A rare bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate is trying to make $80 million available to states and local governments to expand drug treatment, prevention, and recovery.
Introduced by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 would allocate resources to states and municipalities that adopt certain proven methodologies to fight addiction. Among those strategies would be evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention, an increase in prevention efforts that would include making naloxone more widely available to law enforcement and other first-responders, and a stronger monitoring system for painkiller prescriptions.
“The bill represents a significant step forward in how we understand and address addiction,”said Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island who himself suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. “The bottom line is that addiction and other mental illnesses are treatable, and recovery is real.”
Writing an op-ed in The Hill, Whitehouse stressed the need for the legislation in light of how 22.7 million Americans need treatment, but only 2.5 million get help, according to statistics from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Whitehouse also referenced how the heroin epidemic has plagued his own state of Rhode Island, where more than 100 people have died from drug overdoses so far in 2014.
"We believe this will make a real difference both for victims of addiction and for American communities," Whitehouse wrote. "Getting clean and staying clean enables former addicts to contribute to our economy and our society in ways they might not otherwise; and reducing drug abuse can help us all feel safer on our streets, behind the wheel and in our homes. Those are goals we can all support."
A South Carolina man has been accused of illegally running drug rehab centers and distributing medication in three states while declaring himself to be an addiction counselor despite having no professional training.
Clayton Alfred White, 42, surrendered to police on 10 charges, including unlawfully practicing a regulated profession or occupation without a license and falsely claiming to be a professional counselor. He had opened facilities throughout South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia since this March. Clients stated the facilities were advertised as “Oceanside Recovery for Men” and gave White thousands of dollars for inpatient treatment.
One victim said she paid White $5,835 to enroll her son in a 90-day program, but failed to receive any of the promised services, including “medical care, addiction therapy, and on-site LPN staff to monitor clients and dispense medications." Another victim paid over $7,000 to enroll their son from March 31 to August 6, but also did not receive services as promised. One former client accused White of housing 18 clients at one facility despite claims that only eight people would be housed.
An investigation by detectives determined that White was not a licensed doctor, clinician, or licensed medical practitioner of any sort, nor was he overseen by a board of directors. A warrant for his arrest was issued on August 8.
Unfortunately, addicts are being taken advantage of in other parts of the country, including Philadelphia, where rehab operator Jeffrey Jackson was recently accused of operating numerous unlicensed recovery homes and housing dozens of addicts in residences that were deemed unsafe for human dwelling.
A Philadelphia addiction counselor has been accused of putting the lives of dozens of addicts in danger by housing them in unlicensed recovery homes deemed unfit for human dwelling by the city.
Jeffrey Jackson, himself a former addict, has been renting rooms in hazardous homes to desperate addicts despite not having a rental license or zoning permit. He charges residents up to $600 per month in rent and food stamps, giving them three meals per day while helping them get on an Addiction Medicine & Health Advocates (AMHA) methadone program.
Jackson’s homes in Kensington and Cambria received 20 visits from police over a 12-month period for a variety of complaints. Former tenants claimed that the house was infested with bed bugs and rats. Inspectors deemed the house unsafe and in danger of collapse in 2011, but Jackson continued to operate the facility even after L&I’s Code Enforcement Unit informed him last March that the house “presents an immediate hazard to safety and must be evacuated.” Prior to that, in 2009, inspectors described his Allegheny home as “dangerous to human life.”
Other former tenants claimed that he threatened to cut off their methadone access if they left the house. "He told me, 'I don't go through the system. I have my own system,'" said Diane Sanford, a 64-year-old heroin addict. "I was intimidated and I was afraid." Jackson refused to speak to reporters, declaring that “whatever you gotta do, you gotta do. I don’t think you’re being fair.”
However, Jackson has supporters who believe that he has good intentions and is simply in over his head. "A guy like that has that many people - that many addicts at his grasp - all the addicts in the city know him," said Carl Williams, from whom Jackson rented a $4,000-per-month home before falling behind on his payments. "If he could change 10 percent of them, that would be a great big help to the city even if he [is in violation of city regulations.]"
Robert Holmes, AMHA's executive director and Jackson's boss, also said that he was aware of Jackson renting out homes and didn’t see a conflict. He also said that his patients “have a right to live wherever they want. If they choose to live there, that’s their decision.”
Maritime forces patrolling the international waters of the Middle East have been seizing increasing quantities of drugs, but setting the traffickers free.
The Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), an anti-piracy and terrorism fleet comprised of 30 seafaring nations, including the U.S., wades through over two million square miles of international waters in the search for drug traffickers. While the CMF have boarded countless boats and confiscated nearly 4,200 kilograms of heroin in the last 18 months, their lack of arresting authority has forced them to cut the traffickers loose.
As law enforcement in Central Asian republics, European Union, and Eastern European states has cracked down on overland drug trafficking, droves of vessels have taken to the open seas to transport their illicit products. In the last several years the drug route from Afghanistan has turned south, heading through Pakistan and Iran before using boats to cross the sea into Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Although the CMF works to disrupt the drug routes through frequent seizures, the practice has done little in terms of deterrence. From 2012 to 2013, the opiate production rate in Afghanistan climbed approximately 50%.
In an effort to better combat drug trafficking across the Indian Ocean, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is liaising with the government of Seychelles, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka. The UNODC hopes that eventually the CMF will have arresting powers in international waters, and that captured drug traffickers will be arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated.
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Stress eating is real. A new study finds that women who suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are twice as likely to be addicted to food. Researchers note that this doesn't necessarily mean that PTSD and food addiction have a causal relationship, but it does demonstrate a link between PTSD and obesity.
“I’d really like the message to come across that people bring a whole lot of history to their eating behaviors,” said Susan Mason, the study's lead author. She hopes to educate doctors about the link between eating disorders and PTSD. “Clinicians may be able to look for that information to deliver better care."
PTSD sufferers, whose behaviors can be dictated by their reliving, avoiding or attempting to numb themselves in response to traumatic events, make up about 7% of Americans, most of whom are women. Other studies have found that those who suffered from childhood abuse are more likely to suffer from food addiction later in life, and the use of food to cope with that stress is likely to end in obesity, the researchers said.
Researchers polled 49,408 female nurses about symptoms of PTSD and food addiction. Results showed that four out of five nurses reported experiencing a traumatic event during their life, while two out of three experienced a lifelong symptom of PTSD. Eight percent of the nurses met the criteria for food addiction. The researchers also found that women who showed six to seven PTSD symptoms were twice as likely to suffer from food addiction as someone who did not, and that the link between PTSD and food addiction was stronger if the subject had suffered from childhood abuse.
“I just want this to add to a lot of research that people’s weight status is not just a symptom of willpower and education,” Mason said. “There may be psychological factors in play too.”