A new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo orders New York’s drug court judges to stop acting like doctors and let addicted defendants continue their treatment medications.
Many, if not most, of New York’s 140-plus drug courts force drug-addicted defendants to stop taking doctor-prescribed medications and go “cold turkey” in jail. They tell the defendants that to qualify for the free court-ordered treatment and thereby have charges against them dismissed, they have to quit their methadone, Suboxone, Vivitrol or any other Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) they might be on.
The same attitudes and practices exist in many other drug courts across the country. Judges routinely force defendants off their doctor-prescribed MAT medications, and insist on complete drug abstinence. They usually insist on 12-step programs as well which are not appropriate for everyone.
There’s a good reason why Cuomo decided to sign the new regs into law. In February, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that federal funding for drug courts will be denied if offenders are made to stop taking MAT medications to treat opioid addiction.
The ONDCP and other public health agencies are pushing for wider acceptance of MAT, claiming that it offers the best chance at sobriety. But many others, especially drug court judges, call MAT drugs a “crutch”, arguing that defendants in their courtrooms should be made to abide by strict abstinence.
An ONDCP spokesperson told Huffington Post that treatment centers that insist on strict abstinence should also be on notice. Mario Moreno Zepeda said, “Our goal is to expand access to treatment, and to medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. We will continue working at the Federal level to increase access to these medications, as well as to strengthen policies and contractual language to ensure that grantees – including criminal justice and treatment programs – permit the use of all FDA-approved medications.”
Earlier this year, we reported on a similar situation in Kentucky, where for decades drug court judges have ordered defendants to quit MAT and adopt abstention. But the state’s lawmakers, threatened by the loss of federal funding, passed regulations forbidding judges from the practice.
After the ruling, a well-known, award-winning Kentucky Drug Court judge with decades of experience dealing with drug crimes and addictions has gone public with claims that the widespread use of drug-assisted treatment, particularly the drug Suboxone, is accomplishing next to nothing in terms of recovery. Judge David A. Tapp says he’s seen enough problems with Suboxone opioid addiction treatment to know it’s causing problems, not solving them.
Judge Tapp says Suboxone is an opioid and is more often than not being diverted and sold by addicts to pay for pills and heroin. He said a recent editorial in the Lexington, KY, Herald-Leader stating that Suboxone will reduce addiction and overdose deaths “is, to put it mildly, dead wrong.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Kenton county has taken another tack and passed game-changing legislation. Kenton County is part of the so-called Tri-State Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Area – a densely populated urban sprawl shared by Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, that is a hotbed of drug abuse and crime. Police in Kenton now send non-violent opioid offenders straight to treatment rather than jail – a trend among police forces across the country where heroin has joined prescription opioids as the major drug problem in the region.
Here at Novus, our game-changing medical opioid detox protocols are also making waves. Patient after patient is winning their life back from opioid dependence and addiction. If you or someone you care about needs help with a drug problem, call us right away.
The New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, representing 600 congregations, is calling for an end to the country’s war on drugs, calling it “the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery.”
The Methodists voted to support efforts to end the decades-old war on drugs through “means other than prohibition.” In other words, they want drugs legalized and addicts treated as patients, not criminals.
But the Methodists aren’t alone. They’re actually joining a burgeoning religious and secular movement across the country calling for alternatives to the heavy-handed law-enforcement approach, which they say affects a disproportionate number of minorities – particularly black and Latino.
For example, The Unitarian Universal Association, representing over 1,000 congregations, has come out against the so-called war on drugs. And in Illinois, a marijuana decriminalization bill is being pushed by Clergy for a New Drug Policy (CNDP), a coalition of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Unitarian Universalist churches.
The Methodists’ resolution was voted in during a regional conference this past summer, and they’re hoping it will be adopted at the national level. The church says the war on drugs unintentionally leaves countless dead, destroys countless families, causes courts and prisons to be utterly overwhelmed, and cost taxpayers billions — all with little or nothing to show for it in terms of reducing the epidemic of addiction.
New approaches, they say, must include the legalization of some or all illicit drugs to deal effectively with substance abuse and to prevent the wrecking of whole families – most of them black or Latino – usually over the actions of a single family member.
“To people of color, the ‘war on drugs’ has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery,” the Methodist resolution said.
Powerful argument uses statistics
The Clergy for a New Drug Policy’s aims are clearly stated on its website:
“As voices of faith, we call for an end to the War on Drugs which the United States has waged, at home and abroad, for over 40 years. This War has failed to achieve its stated objectives; deepened divisions between rich and poor, black, white, and brown; squandered over one trillion dollars; and turned our country into a ‘prisoner’ nation.”
The group points out that more than 2.3 million people are now incarcerated in US prisons, more than any other nation on the planet including Russia, South Africa and even China, which has a population almost 4 times greater than ours. A huge percentage of American prisoners are jailed because of drug laws that punish non-violent drug crime – prisoners who many people believe would be better served through drug detox and rehab.
The group quotes theologian Richard Snyder, who says the U.S. to an alarming degree manifests as a “culture of punishment.”
The group goes on to say that the “weapons of punishment include a federal budget of over $215 billion for prisons, police and courts; mandatory minimum sentencing; seizures of property by law enforcement without due process; indiscriminate, and highly discriminatory, police sweeps as attempts to tamp down entire neighborhoods; and the privatizing of prisons. The ideology of this War is now embedded in our institutions of law enforcement and abetted by politicians who fear being labeled soft on crime.
“The War on Drugs when it was conceived in 1971 sought to conflate race and crime in the public mind for political purposes. This has worked. Even though drug use is roughly equivalent across ethnic groups, the vast proportion of those in jail are people of color. In 2006, one in every 15 black men was behind bars and one in every 34 Latino men, compared to one in 104 white men. As a result, young black men in most states are more likely to go to prison than college.”
“It’s a justice issue,” said Eric Dupee, the pastor of Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church in Winchester, Mass., who wrote the Methodists’ resolution. “Basically what I wanted to do is put forth the idea that our drug war is creating more harm, more problems than it’s solving, and I wanted people to be aware of that.”
Here at Novus, we’re not taking a stance on this issue, but we continue to play an essential part in the battle against addiction by helping individuals get their lives back through our cutting-edge medical detox protocols. Don’t hesitate to call us and get your questions answered about drug and alcohol detox. We’re here to help.
Two very concerned politicians, from two of the country’s hardest-hit opioid-addiction states, are calling the FDA’s recent approval of OxyContin for kids reckless, shameful, disgusting and outrageous.
“I am disgusted by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent decision to approve OxyContin for use for children as young as 11 years old,” Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, wrote in a letter to the FDA following the OxyContin decision. “The FDA should be absolutely ashamed of itself for this reckless act.”
And Peter Shumlin, the Democratic governor of Vermont, said the FDA is “recklessly making the problem worse with its decision to approve OxyContin for use by children as young as 11 years old.” Writing in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, Shumlin said, “Now is the time for the FDA to be a partner in reducing — not expanding — the availability of these drugs. Instead, it is doing the exact opposite.”
Sen. Manchin’s lengthy letter to the Acting Commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, condemned the agency’s decision, calling it a “disconnect between the FDA approval process and the realities the deadly epidemic of prescription drug abuse are having on our communities.
“We have years of evidence that shows that drug use at an early age makes a child more likely to abuse drugs later in life. We don’t sell cigarettes or alcohol to minors, we should treat prescription drugs the same and protect our children from these harmful drugs,” Sen. Manchin added.
Gov. Shumlin’s piece in the NYTimes, titled OxyContin Is Not for Kids, said it’s true “that there are a small number of very ill children who may benefit from the extended-release nature of OxyContin, which allows for longer intervals between doses, the risks of approving this medication for kids are great. We know that teenagers are at a higher risk for addiction than adults because of their immature brain development. And we know that even if prescribed with the best of intentions, expanding the availability of these drugs in general has terrible consequences. It can lead to high rates of abuse, the use of other opioids such as heroin and, too often, death.
“It’s unfortunate but not all that surprising that the FDA is ignoring the risks of making OxyContin more widely available. Along with the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA lit the match that ignited the addiction crisis in this country when it approved OxyContin in the mid-1990s. The irrational exuberance with which painkillers were handed out following that approval is disturbing,” Gov. Shumlin added.
Here at Novus, opioid-opiate withdrawal and detox is routinely praised both by patients and detox professionals. Novus medical detox protocols remarkably reduce the pain and discomfort normally expected from the detox process. Don’t hesitate to call, because we’re here to help and are the recognized experts in advanced opiate-opioid detox.
Detoxing from heroin and prescription opioids
If you’ve ever tried to detox from heroin or prescription opioids on your own “cold turkey” you know how terrible it can be.
It can actually make the common list of opioid withdrawal symptoms seem like a day at the beach. In fact, opioid withdrawal can be so much worse it’s almost indescribable.
The good news is that detoxing from opioids does NOT have to be a scary nightmare.
Keep reading, and we’ll tell you how modern medical detox protocols, using proven holistic approaches, can greatly ease the discomfort of withdrawal.
How awful can opioid detox really be?
When you Google “opioid withdrawal symptoms” you get something like this:
Opiate withdrawal symptoms include:
- low energy, irritability, yawning
- anxiety, agitation, insomnia
- runny nose, teary eyes
- hot and cold sweats, goose bumps
- muscle aches and pains
- abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
What’s not expressed by that list is the horrible, non-stop misery that goes on for days.
A reporter for Medical Daily recently discussed his experience getting off opioids, including heroin, and he said the endless days of no sleep was the worst.
“It feels like every horrible symptom you can think of, for any illness,” Justin Caba told another Medical Daily reporter. “The restlessness, you can’t just sleep through it, the worst is you just can’t get comfortable and sleep through it. And that’s what makes it so hard.”
Caba added that the first three days were pure hell and then it started to ease off, lasting about a week. But then the psychological symptoms begin, which took two to three months to ease up for him. “They call it post-acute withdrawal symptoms,” he said. Caba has been “clean” for over a year and a half, and is doing well.
A New York-based addiction specialist, Dr. Stuart Kloda, told Medical Daily that for some people, opioid detox can be medically serious, even life-threatening.
“Early on people will start out with yawning, watery eyes, runny nose, a bad body ache, kind of like having a really bad flu,” Dr. Kloda said. “You can also have diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Commonly it’s believed that withdrawal is not life-threatening, but that’s not true in all cases.”
For example, diarrhea can be so severe that is causes a life-threatening dehydration. Vomiting can be so severe it tears the esophagus and endangers one’s life. And simply the stress of withdrawal can trigger a heart attack in someone with heart disease.
How does Novus reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal?
At Novus Medical Detox Center, we pride ourselves in knowing how to help our patients get through opioid detox with an absolute minimum of discomfort. Most patients say they can’t believe how much easier it was than they expected.
At Novus, opioid withdrawal symptoms are greatly reduced because we employ the most up-to-date medical protocols:
- Your Metabolism
Everyone is different, so every detox program is tailored precisely to the patient. There’s no “one size fits all” at Novus.
By ensuring that patients are properly hydrated, we eliminate one of the most common dangers associated with opioid detox.
By ensuring that each patient’s nutritional needs are fully met, they are better able to deal with the stress of withdrawal.
Our medical staff utilize buprenorphine to stabilize and eliminate the discomfort of opioid cravings.
The bottom line – opioid detox that really works
Hydration, natural supplements, good food and a withdrawal protocol designed specifically for each person’s individual metabolism guarantees a more comfortable withdrawal than at other medical detox centers.
(Be warned: Some drug detox clinics saying they provide “medical detox” do little or nothing to make the detoxification process more comfortable.)
When our patients leave, they’re off all unnecessary drugs, and many leave in better health than when they arrived. And they’re in far better condition to succeed in a big way on rehab.
Don’t miss the full story about Novus opiate-opioid withdrawal and detox. We guarantee you will be impressed.
And don’t hesitate to call Novus if you or someone you love is in trouble with opioids. We’ll do everything in our power to help you find the right solution.
Why swimmer Michael Phelps swore off alcohol
A recent article in Swimming World describes the reasons why Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps has sworn off alcohol – to maximize his health and strength for competition and for living a better life in general.
After two DUI arrests, a severe six-month suspension from competing in major international events and a month and a half in alcohol rehab, Phelps has made it clear to the media that he’s through with drinking at least until after the 2016 Olympics – and possibly forever.
Not just the most decorated swimmer ever, but the athlete with more Olympic gold medals than anyone in any sport, the 30-year-old super-star has his sights firmly fixed on even more gold medals in Rio next summer. The decision to stay clean and sober came after his second arrest for DUI a year ago – the first was 10 years earlier, in 2004.
“Before I even went to court, I said to myself that I’m not going to drink until after Rio – if I ever drink again,” he told Paul Newberry of the Associated Press. “That was a decision I made for myself. I’m being honest with myself. Going into 2008 and 2012, I didn’t do that. I didn’t say I was going to take a year off from drinking and not have a drink.”
“Of course,” said Eric Bugby, Associate Head Swimming and Diving Coach at West Point, writing in Swimming World magazine recently about Phelps’s decision to cut out drinking. “Why wouldn’t a professional athlete do anything and everything to be the best? Especially an athlete coming off a six-month suspension for a second DUI arrest? It’s ethical and responsible.”
But, Bugby added, refraining from drinking “is not the consensus among the athletic community, professional or amateur. Alcohol is a major part of American culture. Take a look at the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, WNBA, MLS, NASCAR, ATP and the PGA. Professional sports are sponsored by alcohol and promote various brands to generate revenue. They romanticize alcohol – [showing] young adults in blithe social situations.”
And the constant advertising of alcohol around sports is working, he said. Approximately 80 percent of Americans use alcohol, 80 percent of college students use alcohol and 80 percent of student-athletes use alcohol.
Alcohol is bad for athletic performance – and your health
NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline says that everyone concerned “needs to understand the considerable negative consequences associated with excessive drinking, which pose dangers from which they need to protect themselves and others.”
Those dangers include:
- Motor skills
- Mood, and
According to the National Institute of Health, athletes should be especially concerned. Because even a single drink of alcohol compromises skeletal muscles, hydration, metabolism and the central nervous system.
“More specifically, a single drink of alcohol can decrease strength output by inhibiting calcium channels in skeletal muscles, increase evaporation and reduce body temperature, reduce glycogen uptake immediately following intensive bouts of exercise, impair balance, dexterity and REM sleep,” Coach Bugby said.
As well as detracting from performance, alcohol has a direct negative effect on recovery time – a vital element for swimmers and other high-performance athletes.
“That’s the magic word in swimming,” Coach Bugby said. “Swimmers dream of recovery. Whether it’s a full practice as part of a two-week cycle or a 30-minute nap between doubles, recovery means everything to endurance athletes and it’s the reason swimmers improve.”
Of course, the bad effects of alcohol on mood and relationships need little explanation. And within a few months of swearing off drinking, Phelps and his long-time girlfriend Nicole Johnson announced their engagement after years of a troubled off-again on-again relationship.
Phelps, who was sentenced to a year in prison, had his prison sentence suspended. But he must be on probation for a year and a half. “You don’t need a lecture from the court,” the judge told Phelps. “If you haven’t gotten the message by now, or forget the message, the only option is jail.”
It seems the message was received, loud and clear. “I recognize the seriousness of this mistake,” he said. “I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life.”
Phelps later he told the AP, “If I’m going to come back, I need to do this the right way. I’ve got to put my body in the best physical shape I can possibly get it in. Is it a challenge? No. I go to bed earlier. I sleep more. I wake up every day and have a completely clear head. I don’t feel like my head went through a brick wall. There are so many positives to it.
“I feel like I am okay and I am happy with who I am. I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself, who I truly am. I can honestly say there aren’t many people who have seen who I really am.”
Heroin deaths are way up in the state of Mississippi, and public health officials are more than worried.
For years there’s been one heroin-related death per year in the state. In 2012 it crept up to three, according to death certificates collected by the Health Department. Then in 2013 it doubled to six.
This year, overdose deaths have already rocketed to 13 and officials are predicting that, if the trend continues, it will reach 26 by the end of year.
Dr. Randy Easterling of Vicksburg is the medical director of the Marion Hill Chemical Dependency Unit. “A year ago, I might hardly see a heroin addict,” Easterling told a reporter from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger recently. “Now I see one every day.”
Some of the figures from the past couple or three years are hard to pin down exactly. Easterling, who is also past president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, said many overdose deaths don’t get counted because autopsies are rarely done in those cases.
But there’s no doubt that heroin is rampant in Mississippi like never before. Most states in America are undergoing the same kind of heroin invasion. Although drug overdoses are high everywhere, they’re mostly from prescription drugs. But deaths from heroin are growing faster than from any other drug.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that heroin is no longer “the scourge of the inner city.” Heroin is now found in the suburbs and in smaller towns and even rural communities, among people of all classes and colors. Incredible as it may seem, some of the largest jumps in heroin abuse are among white, middle-class, middle-aged women in the ‘burbs.
The CDC is calling for health care providers to pay more attention to prescription painkiller abuse and addiction. The agency says more access is needed for substance abuse treatment, like wider access to naloxone, a drug that specifically targets and interrupts an opioid overdose. Naloxone is essential and should be made widely available to help reduce overdose deaths from opioids, whether it’s heroin or prescription narcotic painkillers.
Heroin overdose deaths have at least doubled over the past decade in America, and some estimates are much higher.
Experts say there are more than one reason for this deadly increase:
- Sometimes a batch of heroin can be contaminated by a harmful or deadly toxin
- Addicts used to prescription opioids overdose on heroin because they lack experience
- And the most common reason – more people are taking heroin than ever before, mostly because it’s so much cheaper than prescription drugs:
- A single dose of heroin — about 1/10 of a gram — sells for $5 to $10, compared with $20 to $35 for an illegal oxycodone pill.
Addiction expert Dr. Scott Hambleton, medical director of the Mississippi Professionals Health Program, said that doctors’ prescribing habits have played a big role in the increase in opioid overdoses. “We have caused it,” Hambleton said. “Prescribers have caused it.”
Mississippi is the sixth highest state per capita in painkiller prescriptions, with 120 prescriptions for each 100 people.
Until the 1990s, opioid painkillers were primarily prescribed for end-of-life cancer patients. But then, in 1995, the FDA approved OxyContin, a time-release formulation of the drug oxycodone. The drug maker, Purdue Pharma, launched a campaign of misinformation to doctors claiming it should be used for all sorts of simple chronic pain, saying also that tests had shown it was less addictive than other opioids. And doctors responded by prescribing it for all sorts of aches and pains.
Purdue’s claims later proved to be false, and in the mid-2000s Purdue was fined $615 million for making illegal claims and for its illegal marketing tactics. It was a record fine at the time, but no one went to jail. And it was too late anyway – the damage already had been done. The market was flooded with OxyContin, countless thousands of individuals were addicted and dependent, and the overdose death rates soared across the country.
Easterling said that a survey showed that if a person took hydrocodone for 90 days, one in three wound up addicted. For those taking hydrocodone one time, that number was one in four.
“This is probably the most addictive medication since crack,” he said. “And it’s more available than crack.”
Hydrocodone is the active opioid ingredient in painkillers such as Vicodin, Norco, Lortab, Zohydro and Hysingla, and it is very similar to oxycodone, the active opioid ingredient in OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet and others.
Here at Novus, we’re dedicated to helping victims of opioid dependence and addiction get their lives back, free of those drugs forever. If you or someone you care for is suffering from opioid dependence, don’t hesitate to call us right away.
Maryland is likely to be the next in a growing lineup of states demanding rebates and lower prices for the opioid overdose drug naloxone, from drug maker Amphastar.
Naloxone is accepted everywhere as an absolutely vital tool in the battle to save opioid addicts from overdose. Soaring prices have put it out of reach of not just smaller communities but hundreds of city and state agencies already burdened by budget cuts.
In a letter sent to Maryland state officials, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he believes the Amphastar is “overcharging” for naloxone. He warns that the price hikes could hamper efforts to fight addiction, and tells Maryland Governor Larry Hogan that he should negotiate the same kinds of rebates that New York and Ohio have already received.
And in spite of offers to provide some rebates, naloxone drug makers have come under an informal Congressional investigation.
Last January, in our blog More heroin deaths expected as naloxone prices soar, we discussed how the increase in naloxone prices was definitely impacting emergency responders in the field. Amphastar was already under fire, and we quoted Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research forum, who said about Amphastar’s price hikes: “It’s not an incremental increase … There’s clearly something going on.”
New York and Ohio have already won rebates from the small California drug maker. Now Vermont, New Jersey (and likely Maryland soon) are asking for rebates. And by the time you read this, other states will probably be in the lineup too.
Amphastar is the main target, although several other companies also make and sell naloxone products. Although Amphastar’s prices have more than doubled in the last year, it insists that its prices are still less than all other makers.
The main problem is that most states have been relying on Amphastar for many thousands of doses a year because of Amphastar’s convenient nasal delivery devices – the only such devices available. State and city police, emergency responders and families and friends of addicts all are recipients of the devices, which easily deliver a single dose of naloxone that immediately reverses the effects of opioid overdose.
Maryland price increases are typical
Maryland state agencies have paid as much as $41 a dose, which is a 111 percent increase from June 2014. The increases are typical, but just as in other states, not all agencies saw the same increases, and some weren’t increased at all. In Maryland, only 75 percent of agencies participating in the state’s naloxone training and distribution programs were hit with increases.
Amphastar says the different prices and price hikes were the result of pricing by different regional distributors, they weren’t set by the drug maker. The company has already begun $6-per-dose rebates for New York and Ohio, and has agreed to rebate any other states in the same amount.
According to the Pharmalot blog in the Wall Street Journal, Amphastar president Jason Shandell said that “we have not been contacted by Maryland, but we are willing to offer them and other states rebates.”
According to the Fierce Pharma blog, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine asked Amphastar to repay police departments and other agencies $6 a dose. He said the price of the drug had risen to $28.50 in October from a low of $12.78 in 2013. And last year, New York also negotiated a $6 per dose rebate.
But Amphastar isn’t the only company under fire for jacking up naloxone prices, Fierce Pharma said. The Clinton Foundation distributes naloxone as part of its prescription drug addiction program. And it has negotiated a discount with another naloxone provider, Kaléo Pharma.
The Foundation also approached other naloxone makers, but Kaléo was the first to respond with a discount. Fierce Pharma said the Clinton Foundation told the NY Times that it provides naloxone kits to any institution that can “widely distribute them.”
Congress now investigating naloxone price increses
In a March, 2015 letter from U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md) and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt) to Amphastar’s CEO Jack Y. Zhang, Ph.D., the lawmakers essentially suggest that the drug maker may be cashing in on the recent shift in the perception of naloxone as a medical necessity in every city and state.
Cummings, Sanders, and three other chairmen and a ranking member, are requesting detailed financial and sales records from Amphastar “to evaluate the underlying causes of recent increases in the price of your company’s drug.”
Cummings adds that “some have suggested that these price increases coincide with an increasing number of large city police departments deciding to supply their officers with the drug. And he includes the same Chuck Wexler quote as we did in our January blog – “There’s something clearly going on.”
Meanwhile, here at Novus, it’s simply a question of getting on with things as best we know how. And our best is better than any other medical detox center we know of. If you or someone you love is in trouble with drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to call Novus. We are the detox and recovery experts. And we’re always here to help.
“It’s not just a spliff round the barbecue”
A survey of a cross-section of lawyers in the UK finds that at least 27 percent of them regularly uses recreational drugs – and dangerously strong and addictive drugs at that.
The survey, performed by Legal Cheek, a popular UK legal news journal, said that the favored drugs were not a bit of weed now and then.
“It’s not just a spliff round the barbecue,” said the survey. “Nearly 80 percent of users are keen on class-A gear… the survey shows they have a taste for the hard stuff.”
By ‘class-A gear’ the survey refers to the UK equivalent of Schedule 1 or 2 drugs in the U.S. – opioids, cocaine, crack, methamphetamines – all the most dangerous and addictive drugs.
“Of those currently taking drugs, almost all at least occasionally indulge in class-A. Indeed, 89 percent said they take cocaine or crack, albeit with only 9% doing the latter,” the survey said.
Another 77 percent of lawyers currently taking drugs said they were keen on Ecstasy/MDMA, while 30 percent expressed a ‘retro fondness’ for psychedelics such as LSD.
“But marijuana is the most popular drug for lawyers,” said the survey. “Of those currently taking drugs, 93 percent said they enjoyed a spliff. Slightly more than 40 percent go for ketamine, while nearly the same percentage opts for magic mushrooms.
“Strikingly, four lawyers said they were currently at least occasionally enjoying the delights of heroin,” the survey added.
The survey uncovered strong support among UK lawyers for the “complete decriminalization of all drugs.” This opinion of the legal profession “flies in the face of recent government moves to ban a range of so-called legal highs,” according to the survey. “Some 54 percent of lawyers said drugs should be made legal, indicating that many of those in the front line of the ‘war on drugs’ — either prosecuting or defending dealers and users — reckon the battle is lost.”
While more than one lawyer in four was currently taking drugs, the survey found that overall use is “much higher. Nearly 60 percent of lawyers said they had at some stage in their lives taken illegal drugs.”
Another finding suggests that personal wealth influences drug habits. “Perhaps because their remuneration packages are far weightier, those solicitors practicing corporate-commercial law are more likely to take drugs than their counterparts slaving away at general practices,” said the survey. Roughly 56 percent of solicitors currently taking drugs work at commercial law firms, while only 36 percent are at the lower-paying general practices.
Criminal lawyers were “leading the way” in drug abuse – more than 60 percent of those currently taking drugs. Only 22 percent were in common law practices.
These findings are expected to “trigger some dismay” within the UK government, following an announcement to put before parliament the “Psychoactive Substances Bill” that proposes to “prohibit and disrupt the production, distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances in the UK.”
In other words, it’s designed to crack down on what is seen as an increasing public interest in what can be called “legal highs.” The law would ban a wide range of substances, including the sale of nitrous oxide — more commonly known as “hippy crack” or “laughing gas.”
Mike Penning, Minister of State for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, said: “The landmark bill will fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances — and put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them.”
Legal Cheek says that the professional implications for lawyers busted for doing drugs “remain vague.” Regulators apparently approach such situations on a “case-by-case approach.”
“For example,” says Legal Cheek, “the UK’s Solicitors Regulation Authority maintains that even a minor drugs conviction is likely to be considered a breach of rule 1.06 which states ‘you must not behave in a way that is likely to diminish the trust the public places in you or the profession’.
A UK legal authority told Legal Cheek that lawyers caught using drugs may be required to appear before a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, and that any penalty “would largely depend on the circumstances.”
Lawyers convicted in a court of law for a drugs offence, or those reported for abusing drugs to the UK’s Bar Standards Board could get anything from a tap on the shoulder to disciplinary action.
It’s obvious from this survey that a lot of lawyers in the UK are messing around with drugs, and a lot more serious drugs than we feel comfortable with, considering that we put so much trust in our lawyers to protect our interests. What kind of defense can a lawyer put up for us if he’s just taken psychoactive drugs in the court washroom before addressing the judge or jury?
We aren’t aware of any similar survey here in the U.S. We can probably safely assume that there is a similar level of recreational drug use. If you’ve heard of any such survey of American lawyers regarding recreational drug use or any special or other treatment for drug offences in courts, by law societies or by Bar associations, we’d love to hear from you. Maybe we could do a U.S.-based blog on the topic.
Meanwhile, if you or someone you care for needs some expert help for drug or alcohol problems, don’t hesitate to call Novus today. We’ll do our best to explain all your options and help steer you to the best solution.
PICTURE CREDITS: Legal Cheek Ltd.
When the prescription opioid painkiller Numorphan in pill form was taken off the market 36 years ago in 1979, most people working in addiction treatment breathed a sigh of relief.
Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, Numorphan (generic name oxymorphone) was seen to be responsible for countless thousands of addictions and overdose injuries and deaths. One of the most commonly abused prescription opioids at the time, the pills were usually dissolved and injected by addicts, many of whom preferred it to heroin.
By 1979, swayed by the wave of oxymorphone addictions and deaths across the country attributable to Numorphan, the FDA and the drug’s maker, Endo Pharmaceuticals, removed Numorphan tablets from the market. The injection and suppository forms of Numorphan were allowed to stay on the market and are still in use today.
So after a deadly 20-year run – it had been approved in 1959 – the pill form of Numorphan disappeared from pharmacy shelves in drug stores and hospitals across the country. Neither the FDA nor the drug maker admitted any connection to the 20-years-long Numorphan epidemic for its removal.
But then, in 2006, for some utterly inexplicable reason (well, on the surface at least) the FDA approved Endo Pharmaceutical’s application to approve the same drug all over again, but under a new trade name – Opana.
The FDA approved both Opana immediate-release and Opana ER for extended release. And then in 2011 the agency approved an “abuse-deterrent” version which, as with similar pills like abuse deterrent OxyContin, abusers are easily defeating the anti-injection properties of and are shooting up Opana like there’s no tomorrow.
The effects of Opana abuse are closer to those of morphine than of other widely abused opioids like OxyContin (extended release oxycodone). According to NYPress.com, OxyContin has “a more stimulating effect” than Opana, which can cause users to fall asleep. Like morphine, Opana’s greatest danger to abusers is the possibility of respiratory depression, the major cause of overdose death.
In addition to the ever-present risk of overdose, sharing needles among a large group of Opana abusers has been found responsible for a massive outbreak of HIV and hepatitis C infections in rural Austin, Indiana, and several Appalachian states.
The new Opana, according to a report in MedPage Today, is also associated with a blood-clotting disorder and permanent organ damage, problems that didn’t occur with injection abuse of earlier version of the drug, Numorphan, or injection of generic oxymorphone.
In addition to the tragedies associated with addiction and spread of disease, there’s another disturbing aspect of this whole Opana thing. When the FDA approved Opana, there already were dozens of other narcotic painkillers on the market. And plenty of them were already complicit in tons of cases of crime, abuse, overdose and deaths.
Why in the world would there need to be yet another opioid painkiller on the market, and one with a proven track record of destruction?
“There certainly didn’t seem to be a need for it,” said James Roberts, MD, a professor of emergency medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. As quoted in MedPage Today, Roberts added that “there are plenty of narcotics around for pain relief.”
As we’ve reported in earlier blogs and articles, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today collaborated on an investigation of oxymorphone’s “re-appearance” on the market. The investigative reporters observed a pattern of drug approvals over a decade or more, including “cozy relationships between regulators and drug company executives and the use of questionable clinical testing methods allowed by the FDA.”
Throughout the 2000s, records show, there were regular meetings of drug company execs, federal regulators and various academics involved in drug development, under the auspices of an organization funded by pain drug companies. These meetings were the subject of a 2013 Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation. And Opana’s Endo Pharmaceuticals was a frequent attendee.
“The nation’s leading pharmaceutical companies paid entry fees running into the tens of thousands of dollars to attend invitation only conferences with FDA and NIH officials,” the reporters wrote. “Entry to these meetings was secured by annual fees from $20,000 to as high as $35,000. The drug companies that paid those fees were guaranteed the right to send a representative to the annual meetings.” And many of the academics invited to these closed-door meetings were offered payments of about $3,000 to attend.
The ostensible purpose of the meetings has been to come up with ways to fast-track drug trials – cutting back on almost every aspect of testing, even removing test subjects who suffer from side effects from the statistical outcomes.
Another thing: When Endo tried to get Opana approved in 2003, reports MedPage Today, the FDA said the drug didn’t appear effective enough in clinical trials. And there were safety concerns after several pain patients overdosed on the drug and had to be revived with emergency doses of naloxone.
Endo promptly removed anyone from the study who didn’t respond well to the drug, and the FDA approved it.
These approaches “essentially stack the deck in favor of the drug,” says MedPage Today. “More importantly, experts say, drugs tested that way are not likely to reflect what will happen when a drug gets on the market and is prescribed for large numbers of people.”
“It’s in fact cheating,” said Patrick McGrath, PhD, a pediatric pain expert at the Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The whole affair reeks of something resembling “pay to play” – not how the FDA is authorized to protect the American public from harm. For its part, the FDA denies any pay-to-play funny business.
But there’s no explanation to justify the approval of yet another dangerously addictive opioid painkiller into a world already awash in painkillers, a world already crushed by a prescription painkiller addiction epidemic.
Meanwhile, doctors are writing close to 800,000 Opana prescriptions a year. And Endo Pharmaceuticals is grossing an average $450 million a year.
And thousands of opioid addicts are finding plenty of Opana to go around, too.
If you or someone you care about is in trouble with drugs or alcohol, call Novus and get the help you need.
The small and almost unknown town of Austin, Indiana – population 4,200 – is the center of the worst surge in cases of HIV and Hepatitis C in state history. And the epidemic is stemming entirely from one drug – Opana ER extended release oxymorphone – being injected with shared needles.
Although Opana ER is made in an “abuse deterrent” form, users easily have discovered how to get around that mechanism, said Dr. Jerome Adams, Indiana’s State Health Commissioner. “It’s important that we all understand that just because a drug comes in an abuse deterrent form, that doesn’t automatically make it safe.”
By April of this year, the number of confirmed cases of HIV in southeastern Indiana had climbed to 136 just since November 2014. And this is in a region that historically has seen less than 5 cases a year. Meanwhile, there were six additional preliminary cases, said CDC officials, awaiting confirmation. If positive it would bring the total to 141.
Added to the HIV, co-infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) also has been diagnosed in nearly 85 percent of patients.
The number of HIV cases rang alarm bells all the way from rural Indiana to the CDC. The state’s chief medical consultant told a CDC briefing that roughly four out of five infected patients reported injection drug use, while some of the others reported partners as injection drug users.
In Scott County, where most of the current infections are, fewer than five cases of HIV per year have been reported in the past. “This is the first outbreak of its type that we have seen documented in recent years,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS in Atlanta.
Opana ER and shared syringes – a deadly combination
The majority of cases have been linked to dissolving tablets of the prescription opioid oxymorphone (Opana ER or Extended Release) and injecting it using shared syringes.
“We have not seen an outbreak of HIV specifically associated with the injection of oral opiates previously,” Mermin said. And the Indiana State Department of Health said that the injection drug use is “a group activity in this population” – with as many as three generations of a family, along with multiple community members, all injecting together and sharing needles.
Patients have ranged in age from 18 to 57 years and are on average 35 years old. A total of nearly 55 percent are male.
Opana (oxymorphone) has a half-life of approximately 4 hours. That means dependent users begin to feel withdrawal symptoms around that time. “We have heard that folks are injecting from 4 to over 10 times a day,” one official said.
Once crushed, the Opana pills are less “dissolvable” than, for example, heroin. The anti-abuse formula renders it thick and lumpy, requiring a thicker gauge needle to inject. “That is making the sharing of needles an even higher risk activity,” said Health Commissioner Adams, “because you’re being inoculated with higher amounts of HIV virus.”
Needle exchange programs are currently illegal in Indiana, so the only recourse for addicts is to buy or steal new needles, or share used needles. In late March, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed an executive order authorizing a 30-day needle exchange program, and then was persuaded to extend the program for another 30 days. But needle exchange alone “is minimally effective,” said Adams, “so it must be part of a comprehensive response.”
Indiana has a prescription drug monitoring program that lets health officials give physicians feedback about their prescribing habits, Adams said. The state also is taking “a four-pronged approach to the outbreak” that includes the development of a ‘one-stop shop’ that provides testing, treatment, and follow-up; a needle-exchange program now being offered by the Scott County Health Department; a public awareness campaign and additional HIV testing and treatment at a local health clinic.
“This outbreak that we’re seeing in Indiana is really the tip of an iceberg of a drug abuse problem that we see in the U.S. that is putting people at very high risk for infectious diseases,” Adams said.
And the CDC has released a health advisory to alert healthcare providers and health departments of the HIV outbreak and HCV co-infection. The advisory details how to identify and prevent the spread of HIV and HCV and urges providers to refer patients with substance abuse problems for medication-assisted treatment and counseling.
The principal adverse effects of Opana (oxymorphone) are similar to other opioids. The most common are constipation, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, dry mouth and drowsiness. Of course, it’s highly addictive and can lead to dependence, withdrawal symptoms or overdose.
Here at Novus, we routinely achieve great success treating dependencies to prescription opioids such as Opana ER. If you or a loved one needs help with an opiate dependence, don’t hesitate to call Novus. We’re always here to help.