What has been going on in the lovely state of Maine these days? First it was reported that a record 770 babies born in Maine so far in 2013 are addicted to drugs, and now Lincoln, ME – a sleepy town of just 5,000 people – is seeing an alarming rise in the number of addicts. And the average age has been getting younger.
While the evidence is anecdotal, police and treatment centers have seen people in their 20s and even teenagers either seeking treatment for the opiate addictions or committing crimes to get their fix. Sharon Greenleaf, assistant director at Northeast Occupational Exchange, has noticed the difference. “Before the situation was that we would see an older group of people, probably more in their late 30s and 40s,” she said. “Now we are seeing people using drugs at a much younger age, in their early, early teens, and now they are coming into treatment in their 20s and they have already had 10 or 15 years of drug use.” Greenleaf added that many of her patients are addicted to hardcore drugs like oxycodone, bath salts, and heroin.
Meanwhile, police in Lincoln and elsewhere across the state have seen a rise in violent and property crimes. The number of robberies increased by 13.8 percent, while domestic violence has risen 4.5 percent. “Drugs remain a key reason for much of the crime in Maine,” Public Safety Commissioner John E. Morris said in a press release earlier this year.
Options for the state are limited, particularly for treatment centers, which battle the state’s two-year cap on Medicaid coverage for medications used to fight opiate addiction. For recovery professionals like Greenleaf, that means doing everything possible to make treatment more available. “We have tried to make it as low-barrier and easy to enter as possible so there is nothing that gets in the way of people who want to attend it. We hope.”
As a founding co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts co-authored a bipartisan letter protesting the FDA’s recent approval of the highly-addictive prescription painkiller Zohydro. Signed by seven other members of Congress, the open letter was sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on November 22, 2013. Although The Fix believes this is a step in the right direction, it most likely is only the beginning of a long battle against this new and extremely dangerous legal narcotic.
Made by Zogenix, Zohydro is the first pure hydrocodone prescription drug to ever be approved by the FDA and the resulting opportunities for abuse are staggering: Zohydro can be chewed, snorted, or injected by addicts to deliver a powerful dose of hydrocodone and a high on par with heroin. Pointing out the FDA’s advisory panel’s negative recommendation of Zohydro, the letter highlights an almost visceral apprehension over this likelihood for abuse.
Lynch and his fellow members of Congress reveal a strong awareness of the prescription drug epidemic, explaining, “Substance abuse is exacting a toll on America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths nationwide in 2010 and that prescription drugs were involved in nearly 60 percent of those deaths," they said. "The report also details that, consistent with previous years, opioid drugs, which include OxyContin and Vicodin, contributed to 3 out of 4 medication overdose deaths.”
Given the terrifying record of OxyContin abuse before a tamper-resistant form became available in 2010, some have expressed shock that Zohydro lacks such precautions. Although Zogenix has "started the development of an abuse deterrent formulation of Zohydro ER,” according to president Stephen Farr, such a process will not be finished and brought to market for one to three years.
In light of this pledge by Zogenix to make a tamper-resistant form of the drug, the letter asks for the FDA approval process of Zohydro to be placed in a holding pattern until the necessary safeguards can be instituted. Such a request seems to be more than reasonable given the obvious public risk. The bigger question is why the FDA approved such a dangerous narcotic in the first place and why the negative recommendation of their own expert advisory panel was ignored.
In addition to Lynch, the letter's co-signers include Harold Rogers (R-KY), Nick R. Rahall (D-WV), William R. Keating (D-MA), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), John F. Tierney (D-MA), Michael E. Capuano (D-MA), and James P. McGovern (D-MA).
- Obama Signs Pharmaceutical Tracking, Compounding Bill Into Law [Reuters]
- Twitter Pic Alleging Python Ate Drunk Guy Deemed a Hoax [Express]
- North Carolina Family Sues Sheriff's Office Over Inmate's Overdose Death [AP]
- Crew Passes Alcohol Tests Following Jersey City Ferry Accident [CBS]
- Restaurant Server Fired After Busting Mom for Drinking While Breastfeeding [Arkansas Matters]
- Belgian Police Find Seven Tons of Pot in Coconut Cargo [Fox News]
- Ohio Health Department Awards $1.5 Million to Help Inmates With Mental Health, Addiction Problems [Bucyrus]
- Forest Acres Police Say Crack Cocaine Involved in Car Winding Up on Roof [WISTV]
Turns out Trey Radel isn’t the only Florida politician embroiled in a drug scandal this month. Mayor Barry Layne Moore of Hampton, FL was arrested this past Monday for selling and possession of oxycodone. The 51-year-old is currently being held in a local jail in lieu of $45,000 bail. The arresting officer, Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith, made a not-so-subtle reference to infamous mayor Rob Ford by declaring that “this isn’t Toronto. We will not tolerate illegal drug activity in my jurisdiction by anyone, including our elected officials.”
Local officials have called for Moore to step down from office, but like Ford, he has shown no indication that he plans on doing so. And this isn’t the first time Moore has found himself in legal hot water. In October 2012, he was arrested and charged with battery, and two months later he was booked with a probation violation for the same crime. In 2005, he was arrested but not charged with battery, and in 2011 he had three moving traffic violations with fines totaling $1,000.
Meanwhile, his fellow Floridian Congressman Trey Radel has taken a leave of absence from the House until the end of the year and has entered drug rehab after being arrested for possession of cocaine. Radel was swept up in a federal drug sting last month after buying the drug from an undercover agent in Washington, D.C. The charge is particularly ironic because he had taken public policy stances that included asking welfare recipients to pass a drug test to make them eligible for food stamps. Like Ford and Moore, Radel has given no indication that he will step down, even though his fellow Republicans have started to call for his resignation.
At the age of 14, Edgar "El Ponchis" Jimenez Lugo beheaded four boys in Central Mexico at the age of 14 while working for the Cartel of The South Pacific. The boys' bodies were later hung from a bridge in the town of Cuernavaca. But now that his three-year prison term in Mexico is about to come to an end on Dec. 3, Mexican authorities may end up deporting the teenage killer to the United States.
As Lugo's release date approaches, Mexican authorities have expressed concern that his release could incite violence in Mexico City, where he used to live. Graco Ramirez, governor of the Mexican state Morelos, where Lugo is being held, said that “he is an American citizen” and confirmed that “we have 13 days to see if he can be deported to the United States so that he can be placed in an institution there.”
Lugo was arrested at a Mexican airport for trying to flee authorities and fly to his mother in San Diego. Shortly thereafter, Lugo's mother was arrested on immigration violations and was deported last April.
San Diego criminal defense attorney Guadalupe Valencia said that Lugo can come to the U.S. on his own when he turns 18 in May, claiming that “the U.S. can’t do anything and Mexico can’t do anything. He wasn’t charged with conspiracy in the U.S.” The teenager said he was kidnapped by the cartel at age 11 and forced to work for them, claiming that his four executions were completed while “drugged and under threat that if I didn’t, they would kill me."
With our ever-increasing reliance on pills for just about everything, is it any wonder that someone out there is trying to develop one that will get you drunk?
Dr. David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at the Imperial College of London, plans to create a pill that mimics the effects of being drunk without the nasty hangover the next morning. In development since 2009, Dr. Nutt’s little pill will act as an alcohol surrogate that targets the gamma aminobutyric acid (Gaba) neurotransmitter subsystems. “We know that the main target for alcohol in the brain is…[the Gaba], which keeps the brain calm,” he wrote in an editorial for The Guardian. “Alcohol therefore relaxes users through mimicking and increasing the Gaba function.” Nutt has further claimed to have conducted research where he replaced the ethanol in alcoholic drinks with safer alternatives like benzodiazepine, which he alleged can be “switched off at the end of the night with a ‘sober pill.’” But despite the apparent promise of the pill, Emily Robinson, deputy chief executive of the U.K.-based charity Alcohol Concern, urged caution. “We should focus on what is going wrong in our drinking culture rather than swapping potentially one addictive substance for another,” she told the Telegraph.
Still, the only thing really stopping Nutt from commencing his project is money. “A few contacts within the alcohol industry suggest they are interested but do not need to engage until this new invention becomes a threat to their sales,” Nutt wrote in The Guardian. Perhaps he hasn’t yet heard of Kickstarter?