The use and abuse of opioids in the United States is a public health crisis, most Americans are aware of the severe death toll from the use of this class of drugs. So, it’s probably not a surprise the White House renewed a previous order declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, before it ran out toward the end of last month. Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, writes:
As a result of the continued consequences of the opioid crisis affecting our nation, on this date and after consultation with public health officials as necessary, I, Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pursuant to the authority vested in me under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, do hereby renew, effective January 24, 2018, my October 26, 2017, determination that a public health emergency exists nationwide as a result of the consequences of the opioid crisis.
The use of any type of opioid can lead to addiction, or worse, overdose. Around a hundred Americans perish each day from drugs like OxyContin, fentanyl, and heroin; naloxone can reverse an overdose, but that’s not always the case—especially when fentanyl is involved. In a short time, synthetic opioids became one of the greatest threats to the drug using public. Fentanyl is regularly added to heroin to boost potency, but it’s done without the user’s knowledge; it’s an ignorance that often results in fatal overdose.
Fentanyl On The Mind
Synthetic opioids are great at killing pain in medically supervised environments. However, the influx of the drug into the U.S. from Chinese laboratories is a major concern. A report from the Senate shows that manufacturers of the drug in China market it online and use the USPS to get it to civilians in the U.S. Once here, fentanyl is stamped into pills resembling OxyContin or simply mixed into batches of heroin—a drug that requires no assistance in being deadly.
Even when fentanyl use doesn’t result in an overdose death, it can wreak havoc on people’s health. Researchers from West Virginia University warn that there is an association between fentanyl and severe memory loss, according to Health Day. More than a dozen patients exhibited signs of short-term memory loss after using fentanyl alone or with stimulants. Their brain scans showed lesions on the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory.
“They all have difficulty learning new information, and it’s pretty dense,” said Marc Haut, chair of West Virginia University’s department of behavioral medicine and psychiatry. Every day is pretty much a new day for them, and sometimes within a day they can’t maintain information they’ve learned.”
Haut says it’s possible the patients experienced overdose prior to the symptoms of amnesia arising, the article reports. He points out that such individuals do not recover quickly and may not fully regain their short-term memory.
“We talk a lot about people who don’t survive overdoses, but we aren’t talking about people who survive repeated overdoses and the impact that might have on them and their functioning,” Haut said. “If their memory is really compromised, it’s going to be hard for them to learn a new life that doesn’t involve drugs.”
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
Painkillers, synthetic opioids, and heroin carry severe risks; if you are addicted to opioids of any kind, please contact Synergy Group Services. We can help you overcome the cycle of addiction and give you the tools for living a life of lasting addiction recovery.
The United States military is the most powerful in the world, thanks mainly to a definite edge over our adversaries. As a result, the Government can send our troops into traditional conflict with relatively minimal casualties. Unfortunately, it’s the injuries nobody sees that do the most damage, the wounds inflicted on the mind. If a soldier’s invisible injuries are not addressed, many of them will turn to opioids to deal with the pain.
In respect to Veteran’s day, which took place last weekend, it’s vital to discuss the well being of our Veterans. Thousands of young American men and women have come back from the conflict in the Mideast, only to fight an even more significant battle at home. One of the notable differences, of course, is the war that some Veterans fight now is waged on the battlefield of the mind.
America doesn’t have the most exceptional track record when it comes to treating mental illness, like depression and addiction. The military is not much different, with many American heroes left to their own devices in coping with mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who struggle with the condition resort to mind-altering substances to deal, an action which worsens one’s symptoms. In a number of cases, such people are also contending with chronic pain from physical injuries sustained overseas. Physical pain, mental distress, and opioids make for a lethal cocktail.
Opioids Don’t Spare Veterans
Treating your average American’s chronic pain with opioids puts them at high risk of addiction and overdose. Veterans are no different; however, when other forms of mental illness are in the picture the risks are even higher. In fact, opioids have led to more Veteran deaths than all the casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, Reuters reports. Vets are at double the risk of dying from prescription opioid overdose than non-veterans. The suicide rate among Veterans is also 21 percent higher than with people who didn’t serve in the military. It’s no secret that opioids are often used to commit suicide.
“The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” said Sen. John McCain.
To encourage doctors to prescribe opioids to Vets less often, McCain introduced the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, according to the article. Unfortunately, the bill has stalled in Congress. The need for such measures is urgent. Since March 2017, Veterans Affairs has treated 68,000 vets for opioid use disorder.
“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said recovering addict and former Democratic Congressman, Patrick Kennedy.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
Opioids of any kind carry the risk of addiction and premature death; treatment is a must if recovery is to occur. At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in the treatment of opioid use disorder. We are also equipped to treat the condition when a co-occurring mental illness is involved. Please contact us today.
Opioid use disorder should be great cause for concern among Americans. Current data shows that as many as 142 Americans die of an opioid-related overdose every day. However, America’s greatest foe has long come in the form of a liquid—alcohol. New research shows that drinking and alcohol use disorder rates in the United States are troubling and need to be addressed.
With the country fixated on opioids, it is hard to devote much energy to any other substance use related issue. But, while lawmakers and health experts fixate on prescription opioids and heroin, alcohol has continued stealing lives in relative darkness. Therefore, it is so important to remember that people misuse alcohol more than any other substance. It is not just the fact that millions of people drink regularly. It is that millions of Americans drink regularly in seriously harmful ways, such as binge drinking.
Great efforts and amounts of money have been spent to educate young people about the dangers of heavy imbibing. Accompanied by a long list of health conditions that can arise from high rates of consumption, including addiction. Left unchecked, people who binge drink regularly are at a far greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Binge drinking is often defined as having four drinks for women and 5 for men, during a two-hour period.
21st Century Alcohol Use
As many as 30 million Americans binge drink at least once a week, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry reveals. Just for perspective, that’s more than the population of each state, but for California, SF GATE reports. About the same number of people report being dependent on the substance or abusing alcohol.
Opioid statistics show that somewhere between 2 and 3 million Americans have an opioid use disorder. That number is likely a low ball. But whatever the actual number is it’s still a far cry from alcohol use disorder rates in America. The study showed that adult alcohol use rose in every demographic, especially among:
- Older People
- People With Lower Incomes
- And Those With Less Education
“This should be a big wake-up call,” says David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved with the research. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.”
In 2001-02, 8.5 percent of survey respondents reported alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the article. That figure rose to around 12.7 percent in 2012-13, a 10.5 million person increase. With such high numbers, greater focus needs to be placed on the impact this will have on society. The cost of life is staggering.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
Roughly one-fifth of people with an alcohol use disorder have ever been treated, according to Bridget Grant, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and lead author of the paper. Even though alcoholism is a mental illness, too, about 60 percent of people with depression get some kind of treatment. Without treatment, the outcome is never good.
If you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder, please contact Synergy Group Services for help. We can assist in breaking the cycle of addiction and impart the skills necessary for living a life in recovery.
“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.
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.