Archive for August, 2017

Ohio Records 4,050 Drug Deaths – Up 33 Percent from 2015

Posted on: August 31st, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Fatal drug overdoses keep spiraling in Ohio, with the powerful opioid fentanyl fueling a record 4,050 deaths last year — 1,000 more than in 2015.
Despite increased state spending, legislation and debate on Ohio’s drug crisis, last year’s death toll was 33-percent higher, according to the annual report on unintentional drug overdose deaths released Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Health.

The report hit hard with Tonda DeRe, a Carrollton, Ohio, woman who lost her daughter, Holly Noel Jenkins, to a heroin overdose in 2012. She since has formed a support group, Holly’s Song of Hope, and testified before Congress.

“I pulled up that report and my stomach just tossed,” she told The Dispatch. “I just saw 4,000 Hollys, 4,000 sons and daughters of Ohio. That’s a jet airplane out of the sky and nothing’s being done about it.”
“We’ve got to step messing around and get more treatment,” DaRe said. “We need more treatment.”

While deaths from heroin stayed about the same last year at 1,444, deaths attributable to fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, shot up, accounting for 58.2 percent of deaths, up from 37.9 percent in 2015. There were 3,050 overdose deaths in all of 2015, a figure that led the nation.

The prime victims of fentanyl, much of which is illegally imported from China, were ages 25 to 34, with more male than female victims, the report showed.

There was an improvement in the number of deaths from prescription opioids, which were at the lowest level since 2009, according to the report. The total number of opioids dispensed to Ohioans dropped by 162 million doses, 20.4 percent, between 2012 and 2016. New prescription limits begin Thursday.

But cocaine-related overdose deaths skyrocketed nearly 62 percent, from 685 in 2015 to 1,109 in 2016. Coroners’ reports indicated that the death toll increased because opiates, including fentanyl, are being mixed with cocaine, rendering a deadly combination.

“The continued increase in opioid-related deaths reaffirms that we still have much work to do, but Ohio is seeing important progress in reducing the number of prescription opioids available for abuse and prescription-related overdose deaths,” said Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “This progress is significant because prescription opioid abuse is frequently a gateway to heroin and fentanyl use later on.”

Franklin County recorded 314 deaths, third highest in the state, up from 279 in 2015. Cuyahoga was highest at 547, up from 275 the previous year. while Montgomery was second most deadly with an increase from 320 to 239, the report showed.

Largely rural Holmes County, one of only two counties to have no deaths in 2015, recorded four fatal overdoses last year.
Tracy Plouck, director of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, acknowledged the higher death toll is disappointing. She added, “This is not something that unfolded overnight and it’s not something we can remedy overnight.”

Asked if the state should declare an emergency in response to the drug crisis, Plouck said, “We have treated this as an emergency for the past six years. I don’t know that declaring an emergency would allow us to do anything different tactically.”

Jon Keeling, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, said, “Preventing addiction in the first place is a priority, and we’re making progress there, but we have a ways to go … We have to convince our young people and those that struggle that they have a purpose in their lives and that the use of drugs will destroy it and all the good that they can do in their lives.”

Angela Sausser, executive director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, said the crisis is fueling the numbers of children without homes. “As Ohio continues to be devastated by rapidly increasing numbers of opioid overdose deaths, the children services system is experiencing similar climbs in the foster care population. Ohio’s foster care population grew by 10% in just one year to over 15,000 children. Compared to 2010, 22% more Ohio children are in foster care today.”

Lori Criss, chief executive officer of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers, said, “Ohio’s addiction epidemic has surged to unthinkable proportions. Current efforts are falling woefully short. It’s time to turn the state’s full attention to the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.”

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni was blunt. “It makes me sick,” the Boardman Democrat said. “Almost every community says they are the epicenter because that’s the way they feel. The fact that the problem is getting worse shows that what we’re doing isn’t working.”

Cheri Walter, chief executive officer of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, observed, “Bad as the the 2016 numbers are, if not for efforts against the epidemic, fatalities would have been much worse. “Fentanyl just changed the game. “The bottom line is that the people who are dying are in their 20s, 30s and 40s.”

The Kasich administration said it is investing about $1 billion each year in the drug fight, much of it through the Medicaid expansion for drug addiction treatment. Other efforts include using the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, investing in drug courts, providing housing for addicted Ohioans, and increasing illegal drug seizures. Kasich also proposed up to $20 million to support new scientific breakthroughs in fighting drug abuse through the Third Frontier Commission.

By Alan Johnson
Aug. 31, 2017

Vaccines For Opioid Addiction Nowhere Close to Reality, Experts Say

Posted on: August 25th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

(CNN)Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price this week touted the potential for a vaccine to help with opioid addiction, but those on the front lines say such products are nowhere close to a reality.

The research may be exciting, say experts working on a vaccine, but they caution against people getting their hopes up for a loved one currently in need, because the vaccines are years away from production. Even with President Donald Trump declaring the opioid epidemic an emergency on Thursday, experts say, the move does little to bring addiction vaccines to the market quicker.
In fact, no vaccine for opioid addiction has been tested in humans. There would have to be phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3 trials before any such product could reach the US Food and Drug Administration for approval, assuming it showed promising results.

“It’s a long process, and it takes years,” said Dr. Ivan Montoya, acting director of the Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr. Thomas R. Kosten, a professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine who has worked on addiction vaccines for over two decades, said Price is a bit too optimistic.

“He may be a physician, but he’s not terribly well-informed about addictions,” Kosten said. “I can’t imagine the vaccine would be on the market before the Trump administration is over.”

Kosten worked on a cocaine vaccine for more than 16 years before a study showed that “it just didn’t work well enough for us to continue.” He is now working on what he hopes could be a fentanyl vaccine, but “there’s quite a ways to go.” Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine — and is one of the most potent and lethal drugs available.
“There are no opiate vaccines that have been in people at this point,” Kosten said.

He emphasized that any addiction vaccine would be therapeutic, not preventative, meaning it would be used for people already struggling with addiction. Doctors won’t “mass-immunize a whole bunch of kids,” he said. “That’s not at all what they’re designed for.”

Montoya said that some of the vaccines in initial testing have showed promise in animals, but “sometimes, the translation from animals is not necessarily the same in humans. So we have to do the human studies.”

His agency funds research on the development of innovative approaches for substance-abuse disorder, including the funding for vaccine research. The biggest challenge in creating an effective opioid vaccine, he said, is being “able to fight it in the bloodstream before it gets to the brain.”

The most exciting thing about the concept of an addiction vaccine, he said, is the ability to use one’s immune system to fight drug abuse: “We don’t have to modify the brain to produce the effect. You take advantage of your own immune system and prevent access of the drug to the brain.”

His ideal vaccine would be one that treats multiple opioids. “One vaccine would cover, say, fentanyl, heroin and Oxycontin,” Montoya said. “That is our dream.”
It’s a dream, he acknowledged, that is years down the road.

Since 1999, the number of American overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died of drug overdoses, and opioids account for the majority of those.

During a news conference on the epidemic Tuesday, Price listed several initiatives the government is leading to help combat the growing crisis. He applauded research being done by the National Institutes of Health: “One of the exciting things that they’re actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is incredibly exciting.”

Why would the secretary tout something that may never come to fruition?
Montoya would say only that maybe Price “saw the mechanism and got excited about the approach.”

“I’m a scientist. I don’t get into the political aspect,” he said. “My interest as a scientist is to get as much support from the government to advance science as efficiently as possible.”

Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the nonpartisan nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, said he wishes the administration would focus more on the here and now — to help the millions of Americans currently caught up in the opioid epidemic.
“I think a lot of people are going to needlessly die if steps are not taken now to eliminate barriers to the full range of medication-assisted treatments and make naloxone (the antidote used to save people) as widely available in every community, as President Trump’s bipartisan opioid commission has recommended,” Smith said.

By Wayne Drash

The Stigma of Addiction Is More Dangerous Than Drug Overdoses

Posted on: August 15th, 2017 by sobrietyresources

People in recovery aren’t feeling the stigma. It comes from people who don’t understand addiction.

There’s this look people get when I tell them I’m a heroin addict. It’s a blank, panicked stare. As though I’d delivered some fatal news. It’s Stage Four, I may as well say. We don’t know how long I’ve got left.
Because when I say I’m an alcoholic and a heroin addict, what they think I mean is that I’m dying. That I have this illness, this deadly illness that is actually killing one person in this country every four minutes, one person who has no idea what they’re in for, and that I am doomed, with a mark on me. The word addiction is not a disorder, to them. It’s a death sentence. It is shorthand for tragedy.


Never mind that I’ve been sober and in recovery for more than 10 years. That doesn’t matter, to the people who don’t know how this disease really works. They expect me to be ashamed of myself. To them, addiction is code for Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, grunge, needles, misery. They assume that I shot up. I must have stolen and lied, to pay for my habit. I must be a criminal. Maybe I am morally infirm as well.


I will say this: my addiction has guaranteed me a life that is never going to be boring.


I started drinking when I was 13, swallowing what was left in the wine glasses after dinner. I drank alone, because I was rarely invited to parties. I was sensitive to the cool, dark river than ran just under the surface of my life, its purple currents always tugging at me, urging me to take the plunge. When I finally did, I was relieved at what drugs and alcohol did for me. Suddenly, my life made sense. Everything clicked into place — I knew who I was. I dove into my drug use, not looking back at the shore until I was far beyond reach.


I didn’t realize how deep my addiction was until I tried to stop using. The first time, I lasted a couple of days, and then relapsed. That night, head bobbing, sick, I sat on the porch smoking a cigarette. I was crying. I hadn’t meant to use, and I didn’t want to be high. I lowered its burning cherry to my knee and brushed its burning tip to my skin. The pain seared through my leg, but I continued. My hand was steady. Negative reinforcement. That will make me not do this again. I still have a perfectly round scar on the spot where I finally extinguished it.


I took a week off after that, and then overdosed in my bedroom. I remember lying there, the rolled up dollar bill and trace of powder on the mirror by my bed. My eyes were glued to the clock. The red minute hand agitated across its face, shivering each time it clicked into place. Tick. Tick. I wanted to be conscious, but my heartbeat slowed, and slowed, and the muscle in my chest felt as though it was being buried under a pile of stones. I remember the moment that it stopped beating.


I must be dead, I thought. I waited.


When I came to, the first thing I heard was the sound of beating wings, as though an angel stood in each corner of the room. It was the sound of my heart, spontaneously beginning to beat again. I was soaked in sweat and vomit. My face was streaked with blood, thin, iron poor blood as pink as a rabbit’s nose. I had a pulse. Erratic. I rolled onto my side. This time, I was going to stop. I knew I was lucky to be alive. I knew that what I’d just experienced was a miracle, a one-time act of mercy. The cheap substance cut into the dope I’d snorted chased around my nervous system, making my muscles spasm. I was thirsty. My eyes hurt. I stayed where I was, promising whatever God had spared me that I was finally going to clean up my act.


It wasn’t that easy. I kept using. Was I a tragic figure? I liked to think so. I was too thin, pale, and erratic. I saw myself as an artiste, the kind of person who dies with a trunk full of unpublished stories and is discovered as their generation’s great genius. In reality, I wrote massive quantities of trash. I was talented but undisciplined. And young, too. I was 23 when I got sober, which felt like years too late.


Leaving my addiction behind was not easy. Life without drugs and alcohol was, at first, even harder than life getting loaded every day. It seemed like every movie, song, and short story somehow glorified the misery of heroin or alcohol abuse. I was tired of reading work by drunk, entitled writers; I was tired of celebrity obituaries that listed the deadly cocktail the autopsy found in their blood. I was tired of the loud gay bars, the screaming girls taking shots, the way that alcohol was weirdly everywhere. I just wanted to live my life. I didn’t need anyone to tell me who I was.


There is a stigma attached to addiction which can be deadly. But it’s not my stigma — I stopped carrying that shame and embarrassment around years ago, if I ever felt it at all. I experience this stigma when I share my identity with people who aren’t addicts, who don’t know someone in recovery, or who hold onto the idea that people like me are somehow second class citizens.


It’s not my stigma. It’s yours. And your ignorance and fear is a much greater risk to me than a relapse. Your problem with addiction is much more likely to kill me than my problem with it. It’s time to change the story about substance use disorder, and that doesn’t necessarily start with me. It starts with the story you’re telling yourself about me.


Less than 10% of people like me end up asking for treatment, or medical help of any kind, for their substance problems. Less than 10%. That’s not because we don’t want help. It’s because, in this culture, merely admitting that you need help means wearing a scarlet A on your chest for the rest of your life. A is for Addict. A is for Alcoholic. People like me often barely survive this disease, only to be treated to a lifetime of unequal treatment, unkindness, prejudice, and discrimination.


If I am honest about my addiction, I could lose my job, my home, and custody of my child. I could be denied medical care. I could be treated like a criminal, even though I haven’t broken any laws. If these things happen to me, the stigma surrounding my illness means I’ll be told that I deserve to be treated this way. After all, I’m an addict. All my problems must be of my own making.


If that’s the case, why come out at all? I’m not exaggerating when I say that we’d rather die. It’s common for people like me to struggle to get sober. We might share our secret with one or two trusted friends, or in a closed Facebook group. Instead of asking for help, we stay as isolated as we were when we were using. We’re vulnerable. We’re alone. If we pick up again, it’s as though that brief period of sobriety never happened. Maybe the people who knew are disappointed — but so what? Everyone else still thinks we’re losers. We go back to being exactly what you told us we were.


The only thing I can do to change your misconceptions about me is keep showing up, and showing myself. My addiction is something I cope with, daily. I make my choices with this in mind. I know I’m in remission: I’m not cured. I do what I can to make sure I stay healthy.
Do I look like a ticking time bomb? I do not. I look healthy, whole, and strong, because I am. I’m a good citizen. I’m not a criminal, a bad parent, a lazy tenant, or an irresponsible employee. I vote. I pay my taxes. I don’t start shit. You can’t say that about a lot of people, whether they’re in recovery or not. Some of the worst people I know have no mental health issues of any kind.


I’ve stopped listening to people who tell me to be quiet about my illness. What’s the point of being ashamed about something that is part of me? I can’t change the color of my eyes or the shade of my skin, and I can’t magically make my addiction disappear. Even after a long period of recovery, I’m still a person who has this disorder. I may as well be living with diabetes, HIV, cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis, or any other chronic, relapsing illness. Yet, I’m not treated with the same dignity and compassion as people who cope with those diseases. Why?


If you wouldn’t shame me for my sexuality, race, gender, class, level of education, or faith, then don’t shame me for my addiction, either.
Addiction is neither a curse, nor a blessing. It is simply a fact for me. I don’t take my recovery for granted. I do what I need to do to ensure that it’s there when I wake up tomorrow morning.


The fact is, I died in my bedroom years ago. I’m convinced that everything I’ve experienced since then, including getting sober and learning to stay that way, is the afterlife. If this is Heaven, it’s a weird one, but then — I’m a weird person.


Or maybe you are the weirdo, in your obstinate belief that something is wrong with me and that I am less equal or deserving than you.


Nothing is wrong with me except your story about me. The next time I say, I’m a heroin addict, please try to listen without flinching. Look at me instead. Do you see me? Or do your fears erase me, turn me into a junkie?


If we’re going to heal this stigma, I don’t need to know what you think of me. I need you to know what I think of me. I want you to see what I see when I look at myself. I see a person. An interesting one. Not sick, and not stigmatized. Not even needing your pity. Just surviving — and lucky, to be telling my own story instead of being part of yours.


Claire Rudy Foster, Contributor

CDC: Drug overdose deaths spiked 21 percent last year, 64K deaths

Posted on: August 1st, 2017 by sobrietyresources

Sept. 4 (UPI) — Drug overdose deaths in the United States skyrocketed 21 percent in 2016 from the previous year, accounting for the deaths of approximately 64,000 people, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control.


Several states saw drug overdose death increases in the double digits, including Virginia (38 percent increase), Florida (55 percent), Maryland (67 percent) and Delaware (71 percent). New York City also saw a rise of about 50 percent.

Florida had the highest overall number of overdose deaths in 2016, with 5,167.
The reason for the spike appears to be fentanyl, a synthetic opioid analgesic similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more powerful.
The drug took about 20,000 lives last year, overtaking heroin as the number one cause of drug overdose deaths.

The New York Times reported that fentanyl-related deaths have jumped 540 percent in the past three years and more than doubled from 2015 to 2016 — a killing rate higher than the HIV epidemic at its peak.


In July, the Drug Enforcement Agency called fentanyl a “global threat.”
“The United States is in the midst of a fentanyl crisis, with law enforcement reporting and public health data indicating higher availability of fentanyls, increased seizures of fentanyls, and more known overdose deaths from fentanyls than at any other time since the drugs were first created in 1959,” the DEA said.


Between 1999 and 2015, the CDC estimates there have been about 300,000 overdose deaths caused by opioids. But the death rate has jumped in recent years.


“The first wave of deaths began in 1999 and included deaths involving prescription opioids,” the CDC said. “It was followed by a second wave, beginning in 2010, and characterized by deaths involving heroin. A third wave started in 2013, with deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly illicitly manufactured fentanyl.”


By Ray Downs

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