RU Texas The Beat

Misinformation Plays Significant Role in Texas Drug Epidemic

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 9, 2017 2:22:13 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Addiction, Addiction Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Opioid, Underreporting

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get-facts.jpgIt’s, frankly, little surprise that many healthcare organizations and state agencies would have a hard time keeping up with the glut of addiction-related fatalities consuming the United States. The reality is that this urgent and pervasive public health issue is growing faster than we, as a nation, can get our arms around it. The fact remains; however, that when inaccurately reported numbers (however unintentional) are allowed to fester and go uncorrected it has a nasty habit of dictating policy; this is a reality that the Lone Star State is finding out, first hand, as it endeavors to curb substance abuse within its borders.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released numbers that indicated Texas had among the lowest rates in the nation for heroin and opioid abuse. Data from the Houston Chronicle, however, indicates that these numbers might be a product of underreporting. There have been multiple examples of misalignment between state and county calculations that have resulted in a lowballing of the state’s overdose rates. County estimations, which are likely to be more accurate, are consistently higher than state calculations. Texas is just one of many states in which underreporting and misinformation further clouds the full scope of the addiction problem.

Why is it so important that these numbers are accurately reported? In addition to the obvious answer of making sure every human life is recognized and the state has a full and accurate picture of the public health matters affecting it, these figures translate into real and tangible resources to help counties fight drug and alcohol abuse in their communities. Lower estimates tend to get lower attention and subsequently lower prevention and treatment resources. For its own part, Texas is looking at the discrepancies in numbers and how to best ensure consistency of reporting at the state and local levels, going forward.

With heroin and opioid rates posing such an urgent threat to communities all over the country, it’s easy for certain locales to get lost in the shuffle. One of the best ways to accurately assess the full scope of threat and the progress we’re making to curb it as a nation, from year to year is to make sure everyone is doing their part to deliver the right information. We’ve seen what happens when inaccurate data is allowed to govern the addiction care conversation in this country, and it’s partly responsible for the escalation we have seen in recent decades.

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Kroger to Sell Narcan at Pharmacies in 105 East Texas Locations

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 9, 2017 7:27:56 PM / by Sample HubSpot User posted in Recovery, Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Narcan, Opioid, Kroger

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With the state of Texas battling a fierce and pervasive heroin and opioid problem, lawmakers, police, recovery advocates and ordinary residents alike are banding together to come up with more and more solutions to curtail overdose. Most recently, the statewide prevention effort gained a new ally: Kroger Supermarkets. The national grocery chain as partnered with the Texas Pharmacy Association to offer the anti-overdose drug Narcan in the pharmacies at all 105 of their East Texas stores. NARCAN® (naloxone HCl) Nasal Spray delivers a 4mg concentrated dose of naloxone, which is simple, ready-to-use, and needle free. NARCAN® can be easily administered to someone who is actively overdosing on an opioid.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 2,600 Texans died from drug overdose. Marlene Stewart, president of Kroger’s Houston division, has stated the company’s intention to be part of Texas’ initiative to decrease heroin and opioid overdoses across the state. In 2016, Texas SB 1462 took effect, which allows authorized medical professionals to prescribe naloxone through a standing order. Kroger pharmacists have received special training and education as part of the program. They are now educated and empowered to teach patients or third-party deployment agents to properly administer the drug in the event of an overdose.

Texas’ relationship with Narcan has evolved considerably over the past few years. In 2016, more and more police departments across the state were mandated to carry the drug amidst escalating overdose fatalities. Kroger is the latest company to offer the much-needed Narcan. In 2015, Walgreens started offering the drug in its 715 stores throughout the state. As the rate of opioid-related deaths continues to rise throughout Texas, increased access to Narcan in vulnerable areas is just one of a few proactive measures communities can take to protect themselves against losing a loved one.

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What Does 2017 Hold for Addiction Treatment?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 2, 2017 5:09:23 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Opioid Addiction, Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Fentanyl, New Year

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Fotolia_123519808_Subscription_Monthly_M.jpgAs we begin to settle into another year, it can be overwhelming to contemplate how quickly time passes, and to think about what we failed to accomplish the year prior. The passage of time can be even more overwhelming when we’re working against the ticking clock of addiction. Whether it is ourselves or a loved one that has come to need help for drugs or alcohol, we are quickly reminded of the urgent and decidedly terminal nature of addiction, and the damage it can cause when left unaddressed. To that end, it is worth turning the arrival of a new year to our advantage by examining what is (or should be) on the horizon for clinical treatment in 2017.

This past year, the United States made great strides and sweeping demonstrations of commitment toward the monetization of addiction treatment, from the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to various states like New York and Ohio pledging additional resources to fighting addiction within their state. We also, however, saw multiple and highly publicized examples of overdose via social media which put a more-human-than-ever face on the American addiction epidemic. Some of these issues resulted in the direct and undeniable endangerment of children. It is also worth noting that Massachusetts is facing a battle to continue opioid treatment funding.

The reality is that, despite all of the new attention and money going toward addiction in the United States, there continues to be new and emerging threats that make us feel as though we’re taking one step forward and two steps back. It is, therefore, worth examining what types of substance abuse pose a particularly dangerous threat in the coming year in order to develop comprehensive strategies to dealing with them. For example, 2016 saw the seemingly rapid proliferation of a drug called fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is approximately 100 times more powerful than morphine. Its increase in accessibility is leading to an increase in overdose deaths all over the country, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and more. The fentanyl problem is particularly urgent because the drug has proven to be resistant to Narcan, unlike other opioids.

Also big in 2016 was the continued infiltration of synthetic drugs like U-47700 or Pink. This drug, in particular, has sustained a temporary ban from the US Drug Enforcement Agency because of its involvement with at least 46 confirmed deaths—31 in New York and 10 in North Carolina. Law enforcement agencies have seized the drug in powder form and as counterfeit tablets that mimic pharmaceutical opioids. Earlier this year, law enforcement in Ohio seized 500 pills resembling a manufacturer's oxycodone immediate-release tablets. However, laboratory analysis confirmed that they contained Pink. Pink is usually shipped in from China and is typically combined with other drugs like heroin and aforementioned fentanyl.

Synthetic drugs represent a larger problem of overseas labs changing the chemistry of similar drugs that have already been banned here in the United States in an effort escape legal accountability. Lawmakers have been only marginally effective in keeping up with the regulation and prohibition of these drugs; and by the time they are made illegal, a new and unregulated version is waiting just around the corner. In the meantime dozens of people often suffer fatal overdoses because these drugs were allowed to fly under the radar for so long. This is a problem that has been going on for years, but emerges in different forms on a regular basis. All it takes is a slight change in a seemingly inconsequential chemical compound.

In addition to these latent addiction threats, the United States continues to struggle with a rampant and devastating heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic, as well as the enduring threat of cocaine and methamphetamine. Drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, though more difficult and expensive to obtain, continue to be a forceful driver of American overdoses. While 2017 may represent new and old challenges for the addiction care community, it also represents new opportunities to treat those who truly need help, and to, patient by patient, start reversing this tragic and alarming trend. With the right resources, attitude and level of commitment, we can do this.

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A Family Thing: Talking with Unlikely Songwriter Patricia Bronson

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 15, 2016 1:47:31 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Treatment, Alcoholism, Heroin Addiction, Music

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For the entirety of our Artists in Recovery Series, Recovery Unplugged has been focusing on how musicians use music to help cultivate and sustain their recovery. Our latest installment flips the script and discusses how the love of family can be expressed through music to help addicts bounce back and overcome drugs and alcohol. Recovery Unplugged recently had the honor of speaking with one mother who realized just how valuable music can be as a source of healing and empowerment. This is a woman who is determined to take control of her own story, and we were happy to help her tell it.

There are mothers and then there is Patricia Bronson. Patricia is from Pelham, New Hampshire and her daughter is one of thousands of addicts in a state that has been essentially decimated by heroin and prescription opioid abuse. She developed an alcohol problem in college; but like many parents, Patricia didn’t recognize her daughter’s drinking problem until it was too late: “I just kind of wrote it off as a typical teenager going off to college. But it had become more excessive and it came to the point where she was really making bad decisions and hurting herself.” Eventually Patricia guided her daughter into a treatment facility in Florida, where she remained for about nine months.

Unfortunately, however, the story doesn’t end there. After a stint at another rehab in Maine and a subsequent year in a half of sobriety, Patricia’s daughter soon found herself battling heroin addiction: “She called me one Sunday and said ‘I need to check myself into rehab.’ I said ‘You’re drinking again?’ and that’s when she actually told me ‘No, I’m doing heroin.’ We had tried to convince her to go back to Florida, but she didn’t want to go.” It took her daughter three days to find help, a problem that many vulnerable New Hampshire residents face, despite a glaring need for increased treatment resources throughout the state. On the last day, with assistance from her mother, she found a facility in Massachusetts. She completed a day-program and has been sober ever since.

As the mother of an addict, Patricia has done everything she possibly can to make sure her daughter gets the help, love and support she needs, including penning a song for her when she reached an important milestone: “The first one was for her one year of sobriety [from alcohol],” says Bronson. “What we did as a family is we took verses and turned then into a hip-hop song.” After finalizing the lyrics, Patricia collaborated with a production company in Pennsylvania to bring the piece to life. The partnership has continued through three other works. She and the rest of her family presented the song to her daughter at a meeting.

Patricia wrote the first song so that her daughter could have a constant reminder of the support in her life when she felt vulnerable: “It was for her to continuously listen to when the days got tough.” Her writing credits don’t end there. As an active member of the Pelham Community Coalition, an organization dedicated to educating and empowering the Pelham community about substance abuse to prevent overdose, Pat put her frustration with her town’s lack of action toward this crisis to music. “The town, itself, is still in denial that they have a problem. It’s very hard to get people to talk about it because [they think] it’s never going to happen to them.”

For her own part, Patricia has no plans to stop writing songs to chronicle important events in her life: “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and these songs are always going to be there.”

In a subsequent conversation, Patricia informed me that there have been multiple overdoses in Pelham since the interview, leaving two dead.

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Tom Petty to Be Named MusiCares 2017 Person of the Year

[fa icon="calendar'] Dec 13, 2016 2:35:00 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Tom Petty

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A cluster of music’s greatest living artists will pay tribute to one of their own in just a few months’ time, as legendary singer/songwriter and Heartbreakers front-man Tom Petty is honored by MusiCares as their Person of the Year. MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for musicians and those in the music business in times of need. Their services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. The organization also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.

Petty’s struggles with heroin addiction became widely known after the release of his biography last year. He spent more than a decade battling the disease after he split from his wife in the 1990s. What is even better documented is his legendary career and triumphant return to the stage and studio after overcoming his dependency. A career that has spanned 40 years, first with the Heartbreakers then as a solo artist, Petty has solidified himself as one of the most important and influential songwriters of his era. His journey to and from heroin addiction reminds us that we can all get sucked in, but also that we can all recover.

Petty will be honored on February 10 at a Gala in Los Angeles. The proceeds of which will provide essential support for MusiCares, which ensures music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical, and personal need. Performing artists will include Gary Clark, Jr. Foo Fighters, Don Henley, Norah Jones, Kings Of Leon, Jeff Lynne, Randy Newman, Stevie Nicks, George Strait, and Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, Elle King, and Regina Spektor and the Bangles. The celebration culminates with the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. The telecast will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network at 8pm.

About MusiCares

The MusiCares Foundation offers programs and services to members of the music community, including emergency financial assistance for basic living expenses such as rent, utilities, and car payments; medical expenses including doctor, dentist, and hospital bills; psychotherapy; and treatment for HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, hepatitis C, and other critical illnesses. MusiCares offers nationwide educational workshops covering a variety of subjects, including financial, legal, medical, and substance abuse issues, and programs in collaboration with health care professionals that provide services such as flu shots, hearing tests, and medical/dental screenings.

The MusiCares MAP Fund® allows access to addiction recovery treatment and sober living resources for members of the music community. Staffed by qualified chemical dependency and intervention specialists, MusiCares offers Safe Harbor Room® support, sponsored in part by the Bohemian Foundation and RBC Capital Markets, to provide a network to those in recovery while they are participating in the production of televised music shows and other major music events. MusiCares holds weekly addiction support groups for people to discuss how to best cope with the issues surrounding the recovery process. The MusiCares Sober Touring Network is a database of individuals across the United States who can take music people to recovery support meetings while on the road.


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Missed Opportunity: What Last Night’s Debate Says about the Current State of Addiction Awareness and Political Will

[fa icon="calendar'] Sep 27, 2016 12:27:00 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Opioid Addiction, Politics, Heroin Addiction, Debate

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Let’s start with some numbers:

If you’ve been paying attention during this year’s admittedly bizarre presidential election cycle, you will notice that each figure above corresponds to a state that has been tasked with hosting a presidential or vice presidential debate in 2016, the last painting an overall picture of the current state of heroin and opioid addiction in the United States. Despite the urgent and alarming heroin and opioid abuse climate in each state and the country as a whole, however, Americans are not likely to hear any conversation regarding this urgent and pervasive public health crisis.

The State of Things

Last night, the nation saw the 2016 presidential candidates assemble on Long Island, a region that has arguably become the northeast cradle of opioid abuse, for the first of three debates. What followed was nothing short of a spectacle that, at times, bordered on absurd, no matter where one falls on the political spectrum. While the event represented an opportunity to have a frank and substantive discussion on a leading preventable killer of Americans, both candidates remained silent on the issue. It was apparently more important to engage in the same divisive rhetoric that has been the hallmark of this election, going back 18 months.

Plenty of Blame to Go Around

As much as we’d like to place the blame solely on Trump and Clinton for their relative silence, we must recognize that the moderator, and the media in general, bare some culpability in the lack of conversation. When Prince died, American opioid addiction saw a brief uptick in media coverage; however when landmark legislation was passed as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, coverage was scarce at best. The debate was broken into several 15-minute blocks; and it is altogether tragic to think that one of these blocks couldn’t be allocated toward the most significant and urgent public health crisis facing the country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though we can expect anything to change going forward.

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