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?
“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.
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.”
This is great..BUT addiction is as much of a mental addiction. Addiction is both a physical and mental addiction. If the physical dependency can be blocked, the person must still work on the mental. I feel that this is somewhere after detox and within a 30-60 days where they are starting to, very slowly change their habits. so lets say after this “vaccine” they implement recovery to strive for sober living. Every little bit helps.
Vaccine for heroin addiction promising
A vaccine that could help fight heroin addiction shows promise in early tests in rats, researchers report.
A vaccine that targets heroin and its psychoactive breakdown products in the bloodstream may prevent them from reaching the brain, explain scientists from The Scripps Research Institute in US.
“Heroin-addicted rats deprived of the drug will normally resume using it compulsively if they regain access, but our vaccine stops this from happening,” George Koob, chair of the institute’s addiction research group, said.
Initial tests of the vaccine, reported in 2011, showed that it could block some of the acute effects of heroin, such as reducing pain. The new study involved more rigorous tests of the vaccine.
How the study was done
“We gave the vaccine to rats that had already been exposed to heroin, a situation obviously relevant to a human clinical situation,” study first author Joel Schlosburg, a postdoctoral research associate, said in the news release.
The vaccine did not block the effects of methadone, buprenorphine and other drugs that are commonly used to treat heroin addiction.
“It doesn’t affect the opioid system per se, so in principle you could give this vaccine to heroin-dependent people and continue to treat them with standard therapies, too,” Schlosburg said. “Opioid painkillers such as codeine or oxycodone also would continue to work.”
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
If the vaccine proves effective in human clinical trials, the researchers said, it could become a standard part of therapy for heroin addiction, which affects more than 10 million people worldwide. However, results obtained in animal experiments often aren’t attainable in trials with humans.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about heroin.
A New York City doctor has been charged in a scheme that allegedly distributed $10 million worth ofoxycodone pills.
“Well over half a million oxycodone pills were illegally sold in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, fueling the addiction of an untold number of people,” said Bridget Brennan, New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor.
Dr. Hector Castro, his office manager Patricia Valera and four dozen others were charged with running what the Drug Enforcement Administration called an “extensive interstate network of narcotics traffickers” responsible for the illegal distribution of a half million oxycodone pills worth at least $10 million.
Between September 2011 and February 2013 court records say New Jersey pharmacies dispensed nearly 500,000 pills of oxycodone based on thousands of prescriptions originating from Castro’s Manhattan office. In contrast, New York pharmacies dispensed approximately 75,000 pills based on approximately 600 similar prescriptions between August 2009 and January 2013.
The investigation into Castro’s alleged prescription sales began in late 2011 when an individual suffered a fatal oxycodone overdose in Middlesex, N.J., and authorities discovered a pill bottle with Castro’s name on the label at the scene. The deceased individual had received a prescription from Castro just a day earlier, authorities said. (full story on ABC)
TORONTO – A national strategy to deal with the abuse and misuse of opioids and other potentially harmful prescription drugs is being unveiled in Ottawa today, a 10-year plan to tackle what’s being called a public health crisis of epidemic proportions.
The plan, drafted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), the National Advisory Council on Prescription Drug Misuse and other key organizations, aims to reduce the potential harms of such medications as opioids, stimulants and sedatives.
Canada is neck and neck with the United States as the country with the highest per capita use of opiates, the potent pain killers that include oxycodone, hydromorphone and fentanyl.
The national strategy, entitled First Do No Harm, is said to contain numerous recommendations on how to deal with Canada’s prescription drug problem. That could include stricter prescription monitoring and tighter supply chain control of high-potency opioids, for instance.
“I think it’s great really that the CCSA has finally taken this on, and hopefully the federal government and the provincial governments … and others who have a role to play will listen to many of the recommendations,” said Dr. Irfan Dhalla, a member of the National Advisory Council, who declined to discuss specifics of the report.
“It’s a great title because it illustrates that at the root of this problem, unlike most of the other substance misuse problems — alcohol, cocaine, tobacco — the root of this problem is a physician with a prescription pad.
“I think the report makes that quite clear, that if physicians prescribe these drugs more carefully, we will likely have fewer cases of addiction and overdose death,” said Dhalla, an internist and researcher at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital who has long spoken out against indiscriminate prescribing of opioids like oxycodone.
More than 1,000 Canadians will die this year as a result of taking opioids, often from overdoses, said Dr. David Juurlink, a physician and addiction researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. “Sometimes they’re abusing them, sometimes they’re not.
“And for every person who dies, perhaps 10 seek treatment for drug addiction. And perhaps more than 100 — and no one really knows for sure — have a problem with misuse or addiction involving opioids,” he said. (Read more )
WASHINGTON (AP) — More parents need to talk with their teens about the dangers of abusing Ritalin, Adderall and otherprescription drugs, suggests a new study that finds discouraging trends on kids and drug use.
When teens were asked about the last substance abuseconversation they had with their parents, just 14 percent said they talked about abusing a prescription drug, said the report being released Tuesday by The Partnership at Drugfree.org.
“For parents, it really comes down to not using the power they have because they don’t think this is an immediate problem, meaning their own home, own neighborhood kind of thing,” says Steve Pasierb, president of the partnership. “They believe that this is probably a safer way, not as bad as illegal street drugs.”
By comparison, most teens — 81 percent — said they have talked about the risks of marijuana use with their parents. Almost the same number said they have discussed alcohol with their parents. Almost one-third said they have talked about crack and cocaine.
Some parents didn’t see a significant risk in teens misusing prescription drugs.
One in six parents said using prescription drugs to get high is safer than using street drugs, according to the survey. Almost one-third of the parents said attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications such as Ritalin or Adderall can improve a child’s academic or testing performance even if the teen does not have ADHD.
For Tracey and Jeff Gerl, of Cypress, Texas, their son’s drug abuse problem was a shock.
“We just didn’t know,” said Jeff. He and his wife had the “drugs are bad” talk with their son, Nick, and thought he got the message. They called the parents of friends when he said he was spending the night to make sure an adult would be home. They tried to get to know his friends. Despite their efforts, Nick started smoking pot at the age of 12.
In an AP interview, Nick said he and his friends often raided their parents’ medicine cabinets for anything they could get their hands on — codeine, Xanax, Ritalin. Some kids, Nick said, would have “skittles parties,” where the teens threw all the pills they poached from home into a big bowl, mixed them up and then took a few without knowing exactly what they were ingesting.
By 14, Nick’s parents knew something was wrong. The day before he turned 15, they sent Nick to The Center for Success and Independence in Houston for 7 ½ months of substance abuse treatment. It wasn’t easy on anyone in the family — Nick, his two younger brothers and his parents. Nick tried to escape twice, but made it through the program and has been sober now for a year.
“My family life is a lot better. I’m realizing there are fun things in life that I can do sober,” said Nick, now 16. “I got a chance to get clean and I have my whole life ahead of me.” (Read more)