryland. Hedgepeth, who served 10 years in prison for drug-fueled firearm charges, has been sober for seven months thanks to medication and treatment. Rosenberg says the cuts to Medicaid that would result from enactment of the American Health Care Act would lead to more overdose deaths and higher costs due to incarceration and emergency room visits.

Mental health and addiction treatment is among the 10 essential benefits plans purchased on the ACA exchanges must cover and the requirement also includes the plans for Medicaid recipients who gained coverage under the  ACA’s expansion of Medicaid.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated recently the earlier version of the American Health Care Act being considered this week in Congress would reduce the number of people with Medicaid by 14 million in 10 years. Under changes released Monday night, states could require able-bodied Medicaid recipients without dependents to work beginning in October. States also could receive Medicaid funding as a lump sum instead of a per capita allotment. The revised bill also would repeal taxes on the wealthy, the insurance industry and others in 2017 instead of 2018.

Medicaid is the single largest payer of mental health and addiction treatment services in the country, paying 25% of all mental health and 20% of all addiction care.

“Many will instead end up homeless, in jail or dead,” says Rosenberg.

Lisa Smith, whose recently published memoir, Girl Walks Out of a Bar, chronicles her former substance abuse, says the proposed cuts to Medicaid coverage and ACA subsidies ” will make life worse or impossible for many people who suffer.”

To those who say, “no one is ever denied care,”  she says her addictions masked depressive disorder, which required far more treatment than an emergency room could provide.

By the time she entered treatment about 13 years ago, she was bleeding internally and needed alcohol to go to sleep and alcohol and cocaine to get up in the morning.

“I would not have survived if I did not have access to treatment at the time,” says the Manhattan lawyer who now works in legal marketing.

Smith, who has also written about the effectiveness of medication for her depressive disorder, says she tried to go off her antidepressant about 18 months after getting sober, but called her therapist and said she was just days away from drinking again.

“I firmly believe that if i wasn’t getting continuing care and the medication to stay sober, I would relapse into alcoholism and would be dead,” says Smith.

While limiting Medicaid services for childless adults may adversely affect people who have mental health and/or substance abuse issues, former Republican Senate Finance Committee aide Christopher Condeluci  notes that no matter what the House decides, Medicaid coverage would still be available if a person’s condition is considered a disability.  He also believes that it would require an act of Congress — not Health and Human Services action — to get rid of the mental health and addiction coverage on its own.

“Also, exceptions could be put into the law which could allow childless adults with these conditions to qualify for Medicaid services if, for example, they enroll in certain programs, like a substance abuse rehabilitation program or some sort of counseling for mental health-related conditions,” says Condeluci. “There are ways to provide assistance to this population.”

On Tuesday, the Urban Institute released a new report that found the limited allotment of federal Medicaid contributions per enrollee as proposed in the AHCA could cut $734 billion in federal and state Medicaid spending between 2019 and 2028.

In Ohio, which has been particularly hard hit by the opioid crisis, Gov. John Kasich’s administration projected the state would have to raise its spending by $7.8 billion over eight years to keep its expansion of Medicaid under the ACA. And if the state repealed its expansion, 750,000 people would lose Medicaid, most of whom would end up uninsured. Ohio also projects that its overall Medicaid program would exceed its per capita cap allotments by 2025, forcing the state to cover all costs above the cap or curtail services to children, seniors, and people with disabilities, according to a state roundup out this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Katey Sagal Opens Up About 15-Year Battle With Drug Addiction in New Memoir

Posted on: March 22nd, 2017 by sobrietyresources

by Jackie Willis 9:30 AM PDT, March 21, 2017

Katey Sagal says her battle with drug and alcohol addiction began at a young age.

In her new memoir, Grace Notes: My Recollections, the Sons of Anarchy star recalls growing up in Hollywood and living near Judy Garland and her daughter, Lorna Luft, when she was 12. Sagal writes that she and Luft quickly became “neighborhood buddies,” and claims in her book that both their mothers were abusing prescription pills.


“Lorna’s mom had a lot of pills on her bedside table and slept past noon just like my mom,” Sagal says. “We hung tight. And, of course, I thought everyone’s mom took a lot of pills.”


At age 14, Sagal writes that she was prescribed diet pills, which she says “gave me a way to fix what ailed me — just like my mom had with her pills for as long as I could remember.” This ultimately led to the 63-year-old actress’ 15-year battle with diet pills, cocaine and alcohol addiction.

Also in the memoir, Sagal claims she had a longtime affair with KISS band member Gene Simmons in her early 20s. “At first, I thought Gene was really weird,” she recalls of meeting and flirting with the rocker when she was a singing waitress at a bar in Santa Monica, California. “I took him home with me that night because he was quite persuasive, and I like men.”

Sagal says she and Simmons had an on-again, off-again relationship for years, but it ended after she told him that she was going to marry musician Freddie Beckmeier unless he proposed. She writes that Simmons laughed off the idea and she went on to have a three-year marriage with Beckmeier, followed by a seven-year marriage to drummer Jack White, with whom she had two children. She is currently married to Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter and they have one child.



Recovered from addiction, advocates help Atlantic City's homeless and addicted

Posted on: March 21st, 2017 by sobrietyresources

NICOLE LEONARD, Staff Writer, March 21, 2017.

ATLANTIC CITY — Susan Howell-Iacovone pulled up to the curb near the corner of Texas and Pacific avenues in her beige Toyota on a recent Monday morning.

In pullover hoodies and jeans, she and friend Mike McGaffney jumped out of the car and started talking with people walking by on the sidewalks or waiting in line for free sandwiches at a religious ministry on the corner.

Iacovone popped the trunk, and inside were dozens of clear Ziplock bags filled with snacks, drinks, toiletries, handwritten notes of encouragement and resource information, ready to be given to anyone walking by who looked in need.

Iacovone, of Northfield, helped bring the Angels in Motion “blessing bags” program to Atlantic City in September to increase supportive services for people suffering from addiction and/or homelessness.

“These people are human beings just like everyone else,” she said. “They need to know people care about them, and the resource list in the bag is for them to find help treatment if they decide to do that. And if they do, we’re there for them.”

The two friends distribute bags several times a week with other volunteers of Angels in Motion, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit started by Carol Rostucher in 2015 as she searched the city for her son, who struggled with a heroin addiction.

In previous years, experts from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated more than 40 percent of people living homeless across the country had a severe mental illness or chronic substance-use disorder.

There were 476 people living homeless in Atlantic County in 2016, according to the statewide count lead by Monarch Housing Associates.

Living and surviving on the streets while battling heroin and other drug addictions is something Iacovone and McGaffney know well. They had used drugs together, drifting from place to place.

Iacovone remembered when a bag with meager belongings was the only thing to her name when she was high and eating out of the garbage in places such as Atlantic City, Philadelphia and even Las Vegas. But you wouldn’t know that now looking at the soon-to-be student in a master’s program for social work.

As he handed out blessing bags to men and women who approached him, some worse for wear, McGaffney, of Pleasantville, looked around at the places he used to visit and stay when he was addicted in Atlantic City.

“Susie and I have been friends for years, and we’d be up for days back then talking about doing something like this,” he said. “When we go out into the streets now, we see who we used to be, the things we used to do. And now we give those people a hug and help them if we can.”

Blessing bags are put together with food, drink and toiletry donations every couple weeks at organized blessing-bag parties, where as many as 30 people donate supplies and volunteer their time.

On Sunday afternoon, everyone met at Grace Falls Church in Absecon. Snacks, drinks and other food were piled onto long tables while wipes, toothbrushes, toothpastes, deodorant and tissues were separated into little bags.

Kathy Gitto, originally from Brigantine who now lives with her family in Washington Township, Burlington County, thinks about her daughter when she puts the bags together. Ashley lived in the Atlantic City area and on the streets while addicted to heroin. Gitto said she stayed in touch with her daughter through calls, but didn’t always know where she was.

“She would sometimes call and just ask if we could put food in a box for her outside the house, which she’d come and get while we were out,” Gitto said. “She was too ashamed to come home. I think this program is a good start to get parents involved. Someone else’s kids are out there on the streets, too.”

Ashley died in 2015 from a heart infection that doctors traced back to her use of dirty needles during her addiction to heroin, Gitto said.

Sam Yarns, 34, was in line last week for some lunch at the corner ministry in Atlantic City when Iacovone pulled up with blessing bags in her trunk. Yarns hadn’t eaten in a week, and she took a bag from the woman with long blond hair and a hug for everyone.

Yarns, a mother of three children who live with family members in Bridgeton, had suffered a cocaine addiction for years, repeatedly trying to get clean. She met Iacovone again the next day and asked her to be her recovery sponsor.

She entered addiction treatment last Monday.

“When I took the blessing bag back to where I had been staying, there was a note in there that said, ‘Don’t give up,’” Yarns said. “Just going to treatment is baby steps for me, but this time, I’m finally doing it for myself. I want a normal life.”



Nektar painkiller aims to avoid buzz that feeds addiction

Posted on: March 20th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Researchers point to ‘quantum leap’ in developing drugs to help combat opioid epidemic

David Crow in New York, March 20th, 2017


A US biotech company claims to have discovered a new opioid that can treat pain symptoms without generating the euphoric feeling that has fuelled America’s addiction crisis.A US biotech company claims to have discovered a new opioid that can treat pain symptoms without generating the euphoric feeling that has fuelled America’s addiction crisis.
Nektar Therapeutics, based in San Francisco, says the drug has a novel chemical structure which means it crosses the blood-brain barrier more slowly than traditional opioids such as Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin, also known as “hillbilly heroin” for its highly addictive properties.  Drugmakers are racing to come up with a new generation of painkillers amid a US opioid addiction crisis that has been described as a national epidemic by the authorities, with 91 people dying each day by overdosing on the drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  More Americans now die from drug overdoses than from car crashes or gun violence, and more than 26m are being treated for addiction, according to CDC figures.  “We think we’ve made a huge quantum leap forward,” said Stephen Doberstein, chief scientific officer at Nektar. “It’s a fundamentally different approach that separates the analgesic efficacy from the addictive side effects.” Nektar shares shot up nearly 30 per cent on the back of the announcement and were trading at $19.98 at lunchtime in New York.


Many of the bigger, diversified pharma companies have either steered clear of opioids or scaled back their operations in recent years. But a handful of companies rely heavily on sales of opioid painkillers, including Depomed and Purdue. Others, such as Endo Pharmaceuticals and Mallinckrodt, generate a large chunk of their revenue from the pills. Nektar on Monday released the results of a large clinical trial of its drug, codenamed NKTR-181, which showed the medicine was as effective as traditional opioids at treating chronic back pain. Patient pain scores dropped by an average of 65 per cent during one part of the study.


A separate study into the abuse potential of NKTR-181 showed that patients taking the recommended dose reported significantly lower “drug liking” scores than for OxyContin, because the drug acted more slowly on the central nervous system.  Mr Doberstein said the company was conducting another trial to determine whether patients would become high or euphoric if they took significantly more than the recommended maximum dose of 400mg.  However, some doctors have argued that the US needs to dramatically reduce the number of opioids that are prescribed to patients rather than allowing pharmaceutical companies to launch new versions of the medicines.

Dr Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid research at the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy, said the problem with prescribing an opioid for a chronic condition such as lower back pain was that the drugs were “simply not that effective — even if there is less euphoria”.  Dr Kolodny warned patients could still become “physiologically dependent” on opioids even if they did not experience a buzz, and said they might need to take increasingly higher doses of the medicine to achieve the same reduction in pain.  “Among the leading experts in the country who study back pain the consensus is ‘don’t give opioids,’” he said. “Not simply because of the fear of addiction, but because they are not effective if taken for a long time and can even make the pain worse.”  “It’s not like we don’t have other good options,” he added, listing alternatives such as ibuprofen and non-pharmaceutical interventions including physical therapy and weight loss.  The city of Everett, Washington, recently said it would sue Purdue for its alleged role in fueling the area’s opioid crisis, while the state of West Virginia has filed lawsuits against companies who distributed or prescribed the medicines, such as Walgreens and CVS.



Ben Affleck: 'I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction'

Posted on: March 15th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Andrea Mandell , USA TODAY

Published 7:05 p.m. ET March 14, 2017

Ben Affleck has revealed he recently underwent treatment for alcohol addiction.

“I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction; something I’ve dealt with in the past and will continue to confront,” the actor wrote on his Facebook page.

He continued, noting his family has been top of mind. “I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step.”

Affleck, 44, previously completed treatment for alcohol addiction in 2001.

After completing his press tour for the poorly received gangster movie Live by Night (awarded just a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) Affleck took a step back from the spotlight in the past two months, stepping down as director of the upcoming film, The Batman on Jan. 30.

Affleck said he would still star as the caped crusader.

“Performing this role demands focus, passion and the very best performance I can give. It has become clear that I cannot do both jobs to the level they require,” Affleck said in a statement at that time.

Affleck only recently appeared at a public event at the Oscars on Feb. 26, sitting with his brother Casey Affleck and cheering him on as Casey won the best actor prize for his work in Manchester by the Sea. “Ben, I love you,” said Casey from the stage.

Though he and his wife, Jennifer Garner, announced a split in June 2015, outlets including People recently reported the two are working on reconciliation. They have three children: Violet, 11, Seraphina, 8 and Samuel, 5.

“I’m lucky to have the love of my family and friends, including my co-parent, Jen, who has supported me and cared for our kids as I’ve done the work I set out to do,” Affleck wrote on Tuesday, in closing. “This was the first of many steps being taken towards a positive recovery.”

Affleck’s next film is the superhero confab Justice League, in theaters Nov. 17.


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