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.
Not too long ago, many of the states in the South had severe problems with the over prescribing of powerful narcotic medications. At the turn of the new millennia, pain management clinics known as “pill mills” popped up like weeds in Florida; people would actually travel from surrounding states to take advantage of the rampant over prescribing of opioid painkillers. As lawmakers came to terms with the fact that we were in the midst of an epidemic, efforts began to curb the problem by closing down pill mills and using prescription drug databases to track over prescribing and doctor shopping.
While such efforts did a lot of good, it appears that some physicians did not get the memo and continued prescribing narcotics at heinous rates. Last month, a psychiatrist in Georgia was arrested and has been accused of running a pill mill, WSB-TV reports. Both local law enforcement and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided the office and home of Dr. Narendra Nagareddy and seized his assets as well.
“He’s a psychiatrist in Jonesboro who has been overprescribing opiates and benzodiazepine and the last several years has had a multitude of overdoses and overdose deaths,” said Clayton County Police Chief Mike Register.
Legal documents indicate that 36 of Nagareddy’s patients lost their lives while taking drugs prescribed by the psychiatrist, according to the article. A review of autopsy reports linked 12 of the deaths to prescription drug overdoses.
“He’s charged with prescribing pain medication which is outside his profession as a psychiatrist and not for a legitimate purpose for the patient,” said Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.
While it is hard to believe that doctors are still getting away with profiting from patient addiction, it is a good sign that law enforcement is holding them accountable for their actions. Physicians should be working to end the prescription drug epidemic, not exacerbating the problem by continuing to overprescribe.
At the end of November, Southern California saw a surge in medical emergencies linked to a bad batch of synthetic marijuana. Commonly sold under the brand name of Spice or K2, synthetic cannabinoid users often experience severe side effects that, without treatment, can be fatal.
On the other side of the country, the State of Florida has seen a dramatic rise in synthetic drug related incidents in recent years. The chemicals used to make these types of drugs are manufactured in China, and then sprayed on herbs or bath salts. When ingested, the chemicals produce a number of effects, such as hallucinations, increased energy, and euphoria.
Use of synthetic drugs has been associated with:
- Suicidal Tendencies and Attempts
- Homicidal Tendencies
- Chest Pain
- Heart attack
Until recently, synthetic drug manufacturers in China operated with little impunity. Producers of the chemicals have no oversight and do not conduct human testing before they sell their chemicals. After serious scrutiny from the United States and others, China banned more than 100 chemicals used to make synthetic drugs, The Miami Herald reports. Chemicals used to make alpha-PVP, better known as flakka, which has been abused all over South Florida as of late. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that it is now illegal in China to distribute flakka, fentanyl, and other chemicals at home and overseas.
“The ban of the sale of the listed synthetic drugs will hopefully have a positive impact with regard to reducing the designer drug threat in the United States,” said Diane Boland, director of toxicology at the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office. “Only time will tell.”
On top the serious side effects produced by synthetic drugs, the substances can become habit forming, leading to addiction. If you or a loved one struggles with synthetic drug use, please contact Synergy Group Services. Our approach is rooted in a holistic mind, body and spirit approach, which blends traditional counseling and alternative medicine to achieve a synergistic outcome.
Social media is an integral part of people’s lives, especially young people who are apt to share with the world what they are about to do, or have already done. It is quite common for young adults to share what took place over the weekend, including parties where excessive drinking took place. On the other end of the spectrum, many young people in addiction recovery use social media to connect with other active members of the community. A new study has examined when social media and recovery line up, TODAY reports.
Recovery.org conducted a study which involved Instagram and getting sober. The novel study tracked various recovery related hashtags (#s), examining over 79,000 posts from all 50 states. The researchers found some interesting results.
The top recovery hashtags in order:
The top three states that mentioned recovery the most per capita (1:100,000) on social media:
- Utah 144.4
- California 70.8
- Florida 34.3
While Utah mentioned recovery the most on Instagram, it only has the fifth most meetings of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous per capita in the U.S., according to the article. On the other hand, California had nine times as many people in rehab as Utah. The study cannot account for why people in Utah are more active online about recovery.
“In terms of science, we’re at the very beginning of it,” explained Dr. Warren Bickel, director of the Addiction Recovery Research Center at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and founder of the International Quit and Recover Registry. “One of the amazing things about the field of addiction is that we don’t rigorously study people in recovery…and we can learn a lot from them.”
At Synergy Group Services we offer individualized treatment plans for addiction recovery.
The synthetic drug problem in Florida continues to gain steam, with the surge of Flakka (alpha-PVP) use being responsible for 18 deaths in South Florida, The New York Times reports. While the drug is similar to its cousin MDPV (aka bath salts), Flakka seems to give its users heightened strength and dangerous paranoid hallucinations.
“I have never seen such a rash of cases, all associated with the same substance,” said James N. Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University. “It’s probably the worst I have seen since the peak of crack cocaine. Rather than a drug, it’s really a poison.”
Alpha-PVP has become increasingly prevalent throughout the southern United States in the last few months, and has been tied to a number of incidents – as well as a rise in fatalities. South Florida appears to have been hit the hardest by this new cheap and dangerous drug. A single dose goes for $5, and gives users an amphetamine-like experience and hallucinations, according to the article.
Despite bans on similar synthetic drug formulations that resulted in users experiencing a number violent outcomes, synthetic drug manufacturers continue to alter the chemical compositions in order to evade authorities. Such drugs are produced inexpensively in China with hardly any oversight or testing before they are distributed throughout the world. U.S. law enforcement are working with Chinese officials to outlaw such drugs in China, according to the report.
“Our supposition is that the original concept was to design it so it would be technically not illegal,” Mr. Hall said. “It appears they are now looking to also design the molecule to be even more potent and more addictive. Addiction is good for sales.”
Not only are these types of drugs both illegal and highly addictive, they can cause bodily harm. Users who use too much can experience increased body temperature up to 105 degrees, some users have even experienced kidney failure.
Please watch a short video about Flakka:
Synthetic drugs often appeal to young adults and teenagers because they can be found with ease over the Internet. If you are struggling with synthetic drug addiction, please do not hesitate to reach out to Synergy Group Services for help.