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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

for-profit treatment

4/21/14 1:00pm

Bain Capital Invests in Methadone Clinics

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As attitudes toward substance abuse treatment have become more accepting, treating addiction has increasingly become a billion-dollar business. Bain Capital, the investment firm once headed by former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, has seen the potential in the industry and recently acquired Habit OPCO Inc., the largest chain of substance treatment facilities in Massachusetts.

In March, Governor Deval Patrick declared opiate abuse a public health emergency. In 2012, there were 669,000 heroin users nationwide, nearly a 50 percent jump from 2009, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. And as opiate addiction affects more middle-and upper-middle-class people, it’s no wonder that substance abuse treatment is now a $7.7 billion industry, growing at a rate of two percent every year, according to IBISWorld Inc.

Habit OPCO, which has 13 locations from Boston to Springfield, treats about 860 people daily in Boston alone. Bain acquired the clinics for $58 million through CRC Health Corp., the biggest provider of substance abuse treatment and behavioral health services in the country.

While the industry’s growth is promising, treating addicts has never been simple. Habit OPCO charges patients $135 a week for methadone treatment, which includes daily doses of methadone and access to doctors and other services. But it is difficult to predict how addicts’ recoveries will play out in the long run. Though methadone relieves withdrawal symptoms, allowing people to function without getting high, it is not a cure for addiction.

As attitudes toward substance abuse treatment, especially harm reduction approaches like methadone therapy or needle exchanges, become more accepted, the growth potential of this industry could be even higher. “This field, substance abuse, is going to be more changed than any other,” said Deni Carise, deputy chief clinical officer for CRC Health. “We’ve pretty much convinced the country now that this is a health care issue. This isn’t about bad people trying to become good. This is about ill people trying to get well.”

Now that Bain has placed its bets on methadone clinics, the pressure to grow profits at CRC Health and Habit OPCO will surely mount. But Carise is determined to provide the same quality of care now as they did then, without cutting corners. “Frankly, the way to make a lot of money in this particular business is to do it badly,” she said. “We’re just not going to do that.”

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By Victoria Kim

the more things change...

4/21/14 10:30am

Poll Shows Americans Are Against Legalizing Other Drugs

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While the majority of Americans are consistently in favor of legalizing marijuana, that same belief doesn’t extend to any other illicit substances.

A new Huffpost/YouGov poll conducted last February showed that 51 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana and 70 percent favor legalizing medical marijuana, but those polled were overwhelmingly opposed to legalizing nine other drugs. Only 15 percent supported making peyote legal, while 11 percent wanted cocaine to be legal. Heroin was the most adamantly opposed for legalization, with 86 percent wanting it to stay banned, while 85 percent of those polled were opposed to legalizing crack.

The responses from those polled appeared to be shaped by age and political views. Those under the age of 65 were far more likely to support legalizing marijuana than those over the age of 65. Younger Americans were also slightly more likely to back the legalization of other drugs. Sixty-two percent of Democrats also favored legalizing marijuana, compared to just 32 percent of Republicans, but both parties appeared equally opposed to legalizing other drugs.

However, those opposed to legalizing these drugs are still primarily in favor of drug treatment over jail time. More than half of those polled for a separate survey last November said a first time conviction for possession of these drugs shouldn’t result in jail time, while a HuffPost/YouGov poll from last August showed that two-thirds of Americans were opposed to mandatory minimum sentences.

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By McCarton Ackerman

celebrities for pot

4/21/14 8:30am

Whoopi Goldberg to Write Pot Column For Denver Post

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One of the co-hosts on The View is set to start giving her view on all things marijuana.

Whoopi Goldberg has signed on to write a bi-monthly column for the Denver Post on their marijuana news and culture website called The Cannabist. The Oscar-winning actress debuted her first column yesterday and said that she been smoking pot out of a portable vaporizer pen named “Sippy” to treat glaucoma-related headaches. She had previously taken Advil daily.

“My head starts hurting, my eyes start bugging, my whole body starts to tense up. But then I find her, and it relaxes everything and calms everything. It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful,” wrote Goldberg. “It’s important for people to know that there are alternatives out there to pain management. And this one is particularly magical.”

Goldberg said that she was also introduced to vaporizers by her daughter after telling her that she had difficulty smoking joints. She praised vape pens with cartridges of THC oil because “if you’re not a smoker or you can’t inhale deeply, it’s a wonderful way of ingesting cannabis,” while also claiming that her strain of choice is the indica-dominant Platinum OG.

“These pens are light, compact and portable. The vapor is inoffensive and subtle. And for me a lot of the new pot is too strong — and when I take edibles I rarely come out of the room. With the vape pen, you have more control over how much THC you ingest,” she explained. “The high is different, too…it’s like someone undoing a vise grip, very slowly. It’s not overpowering and I’m certainly not looking for that high high. I’m looking for relief."

In 2011, Goldberg revealed on The View that she was a "fully functioning" drug addict at the height of her fame. "I went to work because I knew if I didn't show up, a lot of people would be out of work," she said. "And I wouldn't get a check and I wouldn't have the lifestyle I needed to buy all my drugs."

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

4/21/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: April 21, 2014

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Ford ponders what to order from the bar during his
announcment. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

watch what you eat

4/18/14 7:30pm

Man Mistakenly Takes Meth, Walks Into Walmart Naked

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Attention, naked shoppers... Shutterstock

While it's best to avoid drugs altogether, if you are going to partake, make sure you know what drugs you have before taking them.

That’s the lesson Kevin Patrick, 36, of Fort Mill, S.C. learned the hard way. On Wednesday, Patrick was arrested for walking into a Walmart store wearing nothing but a pair of black tennis shoes after accidentally taking crystal meth.

“I’ve had a problem with drugs in the past. I still like to do ecstasy once in a while,” he told local news station WSOC-TV. “I accidentally got methamphetamine instead and it really made me crazy.”

Patrick recalls sleeping at this sister’s house and then waking up naked in his pickup truck, which was parked in the Walmart parking lot. He went inside for reasons that were not apparent to him at the time before being discovered in the electronics section.

Patrick was unaware that he was naked until he was actually inside. “I got some weird looks, obviously.”

Once the police arrived, they found a pair of shorts in his truck and made him put them on before escorting him out. Patrick was later charged with public disorderly conduct. “It’s really fuzzy to me, but that stuff made me so paranoid, I thought I was being arrested anyway,” he said.

“I’m really depressed,” Patrick said when asked by the reporter about how he felt. “It’s all over the news. I’m going to have to move because of this.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

saving lives

4/18/14 5:30pm

Support On the Rise for Giving Naloxone to Emergency Personnel

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The growing chorus of support for equipping first responders with naloxone, a lifesaving drug that can reverse heroin overdoses, was bolstered by comments by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who called on state and local law enforcement agencies to provide police and firefighters with greater training and access to the medicine.

In remarks prepared for a speech for the Police Executive Research Forum, Holder said, “I urge state policymakers and local leaders throughout the nation to take additional steps to increase the availability of naloxone among first responders, so we can provide lifesaving aid to more and more of those who need it.” Naloxone hydrochloride, or Narcan, is an opiod antagonist that blocks the brain cell receptors activated by heroin and prescription drugs like oxycodone, and will restore arrested breathing within minutes of administration.

As police and firefighters are often the first people to reach a person in the throes of an overdose, many law enforcement agencies have pushed to equip their personnel with naloxone in order to save lives. The drug is credited with saving more than 10,000 lives since 1996, when the first community-based opioid overdose prevention programs were implemented. To date, 17 states have passed laws that expand access to naloxone.

Despite these numbers, naloxone has also drawn criticism for providing a false safety net for addicts while also posing a dangerous threat in the hands of untrained or non-medical professionals. Republican Governor Paul LePage of Maine has voiced some of the strongest opposition to expanding naloxone use in his state, where overdose deaths quadrupled between 2011 and 2012. Supporters of expanded access counter these claims by noting the relative ease in using naloxone injectors, which is currently introduced into the body via a nasal spray.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved a newer, hand-held auto injector which delivers the drug into the muscle and requires no training.

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By Paul Gaita

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