“No pathogen, virus or war on this country’s soil has caused the death and destruction as the scourge of opioid addiction,” says Mayor Cary Glickstein of Delray Beach, Florida.
It is hard to argue with the observation made by Mayor Glickstein. City leaders across the country would likely share his sentiments. Now approaching 20 years into the most serious drug addiction epidemic in history, few solutions have borne any fruit. While small strides forward have been made with regard to prescription opioid use, addiction treatment is still lacking.
Across the country, practically every major city has been ravaged by prescription opioid and heroin abuse. When it comes to the former however, lawmakers and citizens are looking for accountability. It is widely agreed upon that the epidemic we face is the direct result of misleading pharmaceutical companies. This is coupled with doctors eager to please patients, with little understanding of the ramifications of overprescribing.
If you have been following the news, of late, state and city leaders have turned their eye on pharmaceutical companies. Claiming that “big pharma” deliberately mislead both doctors and patients. Thus creating the a crisis affecting millions of Americans, including countless loved ones. Using the “big tobacco” lawsuits of the late ‘90’s, companies like, Purdue, et al., have been racked with legal suits. Suits have been filed from Orange County, California to Palm Beach County, Florida. Also, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, New York and the Cherokee Nation are looking for big pharma to cover some of the enormous costs associated with opioid addiction.
Covering the Costs of Opioid Addiction
Across the country, cities have struggled to provide access to addiction treatment services for their thousands of opioid addicts. What services are available, are usually paid for by local government coffers and nonprofits. Emergency departments are treating patients for opioid overdoses in ever increasing numbers. And equipping first responders with naloxone is not cheap, and the price per overdose antidote continues to climb. This is why the City of Delray Beach became the first in Florida to go after the pharmaceutical industry, Palm Beach Post reports. The suit, interestingly, is to help offset the costs related to heroin abuse, which the city claims is a byproduct of the pharmaceutical industries nefarious ways, that is using bogus research to disseminate the idea that opioid addiction is rare, and painkillers like OxyContin are safe.
Anyone living in Florida likely remembers the “pill mill” and “doctor shopping” fiasco affecting the state. Tourists were not just coming for our sunshine; they were coming for easy access to painkillers. The pills were gladly doled out at no-questions-asked pain management clinics (pill mills). Fortunately, the state managed to get a handle on the situation, but it resulted in far greater demand for heroin. Heroin is often cheaper and stronger than prescription opioids, and is commonly cut with the deadly analgesic fentanyl.
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd is representing the city, a national firm with an office in Boca Raton, according to the article. Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp. are among at least eight pharmaceutical companies being sued by Delray Beach. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd are representing the city pro bono, although if they win the suit millions of dollars in damages could be awarded.
“They went out and said that opioids are less than 1 percent addictive. That is obviously not true … ” said Mark J. Dearman, a partner in the firm. “This is a playbook right out of (Big) Tobacco.”
The law firm claims that the financial burden of overdoses has fallen largely on state, county and city governments. There were 690 overdoses is Delray alone last year, the article reports. For every overdose in Delray Beach, it costs about $2,000 for naloxone and the first responders administering the life-saving drug.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
We will continue to follow this important story. If damages are awarded, the money could be used for prevention, public addiction treatment services and the cost of naloxone.
Are you one of the many prescription opioid users who has made the switch to heroin? If so, please reach out to us here at Synergy Group Services to begin the life-saving mission of addiction recovery. The risk of overdose is too great to put off recovery any longer.
It would be nice if everyone abusing opioid narcotics of any kind could be convinced that the best thing they could do today is seek help for their addiction. For unlike other substances that one could be addicted to, the likelihood of an overdose and potential death is so great with prescription opioids and heroin that it is simply not worth continuing.
Naturally, such a scenario could only exist if addiction were not what it is: A serious mental health disorder that fights to protect itself like a wolf backed into a corner. Addicts know that at any moment the drugs they are about to put in their body could be their last, yet they do it anyway because the thought of withdrawal sickness is so terrifying it is as if they have no other option.
There is not a formula to explain when an individual has had enough and will seek help. Even those who have survived an overdose will continue using despite the inherent risks. Which is why it is so vital that states and cities do their part to provide addicts with naloxone, clean syringes and a way to determine if the drugs they are about to do contain the deadly ingredient known as fentanyl.
Testing for Fentanyl
People can die from an overdose on morphine, they can die from an overdose on heroin. But if fentanyl is added to the equation the chances of an overdose death are exponentially greater.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points out that fentanyl is anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Used in even small amounts it causes severe respiratory depression that can be deadly.
The drug is commonly mixed into bags of heroin to increase potency, without users having any knowledge of its presence. However, there is a way that addicts could determine if their bag contains fentanyl. In New York City, a program in the Bronx has begun equipping heroin addicts with easy to use fentanyl test strips, NPR reports. At St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, a needle exchange program in the Bronx, ordered test strips from Canada and are handing them out at the exchange.
“If you’re doing dope,” staffer Van Asher says to one client, “we’ll give you a test strip so you can test and see if there’s fentanyl.”
The Road to Recovery
There are some who might argue that giving out test strips and clean syringes encourages continued use. But, in reality, such practices prevent the spread of deadly diseases and can help prevent a fatal overdose. Needle exchange personnel typically talk with addicts coming in off the streets about the value of seeking recovery. Letting them know that it is possible. A significant number of people have gone to treatment based on recommendations from such clinics.
If you are actively abusing opioids of any kind, please contact Synergy Group Services to begin the journey of recovery.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has released their annual National Drug Threat Assessment which paints a picture of substance abuse throughout the country. The yearly assessment can give experts an idea of where they should focus their education and prevention efforts in the coming year. As you probably can imagine, the most troubling findings are related to opioid use disorders and the rise of heroin and synthetic opioid use.
Over a hundred Americans can, and do, lose their life on any given day of the week, the result of an opioid overdose. Prescription opioids and heroin on their own are deadly narcotics that can lead to an overdose death, a serious concern. However, the increasing prevalence of synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, being mixed into heroin batches or pressed into pills to look like OxyContin tablets, is perhaps the most troubling.
While the Northeast and Appalachian regions of the United States have been most notably deviated by the opioid epidemic, the South has not been spared either. Florida had more overdose deaths in 2015 than any other time in more than a decade, The Orlando Sentinel reports, the highest number of opioid deaths in more than a decade. There were 67 fentanyl and 105 heroin overdose deaths in Orange and Osceola counties.
The National Drug Threat Assessment pulls survey data from almost 1,500 law enforcement agencies throughout the country, according to the article. Interestingly, while heroin and fentanyl concerns Florida law enforcement officials, data from over 40 percent of Florida law enforcement agencies topped their list of biggest threats with methamphetamine and marijuana.
“Any drug that can cause devastation to your city no matter if it’s marijuana, crack cocaine, cocaine opiates, heroin fentanyl — they’re all a concern,” said Orlando Police Department Deputy Chief Robert Anzueto. “And our job is to prevent and educate and eradicate.”
If you would like read the full DEA report, please click here.
The findings of the National Drug Threat Assessment are alarming, but they are consistent with recent years past. The report highlights the need for expanding access to both mental health and addiction treatment services across the country. It is a well-known fact that we can’t arrest our way out of this epidemic. If you or a loved one is in the grips of opioid addiction, please contact Synergy Group Services. Our program is specifically tailored to treat opioid use disorder, merging traditional counseling with alternative medicine.
The state of Florida has, arguably, been the epicenter of synthetic drug use in the United States. Dangerous, borderline legal chemicals which are sprayed on benign plant matter or crystalline “bath salts” have become somewhat of a scourge in the South Florida region. The most commonly used comes in a form usually referred to as synthetic marijuana—which is a far cry from actual cannabis. Both doctors and the users of synthetic cannabis, sold under the names Spice and K2, will tell you that the side effects witnessed and experienced are quite different than the effects produced by smoking traditional weed.
Just over a year ago we discussed a synthetic drug known as “Flakka” (alpha-PVP) which is chemically similar to bath salts (MDPV) that had been previously abused. In Florida, at the time, the use of Flakka had been linked to 18 deaths.
When it comes to the chemicals used to make synthetic drugs, one country often comes to mind—China. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) has long been aware that the vast majority of synthetic drug chemicals are manufactured in China, where clandestine laboratories operate with relative impunity. Such facilities produce the chemicals inexpensively with little oversight—human testing is not a top priority. Meaning, drug users become human guinea pigs which can result in deadly outcomes.
While synthetic drugs like Spice and Flakka are of the utmost concern among lawmakers and law enforcement, the top priority in the U.S. is the opioid epidemic. Day in and day out opioid narcotics afflict millions of Americans and are responsible for over 70 deaths daily. If you have been following the news you are probably aware of the rise of a synthetic opioid known as fentanyl. The drug is meant to be used in hospital settings for the most severe pain. The drug is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and as much as 50 times more potent than medical grade heroin (diacetylmorphine).
Over the last few years there has been a growing concern about mixing fentanyl with street heroin. Users of heroin are usually unaware that fentanyl is present within their bag of dope, an ignorance that has led to a significant number of overdose deaths. So why is fentanyl being mixed with heroin, a drug that can be potent enough for overdose on its own? Heroin is usually stomped on (mixed with benign adulterants) to increase profits—the more you have the more you make. Fentanyl is commonly mixed with weak heroin to up the drug’s strength.
What’s more, with each year that passes it becomes more and more difficult to purchase prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, on the street. The ingredients used to make fentanyl are inexpensive and be acquired with relative ease by Mexican drug cartels. Fentanyl analogs are manufactured in clandestine labs in Mexico and then pressed into pills that replicate an OxyContin tablet. Once again, China presents as the source of the chemicals needed to produce fentanyl. China does not regulate the sale of such chemicals which find their way to the Americas, The Wall Street Journal reports. Twenty-five grams of fentanyl costs about $810 to make, which amounts to $800,000 in pills on the street.
At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in treating addiction, we can help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction and give you the tools necessary for sustaining long term abstinence from all mind altering substances.