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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin


11/21/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: November 21, 2012


Steve-O beat some demons. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

Eating Disorders

11/20/12 5:02pm

Insurance Fails Patients With Eating Disorders


Many patients can't get the help they need.
Photo via

Those suffering from mental health issues—including eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder—often face an uphill battle for health care coverage. As a new Washington Post article highlights, insurance plans tend to be far more generous with coverage for physical health issues; also, many patients with eating disorders cannot afford the out-of-pocket expenses for comprehensive treatment, which may include a combination of antidepressants, counseling/therapy, dietary consultations, mental health care and hospitalization. The Eating Disorders Coalition [EDC] attempted to get eating disorders listed under the Affordable Care Act beginning in 2014—but they were unsuccessful. “Exclusion of eating disorders is all too common on the part of insurers seeking to limit interventions deemed non-essential,” the EDC wrote in a letter to the federal government. “Despite being biologically based mental illnesses with potentially severe physical health ramifications, including death, eating disorders are all too often found on lists of benefit exclusions.” On a survey of over 100 eating disorder specialists, an overwhelming 96.7% felt that their anorexic patients were put into life threatening situations due to treatment being cut short.

Insurance companies say that they are willing to cover both the physical and mental aspects of other chronic conditions, but many claim there is no clear procedure on the best approach to treating eating disorders. “For diabetes, you have the physical aspects that are treated and then you have behavioral issues addressed as well,” says Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade association. “But for eating disorders, there’s a lack of evidence for what works and what doesn’t work.” But many experts and patients insist these extra hurdles result from societal stigmas associated with eating disorders. “[With] anything that revolves around eating or lack of eating, there is a sense of personal responsibility,” says Chevese Turner, who has been in recovery from binge eating for seven years. “People think: ‘Just tell her to eat’ or ‘Tell her to stop eating’ or ‘Go on a diet.’ They don’t realize that this is a serious mental health issue."

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By Chrisanne Grise

Drug Smuggling

11/20/12 3:56pm

Cartels Smuggle Meth in Tequila Bottles


Meth in Tequila's clothing. Photo via

Drug cartels may be guilty of many things (including corruption, drug trafficking and murder)—but no one can accuse them of a lack of innovation. Californian police have recently picked up on a new trend: cartels are manufacturing liquid forms of drugs, and sending them to the US and Canada disguised as shipments of booze. During a bust on one of the state’s most popular trafficking routes yesterday, police discovered 15 Mexican-brand tequila bottles that were filled with 56 pounds of liquid meth—with an estimated value of more than half a million dollars. "This is a new trend of transportation from Mexico to the States," says Matt Radke, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol. "At this level of amount, it is going to be distributed all over the place. Once it gets to the final form, the powdered form, it's going to be disseminated throughout the country.” The vehicle’s two passengers started their trip in Southern California and told officers that they were headed to Oregon. They are charged with federal drug trafficking and attempting to traffic across state lines.

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By Chrisanne Grise

Overdose Protocol

11/20/12 3:21pm

3 Lessons from Bon Jovi's Daughter's Overdose


Stephanie Bongiovi is recovering from her
heroin OD. Photo via

You’re safe from minor drug possession arrests if you call 911 after overdosing or witnessing an overdose—at least that’s supposed to be the message of “Good Samaritan” laws passed recently in New York and other states. But last week when rocker Jon Bon Jovi’s 19-year-old daughter overdosed on heroin at Hamilton College in upstate New York, both Stephanie Bongiovi and the student who dialed 911 on her behalf were arrested on criminal heroin charges—which is exactly what the law was enacted to preclude. Fortunately, citing the legislation, prosecutors have now dropped those charges. An article in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association calls for expansion of Good Samaritan laws and federal action to facilitate the distribution of a safe, nontoxic antidote to overdose on heroin or prescription pain relievers, which is currently in short supply. Read more here, on TIME.com.

If you or a loved one are taking any opioid for any reason, here are three key rules for safety that could make the difference between life and death:

1) Don’t mix painkillers or heroin with alcohol, benzodiapines (Valium, Xanax, etc.) or any other depressant drug (any drug that makes you sleepy or relaxed).  In these instances, 1+1 can equal five: the drugs can multiply each others’ effects in unpredictable ways. If you are prescribed an anti-anxiety or muscle relaxant drug along with a pain reliever, make sure all your doctors know everything that you are taking and do not exceed your prescribed dose.

2) If you see someone become unconscious, turn blue or start snoring strangely or breathing irregularly after taking any of these drugs, DO NOT LET THEM “SLEEP IT OFF.” They may never wake up, as the drugs can kill by slowly stopping breathing. If you have naloxone, use it. And call 911 immediately. If you don't have naloxone and want to keep it on hand, this site provides information on where you can get it, as well as information to encourage physicians to prescribe it for their patients on opioids.

3) If someone has apparently taken an overdose, perform rescue breathing not CPR. Recent CPR classes are instructing people to perform only chest compressions—while this will work for a heart attack, it won’t for an opioid overdose. Check the airway, make sure it is clear, then lift the person’s chin, pinch closed the nose and exhale a breath into them every five seconds.

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By Maia Szalavitz


11/20/12 2:31pm

Canada Approves Generic Oxy


Health minister Aglukkaq's decision has
upset many Canadians. Photo via

Amidst extreme controversy, Canada's federal government allowed the approval process to proceed Monday for the generic form of the addictive painkiller OxyContin. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq was not swayed by protests from the country's aboriginal communities and a plea from Canada’s provinces, which unanimously requested a delay of approval until regulators could further examine oxycodone abuse. “I am profoundly disappointed in minister Aglukkaq’s decision to ignore the threat to public safety posed by generic OxyContin and to allow it to enter the Canadian market,” said Deb Matthews, Health Minister of Ontario, the one province looking to ban the drug entirely. Matthews says that OxyContin has led to a fivefold increase in oxy-related deaths, and that the social costs of allowing generic oxycodone could amount to about $500 million a year in Ontario alone. However, federal laws don’t allow regulators to ban a drug just because some people abuse it, Aglukkaq argues; she also believes that banning OxyContin would have little prevention effect. "Banning a generic version of one drug would do little to solve the actual problem,” she wrote in a letter. “There are almost 100 authorized drugs in Canada that are in the very same class of drugs as OxyContin. Banning all these drugs because they have the potential to be addictive would help dry up the drug supply for addicts, but would lead to pain and suffering for patients who desperately need them.” Aglukkaq says she would be open to new regulations to restricting OxyContin if abuse continues to mount after next year. Currently, in some northern Ontario tribal reservations, more than half the adult population is addicted to prescription drugs.

Below the border in the US, the FDA has repeatedly postponed the approval of generic OxyContin in the face of widespread protests by advocates and politicians, although many pain doctors argue that since only a small percentage of patients abuse the drug, the benefits of making the drug far more affordable through generic versions outweigh the risks. Some reports suggest that the agency is poised to approve knockoff Oxy as early as January 2013. This month, nine public health organizations sent a letter to the FDA asking it to approve only an "abuse proof" time-released formulation of the painkiller.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Giving Thanks

11/20/12 1:08pm

Send a Letter to a Recovering Addict


Time to put pen to paper. Photo via

Dealing with addiction can be lonely, and whether or not you're a recovering addict yourself, there's no better way to give back this holiday season than by reaching out to someone in recovery. The nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization Phoenix House is joining with Giving Tuesday—a movement that aims to create a new holiday (like Black Friday and Cyber Monday) with a focus on giving and volunteering, including supporting those in recovery. Between now and "Giving Tuesday" (a week from today, November 27), Phoenix House is asking for participants to write letters of encouragement and inspiration to those who are currently in treatment programs for addiction. On Giving Tuesday, the letters will be distributed to clients in recovery. "We wanted to come up with something that absolutely anyone can do to send their encouragement to our clients who are struggling to overcome their addictions," Pheonix House CEO Howard P. Meitiner tells The Fix. "A personalized letter costs nothing, but it is truly meaningful and can make a tremendous positive difference in the life of the client who receives it. Many of the men and women we serve have 'burned bridges' with friends and family at home. This initiative shows them that they are loved and supported, even by those they have never met." A letter template and directions on how to submit your letter are available on Phoenix House’s website.

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By Chrisanne Grise


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