Archive for the ‘Substance Abuse’ Category

The Counterfeit OxyContin and Fentanyl Pills Are an Epidemic in Canada

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

It’s a story that gets sadder and more depressing and frustrating every time we hear it. It’s the story of prescription drugs gone wrong, and how they have been manipulated and morphed into something new and far more dangerous. Addict Kayle Best has injected heroin and meth into his arm, smoked crack and overdosed on the prescription drug Dilaudid. But he says that none of those come close to the experience he received from snorting some tiny green pills up his nose. And he says that no other drug in his life has ever caused so much pain and destruction. Best has no doubt in his mind that these pills are an epidemic, and makes no mistake in telling the public just how deadly they can be.

Counterfeit OxyContin, green pills labelled “CDN” on one side and “80” on the other, contain fentanyl, a highly addictive opiate. On the streets of Saskatoon, they are known as “greens,” and they are deadly.
The pills have been associated with at least two deaths in the city in the last month. According to Best, those deaths are not the only ones. In the last year, he said he personally knows at least seven other people who overdosed and died on the fentanyl pills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the pills are 80 times as potent as morphine and hundreds of times more potent than heroin.

According to Mr. Best, “everyone is doing these pills”. He even pointed out that young teens in Grade 9 even were abusing them, and to that he simply said “It’s just insane”. Best first discovered these pills on the street five years ago, and they were labeled as counterfeit oxyContin. The drugs don’t even contain OxyContin, and are much more dangerous and powerful than any legal prescription. Best said that he and his girlfriend were snorting 20 pills a day, at $40 per pill. Their habit cost upwards of $1,000 a day and they resorted to theft from their parents as well as from strangers on the street in order to feed the habit. “I was running with a pellet gun, jacking kids for weed to maintain my pill habit. It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.

As sad as this story is, it isn’t a unique one to Canada. According to statistics from the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, 243,000 Canadians reported abusing opiates in 2012. It was also reported that in 2010 nearly one of every eight deaths of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 in Ontario were related to opioid use.

The problem is so wide-spread that young children are becoming hooked on these pills as low as grade 8. The most frustrating part is figuring out what to do about the issue. Perhaps it is time that high schools start teaching in specific courses the dangers of drug use and abuse, and presenting kids with the facts they need to prevent them from getting involved with such dangerous and unpredictable chemicals. Education has to be key in dealing with the young drug market, because it can’t all be left to the police, for instance, to stamp out a problem that is growing more and more deadly by the day.



The Elderly Are at Just as Much Risk as Younger Generations When it Comes to Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Recent numbers from the Center for Disease Control are telling us that one in ten deaths among working-age adults is related to alcohol, alcoholism and alcohol abuse. This statistic alone is shocking enough, but these figures only account for adults within the age of 20-64. Adults over 65 are still at risk, and it is being shown that alcohol abuse in seniors is a very serious problem that requires immediate attention and assessment. It may come as a surprise to the rest of us that many seniors struggle with an addiction to alcohol. Similar to the working-age figures, ten percent of adults 65 and over are binge drinkers or heavy drinkers. Part of the problem, experts say, is that many seniors are living alone and have no one to look out for them and help control their drinking, therefore leading to the problem never being detected.

“The fact that this demographic is made up of people who are often retired and living alone, or at least living without kids, is important. A lot of these seniors are people who may have experimented with drugs in the 60s and 70s—and now that they have more free time and fewer family and work obligations, they are experimenting with drugs and alcohol all over again. As this report makes plain, the results can be disastrous.”

In another area of abused substances, seniors also seem to be keeping with the ties. We know that many teens, young adults and working-age adults alike abuse prescription medications. It would seem that a large portion of seniors are no different. Many of them abuse painkillers, sedatives, sleeping medications and tranquillizers. The sad part is that many seniors do legitimately require these medications, but if they are living at home without any kind of support or supervision they may be unable to understand how to properly use their medications, and may overdose because they feel their dosage isn’t enough to treat their symptoms or because no one has explained to them the very real dangers of misusing certain types of substance or combining prescription medication with alcohol or other drugs.

It would seem that addiction can strike at pretty much every age group, and that it doesn’t discriminate. If young people can fall victim to this vicious disease then there is no reason why senior citizens can’t stumble down that road. Many people abuse drugs to escape the realities of their complicated and unsatisfying lives, and if you consider what a lot of older people go through it isn’t that surprising that they will compensate by using and abusing drugs and alcohol. Maybe it’s because they are cut off from their kids or grandchildren, or maybe they simply don’t leave the house anymore or are stuck in a retirement home that they don’t care for, and it could be that they are suffering from a wide variety of medical issues, but the fact is is that older people have just as many reasons to get caught up in the world of drugs and alcohol as younger people do. And if we take that to be true, they deserve as much treatment help and compassion as any other person who is struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. Just because they may be our grandparents doesn’t mean they should be forgotten nor should we allow them to fall through the cracks.



Canada is Now Taking Action on Prescription Medication Abuse

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Prescription-Drug-Abuse-A-National-DilemmaDrug abuse is a major problem across North America and many parts of the world, but the subject we’ve been hearing the most about recently has to be prescription medications that treat severe pain. These medications to many seem harmless so long as they are taken in the recommended doses and are taken for a specific problem like pain following a surgery, acute pain disorders as well as for broken bones and other legitimate medical reasons leading to chronic pain. And for the most part those people would be correct. The reality of the situation is much different as many patients even after their pain is gone continue to use the medication and even go from doctor to doctor in order to get their “fix” as these types of drugs are now so commonly abused by both the person who was prescribed as well as their teenage kids or young adult children. A sobering Ontario study that was released recently is painting a worrying picture. A picture that includes drugs like OxyContin and codeine as leading causes of death in young adults. The results are only providing us with further proof that this form of drug abuse has reached crisis levels across our country and the issue requires our immediate and urgent focus in order to attain a solution before these drugs continue to addict our youth and cause thousands of premature deaths.

What Canadian public health officials have determined is that there is no one group that can be blamed for this crisis. The problem they say, is too complex, too significant and too deeply rooted for any one group to be pointed out and punished. The same mentality should be looked at in finding a definitive solution to the problem as the issue is a pertinent one from coast to coast, north to south. In 2012 the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) brought a wide arrange of experts and community leaders to the table in order to begin investigating the problem and determining ways to go about finding a solution. Doctors, pharmacists, dentists, nurses coroners, law enforcement, first nations leaders, family members federal governments, provincial governments and pharmaceutical industry leaders were brought to the table in order to identify the problem and brainstorm on ways to solve it.

Responding to Canada’s Prescription Drug Crisis is a 10-year road map that outlines 58 concrete recommendations for collective action in a number of key areas, including prevention, education, treatment, monitoring and surveillance, enforcement, and legislation and regulations. It recognizes that everyone has a role to play in reducing the harms caused by these prescription drugs. And it provides much-needed focus for actions at all levels of government and among organizations that have ownership of the problem and the solutions.

There remains a lot to be done on the issue, but those who have declared their involvement in trying to find a solution to what many are calling an epidemic have taken the first step by pooling their collective knowledge and skills there has certainly been progress in identifying the right way to go about this enormous task. The priorities of those responding to this drugs crisis are now being focused on Canada’s most important drug abuse problem which is overdose, and when they’ve laid down the foundations for that issue they will move on to prevention and other programs in order to curb the widespread issue.



A Story About an Addicted Police Officer and his Struggle to Get Well

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

It’s sad to see when a public servant with a great career gets caught up in the world of drugs, and not just drugs but outright addiction. It’s a tragedy when addiction can flip someone’s life upside down and ruin just about everything for them. In this case it is about an Ontario police officer who was the youngest ever cadet on the Toronto police force at only 17 years of age. Officer Peter Moore had a distinguished career as a cop, but when he became addicted to prescription painkillers his life was changed for ever and he may as well have been shooting up heroin due to the severity of his opioid addiction. Officer Moore’s lowest point was perhaps when he bought illegal medications of an informant who was a well know drug dealer. That is perhaps the absolute low for Officer Moore who described his actions as “That’s as bad as it gets”.

Officer Moore acknowledges that he did not have a good career, he had an excellent one because of his quick progression through the ranks as a cop. He was a detective constable before the age of 30 and even worked in the tactical division as well as the police force’s intelligence unit. Things turned sour very quickly after a terrible car accident that left Officer Moore in rough shape with an injured back that had already been a problem for him in the past. But due to his devotion to the police force, and with yet another promotion on the way, he ignored the pain and returned to work just two weeks following the accident. In his mind he believed he could simply get through the pain as he didn’t believe it was that serious. Unfortunately he was wrong. The pain intensified to a level that required him to take two Percocets a day because of his doctor’s concerns. Sadly that number multiplied to 18 pills per day very quickly and eventually turned into a full blown addiction that he simply couldn’t handle on his own. He voluntarily checked himself into one of Canada’s top rehabilitation centers where he was treated with methadone which was an ordeal that was truly a difficult and trying experience for him. His methadone treatment lasted about a week and upon leaving the facility he promptly returned to work. Sadly he continued to abuse prescription medications in order to deal with the pain he was still experiencing after two failed back surgeries. Due to this he landed himself back into rehab, this time for 30 days. He was off the percocet now and he was completely off painkillers until his doctor was introduced to a new a new drug called OxyContin. His doctor assured him that this new drug was slow-release, and therefore could not lead to addiction, but Officer Moore discovered that if you bit down on the pill the effects were felt much sooner, and he quickly spiraled out of control once again. Officer Moore began using his badge as a means to get multiple prescriptions around the province until one doctor caught on and informed the police department about Moore’s sketchy drug seeking behavior.

Officer Moore was never suspended or fired due to his actions, but decided to leave the police force in the late 1990s. For several years he continued to use methadone to treat his pain and was eventually helped by a doctor who specialized in anesthesia.

The main part to take away from this story is that pain is a real problem for many people, and the drugs available are available for a reason, but the tragedy is the number of people becoming addicted and never addressing their main concern which is pain. If the source of pain is identified and treated effectively then the possibility of addiction goes away. Not everyone’s pain can be treated promptly or even years down the road, and that is perhaps the saddest part of addiction because it’s nearly impossible to manage certain kinds of pain without the drugs, no matter how much rehab or therapy is available.



The One Size Fits All Approach May Not Be As Effective As We Think

Monday, July 21st, 2014

With a growing drug problem many people are searching for a one size fits all approach to treatment, but according to a study from the University of Cambridge showed that using prescription medications for treating addiction are only effective in specific phases of addiction. In current practice almost all drug addicts are prescribed something to help them with certain symptoms and problems related to their addiction, regardless of their personal histories or the severity of their addiction. The study also mentions that addiction isn’t just a biological or chemical problem but more of a “convergence” of a number of factors that ultimately lead to addiction.

The same study involved 40 male rats to test the effects of pharmaceuticals on addicts in various stages of addiction. First of all the rats were trained to attain their own food as well as cocaine-laced water that would be dispensed when a rat pressed on a lever. Each rat was then given a shot of a dopamine blocker right into their brains, and from there it was noted in the study that the drug seeking behavior had dropped substantially and only remained present in the more impulsive rats. In the beginning phase of their addiction the rats did not seem to benefit very much from the medications given to them, but seemed to benefit more from therapy. The addicts with the longest history of drug abuse seemed to benefit most from the experiment, which leads the researchers at Cambridge to believe that addiction is both biochemical as well as psychological.

While there was a lot of science talk previously, what the study has shown is that no one addict is quite the same, and should not be treated in the same fashion as another addict. Yes there are very obvious similarities amongst addicts, and that is how many treatment plans were established and that’s why many of them are largely successful when it comes to treating a number of people at once. But is a universal style approach to rehab as effective as we think? People turn to drugs for a variety of reasons, they use a variety of different drugs and their levels of addiction are often different, so is there some solution out there that exists primarily for dealing with the specifics of an addiction rather than a broad understanding of the illness? Well, maybe not quite yet but many treatment facilities that offer both group therapy as well as one on one sessions might be the closest we have. Group therapy works because it allows an addict to look both at themselves as well as others who have maybe not the exact same problem but are in similar circumstances. One on one therapy can truly delve into the mind of an addict and ascertain the specific nature of their addiction and find ways to cope with their illness. In addition to therapy we have to remind ourselves of the pharmaceutical options for addicts. These days, a larger number of addicts are being medicated to deal with the nastier parts of their rehabilitation, and even though they may be effective it is important to first establish at what stage the addiction is in and establish whether or not the addict would benefit from such a treatment approach. Again, no addict is quite the same so every method of recovery or treatment should first be scrutinized, and then later be applied to an addict if it’s what’s in their best interest.