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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Louisville Overdose Spike Reignites Treatment Versus Enforcement Conversation

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 16, 2017 12:49:00 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Addiction, Treatment, Opioid

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A city that has been at the forefront of the American opioid epidemic since its start, Louisville, Kentucky recently experienced an even higher-than-usual increase in overdoses this past week. The city’s Metro Emergency Medical Services reported 151 overdose calls in less than seven days. Concerned that these spikes are no longer mere anomalies-but rather the new normal as the rest of the state and the entire country continues to contend with an increasingly pervasive and sophisticated opioid problem-Louisville has pledged to hire 150 new police officers to crack down on dealers. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also plans to collaborate with the DEA on overdose death investigations to get heroin dealers off our streets, and forming a task force with other agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, ATF, the US Attorney, Kentucky State Police and the State Attorney General's Office, to pursue, arrest and prosecute violent offenders.

Other Louisville officials-namely Dr. Joann Schulte, who heads the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness-have a different approach to combatting the statewide public health issue. In a recent apparent indictment of Louisville’s attitude toward medication-assisted treatment, Schulte told council members that Louisville needs to “grow up” and bolster medication-assisted treatment resources, as abstinence doesn’t work for everyone. Schulte forecasted a dim and prolonged battle with drug addiction in the city that saw 695 overdoses in the first month of 2017 alone. She lamented programs that don’t offer medications like methadone or buprenorphine-based drugs due to fears that patients will be replacing one drug with another. Proponents of mediation-assisted treatment claim that abstinence-based care doesn’t work for every patient.

While there is certainly wisdom in bulking up prevention and enforcement resources in the area, little has been said about Louisville’s plans to expand treatment to its sizable population of opioid addicts. Officials at Louisville’s Norton Audobon Hospital report that more overdoses are being treated at the hospital and the patients require larger amounts of the anti-overdose drug Narcan. They cite a significant spike in ER admissions and that more patients are needing to admitted for prolonged periods, rather than just being treated and released. Hospitals alone can’t offer the comprehensive treatment resources of a high-level treatment facility with medically supervised detox and rehab. While the situation in Louisville is unique in its own right, it also paints a larger picture of the ongoing battle between treatment and enforcement-first approaches when it comes to addiction.

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Dropkick Murphys’ New Album Tackles Addiction and Substance Abuse

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 16, 2017 1:54:39 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Opioid Addiction, Treatment, Dropkick Murphys

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It’s called 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory and it’s the ninth album from Quincy, MA punk legends Dropkick Murphys. The record was made right here in Texas and was deeply inspired by the Massachusetts opioid epidemic that claimed an estimated 1,747 residents in 2015. Like many other areas of the country, the synthetic drug fentanyl has led to a significant increase or overdose deaths (nearly 13 percent) throughout the state. The band, who have a documented history of advocacy and community activism, has felt the effects of opioid addiction first-hand, with members losing loved ones to the disease.

The deeply poignant 11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory was released on January 6th and will be supported by a European tour followed by a trek across the US, which will start in Bethlehem, PA on February 11th and conclude in their hometown of Boston on March 19th. Along the way, the band will be making a stop at Revolution Live, just three miles from RU’s flagship location in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

One of the more personal cuts off the record is a cover of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein song “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, a song that heard spoke to singer Ken Casey after leaving one of many wakes he has attended since his friends and family started to falling to addiction. Casey’s commitment to drug prevention goes back years. In 2009, he and his DM cohorts established the Claddagh Fund to raise funds for and broaden impact on worthy, underfunded non-profits that support the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.

During 2015, a year that saw a collective redoubling of efforts from lawmakers, police officers, clinicians and prevention advocates alike, the United States saw record opioid overdoses. Since 2000, over 300,000 Americans have been taken by these drugs. Despite advocacy and prevention efforts from all over, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. 

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An Important Message from Recovery Unplugged Medical Director Dr. David Kramer

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 15, 2016 8:24:58 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Opioid Addiction, Naloxone

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I’ve treated thousands of patients over my 20-year career as a doctor on the front lines of substance abuse and psychiatric illness. Recently, however, I had a heartrending experience that I feel must be shared; one that brings home the true nature of compassionate and genuine treatment in this fearful and uncertain time when millions of Americans suffer from life-threatening opioid addiction and struggle to access treatment.

It is all too easy to become detached in my world as I encounter hundreds of people suffering from the scourge of opiate addiction. In fact, so many insurance companies see the growth of the industry of addiction treatment in South Florida as a manifestation of fraud and “unnecessary” care, and are working to limit or deny treatment. That boundary, for me, was broken some months ago when an earnest 26-year-old woman who had worked very hard to achieve several months of recovery at the treatment center for which I serve as Medical Director succumbed to despair and compulsion and perished in a lethal overdose of opiates. This happened just two weeks after staff tried so desperately to reach out and re-engage her.

We have served more than 300 clients since opening our doors and this woman was one of over a dozen to meet this tragic end. The staff and clinicians had witnessed this tragedy too many times and, within days, met to try to address it. We decided that regardless of costs and time (thus far approximately $8000 out of pocket) we had a responsibility and a mission to educate and provide every discharged client with a potentially life-saving double dose of nasally-inhaled naloxone medication to use in the event of an overdose. This is not a measure that’s required in any treatment plan or by any particular insurance provider, nor am I aware of other treatment programs that take it. Several dozen discharged clients have now left the program with the life-saving naloxone nasal inhaler ($136 for the two-dose inhaler) in their pockets.

I happened to be a medical director at another intensive outpatient program where one of our clients eventually transitioned. Literally a month after starting the naloxone inhaler program, I learned that our former patient had utilized his inhaler, and another client’s, to administer four doses of naloxone within two minutes of a very lucky young female patient becoming non-responsive due to respiratory arrest caused by opiate overdose at her halfway house. The education on how to administer naloxone, and having it available immediately, literally saved this young woman’s life according to the later-arriving emergency medical services.

This epidemic is real and it’s killing tens of thousands of young Americans every year. Treatment can be complex, difficult and lengthy. It also can be cost-effective, sensible and life-saving. These are very real people: daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors. Compassion, will and common sense can save so many of them and guide them toward the help they need.

David R. Kramer, M.D.

Medical Director and Treating Psychiatrist – Recovery Unplugged Treatment Center

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Get Involved In International Overdose Awareness Day

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 18, 2016 5:04:23 PM / by RU Texas posted in Drug and Alcohol Addiction, Overdose, Recovery

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August 31 will mark the 15th annual International Overdose Awareness Day. The event was established to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. International Overdose Awareness Day gives all interested participants an opportunity to connect with one another and combat the spread of overdose deaths around the world. It’s also a reminder to those who have suffered the unthinkable impact of losing a loved one to overdose know that they are not alone.

The primary aims of the event include:

  • Providing an opportunity for people to publicly mourn for loved ones, some for the first time, without feeling guilt or shame
  • Including the greatest number of people in Overdose Awareness Day events, and encourage non-denominational involvement
  • Giving community members information about the issue of fatal and non-fatal overdose
  • Sending a strong message to current and former drug users that they are valued
  • Spark discussion about overdose prevention and drug policy
  • Providing basic information on the range of support services that exists in the local community
  • Preventing and reduce drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice
  • Reminding all of the risks of overdose

How Can I Get Involved?

Interested participants can get involved in International Overdose Awareness day through a number of ways, including organizing their own even through our registration team, using the hashtag #OverdoseAware2016 to help build momentum for the day, host a Twitter chat, promote your event through Facebook, donations and more. In 2014, 28.647 Americans died from drug overdose. You can do your part today to start reversing this trend. We are all in this together.

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