Archive for May 2013

Local coalitions could be the answer to prevention

I spoke at this a few weeks ago.  My self along with two friends, went as representatives of my bereavement group GRASP.  It was a great experience.  This enabled us to show that we are a parents worst nightmare and that the realities of this epidemic is real.

We need this to happen in all counties, towns across America.  This is the only was that we have a chance to push prevention to a different level..  There were physicians there.  One imp-articular, who also lost his child.  He is a pain management doctor and is taking every action that HE can to stop the doctor shopping, over prescribing and over use of drugs from patients.  I commend him and his practice.  I know the difficulty that physicians face these days.  I feel some need to review the medical ethics code…but decipher them in today’s society!

Local coalition seeks to reduce drug ‘epidemic’ in Warren County

Todd Petty / The Warren Reporter By Todd Petty / The Warren Reporter
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on May 03, 2013 at 2:34 PM, updated May 03, 2013 at 2:35 PM

heroin.jpgView full size

A local coalition that includes community leaders from different sectors is trying to curb what one member describes as the “epidemic of prescription medicine and heroin” in Warren County.

Mary Jo Harris, a prevention educator with the Family Guidance Center, is part of the local coalition that formed in January 2012. The coalition is part of a larger, regional service in partnership with Sussex County funded with the help of a $500,000 grant from the state Division of Mental Health Addiction Services, Harris said.

The group aims to reduce underage drinking, abuse and misuse of prescription medication and illegal substances, with a focus on heroin, marijuana and new and emerging drugs like K2 spice and bath salts, Harris said.

Up until 2012, “Warren County never had a very active coalition to deal with substance abuse,” Harris said. It wasn’t until the coalition formed last year that Harris said she became aware of the severity of the problem.

“We’ve got kids 18, 19 and 20 who are using heroin,” Harris said. “It’s starting someplace. It used to be alcohol is the gateway drug, I don’t know anymore. We get phone calls, read the paper and get emails about the heroin that’s going on in Warren County.”

Harris identified Phillipsburg, Hackettstown and Washington Borough as the three areas where the coalition has seen the most incidents of prescription medicine abuse and heroin use.

Heroin, Harris said, is being used as a cheaper substitute for prescription medicine abuse. “Nobody starts with heroin. You can trace it back to prescription medication,” which Harris said is especially problematic because of the “low perceived risk of harm” among users.

Harris also said law enforcement members of the coalition attribute the increase in break-ins and thefts in Warren County to an increase of drugs.

“We have law enforcement coming to us asking for help to raise funds to install cameras to be installed in the identified high drug trafficking areas. Kids tell us on a regular basis how easy it is to get pills, sell pills, and attend ‘pharm-parties.’”

Part of the solution includes making physical changes and alterations to the county. “Nobody is going to be doing anything illegal if there’s a big light there,” Harris said, adding that dark parking lots, vacant fields and dilapidated buildings attract drug activity.

Another component includes education, Harris said.

The Family Guidance Center and the Warren County Prosecutor’s office are co-sponsoring training on Prescription Drug Abuse and the NJ Prescription Monitoring Program on May 10.

Training will include, among other things, information about:

•Strategies for medical staff to learn more about a patient’s drug history.
•Doctor Shopping – Fraudulent obtainment of prescription medication.
•“Pill Mills” – New Jersey law on prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances.

A session for parents will be held from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Throughout the day there will be sessions for law enforcement and medical officials. Interested attendees must RSVP by May 9th.

You can reach Mary Jo Harris at 908-689-1000 ext. 310 or


Parents are unaware of the use of legal ADHD drugs..Must read!

Parents still don’t get it.  Kids will use these drugs to keep them up to study and get through finals.  I remember back in the day, they used caffeine pills.  Adderall and Ritalin are not caffeine pills. They are more dangerous and addicting when not used properly!!

Not MyKid: Most Parents Unaware Teen Using Study Drugs

Date: 20 May 2013 Time: 12:41 PM ET
Pills and medications
Credit: Dreamstime

Many parents are not aware that their teenage children abuse “study

drugs,” a new poll suggests.

In the poll, just 1 percent of parents said their teenage children had taken drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin without a prescription.

That is much lower than the percentage of teens that surveys suggest are using the drugs. For example, a 2012 study of high schoolers found that about 10 percent of sophomores and 12 percent of seniors said they had used the drugs without a prescription.


The new finding highlights the growing issue of stimulant drug abuse, or when teens take stimulant medication (or “study drugs”) to help them study for a test or stay awake to do homework. Such medications are prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Teens without the condition may fake symptoms in order to get a prescription, or obtain the drugs from friends.

The new findings, from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, examined parents’ awareness of the issue, surveying parents of U.S. children ages 13 to 17. About 11 percent of parents said their teens had been prescribed stimulant medication for ADHD.

Among parents of children who were not prescribed ADHD medications, 1 percent said their teens had used these drugs for study purposes. About 4 percent said they didn’t know if their teen had abused these drugs, and 95 percent said their teens had never abused the drugs.

This disconnect between teen drug abuse and parents’ awareness of drug abuse may be in part due to the fact that study drugs have more subtle effects than drugs such as heroin and cocaine, allowing teens to more easily hide their drug use, the researchers said.

About half of parents polled said they were very concerned about teens in their communities abusing study drugs. And more than three-quarters supported school policies aimed at stopping this type of drug abuse, such as rules that would require children with prescription ADHD medications to keep the pills in a secure place like the school nurse’s office.

The findings “underscore the need for greater communication among public health officials, schools, parents, and teens regarding this issue,” the researchers said.


Sharing the secrets of Addiction

For those who have lost due to addiction, this is the real story..Our story, the one that needs to be spoken of so we can find ways of prevention, awareness, recovery and stigma.

Ending the Secrecy of a Child’s Addiction

Almost two years ago my wife and I became aware that our 22-year-old son, William, was using heroin. At the time he was already seeing a psychotherapist. Over the next two years we added an addiction psychiatrist, out-patient treatment, treatment with Suboxone, in-patient detox, in-patient treatment, out-patient treatment, out-patient detox, treatment with Vivitrol, more out-patient treatment, another in-patient treatment, more out-patient treatment, a revolving door of well over a dozen trips to and from the emergency rooms of at least four different hospitals, an attempt to work with another addiction psychiatrist, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and a home life fraught with tension, despair, sometimes hopeful during intermittent periods of sobriety, and always filled with the apprehension of misfortune.

That apprehension became fact when William accidentally overdosed shortly before his 24th birthday. Six weeks of comatose and/or heavily medicated hospitalization followed before the ultimate realization that William was consigned to a persistent vegetative state.

As family members, we struggled from the beginning to find both our own support system and ways to engage and encourage William in recovery. In the beginning we kept William’s and our battle to ourselves, in the interest of protecting his privacy and ours. He still had career goals and ambitions that could be thwarted with heroin use on his “résumé.” While it’s harder to admit, we also kept quiet out of some sense of embarrassment or shame. How could we possibly explain the corrosion in the midst of our well-reared, respectable family?

Over the course of time, with the help of addiction counselors, and sharing our circumstance at Al-Anon in particular, we came to understand that we were not alone. There were, in fact, many families like us, negotiating their response to addiction: discovering what they were powerless over, battling for the courage to confront what they could control. And, at least in our case, fighting desperately to distinguish between the two. There was and is relief in knowing that others suffer the same struggle, zigzagging along a tortuous path, enduring dead ends in hope of a solution, bravely putting in the work to realize a more promising and serene future. And yet, their stories and ours remained anonymous, pit stops at an emotional leper colony, quite separate from a world racing on.

Bit by bit, perhaps because we had to explain to neighbors why EMS was arriving at our door with some regularity, or why we suddenly had to cancel plans, or as we sought solace in narrating our sad situation to trusted friends, we began to experience a recurring phenomenon. People would recount their own harrowing tales of a family member, a dear friend, or even their personal contest with addiction.

Out of choice and necessity, as we surrendered to his lot and ours, when we chose to remove William from life support, we offered his story to virtually everyone we knew in the days just prior to his death and in the interim before his memorial service. In return, more and more people surrendered their personal horrors to us. From even the most reserved and private came narratives of heroin overdoses, cocaine abuse, weeks and months in rehab, alcohol relapse, addiction to pills.

Addiction is, as we have learned, a family disease. The number of stories we’ve heard of wives, daughters, fathers, sons, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters – not in counseling or therapy scenarios, but from people who recognize our pain and somehow want to comfort us, or to comfort themselves through us, is staggering.

We were heartened at William’s memorial service by an overwhelming turnout to honor a beautiful young man and to console his family. I knew when I gave a eulogy for William that there were addicts in varying stages of recovery among us. Fellow sufferers there to pay tribute. Perhaps hearing about William’s struggle and our ordeal was useful to them. I hope so. What I do not know, and can only wonder about, is how many more stories remain untold. They need to be told. Secrecy and anonymity are part of the disease, for addict and family alike.


No Sugar Coating! The real story on Prescription Drug Abuse

The real stories need to be heard throughout our counties and states.  In order for this epidemic to start, we must begin in our own backyards.  We must share our true stories on who this is effecting and what we can do to help protect our kids.  If we all just do a little with awareness, prevention, safeguarding, we can and will make a difference!!


No Sugar-Coating the Devastation of Illicit Drugs


It’s happening in your backyard!!


Heroin Addiction Takes Toll in Suburban New Jersey



New Jersey officials report a rise in heroin addiction, drug-related crime and deaths among young people in suburbs. Many became addicted to prescription painkillers, and switched to heroin because it is cheaper, potent and widely available, according to The Record of Woodland Park.


The growth of heroin use among young people in the suburbs is being seen nationwide. According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of people who were past-year heroin users in 2011 (620,000) was higher than the number in 2007 (373,000).


New Jersey is a center of heroin use in part because of its ports and highways, which are conduits for South American heroin, the article notes. Heroin found on New Jersey streets today is at least five times more pure than it was several decades ago, law enforcement officials say. The increased potency leads to quicker addiction, they add.


“Heroin is much more commonplace than it’s been in years,” Ellen Elias, Director of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Resources in Hackensack, told the newspaper. “We see it all around. It seems like the population in which heroin is most prevalent is that 18- to 25-year-old population.”


Police in Bergen County, in northern New Jersey, report increases in shoplifting, home invasions, burglaries and armed robberies, by people addicted to heroin who are seeking money to buy drugs.


Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a measure that encourages people to report drug overdoses. The law allows people to call 911 to report a drug overdose, without the fear of getting arrested for drug possession themselves.



Awareness is key in the fight against prescription drug abuse
By GWEN FLORIO Missoulian

MISSOULA — Allison McKenzie doesn’t consider herself naïve.

When her sons were teenagers, she knew what to look out for.

The slurring and stumbles associated with booze. The reek of pot.

“I was on top of it,” she said.

But when it came to prescription medication, “I had not a clue.”
This is a good article:

McKenzie got a very expensive education — about $80,000 in treatment and rehabilitation since Thanksgiving for two of her sons, now in their 20s, to kick the methadone they were given at a clinic as part of their effort to get out from under opiate addiction.

Discussing her family’s issues publicly is painful, said McKenzie. “But I can’t not say anything because it’s so horrific.” Everybody, she said, needs to know about the danger of prescription medication.

Then she mentioned the Montana Meth Project.

“As soon as those commercials came on TV, they made a huge impact” on the problem, she said of the Meth Project’s graphic and disturbing warnings about the effects of methamphetamine use.

In fact, talk for a few minutes with just about anyone who deals with the problem of prescription drug abuse, and the Meth Project comes up.

Why, wonder doctors and pharmacists and cops and even addicts, isn’t there a similar effort that takes aim at prescription drugs?

Public awareness

“The best way to deal with this silent epidemic is public awareness,” said Dr. Marc Mentel, medical director for the Community Physician Group at Missoula’s Community Medical Center.

Mentel is at the forefront of the Community Safe Prescriber program, a prevention effort that requires physicians to sign contracts with patients for whom they prescribe opiates.

The contracts state that physicians will closely monitor those patients. “They’ll have open discussions, letting (the patients) know that opiates are not a cure. They’ll ask the patients to be responsible and treat these like a gun in the household,” he said.

Physicians who sign on as Community Safe Prescribers receive stickers to place in their offices. “These are providers you can trust,” Mentel said. “We also hope (the stickers) will deter those who are looking for medications” for illegal use.

Even with such precautions, he said, “these are very difficult for patients to wean off. I imagine it’s similar to tobacco. Even six months to a year after (ceasing the medication),” he said, “it’s almost like an itch they have to scratch.”

The prescription drug abuse epidemic is rooted in the best of intentions.

In the late 1990s, physicians were urged — in the interest of their patients’ quality of life – to monitor pain as a vital sign, Mentel said. On a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being unbearable pain, anything above 4 was considered undesirable, he said.

Opiates worked. Prescriptions have increased fivefold since the turn of the century, Mentel said.

“A green light was turned on. A Pandora’s box was opened,” he said.

Not only were more opiates prescribed, more were distributed, he said. “Fifty percent of those (legally prescribed) are handed out to other people,” not necessarily with nefarious intent, he said. “It could be a family member saying, ‘Here, you’ve got a headache?’ ”

The fact that the pills are prescribed to help people can create a false sense of security, he said. “There’s this notion that they’re safe … but they’re probably the deadliest medications out there.”

Only recently did the number of deaths — some 50 a day around the country — associated with opiate overdoses become apparent, he said.

“It’s the collateral damage,” he said, “the price of what we were trying to do.”

In his four years as the Missoula Police Department’s sole officer devoted to prescription drug abuse, Detective Dean Chrestenson said he’s seen too many deaths and near-deaths.

Not all are due solely to the drugs. People combine them — intentionally or not — with alcohol, or they take a mixture of drugs. Caitlin Stanich of Missoula, who died in March at the age of 27, drank heavily and took methadone.

McKenzie feared a similar fate for her sons.

Methadone, dispensed at a Missoula clinic where her sons sought help for their prescription drug habit, turned into an even greater addiction, she said.

“Oh, God, it was hell. It was so hard dealing with them because they were so out of it constantly. I finally contacted several facilities last summer. I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ I could tell the one wasn’t going to be around very long,” she said.

She found spots for them at a Michigan treatment center. Health insurance covered about two-thirds of the cost. Now they’re in sober living centers in other states, and McKenzie realizes that their struggle is far from over.

“The rehab is just the beginning,” she said. “The goal is to stay sober, get a job, be around sober people.” The cost — between $600 and $800 a month in rent — is worth it, she said. “If they came back to their old stomping grounds, they could walk right back into the (methadone) clinic again.”

When prevention fails, private rehab is one, albeit very expensive, option. Others include outpatient treatment, even the courts — and not infrequently, a combination of those.

“The solution has to be not just law enforcement, but the medical people, the prescribers, physicians, pharmacists, counselors, therapists, people themselves,” said Chrestenson.

Around Montana, agencies and treatment centers are evolving quickly to deal with the issue.

Outpatient treatment options include individual counseling or group sessions. Inpatient centers around Montana are few and far between, and in high demand: All 16 beds at the Western Montana Mental Health Center’s new Recovery Center Missoula were filled when it opened last month. Both Great Falls and Billings have long had inpatient centers.

Courts’ role

Missoula County Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech, who often sees people when they’re first charged with crimes involving prescription drugs, said such programs probably give addicts their best shot at success. Oftentimes, she said, it can take three or four months for an addict to really be ready, both physically and mentally, not just to get clean but to stay clean.

“It happens all the time in DUI court. The first, second, third months, they’re fighting all the way,” she said.

In fact, the court system can be a useful component of getting people clean.

A new tool aimed at drunken drivers — the 24/7 Sobriety and Accountability Program that requires twice-daily alcohol tests for some people convicted of DUI — can be adapted to the reality of drugged driving, Orzech said.

“We have a patch that people can be ordered to wear that tests for just about everything except alcohol,” said Orzech. “There’s also urinalysis that can happen, and blood tests, which are happening all the time.”

Those blood tests are ordered for some DUI suspects who refuse breath tests. Unlike breath tests, they detect substances other than alcohol.

Involvement in the justice system can, of course, lead to the state Department of Corrections, with its own treatment programs. Five of the DOC’s seven treatment programs target substance abuse as compared to two dealing with alcohol abuse. In the last six years, DOC programs that include drug and alcohol treatment increased 13 percent, even though the overall prison population declined 1 percent, according to the agency’s biannual report released this year. The DOC has added 54 treatment and prerelease beds, according to the report.

Solutions can be as mundane as getting rid of unused opiates prescribed after, say, surgery or an injury. That keeps them from falling into the wrong hands. A surprising amount of drugs that go on to be abused, according to law enforcement officers, are simply snatched from the medicine cabinets of parents, friends and neighbors.

There is a prescription drug drop box at the Law Enforcement Center in Helena that is accessible Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The procedure is anonymous; participants just simply put the bottles into the box.

If you can’t make it to the drop box but still want to get rid of medications, don’t just flush them — that’s bad for the water supply. Instead, throw them away after burying them in a bag filled with coffee grounds or kitty litter to keep them from being pilfered, said Chrestenson.

If you’re still taking such medications, treat them as you would a loaded gun, advised Mentel, the physician.

It all comes back to awareness, said McKenzie, whose sons are in recovery.

“It’s huge. Huge,” she said. “… I don’t think people (who use or abuse such medications) know where they are going to end up, most likely.”