Chemicals supplied by China play a big role in America’s illegal drug trade

Thursday, June 11, 2020 by: Isabelle Z.

(Natural News) Coronavirus isn’t the only deadly epidemic that can be traced to China; factories in the country have also been involved in supplying huge amounts of precursor chemicals to Mexican super labs to produce methamphetamines and other drugs that end up on American streets.

Precursor chemicals are used for the illegal manufacture of narcotics and psychoactive substances. However, they also have legitimate commercial applications and are used legally in consumer products such as medicines and fragrances, as well as for industrial processes. One example of this is phenylacetic acid, which is legally used to produce penicillin and cleaning solutions but can also be used to illegally manufacture methamphetamines.

A former special agent for the DEA, Derek Maltz, told One News Now that China’s participation in the drug crisis that is killing people around world, particularly in America, is an “underreported story” that has been going on for many years.

He said that while the DEA did a great job of stunting the ability of what he termed “mom and pop” labs in the U.S. to make meth, drug kingpins in Mexico spotted an opportunity to make a lot of money, so they began bringing significant quantities of precursor chemicals from China and other Asian countries into Mexican ports, from which point they went on to be used to make street drugs in labs around the country.

“Cartels started dominating the methamphetamine production business inside of Mexico,” he said. “Cartels like the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel built super-labs in Mexico to produce massive amounts of methamphetamines, up to seven tons of meth every three days.”

The synthetic drug market is highly profitable for them, he says, pointing out that China is home to more than 150,000 chemical companies and that the country is earning millions of dollars by selling “these poisons.”

They are also making a lot of money by selling massive amounts of fentanyl to Mexican cartels, and some Americans are even managing to buy some of these chemicals from websites in China and having them shipped directly to their homes.

In addition, the Chinese are helping the money laundering for these cartels in the U.S. as law enforcement has a far more difficult time penetrating ethnic Chinese groups than the Mexican ones, given the high number of Spanish-speaking informants used by law enforcement.

Maltz believes that money may not be the only motivation behind China’s actions, saying: “America is a big adversary to China, so it’s not far-fetched to think the Chinese are purposely killing Americans and making millions of dollars while doing it.”

Coronavirus crisis in Wuhan disrupted the drug trade

Wuhan will forever be associated with coronavirus, but prior to the pandemic, it was known for producing the chemicals that are needed for fentanyl and other opioids. According to the L.A. Times, Mexican drug cartels were their biggest customers.

After the virus emerged and disrupted the fentanyl supply chain, however, Mexican drug traffickers saw their profits take a huge hit, and street drug prices across America started climbing. Lockdowns, travel bans, and other types of virus containment efforts have crippled the narcotics trade, and the Mexican production of meth and fentanyl was particularly hard hit as they were unable to get the precursor chemicals that usually arrive via plane or cargo ship from China.

In addition, new restrictions on entering the U.S. have been another big roadblock for the Mexican drug cartels, and the resulting loss of income is said to be contributing to escalating violence in Mexico, where the monthly homicide figures reached a two-year high in March. As pandemic-related lockdowns start being lifted, however, the illegal drug trade will soon be in full swing once again. (Click to Source)

Sources for this article include:

BigLeaguePolitics.com

OneNewsNow.com

LATimes.com

 

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‘Young people drop like flies’ Overdoses spike as fake pills go around Tennessee county

by Kaylin Jorge –

A small Middle Tennessee county is dealing with a crises on top of the coronavirus pandemic right now: fake pills and drugs laced with fentanyl claiming the lives of young residents.

Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum said there were eight overdoses reported in 10 days – and three of those were fatal.

Sheriff Shrum said his department has confirmed the substance in fake Xanax and Roxicet pills is fentanyl, a deadly substance 25-50 times more potent than heroin. He also suspects fentanyl is being mixed with heroin and methamphetamine.

Fake Xanax (DEA)

 

The victims? All in their 30s or younger.

“When you start having young people drop like flies it becomes very, very concerning,” Sheriff Shrum said in one of his Facebook updates on the overdose investigation.

Sheriff Shrum says his agency is small and only has two investigators who are working 16 to 18 hour days following leads in the overdose investigations. Tackling this new crises is taking investigators off other cases that need to be worked.

And right now, Sheriff Shrum said while they’ve made substantial progress in the cases – investigators are still hitting roadblocks.

“Because of this code that people live by, ‘we can’t tell,’ more people are going to die,” Shrum said on Facebook. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Sheriff Shrum is reaching out to the community, urging people with information to come forward.

“The life you save may be your own,” Sheriff Shrum said. “Without communication from the community we’re not going to solve this.”

Sheriff Shrum said he’s also concerned about the COVID-19 virus, overdoses and protecting his staff.

“We are using precautions working these cases to limit exposure to our people because of COVID-19,” Sheriff Shrum said. “As the virus decreases it will open up new avenues for us to dive deeper.”

Sheriff Shrum says these overdoses are happening in young people – and it’s hitting the community hard.

“Those people who are drug addicts belong to somebody, they are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters,” Sheriff Shrum said. “They belong to somebody. Because they are dealing with addiction doesn’t mean we just mark it up and move on.”

He shared a message directly to those who need help.

“If you’re listening to me and you’re a user, it’s dangerous territory right now,” Sheriff Shrum said. “You don’t know what you’re getting. Seek help if you have a loved one who needs help, talk to them and try to convince them it’s a dangerous thing going on right now.” (Click to Source)

 

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81 dangerous substances found in salmon caught in Seattle

New research has found that Chinook salmon in the Puget Sound contain a huge amount of harmful chemicals and drugs, posing a threat to wildlife.

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Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) have been found to contain up to 81 drugs from the contaminated Puget Sound, along the coast of Washington state.

During research, drugs including Prozac, Advil, Lipitor and even cocaine were discovered within the salmon’s flesh. Supposedly, these substance levels have rocketed due to high drug use within the local area.

Nonetheless it is thought that nearby waste water plants are not filtering the chemicals properly. Leaky septic tanks are also to blame for this chemical cocktail consumed by the salmon, a species listed as endangered on the Endangered Species Act.

In the search for evidence, samples were collected over a two-day period, and both chinook salmon and local staghorn sculpin were tested.

“We analysed samples for 150 compounds, and we had 61% of them detected in effluent,” says Jim Meador, environmental toxicologist at The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northwest fisheries science centre in Seattle.

Not only that, but substances found within the salmon from these tests include Valium, nicotine, caffeine, antiseptics and a lot of antibiotics. Furthermore, it is thought that there may be more highly concentrated substances in deeper waters and areas close to outfall pipes.

Chinook salmon in Rogue River in Oregon.
Chinook salmon in Rogue River in Oregon. © Mark Conlin/Getty

However, scientists are not concerned about the effect these chemicals are having on humans. The concern is with wildlife.

Other research by Meador has shown that the mortality rate for juvenile Chinook salmon migrating through the contaminated Puget Sound is double than of fish elsewhere. (Click to Source)

Read the paper in Environmental Pollution.

 

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The opioid crisis may be far worse than thought, making the epidemic harder to fight

There may be a gross underreporting of opioid-related death rates

 

As Drug Overdose Deaths Escalate, Opioids Continue to Be the Top Killer

There may be a gross underreporting of opioid-related death rates, leading to misrepresentation about the extent of the epidemic, according to a new study.

A substantial share of the documentation on fatal drug overdoses may be missing information on the specific drug that caused the overdose.

The study, published in the journal “Addiction,” looked at a total of 632,331 drug overdoses between 1999 and 2016. Of these deaths, 78.2% were drug overdoses with known drug classification and 21.8% were unclassified drug overdoses. Of the unclassified drug overdoses, further investigation revealed that 71.8% involved opioids, translating to 99,160 additional opioid-related deaths.

There were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, according to an estimate from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on findings from the new study, over half of those deaths — about 47,000 — are suspected to have involved opioids.

An issue with documenting drug overdose deaths

“The number of deaths from opioid-related overdoses could be 28% higher than reported due to incomplete death records,” said Elaine Hill, Ph.D., an economist and assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Public Health Sciences and senior author of the study.

“Other work has already exposed the ways in which coroner versus medical examiner systems undermine accuracy in death records, but the opioid crisis and our research highlights the extent of the problem,” Hill told ABC News.

Death certificates issued after fatal drug overdoses are often missing information on the specific drug involved — something that is causing the underreporting of opioid-related deaths and downplaying the extent of the opioid epidemic, the authors of the new study concluded.

“The risk of underreporting these cases is to underscore the scope of the current crisis which could lead to a slower or less intensive response in coming up with a viable solution,” says Dr. Shailinder Singh, an emergency room psychiatrist practicing in New York City.

Besides overdose deaths, there are other consequences of the opioid epidemic including increased risk of infectious disease among IV drug users, a greater number of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome and higher rates of emergency department visits for opioid involvement.

While the majority of overdose-related deaths in the past have involved an opioid, with illicit fentanyl as the primary driver of these deaths, however this data is likely underreported.

The rate of non-fatal overdoses has also increased and is likely underestimated. “Unless these individuals are able to receive urgent medical care and the case is reported in that manner, there is little incentive for a person to report the overdose themselves due to fear of possible litigation or stigmatization,” said Singh.

Three phases of the opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic today progressed in three phases, according to the CDC. The first, involved deaths caused by prescription opioids, the second, an increase in heroin use, and the third, a surge in the use of synthetic opioids or fentanyl.

The United States is right in the middle of the third phase of the epidemic, due to the increasing availability of fentanyl and increasing rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids.

In 2017, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., had the highest overdose death rates in the country. However, accurate data is not being collected from rural areas and therefore these areas receive significantly less federal funding to combat the crisis.

“The rates of both lethal and non-lethal overdoses have undoubtedly increased due to the addition of synthetic opioids available as pills or mixed in with heroin,” said Singh.

“Most notably, these include illegally manufactured fentanyl and carfentanil, which are 50 times and up to 5,000 times more potent than heroin, respectively.” he added.

As the U.S. faces a rise in the number of overdose deaths involving heroin and fentanyl, the federal government has readjusted its strategy to combat the epidemic. This includes expanded access to treatment medications for opioid use and to the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone.

Also crucial among those efforts is collecting accurate data. Correct data regarding deaths from opioids is critical to know when implementing policies. Federal funding is also highly dependent on accurate statistics.

“Funding from federal agencies is often tagged to areas with the highest rates of opioid mortality. If these data are inaccurate, then areas in need may receive less funding than they need to address the crisis,” said Hill. (Click to Source)

Yalda Safai, MD, MPH, is a psychiatry resident in New York City. Melanie Graber, MD, is an internal medicine resident in Connecticut. Both are contributors to the ABC Medical News Unit.

 

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Surpassing Overdose: Study Links Opioids to Heart-Related Deaths

 

 

The opioid epidemic has been a topic of conversation for a years now. With doctors and pharmacies being instructed to be more careful with their prescribing of the medication, and some states even asking them to look up a patient’s drug history before dispensing the drugs, it comes as no surprise that abuse and overdose are two huge issues. However, research suggests that many patients, especially those on long-term opioids, are dying not only because of overdoses, but simply because they are using them for far too long.

The study, which reviewed 45,000 patients from Tennessee from 1999 to 2012, found that those who had been prescribed opioids had a 64% increased risk of dying within 6 months of starting a regimen of the pills, compared to patients who were on other types of medications.

Although overdose and sharing medication is certainly a risk, the study claims that many doctors prescribe medication without thinking about the risk they may have for cardiovascular patients.

Patients with heart problems are the most vulnerable, as long-term opioid use can lead to slowing down of the heart, particularly when mixed with alcohol. This can lead to an accidental death. Opioids are also particularly dangerous for patients with sleep apnea, as the pills can disrupt the patients’ breathing patterns even further. This can lead to irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and in some cases, even death.

All of the patients in this study were on Medicaid and were receiving long-term opioids for problems such as backaches, and chronic asthma and bronchitis. None had a history of abusing drugs.

Because they were on Medicaid, it is possible that they were unable to access medication that would actually treat the problem they had, thus doctors were over-prescribing opioids for temporary relief of the symptoms without curative benefits.

Dr. Magdalena Anitescu, a pain management expert at the University of Chicago, stated that there needs to be a huge change in how treatment is regulated. She states that alternative treatments can be just as effective, however, patients need to be granted access and doctors need to be educated on what else can be done besides simply prescribe opioids.

“We have a major cultural shift ahead of us,” said Dr. Chad Brummett, director of pain research at the University of Michigan Health System. (Click to Source)

The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Sources:

Claims Journal

CBS News

 

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Trump administration doubles down on anti-marijuana position

TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY 
FEB 21, 2020  4:34 PM

 

Analysts previously predicted Donald Trump might support marijuana legalization to boost his chances of re-election this year. Instead, the opposite has happened. The Trump Administration has proposed removing medical marijuana protections in the 2021 fiscal budget and leaked audio revealed the President’s belief that smoking weed makes you dumb.

Trump has done little to reverse this appearance of an anti-marijuana sentiment building in the White House. Rather, a top Trump campaign spokesman doubled down and said marijuana should remain illegal at the federal level. During an interview with Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS-TV, Marc Lotter, who serves as director of strategic communications for Trump’s 2020 campaign, was asked about the President’s stance on changing federal cannabis laws.

“I think the president is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent—a parent of a young person—to make sure we keep our kids away from drugs,” Lotter said. “They need to be kept illegal. That is the federal policy.”

This complicates what Trump stated during his 2016 campaign and time in the White House. Previously, Trump supported leaving marijuana legalization to the states and voiced support for the STATES Act, bipartisan legislation that would prohibit federal prosecution for those living in states with legal cannabis.

“I think the president has been pretty clear on his views on marijuana at the federal level. I know many states have taken a different path,” Lotter said.

It could also signal a change in political strategy from the president in the upcoming election. Outside candidates Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg, the Democratic presidential nominee will support legalizing cannabis at the federal level. Trump could see it as an advantage to position himself opposite of his eventual opponent. For now, Trump appears comfortable allowing himself being seen as someone who will uphold federal cannabis prohibition.

Said Lotter, “If he changes that, obviously that would be something I wouldn’t want to get out in front of him on that.” (Click to Source)

 

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Long-term use of depression drug may cause addiction

 

In a new study, researchers say that people who have taken antidepressants for years should consider coming off the medication.

However, these people will likely face difficult and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms due to physical dependence.

The best process is to follow a tapering schedule while consulting with a physician. Stopping medication outright is almost never advisable.

The research was conducted by a team at Midwestern University Chicago.

The team says many people feel safe in that their depression or anxiety is continuously managed by medication.

However, these are mind-altering drugs and were never intended as a permanent solution.

Once the patient’s depression or anxiety has been resolved, the physician should guide them toward discontinuation, while providing non-pharmacologic treatments to help them maintain their mental health.

In the study, the team found patients who stop taking their medication often experience Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome (ADS), which includes flu-like symptoms, insomnia, nausea, imbalance, sensory disturbances often described as electric shocks or “brain zaps”, and hyperarousal.

Older, first-generation antidepressants often come with additional risks for more severe symptoms, including aggressiveness, catatonia, cognitive impairment, and psychosis.

Discontinuing any antidepressant also carries a risk for gradual worsening or relapsing of depression and anxiety, as well as suicidal thoughts.

A recent report from the CDC said a quarter of people taking antidepressants had been using them for a decade or more.

The team says this data makes the case that patients and physicians are overly reliant on medication without concern for long-term consequences.

While relatively safe, antidepressants still carry side effects, including weight gain, sexual dysfunction and emotional numbing.

The team also urges caution as the evidence for antidepressant risk factors is based on short-term usage and says there are no sufficient longitudinal studies on the neurologic impact of taking antidepressants for decades.

The lead author of the study is Mireille Rizkalla, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Integration. (Click to Source)

The study is published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Copyright © 2019 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.

 

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Man high on ‘zombie drug’ Spice saws off own leg and is left with bloodied stump

GRAPHIC CONTENT: The man, who had taken the synthetic substance, had to be rushed into intensive care while doctors battled to stop him bleeding to death from his gaping wound

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By Anna Savva
  • 14:07, 21 FEB 2020
  • UPDATED14:22, 21 FEB 2020

A man reportedly sawed off his own leg while off his head on the “zombie drug” Spice.

Shocking pictures appear to show the man with a tourniquet wrapped around a bloody stump after he reportedly cut his left leg off above the knee.

The bizarre scene unfolded took place in the western Russian city of Prokopyevsk in the Kemerovo Oblast region.

Pictures shared shared on media show the man as he lies on a hospital gurney after doctors apparently battled to stem the blood and save his life.

According to the reports, the man carried out the self-amputation after consuming Spice along with a cocktail of painkillers.

It is not known how the unidentified man managed to make his way to the hospital.

Local media report the man was initially been rushed into intensive care and medics battled to save his life.

These images were reportedly taken when the man was being moved to a general ward.

Spice is a popular synthetic drug which can leave users in a crazed “zombie-like” state. It has achieved notoriety in Britain and elsewhere in recent years.

It is usually made up of herbs or shredded plant material, with man-made chemicals added which mimic cannabinoids, found in cannabis.

People took to social media to comment on the graphic scenes.

‘Motors’ said: “They eat dangerous and unidentified drugs and so they even cut off their own legs.”

‘Marina Gerasimova’ said: “Once I was walking down the street and a jerk like this was consuming stuff right at the entrance of a school! I’m raising a daughter… this is so scary…”

Meanwhile, other internet users bemoaned the fact that the man will now receive disability benefits from the Russian state for the self-inflicted wound. (Click to Source)

 

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Opioid vending machine opens in Vancouver

MySafe scheme for addicts aims to help reduce overdose deaths in Canadian city

 

A vending machine for powerful opioids has opened in Canada as part of a project to help fight the Canadian city’s overdose crisis.

The MySafe project, which resembles a cash machine, gives addicts access to a prescribed amount of medical quality hydromorphone, a drug about twice as powerful as heroin.

Dr Mark Tyndall, a professor of epidemiology at the University of British Columbia, came up with the project as part of an attempt to reduce the number of overdose deaths in the city, which reached 395 last year.

“I think ethically we need to offer people a safer source,” he said. “So basically the idea is that instead of buying unknown fentanyl from an alley, we can get people pharmaceutical-grade drugs.”

Don Durban, a social worker from Vancouver, is one of 14 opioid addicts using the MySafe vending machine. After being prescribed opioid-based painkillers in the early 2000s, the father of two developed an addiction and now feels unable to cope without a daily dose of hydromorphone.

Unlike most addicts, Durban, 66, does not have to break the law by sourcing his fix through drug dealers. Instead he is prescribed Dilaudid – the brand name for hydromorphone – and, for the past couple of weeks, has been able to collect his pills from a vending machine near his home in Eastside, a rundown neighbourhood with a large homeless community.

“This is a godsend,” he told the Guardian during one of his visits to the machine. After verifying his identity with a biometric fingerprint scan, the machine dispensed Durban with three pills for each of his four daily visits, in line with his prescription.

“It means I don’t have to go and buy iffy dope,” he said. “I have a clean supply. I don’t have to deal with other people so much. You’re treated like an adult, not some kind of demonic dope fiend. We’re just people with mental health issues.”

Vancouver already has several schemes in place to accommodate for its large community of drug addicts. A pioneer of so-called harm reduction techniques, Vancouver was the first North American city to introduce a supervised injection site – where users can administer drugs in front of medical professionals – in 2003, and there are now several in the area. There are also programmes allowing users to access prescribed Dilaudid or pharmaceutical heroin.

Tyndall believes his scheme, which he hopes to roll out in other cities, will help addicts by giving them more autonomy – allowing them to pick up supplies at their convenience without having to visit pharmacies at specific times.

However, the MySafe project and Vancouver’s other harm-reduction techniques are not universally popular.

Dr Mark Ujjainwalla, an addictions doctor who runs Recovery Ottawa in eastern Canada, says users of illegal drugs need treatment for their conditions rather than easier access to substances. He argues such schemes are in effect ushering users towards death, rather than treating curable conditions.

“If you were a patient addicted to fentanyl [and you came to me], I would say: ‘OK, I will put you in a treatment centre for one to three months, get you off the fentanyl, get you stable, get your life back together and then you’ll be fine.’ Why would I want to give you free heroin and tell you to go to a trailer and inject?

“I’ve got people here who have changed their lives. They were in jail, prostituting, and they came to my clinic, we put them on methadone, they got their lives back, they’re working again. Isn’t that a better story?”

Ujjainwalla also fears drugs distributed from machines such as MySafe could end up on the black market.

Dr Ricky Bluthenthal, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, disagrees. “It’s always better for someone to use licitly produced, safe medication rather than illicitly produced or illicitly distributed substance, which often have contaminants and other things that are unhealthy for people,” he said.

Durban also believes the machine will help him back to good health. “My long-term aim is to get off of [these drugs],” he said. “What I’ll do is try to get down to a minimal dose and then if it starts acting up again, I’ll see Mark and ask him to bring it up again.” (Click to Source)

 

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Meth is back and flooding the streets of Ohio and Kentucky, and it’s uglier than ever

Terry DeMio, Cincinnati EnquirerPublished 8:14 a.m. ET Feb. 13, 2020

The floor seemed filthy and she could not get rid of the grime. Amie Detzel frantically scrubbed that nursing home floor with cleaning supplies she’d found when no one was looking. On hands and knees, dragging her IV pole with her, the gravely sick woman incessantly scrubbed.

Meth had found its way into the nursing home. She was suffering from addiction. So she used it.

The psychotic episode happened after Detzel had spent days (and nights) of pushing the drug into the intravenous catheter that her caregivers were using to infuse antibiotics into her infected heart. The infection had come from a contaminated needle.

That catheter, the pathway for lifesaving antibiotics, became just another way to get a drug into Detzel’s body to alter her brain.

This was not heroin, which she’d been through. This was not fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opiate that had rushed into Cincinnati several years ago. This was methamphetamine, the primary drug now flooding the streets of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and other communities across the country. It’s a psychostimulant. It can induce psychosis.

That explains the scrubbing.

This new wave of meth is causing police and parents of users and even government officials to shift their focus from opioids to this stimulant – a drug that used to be common, then faded, but is resurging. This time, with much more purity, coming directly from Mexico, not backyard cookeries or houses or sheds.

The fresh attention to meth matters. After all, the rise in meth tested at law enforcement crime laboratories across Ohio and Kentucky is staggering.

Just one example of that rise: The 23 drug task forces (including Northern Kentucky’s) that are funded through the Ohio High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area agency saw a 1,600% jump in meth seized from 2015 to 2019 (and the 2019 numbers are incomplete).

Read that again: 1,600%.

But as shocking as that number is, some addiction experts say that we are missing the point behind the new meth wave.

The point: Addiction. The United States has an addiction crisis.

“We just simply move like a herd of locusts from one drug to another,” said Dr. Mina “Mike” Kalfas, a certified addiction expert in Northern Kentucky. “Meth is the replacement for the crack of old. We go from opioid (pain pills) to opioid (heroin) to opioid (fentanyl) to stimulant (meth).

“We try to get them off of the drug they’re on,” Kalfas said. “What we need to do is, treat the addiction. They’re using (a) drug as a coping mechanism.”

Addiction, which has been with us forever, is what needs to be fixed. With evidence-based treatment. The American Society of Addiction Medicine is still clamoring for more doctors to learn about such treatment and to attend to the problem as a disease.

Historically, the medical system largely ignored addiction, allowing the criminal justice system and treatment programs outside of the health-care system to deal with it, said Lindsey Vuolo, director of Health Law and Policy for and public affairs for the science-based nonprofit Center on Addiction in New York City.

The grudging change started with the opioid epidemic. As overdose death tolls soared, the mantra became: Treat addiction. Save lives. Keep people safe if they use drugs. Carry the opioid-overdose antidote naloxone. Provide more needle exchanges to prevent the spread of diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Continue treatment for this chronic disease.

Those who ignore the advice put us at our own peril, experts say.

“If we don’t start to effectively and efficiently address addiction like the public health issue that it is, we will continue to see drug epidemic after drug epidemic,” said Courtney Hunter, director of advocacy at the Center on Addiction.

So why meth? Why now?

For starters, those who are addicted to opiates are hearing others talk about a new high, cheap and easy to get, and safer than fentanyl.

They are people with addiction, after all, and most people who suffer from addiction will reach for drugs other than the one they primarily use.

Meth is an alternative. But it’s sneaky.

Kalfas calls the current meth problem a new tentacle of the opioid epidemic, noting that most patients he’s seeing who switch from heroin to meth don’t give up opioids for long.

“They perceive (meth) as different, sometimes even lesser somehow, which is how they underestimate it. But when their batteries are dry, they need to ‘come down,’ what will they turn to? The opiate-addicted turns to opiates.”

Brittany Christian, 32, of Walnut Hills, who’s in recovery, said she learned about meth while she was in treatment for heroin addiction in Louisville.

“Everybody had done it and I hadn’t done it, and I really wanted to try it,” she said. She added: “I did not want to go through the heroin withdrawal again.”

Six months after she left that rehab, in May 2017, she decided to find meth.

“It’s just as easy as getting cigarettes at the gas station,” Christian said.

And cheap. In southwest Ohio, a gram of meth can go for as little as $4.50 per gram (and up to $25 a gram), said Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Assistant Superintendent Heinz Von Eckartsberg.

For Detzel, the woman who fell into obsessive floor-scrubbing, drugs were a way to cope with living, she says. Now 35 and in recovery for a year, Detzel was 13 when she was led into a sex-for-drugs trafficking situation orchestrated by someone close to her family.

She did drugs, she said, because it seemed normal.

“I never knew the proper way, you know, to get help,” she said. “All I knew was to use because that’s what I’d seen … at a young age.”

She was vulnerable to anything that took her away from her real life.

“I just wanted to try anything. Anything that I thought would take me to another level.”

And by the time she was 30, meth was simply there for her to try, she said. “Somebody was selling it.”

Like they had sold her.

But Detzel rallied. She was able to maintain sobriety after her stint in the nursing home. She had been prescribed Suboxone for her opioid addiction and had to steer clear of drug use for six months before she could have heart surgery. She learned coping mechanisms, learned she’d been trafficked through no fault of her own and turned to God for help. She celebrated one year in recovery in January.

No such help with meth

Both Detzel and Christian had been introduced to medical help for their initial addictions.

There is no medication-assisted treatment available for meth addiction, as there is for opioid addiction.

That lack will become more obvious every day.

“It looks to me that a supply of stimulants will gradually increase in the U.S., as it has been seen in other parts of the world,” said Dr. Adam Bisaga, an addiction research scientist who is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. While he doesn’t believe people using opioids will easily switch to stimulants, he’s certain there will be more who use both types of drugs.

Bisaga said it appears the best treatment will be an extension of what’s beginning to happen in the United States with opioid use disorder: Medical intervention treating addiction as a chronic disease, treating both addictions “under one roof.”

The best treatment right now for meth addiction is psycho-social therapy, addiction experts say. The method can include talk therapy, learning about the illness and a rehabilitation regimen that helps people develop social and emotional skills they can employ to live a healthy life. Some sufferers are prescribed anti-anxiety or sleep-help drugs or other medications while they detox from meth.

Like with other addictions, “You have to look at the underlying issues and really make a treatment plan that’s individualized for the person,” said Kat Engel, vice president of nursing services for the Center of Addiction Treatment in the West End. “Are they self-medicating?”

As is usual with treatment, not enough are getting it. Meth-related deaths are rising. The latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, from 2012 to 2018, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine and other “psychostimulants with abuse potential” was up almost fivefold.

Christian, who has been in recovery for a year-and-a-half, said that, “absolutely,” treating drug use has to include treating the individual’s trauma.

“What’s causing someone to use? What issues are they going through? You know, I think a lot of it is underneath that needs to be brought up.”

In her case, it was sexual abuse she’d endured as a child.

With meth, says, she was paralyzed, hyper-focused on a single task. Sometimes, she felt empty. She scratched and picked sores onto her body and face. Once, she piloted her car to a hospital, expecting to be locked in a psych ward. But she was discharged.

For her, the confines and rules of the Center for Addiction Treatment saved her, she said. She found sobriety by following the rules, then looking into her own traumatic past.

“If they told me I could not have a pair of leggings, oh well, I can’t have a pair of leggings. If they told me to go to group therapy three times a day, I did that. My counselor, when she told me to journal, I journaled.”

Both she and Detzel believe their continued success has at least something to do with their work.

Christian is an admissions specialist for the Center for Addiction Treatment. She loves her job, saying, “Somebody did it for me.”

Detzel, now living in Cheviot, works at the YWCA downtown in Cincinnati helping domestic violence and rape victims as well as people with developmental disabilities who struggle with addiction. She’s been in recovery for just more than a year.

The lessons they learned about their own addictions and how to treat them are holding. But they see the avalanche of meth on the streets now. They know the attraction among opioid users to this drug is real.

In Hamilton County, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the county coroner, said the crime lab’s meth caseload leaped from a little more than 600 in 2016 to 3,600-plus cases in 2019 – “a sixfold increase.”

In Kentucky, the amount of meth seized and tested at the Kentucky State Police Crime Laboratories rose by 77% in just two years, from 2016 to 2018.

The outcomes of all this meth is yet to be seen.

Bisaga has this prediction for those who use such stimulants along with opioids:

“The mixed stimulant-opioid addiction is a different one,” Bisaga said. “We do not have a strategy to treat it, and many programs will be taken by surprise.

“The number of overdoses and adverse medical outcomes in people using both will increase, and this will be a fourth wave of the opioid epidemic.” (Click to Source)

 

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