How Addiction Among Healthcare Workers is Jeopardizing Patients

addiction among healthcare workers

It’s a disheartening fact that as long as drug substances have been in existence, they have been abused in some way or another. And though it is quite plainly obvious that drug abuse and addiction affects the individual himself, what few individuals consider is that these problems also affect others around him, including his family members, friends, coworkers, community, and indeed even society as a whole. This is definitely alarming when you consider that a drug abusing or addicted individual’s job can place him in a position where his drug issues potentially jeopardize the health and lives of others.

Why Drug Addiction Occurs

In most cases, drugs are taken in response to some problem the individual has encountered. This is true whether the individual is consuming illicit or prescription drug substances, as they are trying to eliminate undesirable physical, mental or emotional sensations. Once the individual has determined that drugs help them in some way, they tend to continue using them indefinitely. Having found a solution that appears to work somewhat “magically,” the individual rarely continues searching for another solution for their problem. Unfortunately, continued drug use creates its own extensive problems.

Drug substances are foreign to the human body and interrupt the body’s normal patterns and routines in order to create their effects. In an attempt to cope with this, the body will attempt to integrate drugs into its normal patterns and routines, eventually tolerating the drug’s presence. When this occurs, the individual no longer experiences the same effects of drug use and is often driven to take higher quantities of drugs more frequently in order to try and force the desired effects.

When drug use continues past tolerance, the body grows to depend upon these substances, and actually “needs” them in order to function in its new state of normal. This is drug dependence, and it will drive the individual to compulsively continue their drug use, despite any and all consequences. Once an individual has fallen into the trap of drug addiction, their every thought, decision, and action revolve around obtaining and using more substances. This is what makes them particularly dangerous to others around them, especially when they work in the healthcare field.

Addiction Among Healthcare Workers

It is unfortunately not unusual for drug addicted healthcare workers to be prescription drug addicts, especially considering their close proximity and access to these drug substances. The addictiveness of prescription drugs is often greatly under-exaggerated, though the most addictive prescription drugs easily rival the most addictive illicit drugs. This presents numerous issues for the individual himself and jeopardizes the health and safety of their patients as the healthcare worker is completely unable to function properly, and can, therefore, make errors in care and treatment that have the potential to create life-threatening situations

In Tennessee, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee is attempting to protect patients from drug-addicted doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers by passing legislation that requires immediate disciplinary actions be taken against these individuals. Currently, there are delays in the disciplinary process that unfortunately allow drug-addicted healthcare workers to retain their licenses and even find new jobs while they are under investigation for failing or refusing a drug test. The new legislation would require employers to notify the state, identifying such individuals. Cases would be reviewed to determine whether immediate license suspension is warranted, or whether mandatory rehabilitation treatment should be enforced. Ultimately, the goal is to protect patients first and get individuals the help they need second.

The Bottom Line

Any individual who is suffering from drug abuse or addiction is potentially dangerous to others around him. Patients who trust their medical professional to assist them in their own health care needs have a right to know, with absolute certainty, that the professional helping them is completely capable of doing so, and not suffering from their own health issues and problems.

If someone you know is suffering from drug addiction, contact Narconon Freedom Center today at 877-639-2909 so they can receive the immediate help they need.

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Recovering Addicts More Likely to Help Others Fight Addiction

peer support

Often times an individual will turn to drug use and abuse because they feel unable to cope with some aspect of their life. Such an individual is likely to decide that they are struggling through something that no one else truly understands, which can further isolate them in their problem. It is important to note that while the damaging effects of an individual’s drug use and abuse may be plainly obvious to others around them, they may yet believe that they are successfully hiding their problems and that no one would even care if they knew. By the time the individual finally decides to reach out for help it is often more out of desperation than hope, as they have come to a point where they just don’t feel like they can deal with their drug use anymore. However, if they are forced into a treatment program that only serves to intensify their feelings of isolation and hopelessness, they may determine that true and lasting recovery is unachievable, and give up on their recovery path before they’ve even started upon it. That is unless they connect with someone who truly understands exactly what they are going through.

The Value of Peer Support

Contrary to what some believe, drug addiction is not a disease that an individual is genetically predisposed to or that can never be fully and permanently resolved but only lived with. That said, the road to full and lasting recovery is definitely long and hard, something that most addicts recognize and have a difficult time facing. What he needs is the support and encouragement of others to drive him forward.

When family members learn of a loved one’s drug abuse or addiction problems, they often wonder why the individual would “do that to himself.” The erroneous assumption that an addict must want to remain an addict since he keeps using drugs can have a seriously negative impact on their ability to successfully recover, largely because they already suffer from low self-confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem. They may tell others that they are in complete control of their drug use and can stop any time they want, but these are lies they feel much safer standing behind than the truth: they don’t know how to and can’t stop their drug use. Such an individual needs the kind of understanding and compassion that is most readily available from a peer who has himself experienced drug abuse or addiction and has made a successful recovery.

Peer support works wonderfully to assist both individuals involved in establishing, stabilizing, and maintaining their recovery. Individuals who are just beginning their recovery can foster some hope and confidence from interacting with an individual who has successfully navigated the road to recovery, and a recovering addict can experience great satisfaction in knowing that they are helping someone else to overcome the quicksand-like pull of drug abuse and addiction. Many drug addicts are quick to state that the individual who is attempting to help them on the road to recovery “cannot possibly understand” what they are going through, and unfortunately this can be used as an excuse to quit one’s treatment program or to justify one’s relapse into drug use. However, when it comes to peer support, this argument simply doesn’t stand up since the individual who is attempting to help them on the road to recovery actually does understand exactly what they are going through, and are the living proof that it is possible to make it all the way through recovery and to the other side. In fact, according to Mental Health America, peer support from recovering addicts can actually work to reduce hospitalizations and the cost of services among drug abusers and addicts who are seeking recovery. Peer support can also help to improve the individual’s quality of life and their overall health.

Drug Treatment Centers in Michigan with Peer Support

If you or someone you know needs help with drug abuse or addiction, Narconon Freedom Center is a leading Michigan drug rehab. Many of the Narconon staff are living proof that the cycle of addiction can be effectively and permanently broken, and that the individual can move smoothly forward into a better, healthier future.

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Comparing Addictions: Why It’s a Form of Denial for Addicts

addiction denial

While one could argue that no one forces an individual to use or abuse drugs to the point where they become addicted to or dependent upon these substances, it is safe to assume that no individual who consumes any drug substance for any length of time desires or chooses addiction. In fact, the path from casual and occasional drug use into full-blown drug abuse and addiction can be so subtle that an individual cannot actually see the full extent of the changes they have experienced. Even when an individual does recognize that they have a problem with drug substances, they are often at a loss regarding what to do about it–especially since they often feel that they will not be able to successfully and permanently break their relationship with drugs. This is why it is not at all uncommon for drug addicts to make excuses for their drug addiction–either by stating that it’s “not that big a deal,” or that they can “stop any time they choose to” or even that “someone else’s addiction is worse than mine.”

Addiction Denial

In order to thoroughly address and resolve an addiction, the individual must first be able to consider it, honestly, just as it is. This means that anything the individual may consider that lessens or alters the true nature of their addiction can impede their recovery. This is why denial can be so dangerous, and unfortunately, denial can come in many different forms.

When an individual is comparing their addiction to someone else’s, they are essentially denying their own addiction because they are failing to completely see it as it is. There may certainly be some noticeable differences between a “small” marijuana addiction and a “big” cocaine addiction, but in the end, there remains one important fact: an addiction is an addiction, and it is dangerous to the individual’s health, relationships, and life. Comparing one’s addiction to another’s does nothing to resolve one’s own addiction, stop the damaging effects of one’s addiction or prevent it from becoming worse.

Resolving Addiction

Rather than comparing one’s addiction to another’s, or even spending a single second wondering what others would think about their drug use habits, one needs to be entirely honest with oneself. This means they need to consider whether their life has changed significantly as a result of their drug use so that it essentially revolves around their drug use. An individual who has allowed their relationships with friends and family members to slip away, who has dropped hobbies and other interests they once found very enjoyable and who participates in life patterns and routines that allow them to keep in close contact with other drug users, needs to be honest about the fact that they are allowing drugs to dictate their decisions and actions and therefore need help to disconnect from them.

It can be understandably difficult for an individual to admit to himself, let alone to others, that he has a problem with drug substances and needs help. However, reaching out for help and support can allow one to experience the fact that they are not alone in their problems and that there are many others who are both willing and able to help them take back control of their life. As part of this, it’s important to recognize that as much as one may want to get and stay clean on their own, they may find it incredibly difficult or even impossible to actually do so. Professional drug rehabilitation can not only provide the ideal, calm, distraction-free, and supportive environment the individual needs in order to recover, it can also provide them with many wonderful tools they may not even have known about. In addition to resolving the many immediate effects of drug use, one can also address why they turned to drug use in the first place and learn the valuable life skills necessary to prevent a future return to drug use. And at no point in this entire recovery process will it ever be useful for the individual to compare their own addiction problems or recovery to anyone else’s–simply because it is their own.

If you or someone you know needs help with drug addiction, call Narconon Freedom Center today at 877-779-8110.

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Overcoming Self-Sabotage During Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery

Even while some individuals agree that admitting one is addicted to drug substances and needs help is one of the most difficult parts of recovery, the fact is that the entire recovery process can be long and difficult. Not only will you have to resolve the many physical, mental and spiritual effects caused by their drug use, you will also have to determine and handle the various things that drove you to drug use in the first place. Considering that you have been using drug substances in order to cope with situations and problems, it can be more than a little bit challenging to face not only these situations and problems but also the situations and problems exacerbated by your drug use, without turning to drugs as a solution. And while you may encounter many difficulties along the way, there is a vast difference between struggling to take back one’s life and actually participating in the self-sabotage that can completely derail your recovery.

Recognizing Self-Sabotage

In order to successfully overcome self-sabotage during addiction recovery, you first have to recognize it. Following are some of the key signs that you are harming your recovery by engaging in self-sabotage:

  • You are reinforcing your low self-esteem. It is not unusual for drug addicts to suffer from low self-esteem, but this is something that absolutely must be handled in order for you to successfully take back control of your life and future. Therefore, if you find yourself thinking or saying things that reinforce your self-esteem, like how you don’t deserve to be happy or you won’t ever be able to lead a clean life, you are participating in self-sabotage. Chances are, these are the same sorts of things that led you to drug use in the first place.
  • Comparing yourself to others. Using comparisons to determine how well one is doing is always dangerous, especially if you are working through addiction recovery, which makes it a form of self-sabotage. There may be limited similarities in your past and current struggles with others in recovery, but using them as a yardstick by which to gauge your own recovery is not a good idea.
  • Allowing boredom and reminiscing to occur. If you allow yourself to sit in boredom and then begin to reminisce about the “good ol’ days” when you were using drugs, you are definitely participating in self-sabotage and threatening your addiction recovery.

Overcoming Self-Sabotage

In order to overcome self-sabotage and strengthen your addiction recovery, you need to:

  • Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Decide that you deserve to be happy, that you can get and stay clean, that you will have the help and support you need whenever you need it, and that you will be able to reach your goals. What may seem quite challenging at first can become natural over time if you continue to push away negative thoughts and focus on positive thoughts.
  • Recognize and celebrate your progress. Trying to determine whether you are doing well by matching your progress against someone else’s will not allow you to recognize and celebrate your own progress. Each step forward is an important step in the right direction and should, therefore, be acknowledged as such.
  • Keep busy with new things. Drug use took up a lot of time and attention, which means that cutting it out leaves you with the time that you will need to fill with other things. This means you should take up a new hobby, join in fun recreational activities, and find sober friends to hang out with.

Achieving freedom from drug use may take time and a lot of hard work, but it is most definitely worth it. Not only will you take back control of your life, you will discover you have far more freedom than you ever imagined. If addiction recovery becomes challenging, find the help and support you need to push through–don’t self-sabotage in order to excuse a relapse into drug use.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction or drug addiction recovery, call 877-779-8110 for immediate help.

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More Health Insurers Increasing Access to Addiction Treatment Coverage

health insurance

An individual who is suffering from drug addiction is often very well aware that they have a problem and that it is adversely affecting their health, relationships, and life. They may desperately wish for freedom from drugs and yet feel with absolute certainty that such freedom may not be possible for them. Their dependence upon drug substances can drive them to believe that they will not actually be able to recover from their use or live a life without them. It, therefore, follows that if they decide to reach out for help, there really must be no delay in their receiving it.

Increased Access to Addiction Treatment Coverage

Once a drug addicted individual has decided that they need help, there are two main problems that can stand in the way of their recovery: no access to treatment and an inability to pay for treatment. Many individuals depend upon health insurance coverage in order to get the treatment services they need, but for a long time, some health insurance companies have introduced various restrictions that have delayed coverage–often with dire results. Many of these companies are now removing these restrictions, allowing patients to get the treatment they need when they need it.

One of the nation’s largest insurance companies, Aetna, has joined two other major health insurance companies, Anthem and Cigna, in removing a barrier for those patients who seek medication to treat their addiction problems. Specifically, Aetna, Anthem, and Cigna have removed the requirement that doctors must first seek approval from the insurance company prior to prescribing the medications that are used to ease drug withdrawal symptoms. This requirement, called “prior authorization,” was a source of distress for both doctors and their patients as it could result in treatment delays lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Unfortunately, for many patients who are seeking treatment, these delays are all it takes for them to experience uncomfortable and sometimes painful withdrawal symptoms, which could very well cause them to change their mind about recovery or even to relapse back into drug use. There is no telling when, if ever, they may once again reach out for help.

A Growing Problem

Drug addiction, and more specifically opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions across the country, with an estimated thirty-three thousand drug overdose deaths in 2015 alone. In many cases, opioid addiction comes a result of the either the illegal or legal and recommended use and abuse of prescription painkillers. Even some individuals who use these medications precisely as recommended by their medical doctor find that they become addicted to and dependent upon these medications, and they don’t know where to turn for help. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be among the most difficult drug withdrawal symptoms to cope with, which can add further difficulty to an individual’s attempts at recovery. Suboxone and other similar medications are specifically designed to lessen opioid withdrawal symptoms so the individual can successfully come off opioid use. However, these medications are often very expensive, and therefore unaffordable without insurance. By eliminating the prior authorization requirement, some believe that these health insurance companies are opening the door to easier treatment availability for patients who need it.

A Final Thought

While it may seem at first blush that any treatment for drug addiction is better than no treatment at all, it is important to recognize that not all treatment options are created equally and to also consider the effectiveness, and potential drawbacks, for any proposed treatment. Suboxone and similar addiction medications may help in decreasing opioid withdrawal symptoms, but it must not be overlooked that these too are drug substances, and they therefore also come with risks.

Where health insurers can be most effective in helping their policyholders is in providing insurance coverage for effective addiction treatment services. Many individuals who are seeking to overcome a drug addiction problem are actually reluctant to go on medication, as they feel that this is simply replacing one problem with another. They want to be entirely free from all drug use and dependency. And fortunately, it can be done.

For more information about how to get addiction recovery help for yourself or a loved one, contact Narconon Freedom Center at (877) 779-8110.

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Heroin Epidemic: Why Overdoses are Surging Despite Dealers Being Locked Up

Heroin Epidemic

Heroin is arguably one of the most potent, addictive and dangerous drug substances currently in existence. Some users have reported that it took no more than a single hit for them to become hooked, and for their life to be forever changed. Whatever an individual’s initial reason for turning to heroin use, and however long it takes for them to become hooked, one thing is for certain: their life is in very real danger every single time they take a hit.

Since heroin is an illicit drug substance, individuals must purchase it illegally, usually from drug dealers. Unfortunately, the very fact that the manufacture of heroin is unregulated makes it even more dangerous. A user who is desperate for their next heroin high pays little, if any, attention to the fact that what they are purchasing, even from the same dealer, can vary dramatically from batch to batch. Heroin sold on the streets is rarely pure, but there is no way for the user to know this, and a single hit of heroin at their “normal” dose amount can lead to overdose when it is laced with other highly dangerous drug substances, like cocaine or fentanyl. This obviously means that along with the rise in heroin use there has also been a rise in heroin overdoses.

The solution may seem quite simple at first blush: get rid of the distribution apparatus. Without access to drug dealers, individuals won’t be able to get heroin and overdose on it, right? Unfortunately, this solution simply isn’t working.

Why Heroin Overdoses Are Still Surging

Last October in Bay County Michigan, thirteen men connected to Saginaw’s Sunny Side Gang were federally indicted on various charges having to do with the distribution of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine. It was believed by authorities that this group was one of the main drug suppliers in the area, and their arrest would help to address heroin overdoses in the area. It didn’t, and heroin overdoses surged in the area. In October, five individuals were admitted to the McLaren Bay Region Hospital for suspected heroin or opiate overdoses. In November, eleven individuals were admitted for suspected heroin or opiate overdoses. By December 22nd, another thirteen individuals were admitted for suspected heroin or opiate overdoses. This is compared to a total of two individuals admitted between May and August for suspected heroin or opiate overdoses. In the entirety of 2015, Bay County Central Dispatch received a total of one hundred ninety-nine overdose calls, whereas January 1st to December 22nd, 2016 yielded a total of two hundred eleven overdose calls. McLaren Bay Region EMS crews responded to twenty-one overdoses between December 1st and December 20th. So if locking up the “main suppliers” hasn’t changed the statistic, what has?

Some officials believe a highly dangerous synthetic opioid substance called carfentanil may be to blame for the continued surge in heroin overdoses. Carfentanil was originally created in 1974 as a general anesthetic for large animals and was never intended for human consumption in any amount. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, carfentanil is roughly one hundred times more potent than fentanyl, which is roughly one hundred times more potent than heroin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that even two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal to humans, which explains why fentanyl-laced heroin can quickly lead to an overdose. Therefore, if fentanyl-laced heroin has proven to lead to an increase in heroin overdoses, carfentanil-laced heroin is most certainly capable of leading to an even larger increase in heroin overdoses. Last October, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement that carfentanil, combined with other drug substances like heroin, had contributed to nineteen deaths in the Wayne County area over the preceding four months.

When fentanyl-laced and carfentanil-laced heroin is sold on the street, it is normally called “hot packs” or “fire packs.” Some individuals purposely seek out these drug combinations due to their higher potency, while others don’t actually recognize what they have purchased and the increased risk that comes with their use. Other individuals who have sought to get clean and have thereby reduced their tolerance of heroin in the process may relapse and take a hit of the same dose they previously tolerated, only to immediately overdose. And unfortunately, when some dealers are arrested, new ones rise to fill the void, maintaining a perpetual merry-go-round that never truly seems to end.

The Real Solution

With an increase in heroin use, abuse, addiction, and overdoses, it is safe to assume that individuals are not receiving the proper drug education, support, and treatment they need to better protect their health and future. Presenting the truth about heroin and other opiate drug substances and their potential effects may actually work to prevent more individuals from trying or using these substances in the first place. Providing them with the support they need to make it through challenges, difficulties, and problems in life can protect them from turning to drugs as a possible solution. And finally, rendering effective rehabilitation treatment that truly helps them address all of the many causes and effects of drug use and lay the foundation for a happier, drug-free future can help them take their life back before they lose it to drugs.

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Drug Addicted Babies Are More Common in Rural America

drug abuse during pregnancy

It is an unfortunate fact that drug abuse and addiction problems affect individuals in every state across the country, costing our nation roughly seven hundred billion dollars annually in lost work productivity, health care, and crime. Drug substances can easily and rapidly devastate lives, which can be especially upsetting to consider when the individual who is suffering these effects has not even deliberately taken them but has had them thrust into their lives–as is the case with newborn babies.

Understanding Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, occurs when a baby is exposed to addictive drugs while in the womb, and is therefore born drug-dependent and must go through drug withdrawal. This occurs most commonly when a pregnant woman is taking prescription or illicit opioids, such as codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone or heroin, though it can also occur when a pregnant woman is taking antidepressants or benzodiazepines.

Babies that are suffering from NAS are likely to experience many health issues before and after birth, including a low birthweight, birth defects, breathing and feeding problems and even seizures. Most babies display signs and symptoms of NAS within three days of birth, but some may not display signs and symptoms for several weeks. Signs and symptoms of NAS include tremors, seizures, twitching, tight muscles, fussiness, excessive crying, poor feeding, slow weight gain, rapid breathing, fever, sweating, blotching skin, difficulty sleeping, diarrhea, vomiting, congestion, and sneezing. Signs and symptoms of NAS depend upon the specific drug that was used during pregnancy, including the amount and frequency of its use, and can last anywhere from one week to six months after birth.

Needless to say, a baby born with NAS experiences quite a rough transition into the world, which is why health officials are concerned about the fact that they are becoming increasingly common in rural America.

NAS in Rural America

Researchers from Vanderbilt, the University of Michigan, and the University of Minnesota have reviewed hospital billing data from across the nation and uncovered the disconcerting fact that the number of babies suffering from NAS has grown steadily over the past decade, and is growing especially quickly in rural America. In 2003, there was roughly one NAS baby in every one thousand births in rural areas, but a decade later there were roughly seven and a half NAS babies in every one thousand births in rural areas, an incredible eighty percent increase. The mountainous region of northeastern Tennessee seems particularly affected by this terrible trend.  Tennessee health officials are not unaware of the problem of residents giving birth to babies with drug dependence issues, in fact, it was one of the first states to make NAS a reportable condition, and they know that something has to be done.

Resolving NAS

A baby that is born with NAS can usually be effectively treated, especially if their mother has prepared doctors by telling them what drugs she has used during pregnancy, in what volume and with what frequency. However, as is the case with many other undesirable health conditions, NAS is better handled by being prevented altogether. Women who are using prescription or illicit opioids, prescription antidepressants or benzodiazepines should always ask for their doctor’s help in safely coming off these drugs prior to trying to become pregnant. If a woman is using these drugs when they discover that they are pregnant, they need to consult with their doctor so that they can safely come off them and perhaps prevent NAS from occurring in their baby. It is vital that no individual simply stop the use of these potent drug substances without doctor supervision, as sudden withdrawal can actually be very dangerous. However, there is no arguing that an address of the nationwide opioid epidemic must also address the fact that women living in rural areas need additional help, support, and care in order to prevent or at least minimize NAS from occurring. It is also safe to assume that rural areas could benefit from having more drug prevention and treatment resources, including drug education programs and rehabilitation treatment centers, to help reverse this terrible trend and ensure that babies are given the chance of having better, healthier lives from the very beginning.

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How Good Samaritan Act is Helping Addicts in Michigan

Good Samaritan Act

Drug use often begins casually, as a way for the individual to deal with some difficult or challenging aspect of their life. At the beginning, the individual may be entirely convinced that not only is their drug use harmless, it is completely within their control. Over time their drug use can become more persistent and it slowly falls out of their control, becoming more of an urgent need than a casual desire. When the individual no longer has any control over whether they use drugs and how often, but rather compulsively continues their drug use despite the damaging effects these drugs have on their health, relationships and life, they are suffering from drug addiction.

Once drug addiction takes over an individual’s life, they are often caught between the recognition that drugs are destroying their health, relationships and happiness and the deep-seated belief that they cannot live without drugs. The very idea of full and lasting sobriety, while highly desirable, seems entirely unobtainable. In the meantime, their drug use often gets increasingly worse, and some individuals may even take so many drugs at one time that they experience a drug overdose.

A drug overdose occurs when an individual’s body is literally overwhelmed by drugs and proceeds to shut down, in part or as a whole. Not all drug overdoses are fatal, but many can be because they cause a dangerous depression of the individual’s respiration and heart-rate. Even those that aren’t fatal can cause serious and irreversible harm. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that many individuals who either observe someone having a drug overdose or are themselves experiencing a drug overdose yet choose to do nothing about it for fear of prosecution.

Helping Addicts

Most individuals would readily agree that when an individual’s life is quite literally on the line, they should be entitled to receive whatever help they may need. The Good Samaritan Act, which is now law in the state of Michigan, allows any individual to seek help for self or others in the case of a drug overdose, without fear of prosecution. While this would certainly allow family members, friends, and others to call for emergency medical help when necessary, it may also allow more individuals to carry doses of Naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid-overdose-reversal drug that has successfully saved the lives of many individuals while they were suffering the dangerous effects of opioid overdoses.

Before the law took effect on January 4th, 2017, an individual who sought help for an opioid overdose could be arrested and criminally charged with possession of an illegal drug. Unfortunately, this is not an effective way to solve the problem of epidemic-like illegal drug use, especially when it tends to drive more individuals away from reaching out for the help that’s desperately needed. Even though some individuals who were arrested for possession of an illegal drug were offered the option of attending Drug Court, rather than having jail time, the forced treatment may not have ultimately resulted in the desired effects. After all, many individuals who have successfully and permanently resolved drug addiction issues recognize that rehabilitation treatment is only part of the process–they must also have the right sort of support system and education about drugs and what they can do to someone’s health and life. Individuals who are living in fear of being prosecuted and paraded through court may be far less likely to own up to their problems and actually reach out for the help and support they need.

The introduction of the Good Samaritan Act as a law in Michigan allows more individuals to focus on what is truly important–saving their life so that they can get the help they will need. The reality of what drugs can potentially cause the individual may very well provide them with sufficient motivation to bravely step onto the path of recovery, whereas wasting precious seconds worrying over whether one may be punished for possessing the drugs in the first place may rob them of any chance to take back control of their life.

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Harm Reduction and Addiction Prevention: Why Both Are Needed

Overdose

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half a million Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses between the years 2000 and 2015. This includes roughly ninety-one individuals who lose their lives each and every day due to an opioid overdose. And while there may be some who feel that this national epidemic does not affect them, the fact is that drug abuse and addiction problems cost our nation more than seven hundred billion dollars each and every year in crime, lost work productivity, and health care. This is a burden we all share, and one that certainly demands quick, decisive action. However, there is often some confusion about whether greater time and effort should be spent on addiction prevention, harm reduction, or both.

Addiction Prevention and Harm Reduction

To understand why both harm reduction and addiction prevention are necessary to prevent and mitigate the problems of drug abuse and addiction, it’s important to first understand what each of these address.

Addiction prevention is, quite simply, exactly what it sounds like. It is any method that is designed to help prevent drug abuse, tolerance, and addiction from occurring. One of the primary methods used for addiction prevention is drug education. Effective drug education informs individuals about the true nature of drug substances and their effects and encourages them to resist any social pressure to engage in substance use that they may encounter. Drug education may also be designed to help individuals strengthen their self-esteem, improve their decision-making and communication skills, and learn how to better manage stress and anxiety.

Other addiction prevention methods that are often used by governments include increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol products in order to reduce their use, reducing the availability of excess prescription medications, restricting the advertising of addictive substances, and restricting the marketing of addictive substances in ways that can appeal more to youth.

When it comes to the resources devoted to handling drug problems, much of them are directed toward addiction prevention and resolution. However, this does not help those individuals who are already addicted but not yet ready to seek help. Unfortunately, leaving these individuals to simply “cope” with their situation until they hit rock bottom and are ready to get some help is dangerous for them, and for others around them. And this is where harm reduction is important.

Harm reduction involves taking the dangerous situation of drug use, abuse or addiction and reducing as much potential harm related to this as is possible. This can include providing drug users with a safe, confident way to dispose of used needles and pick up clean, sterile needles, which is no small thing. The CDC confirms that hepatitis C is the deadliest infectious disease currently in existence in the United States, responsible for almost twenty thousand deaths in 2014 alone. Additionally, there are over one million individuals in the United States who suffer from HIV infections. These two deadly diseases are a plague for those individuals who inject drugs, as the use of dirty, contaminated needles can cause and spread infection. By dispensing free, clean needles and syringes, and teaching individuals how to inject safely so as to avoid overdoses, infections and vein problems, harm reduction centers are better able to ensure that individuals who inject drugs are less likely to contract diseases. Of course, if an individual indicates that they are ready and interested in quitting, they receive all of the help and support they need to do so.

Harm reduction can also include the obtainment and use of the opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone, which has already proven successful in saving lives time and again. The increasing availability of this medication both to first responders as well as individuals who are using opioid drugs helps to prevent fatal overdoses so that the individual can live to receive the rehabilitation treatment they need to take back control of their life.

Obviously, in an ideal situation individuals would receive the proper drug education and support they need in order to successfully abstain from all drug use. However, the truth is that life is sometimes far from ideal, and individuals often encounter difficulties and challenges they simply aren’t prepared for. If they do turn to drug substances, they need all the support they can receive in order to remain as safe as possible until they are ready and able to get the treatment help they need. In this way, addiction prevention and harm reduction actually complement one another, and they are therefore both important and necessary.

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Naloxone Could be More Accessible at Michigan Pharmacies

25095355 - hand with pen drawing the chemical formula of naloxone

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than two million Americans suffer from the abuse of prescription opioids, while just less than half a million Americans suffer from the abuse of heroin. Opioids are commonly understood to be some of the most potent, addictive and dangerous drugs currently in existence, even when they are being used exactly as medically prescribed.  For those individuals who abuse these drug substances, recognizing the full extent of their danger can sometimes come too late.

Opioid Overdose Reversal

One of the most dangerous results of opioid abuse is these drugs’ ability to significantly slow the individual’s respiration and heart rate.  It is for this reason that an opioid overdose is often fatal–the individual slips into a state of unconsciousness wherein they may stop breathing altogether.  This is where naloxone can come in handy.

Naloxone, an opioid-overdose-reversal medication, can work to block or reverse many of the dangerous effects of opioid medications, including extreme drowsiness, loss of consciousness and slowed respiration.  When used in emergency situations, naloxone has been credited with saving lives from opioid overdoses.  But while this is very good news, it comes with a bit of bad news: naloxone has not been made readily available to all those who may need it to save another’s life.  Fortunately, that may be about to change.

Naloxone in Michigan Pharmacies

Deputies with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department began carrying doses of naloxone a year ago and have administered nine doses since then.  Many emergency response personnel also carry naloxone for emergencies.  However, this does not help those public individuals who are watching a loved one, friend, coworker or other associate, overdose before their very eyes.  Their only option was to receive a doctor’s prescription for naloxone, which may be particularly difficult to obtain if their loved one refuses to go in for a diagnosis in the first place. That is, until now.  House Bill 5326, which passed unanimously through both the Michigan state House and Senate in mid-December, will allow pharmacists to provide naloxone kits to customers–without requiring a doctor’s prescription.

It is important to recognize that naloxone, while used immediately to block or reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, does not actually replace the full medical care and treatment that should follow such an overdose.  Nor does it negate the need for full, proper rehabilitation treatment to help an individual address and resolve their drug abuse or addiction problems.  Some officials are concerned that the increasing availability of naloxone could come with its own risks, specifically that addicts who are searching for stronger highs may be more willing to risk opioid overdoses, perhaps even on a regular basis, if they feel secure in the knowledge that they have a reversal medication to hand if needed.  However, other professionals and addiction specialists feel that this is not actually a real risk, as addicts do not typically think with the idea that since they now have access to one drug that can save their life; they’ll now be safe to use more of the one that puts their life at risk.  Normally, addicts are simply concerned about continuing to obtain and use more of their drug of choice, with little, if any, thought as to the potential consequences.  It is more for others who know them to feel safe with the knowledge that they have the ability to help save their life, should it become necessary to do so.

Most importantly, naloxone can provide individuals who are suffering from opioid abuse and addiction problems the opportunity they need to receive the addiction treatment they need and desire.  For some, being pulled back from the very brink of death may very well be all the motivation they need to change their life.

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