On December 29, 2011 my little sister Jeanie took a lethal dose of Ambien and Methadone, put a stripe of pink duct tape over her mouth and lay down on her bed to die.
She must’ve had second thoughts, my brother said, because her phone showed that she reached to dial 9 and 1, but failed to hit the last 1 key. She was 42.
A reference librarian at the Parker, Colorado Public Library my sister had a master’s degree from Emporia State University, was keen on building the local music library and creating great displays and programming for the public. She quit her job two days earlier to go into long-term treatment for drug addiction, but there was a delay at the treatment center. Without her job to anchor her, she fell apart and committed suicide.
It’s no secret these days that heroin has become an epidemic and is at a 20-year high. Every day more lives are taken and more headlines written about the scourge that has been around for centuries. Maybe because the fact that more white, middle-class kids are dying of heroin is the reason this problem is finally getting attention, that there is an urgency to find a solution. We already know that minorities are treated differently than whites in terms of getting the pain relief they seek.
Enter VIVITROL, the new drug that is going to be used in Florida clinics to combat heroin addicts’ cravings. According to a press release:
Five Central Florida community treatment centers received grants to administer a medication that’s proving effective in treating heroin addiction and combatting Florida’s opioid epidemic.
Central Florida’s Bridges of America, STEPS, Central Florida Recovery Centers, Park Place Behavioral Health and Aspire have all been approved to receive grants from the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADDA) to administer VIVITROL to patients who qualify for the monthly injections.
Since 2014, the Florida Legislature has appropriated $5 million for VIVITROL treatment for community health centers statewide. More than 40 centers have been approved to receive funding through FADAA to administer VIVITROL at no cost to court-ordered patients. VIVITROL works differently than replacement therapies such as Suboxone and methadone. It blocks the opioids in the brain completely, instead of replacing one opioid for another. Therefore, patients cannot get high, and there is no chance for addiction.
I certainly am glad there are new drugs out there to combat these problems. People who are addicted beg for help, as my sister did. She lamented that she’d never be able to get off methadone, it was so difficult, she said. I believe it’s one of the reasons she took her life. So if something like VIVITROL helps solve such a desperate problem, have at it, consumers. In a free society, one should be able to use the drug of one’s choice to heal such desperate pain. Right?
One has to stop and think that if VIVITROL is such a great breakthrough to alleviate such terrible suffering, why are other drugs that are known to prevent opioid addiction and cure it not being studied? Good thing Floridians can try again to get medical marijuana legalized and vote Yes on Amendment 2, as it is in my home state of Colorado and 24 other states and in Washington D.C. Marijuana has shown to combat opioid addiction as well as been recommended recently by the Veterans Administration to be studied as a treatment for PTSD. The Senate recently passed a law that vets can get medicinal marijuana. In Argentina the Supreme Court ruled that marijuana prohibition was unconstitutional and that the State had no right to interfere with what people do in the privacy of their living rooms, so marijuana is all but decriminalized. No such freedom exists for U.S. citizens.
Other drugs out there you think they’d be studying ASAP to help people are Iboga, which is said to cure drug addiction after one experience of the usage.
Psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, induces mystical experiences and has shown promising results in treating conditions from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to addiction, and may be able to improve the lives and spiritual practices of otherwise healthy people.
Another drug along the lines of curing alcoholism, mental illness and addiction is ayahuasca, used by native peoples of the Amazon and popular these days in the U.S. as well. People would’t have to return to the clinic for the $1,100 a dose shot of VIVITROL that taxpayers are picking up the tab for some addicts. They would be cured.
Yet these drugs are not studied and are kept illegal for some reason. Why? Especially since the DEA decided that pot is still on Schedule 1 and deemed so dangerous as LSD and other drugs! Why? Maybe it’s because President Obama appointed to head the FDA Michael Taylor, former Monsanto executive and pharmaceutical industry lobbyist?
Because if pot is so dangerous, nicotine is also as addictive as heroin and harder to kick. You should see the patients huddled outside the slummy doors of the DeLand Stewart Marchman Act slowly committing suicide on the cigarettes they suck to get their fix. Why are these legal, especially since alcohol kills six people a day in the US? It is unreasonable to not research these drugs and keep some legal and others not, so the ulterior motive lies in profit to explain this. And it shortchanges the American people and all who suffer from addiction.
It’s reasonable to say that these policies that have been in force ever since 1971 when Nixon announced the Drug War are a sham that benefit few but destroy many. It was the same year he closed the gold window. Maybe found a covert liquidity opportunity? Especially since banks like HSBC and Wachovia, which was acquired by Wells Fargo, went unpunished, merely fined, by Obama or Clinton for billions in Mexican drug money laundering as well as violating Iran sanctions? How is it possible these banks even are around any more?
Plus, thanks to Wikileaks we know the truth that the U.S. is linked to a brutal drug-dealing businessman in Honduras. And you thought those refugees were flooding north for the jobs! And of course then there was Noriega, George H.W. Bush and Contras running cocaine! Oh, and a U.N. advisor said that it was drug money that kept banks afloat during the financial crisis too!
Who has faith in these institutions? What reasonable person can’t see how ridiculous these policies are? Why acquiese to VIVITROL? Citizens deserve so much better. The poor deserve so much better, but Florida Gov. Rick Scott refused to expand $50 billion in Medicaid funds for health care.Florida Gov. Scott said he would veto The 2016-17 budget which includes $20.2 billion for K-12 public school education, boosting per-student funding to $7,718; $1 billion for the Department of Children and Families to put toward mental health and substance abuse treatment services. Florida is 49th in mental health funding! But expensive VIVITROL is our savior now!
I’m especially leery of the Community Clinics that are public charities, such as Stewart Marchman Act is. It’s not giving out VIVITROL yet, but maybe it will one day. As a consumer, and someone who went to SMA as an uninsured citizen seeking mental health help at one point, SMA took $128,740,809 in public money, according to reports, yet the public can’t find out how that money is invested, Vice President for Quality Improvement of SMA Chester Wilson told me when I filed a complaint against its nurse Susan Resnik for wrongfully Baker-Acting me. Wilson has a background in criminal justice, he told me, not psychology, and didn’t know who Carl Jung was.
The same SMA report shows that in 2013 it had 0 invested in its program-related investments and 0 in publicly traded equities but it had $7,876,072 invested in “other securities.” What other securities? High-risk dirivitives or other financial instruments? Pharmaceutical companies? VIVITROL? So maybe the public needs to have a little sunshine on these clinics. Cause they like to push drugs on people, I found out in my experiences with SMA.
It’s big business. Psychiatric Drugs are Creating Crime and Profit in Prisons, according to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. It just might be the reason behind an 89% increase in Baker Acts in Florida since 2002 too! Because pharmaceutical companies like Gilead have been subpoenaed as Feds probe drugmaker-charity connections. A Bloomberg article explains that fueled by pharma-industry gifts, charities’ coffers doubled.
Three drugmakers have disclosed receiving subpoenas amid a widening federal investigation into pharmaceutical companies’ relationships with charities that help people afford their products. But Gilead is far from the only drug company camping out on our tax dollars. In the 2000s, atypical antipsychotics were widely prescribed to children with behavior problems enrolled in Medicaid programs provoking lawsuits from states as their budgets were sacked.
Finally, heroin started seriously flooding into the U.S. after it invaded Afghanistan in 2003 and production has boomed and never been bigger. U.S. and U.K. troops are even ignoring the poppy fields and even protecting them. Afghanistan is now a narco-state. And now its crying that there is a drug problem in the U.S., and it’s getting worse. Surprise, surprise that DC’s Afghanistan war watchdog found opium cultivation unaffected by $7.5 billion the US spent to combat it. Surprise, surprise, private contractor Blackwater was behind that failed effort in Afghanistan to curb opium, however, it profited heartily regardless. Even police and prison guards in California don’t want legal pot cause it will hurt business as usual and the funds they are addicted to to combat drugs would disappear. I think billions upon billions upon billions upon billions can be better spent to combat heroin addiction, at the source it comes from.
Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, argued in an op-ed that the war on drugs has failed and thinks it should be ended.“Prohibition has had little impact on the supply of or demand for drugs,” Annan wrote. “When law enforcement succeeds in one area, drug production simply moves to another region or country, drug trafficking moves to another route and drug users switch to a different drug. Nor has prohibition significantly reduced use. Studies have consistently failed to establish the existence of a link between the harshness of a country’s drug laws and its levels of drug use.”
The war on drugs is a failure. The bloodbath in Mexico and now another U.S. ally, this time in The Philippines, has gone rouge. President Duterte is mass murdering people in the name of the drug war. We know where our country will be invading next! Who is in danger of a regime change! Incredible resources flushed down the drain and people treated like criminals when really it needs to be about mental health. Our government, one must reasonably conclude, is a military-pharmaceutical industrial complex, especially when DeLand police officers are now violently ripping harmless, non-suicidal kids yoga teachers out of their cars and traumatizing them for the rest of their lives and deliver them to Halifax Health under the Baker Act and charge them $5,500 in fees for the privilege.
So what to do? My sister’s problems started as a young child and it started within the family, where most things start. We were horribly traumatized by violence in the home. Growing up in a hoarder household, my father had severe migraine headaches and post traumatic stress from World War II, and my sister stole his prescriptions from his briefcase. We had a violent, depressed mother who destroyed our self-esteem and made it easy to reach for something to disassociate our tragic lives with. Our father’s addiction became our problems, and where I used yoga and stories to assist, my sister chose drugs for her self-soothing technique. When my sister was placed in a group home in Boulder, one housemate taught her how to hide needles in a teddy bear.
Capitalism always finds a way to make money off of a problem, not solve it. VIVITROL has its benefits, bless its heart, but only really helps 1 in 5 people, and its side effects such as depression and suicide seem to be rather self-defeating. I know the obesity caused by some of my sister’s medication drove her to despair. And with each injection costing $1,100 a pop, why not go for the long-term underling solution, taxpayers! Mental health is important for the cure! But mentally healthy people might require a different economy, a different partnership economy rather than domination one. I keep hoping.
Start with our young. Let’s try funding high-quality early childhood education for all. Fund mental health fully with money from the failed drug war and end prohibition.
School-based health programs have lots of research to back their success in educating and help youth at risk to combat addiction, suicide prevention and depression.
Read the wonderful Scientific Evidence for Yoga and Mindfulness in Schools: How and Why Does It Work? Research suggests that school-based yoga cultivates competencies in mind-body awareness, self-regulation, and physical fitness. And classroom teachers benefit as well. Taken together, these competencies may lead to improvements in students’ behavior, mental state, health, and performance, as well as teacher resilience, effectiveness and overall classroom climate.
With the heroin crisis and bleak teen suicide rates, school-based clinics help those in crisis. While School Based Health Clinics may not prevent or save every child from suicidal thoughts and addictive behaviors, providing mental healthcare in school settings is the first of many systemic strategies that must be implemented to support the overall health and future of our youth, particularly those most at-risk.
Additionally, the whole school culture can move toward supporting kids emotional needs, because heroin addicts, all addicts, pick up when they are in pain. In an article in The Atlantic says:
Neuroscience tells us that the brains of kids regularly facing significant trauma or toxic stress are wired for survival and likely to erupt at the smallest provocation. A major study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente found that the higher a young person’s ACEs score, the greater the risk in adulthood of chronic disease, mental illness, and premature death. These children also have a far greater future likelihood of either inflicting or being the victim of violence.
Such seemingly straightforward techniques are actually based on hard science. In contrast to the fight-or-flight response triggered by perceived threats, seemingly minor acts of kindness, such as a few caring words from a teacher or a quick hug, can activate a cascade of Oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone.” In highly traumatized kids, such simple acts can have an outsized impact…much of the current education system runs counter to the needs of kids struggling with trauma. High-stakes testing—defining students by a test score—goes against everything research is telling us about how to help kids. It also leads to hostile environments where extremely stressed teachers are working with highly stressed students. It’s an unsustainable situation and needs to change.
Furthermore, for what ails addicts and other mentally ill people alike is more than what a monthly shot can only band aid over. What people yearn is deep healing from within, a healthy relationship to others, relationships to themselves, relationships to the environment and something of an ecstatic mystical experience beyond this mundane world of buy and sell. In a world flattened out by only economics and monetary or political, the soul, which means psyche in Greek, suffers and cries out: How do you feel???
As VIVITROLS works by blocking the pleasure receptors in the brain, which antidepressants block too. I’m not sure that is a good idea, considering mass murderers tend to be on pharmaceutical drugs that are blocking them from feeling too, and only people who can’t feel murder.
Columbine murderer Eric Harris didn’t have any drugs except Luvox in his system. People still need to feel and process feelings. It’s not something to get away from. Healing is not just intellectual, it’s physical too, and therapies such as yoga and meditation help give addicts tools they need to recover and deal with difficult emotions and sensations that arise. But they’re not in the DSM IV, so places like SMA “don’t want to hear about it,” I was told. Lots of things you can do to help heal yourself, but SMA doesn’t want to hear about them. But I have healed myself from trauma, which can lead to addiction, with yoga and other methods. Read what others think:
BK: It’s about becoming safe to feel what you feel. When you’re traumatized you’re afraid of what you’re feeling, because your feeling is always terror, or fear or helplessness. I think these body-based techniques help you to feel what’s happening in your body, and to breathe into it and not run away from it. So you learn to befriend your experience.”
So caveat emptor. Buyer beware. I have great compassion for heroin addicts. I hope VIVITROL helps them. And I hope this country comes to its senses and starts solving problems in mental health and addiction rather than merely creating them and profiting from them.
In memory of Jean E.R. Straub – February 19, 1969-December 29, 2011
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE WITH MORE!
British multinational is accused of ‘shamelessly preying on patients in need of help’ by keeping Suboxone, a drug used to treat addiction, at an inflated price.
Joseph Rannazzisi accuses lawmakers of putting US pharmaceutical companies’ $9bn-a-year trade in opioid painkillers ahead of a public health crisis
• Kratom bomb: DEA’s ‘unprecedented’ reversal of drug ban shows culture shift – so why not legalize marijuana?
The Drug Enforcement Agency, which has a long ‘record of ignoring both science and public opinion’, has responded to an outcry over a south-east Asian plant