Deaths During Opioid-Related Hospital Stays in U.S. Quadrupled

Heroin and other opioids are ravaging communities across America. Deaths from heroin increased 328% between 2010 and 2015, and drug deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are now seeing a sharp rise as well. More Americans die from drug overdoses than in car crashes, and this increasing trend is driven by Rx painkillers.

A new study released earlier this week confirms that deaths in opioid-related hospital stays in the U.S. have quadrupled between 1993 and 2014, PBS NewsHour reports.

Zirui Song, an assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, launched the study in 2016 in an effort to gain a better understanding of the patients he treated.

Dr. Song analyzed nearly 385,000 hospital stays involving patients who were admitted for opioid use with data from the National Inpatient Sample of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a national database compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality.

His research confirmed that by 2014, four times as many patients died from opioid-related causes while staying in the hospital, rising from 0.43 percent before 2000 to 2.02 percent.

Over the same time period, the study also found that patients admitted to the hospital for opioid use skewed younger — the average age was 39 years old — and were more likely to be Caucasian. The number of black and Hispanic patients admitted to hospitals for opioid or heroin use remained relatively stable.

Dr. Song said his study is intended to raise awareness for the need for better strategies for hospitals when patients are admitted for using opioids, in addition to continuing and improving public health.

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Doctors need to STOP prescribing Opiates and, those who do, need to properly detox their patients so they don’t have to go to Heroin!  Talk to your doctor about this today.


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Breaking Down the Uptick in Adolescent Overdoses

Reuters

The leading cause of death for Americans under 50 is now accidental death by drug overdose. There’s been a significant climb in overdose deaths among those under 18.

When it comes to acknowledging the opioid epidemic, the U.S. has been faced with some harsh realities over the past several months. Perhaps most notable is a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicates the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 is now accidental death by drug overdose. The 2016 count of lives lost exceeds 64,000, a 19 percent increase from the previous year’s 52,000. These figures are heartbreaking.

 

Perhaps a more important statistic is that overdose deaths among adolescents (those ages 12 to 17) are up as well, with a strikingly similar 19 percent increase in the past year. This information is significant, and not just because it’s alarming. It also begs a different approach in how to address the problem.

 

Several governmental actions have been taken to curb the effects of this devastating crisis. Many states have adopted Good Samaritan laws, which encourage bystanders to call law enforcement for help if there’s concern for a potential overdose, without fear of prosecution for being involved in illicit activities themselves. There are also federal regulations with heavy sanctions on misguided prescribers who may be buffering their revenues by pumping out scripts for prescription opioids. Plus, there’s the overdose-reversing drug Narcan and subsequent funding for free community trainings, with ease of access through your physician or local pharmacy.

But where is the haste toward prevention?

 

In my 13 years working in the mental health and addictions counseling field, I can list over a dozen adolescent treatment programs (that I was personally acquainted with) that have closed simply due to lack of census. Services were being offered, but few were using them. Some of these programs, responding to an increase of young adults (18- to 26- year-olds) in need of treatment, converted their juvenile programs to fit the business’s needs.

Alongside the trend for more young adults seeking treatment, service providers continued to see further declines in adolescents accessing services. In essence, what we’re seeing is a decrease of identification in teens, and an increase as they transition into adulthood. There’s something horribly wrong with this picture. As a culture, we’re being reactive to a crisis as opposed to placing efforts to be proactive. This, unfortunately, is a making of the tragedy we see on the news each and every day.

 

Yes, prevention does exist; however, it’s fragmented at best. Most common prevention efforts take place in the school setting. One of the most frequently used school-based prevention programs has been empirically suggested to be ineffective, and yet the program gets renewed year after year in some states. Some states’ education departments require that school boards employ a specialist to handle substance use and other crises in their students; however, these professionals often occupy several roles within the district, and their time is often stretched too thin. Programming targeting parents to provide information on current trends and concerns regarding substance use are lightly attended. I’ve facilitated many of these workshops myself; in a student population of 1,200, if you can get 20 parents to attend, you’re in luck.

 

One thing is blatantly clear: When we’re not appropriately addressing substance use and addiction in adolescence, we are inundated with young adults literally fighting for their lives shortly thereafter.

I’m not saying that the approach we’re taking to the opioid crisis is wrong. Rather, it’s incomplete. We need to start the conversation about drug use and addiction at an early age. And no, “just say no” isn’t an acceptable means of prevention. “Just say no” is something that we feel more comfortable doing. We can just check it off the list, say that we “had the conversation,” and be done with it. In order to create change, we have to be OK with getting uncomfortable. This is how we’re going to save these kids lives.

Talk to your families about substance use. If you have a family history of addiction, there’s all the more reason to do this – your children may have a predisposition. Go to prevention programs offered in your community. Most, if not all, are free. Bring your kids with you. Talk about the program on the drive home. Have family dinners once in a while. Bring up any pop-culture or media references to overdose deaths, and listen to their reactions. Reach out and call the school your child attends to find out how they address prevention. Acquaint yourself with the personnel who coordinate it. Introduce your child, too. Research other agencies in your community, and participate or volunteer in their events from time to time.

 

There are limitless ways that we can make small impacts in our families and our communities. Stigma usually hold us back. Stigma also adds to this crisis. However, if we’re more active in our prevention efforts, not only will we see a reduction in adolescent overdoses, but over time we will not have an opioid epidemic on our hands.

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Patients Treated with Naloxone Continue to be at High Risk of Overdose: Study

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A new study finds 10 percent of people saved by the opioid overdose antidote naloxone die within a year of treatment.

“Patients who survive opioid overdoses are by no means ‘out of the woods,’” lead study author Scott Weiner, MD, Director of the Brigham Comprehensive Opioid Response and Education Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a news release. “These patients continue to be at high-risk for overdose and should be connected with additional resources such as counseling, treatment and buprenorphine.”

The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians, found half of patients who died within a year of naloxone treatment died within one month of treatment, Health Day reports.

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THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC NOW REACHES NEW HEIGHTS! PROTECT YOURSELF!

2017-opioid-cloud

A comprehensive study validates the impact opioid abuse has on our country, with results suggesting that from 2009 to 2015, overdose-related ICU admissions increased by 34 percent and the cost per ICU admission rose by 58 percent. During the same period, the number of opioid deaths within the ICU nearly doubled. Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center warn that their study implies a health crisis. Dr. Jennifer P. Stevens, the lead author, wrote that the review “tells [the public] that the opioid epidemic has made people sicker and killed more people, in spite of all the care we can provide in the ICU, including mechanical ventilation, acute dialysis, life support and round-the-clock care.”

Data from the study, which will be published ahead of print in Annals of the American Thoracic Society, are believed to be the first in the country to quantify how opioid abuse affects acute care services. Dr. Stevens and her team say that given the current trend, critical care services may not be able to meet the growing demand in the near future.

Over the course of seven years, the team analyzed more than 23 million hospital admissions of adult patients in around 162 hospitals across 44 states. Of the four million patients who required acute care, 21,705 patients were admitted due to an opioid overdose. Cross-analyzing the data even further, the researchers found that opioid-related ICU admissions increased by approximately half a percent each year. Researchers also noted that apart from the growth in number, patients who were admitted to the ICU required increasingly intensive care, which included more treatments of dialysis or other forms of high-cost renal replacement therapy. Moreover, the mortality rates of these patients also rose every year.

These findings have a worrying ramification in the medical industry. While more people are becoming addicted to opioids, hospitals and other health facilities appear to be unable to expand their prevention and treatment plans to treat this epidemic.

The authors also placed a disclaimer that their methodology limits the true scope of the health crisis. Their data came from mostly academic medical centers and were not reflective of opioid addiction in other settings. As such, it is reasonable to assume that overdose admissions in acute care may actually be higher. This study also did not take into account ICU admissions caused by complications related to drug use.

“The pace of the opioid epidemic continues to increase,” warned Dr. Stevens. “Those of us who work in hospital intensive care units need to make sure we have the tools we need to help patients with opioid use disorders when they are at their sickest, because there doesn’t appear to be any end to this epidemic in sight.” (Related: The United States has crossed the pandemic threshold in the opioid epidemic…and Big Pharma keeps cashing in.)

Opioid addiction in America

Heroin remains the number one opioid that is abused in our country. However, health professionals are noting that pain medications are quickly becoming a contender. Statistics show that three out of four people who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from a friend or family member. More troubling, 80 percent of prescription painkillers are given by 20 percent of prescribers, according to Addictions.com.

There is also evidence that suggests that many medical doctors over-prescribe their patients, or hand out prescriptions without first determining if the patient truly needed it. This works both ways as well. Previous data shows that more than 12 million Americans reported using prescription pain medication for non-medical purposes in 2010. This may be a contributing factor as to why the number of overdose deaths from pain medications has increased by more than 300 percent since 1999.

Follow more news on the opioid epidemic at Opioids.news.

Sources include:

NaturalNews.com

ScienceDaily.com

ConsumerAffairs.com

ATSJournals.org

Addictions.com

Heroin & Cocaine VS Rx Drugs From Your Doctor. Same or Different?

Today, I want to show you how accepting those dangerous prescriptions from your doctor is causing you to be equal to a heroin/cocaine abuser. Once you know that your doctor is giving you dangerous medications, it is up to you to make a change in your life or suffer torment, withdrawal, organ failure, seizures, stroke, heart attack and an early death.

We all know that when a person struts down to his or her drug dealer, we know that they’re willingly, knowingly and purposely after a high and are bound and determined to get it.  We also know that they are fully aware that if they get caught using, they will spend some time in  jail. Another known factor is that – most of the time – people sell their bodies in order to get that high because, without it, they will get violently sick and possibly die from withdrawal.  Another given is that they are knowingly risking their lives every single time they use.  Overdose, as everyone knows, is all too common.

So, what about Rx drugs that your doctor gives you?

  • More people die from doctors’ prescription drugs than do people using Heroin and Cocaine combined.
  • Prescription drugs such as Opiates, Benzodiazepines, Hypnotics (sleeping pills) and Stimulants (just to name a few categories) should NEVER be prescribed for more than 3 days – if at all. Antidepressants, antipsychotics and other psychotropic drugs should NEVER be prescribed by anyone other than a board certified psychiatrist; even then, you must consider whether or not this person needs to be hospitalized and evaluated in a mental health unit as these drugs cause suicidal and homicidal ideations.
  • Doctors that offer you these drugs, outside of a hospital facility, and for more than 3 days, are basically drug dealers who wear white coats.

Do the patients who use Rx drugs seek after the same high as street drug users do?

  • Absolutely YES!  The addictive Rx drugs given to you by your doctor do not keep their intensity. In other words, the dose you take today will not have the same effect on you when you continue to take it for 2 weeks. That means that your doctor will most likely increase the dose or add another drug to potentiate (make stronger) it’s effect.  As a matter of fact, many doctors, in order to keep you addicted, will add certain specific other drugs that will give give their patients the equivalent of a very potent ‘heroin high’.
  • Dosages are raised by doctors or additional drugs are added because every few weeks, the effect and euphoria (or high) of these drugs dissipates.  Keep in mind that these drugs, while becoming less effective, are stored in the body’s vital organs. This is the reason people ‘accidentally’ overdose and never see it coming.

Is it possible that Rx drug users could end up doing prison time or have to sell their bodies?

  • Yes!  It happens every day of the week. Why, you ask?  The reason is that laws are getting tighter and doctors are being squeezed not to prescribe these types of drugs… especially Opiate painkillers.  These days they can face professional discipline for misconduct, malpractice suits for iatrogenic addiction and death, and criminal criminal charges. So, what do the people do who are on these drugs and now suffer withdrawal? They hit the streets and buy heroin!  Heroin is an opiate. Whether they are 12 or 90, they will start shooting up because the withdrawal is unbearable and they don’t want to be hospitalized for 14 days to detox. As we know, this is illegal.  Being illegal, these people who have graduated from pills to heroin are now conducting themselves as other heroin abusers do, so they easily can and do end up with criminal charges.

What about withdrawal and accidental overdose?  My doctor would never put me on drugs that would cause harm to me!

  • Think again, my friends!  Remember that nasty thing called ‘GREED’?  Greed causes those who have the love of money to do crazy things.  Just because some people have an MD, DO, PA, or NP after their names doesn’t mean they don’t or can’t love money!  People who love money look for ways to make that money in a cushy, easy way.  What’s easier than addicting patients to drugs?  State laws mandate that these patients MUST come into the medical office monthly in order to get more pills. Insurances pay upward of $880 per 5 minute visit for the patient to get a new Rx. Multiply that by the average number of patients doctors have in the US per month.  I’m not going to figure out the statistics for you… you can google that if you want; however, what I will tell you is that in 2012 (the most recent statistics available form the CDC), 259,000,000 (million) prescriptions were written for just Opioids alone!!!!!!!!!  You do the math on how lucrative it is for doctors to prescribe these drugs and how they only have to spend 5 minutes with a patient to make upwards of $880.00 per month per patient. Don’t you wonder how your monster doctor affords all of those luxury vacations… new cars… huge houses (and multiple homes)… designer clothes… private schools… etc? I guess you’ve been reading my words here because you guessed it… it’s by prescribing addictive and mind altering drugs!  Voila!  One American dies every 19 minutes here in the US from a prescription overdose from addictive drugs prescribed by their doctor.  IATROGENIC DEATH is now the #1 cause of accidental death in America.  To me, it’s no accident when doctors know what these drugs do and prescribe them anyway. Even after a patient has experienced a massive overdose, their doctor will prescribe them to that same patient again when they get home from the hospital. That’s egregious since the chance of overdose is GREATER after an overdose has already occurred. For many, it only takes just one pill!!!

Motto of my post today?  NEVER TRUST YOUR DOCTOR!  

  • Do the research – Look up the drugs yourself and ask your pharmacist for a package insert so that you can see all facts about the drugs.
  • ask questions of pharmacists, naturopaths, google ‘dangers of (name of drug)’ and see what others have experienced and what remains hidden from patients.
  • allow a window of time before accepting any Rx or procedure in order to get other opinions from doctors who are naturopaths.
  • *******NEVER start with these drugs and you’ll never get addicted, you’ll never get dead before your time, and you’ll never suffer the evil ravages of taking them.
  • Look for an MD or DO who is a Naturopath… seek natural alternatives.
  • For pain, google LDN… an awesome way to control pain, many diseases and helps you sleep.  It doesn’t ’cause’ anything in your body… it enables your body to heal itself.

Opiates & Benzos

Opiates are the MOST abused drug in the US today. In some people, addiction will begin in just 3 days or less. Most will be addicted within 4-6 weeks. After that, they will need detox to get them out of their addiction. The 6 week point is the point where doctors will escalate the addiction by increasing dosages and adding other opiates or other drugs that potentiate the effect of the opiates.  Examples of other drugs would be: antidepressants, Soma, and benzodiazepines such as ativan, klonopin and xanax, hypnotics, neurontin, lyrica and more. These monster doctors are fully aware of what they are doing to you, but do it anyone because addiction is an easy ride for them. All they do is keep giving you your Rx’s each month, collect $880.00 and up in insurance money for each of your visits. When you die, there are 4 to replace you in that notorious hell of a waiting room.

One of the immediate effects of opiates are drowsiness, lethargy, memory loss, paranoia, fear, respiratory depression and oftentimes nausea. One of the reasons for memory loss is due to a condition known as hypoxia. Hypoxia is oxygen loss to the brain and is caused by the opiates causing shallow and decreased respirations. An obvious sign of opiate use that is evident in ALL who are taking opiates is what is called ‘pinprick or pinpoint pupils’. One look and a trained eye knows; you don’t need to ask. The addict thinks you can’t possible know. This is a big giveaway of opiate abuse and cannot be disguised. Dark glasses won’t cover this up. If you’re stopped by a cop, you can be arrested for a DUI and probably do time in jail for it. If you do go to jail, most courts will not help you out with withdrawal. They will let you go cold turkey which is not fun and could bring seizures, heart attack, stroke and death. It’s noteworthy to mention that you can also be arrested for a DUI with taking Benzos… even at small doses – only once daily – over a long period of time (longer than 3 months). Most likely, your pupils will be dilated and will be quite evident to the trained eye. Those benzo eyes are everywhere! Constriction can happen also, based on other medications or drugs the person is taking.

God designed the heart and mind to coexist without drugs, therefore He knows far above what doctors, psychiatrist, substance abuse counselors and the media know about the damage that happens to an addicted heart and mind. In my humble opinion, I think denial is the worst enemy of someone on opiates or benzodiazepines. They are so afraid of being without their best ‘friends’ (drugs), that they try to deny the addiction. The problem is, the addiction will not deny them the right to suffer and die.

Remember: The fact that your doctor prescribed these dangerous drugs, does NOT release you from liability. You must always do your research and be accountable. Opiates and Benzos are BIG BIZ! Doctors cash in on that. Don’t be a cash cow. If you’re in an addiction, run from the doctor who gave it to you and find a medically supervised detox facility to get you off of these drugs. It’s the ONLY safe way of doing it. Please don’t be fooled by those who say you can do it yourself; you can’t.

Are all doctor malicious and trying to addict you for the sake of the almighty dollar and easy money? Are all doctors out for the lifestyle of the rich and famous?  Of course not; however, the majority must be because doctors are now the #1 cause of preventable accidental death her in the US… now surpassing car accidents! So, your answer is in the statistics.

Dereck Merrill survives drug overdose, vegetative state

Dereck Merrill was severely injured by a drug overdose. Some doctors suggested it was time to pull the plug, but his family saw something.

Kim Muncy’s 25-year-old son lay on an emergency room table, unresponsive and unconscious. A drug addict who had overdosed on opiates and benzodiazepines, Dereck Merrill was not likely to make it out of a vegetative state.
If he lived at all.
Muncy did not want her son to die alone among strangers at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski. She was so determined that she tried to talk her way back to the room where they were trying to stabilize him.
“I’m a nurse. I can stay out of the way,” she pleaded. “If he’s not going to make it, I want to be there to hold his hand.”
That was March 24, 2012. The mild-mannered nurse has given up a lot to remain at her son’s side in the time since — her job, her home, most of her free time.
She’s been through the five stages of grief, finally landing on acceptance as the best path for caring for her family and making the perils of drug addiction known. She’s also joined an effort to create a law in Virginia that provides legal immunity for those who call for medical help when a person overdoses.
“Being a family of faith, I think God picked me for this journey because he knew I was a nurse, and he knew I was a blabbermouth,” the 48-year-old mother said.
“He knew I had the ability to spread the word from coast to coast about what substance abuse has done to my child.”
Glassy eyes and SpaghettiOs
Muncy has told her story to area high schools, to youth groups and to recovery program participants. She begins with her son’s troubled primary and secondary school years — Merrill’s severe ADHD and poor school performance; the legal wrangles he got into when he got caught selling his Ritalin and other ADHD drugs for money to buy stronger drugs like Xanax, Valium and Loratab.
The first time Muncy suspected her son was getting high? He came home glassy-eyed, reeking of marijuana and tried to eat everything in sight. He was 14.
“He’d wolf down a can of ravioli then get a can of spaghetti and meatballs. He’d leave the fork in the can, and throw the whole fork with the can away,” she said.
Drug counseling, family counseling — they tried everything they could afford. She was in court so often for Merrill’s drug-related offenses that a Montgomery County bailiff made a crack about reserving Muncy her own seat in the courtroom.
At 17, Merrill was ordered to intensive drug rehab after a conviction for drug possession — his third — and intent to distribute. His crime? He’d stolen the painkillers prescribed for his mother, who was recovering from back surgery. She’d locked them up, but Merrill and a friend figured out how to open the safe.
Merrill had been doing better after a year of drug treatment, or so his mother thought. He was working some and living with a girlfriend in Pulaski County.
After the death of Muncy’s mother, however, Merrill became distraught. He’d been raised with the help of his grandmother, who baby-sat while Muncy put herself through nursing school. Merrill’s father was absent most of his life and died when he was just 15.
When she first learned of Merrill’s “injury,” as Muncy calls it, she and her new husband, Doug Muncy, had just sat down to supper. Merrill’s frantic girlfriend called to say she’d come home from work to find him vomiting, struggling to breathe and white as a ghost.
They’d been to a party the night before, and she’d gone to work that morning, thinking he was just asleep, she told Kim Muncy. She divulged no information about which drugs he’d been taking or even where the party was, family members say. Tests confirmed he had marijuana, benzodiazepines, opiates and alcohol in his system.
“The effects were parallel to what you might see in a heroin overdose,” said Carilion Clinic neurologist Jay Ferrara. The nerve coatings on his brain were so damaged that an outright hole had developed, with fluid replacing what was once been white matter. “He was as profoundly brain-injured as one can be.”
His heart, kidneys and liver were also failing.
Praying for a miracle
Doctors had little hope that Merrill would ever awaken from his vegetative state. They tried one drug after another, but nothing worked. At the long-term acute care facility he was transferred to in Lynchburg, a neurologist held up the Karen Ann Quinlan case as an example of why Kim Muncy should consider pulling the plug on her comatose son. The famous right-to-die case culminated with the young woman living on in a persistent vegetative state for nearly a decade — while a legal battle raged around her.
“They wanted us to discontinue tube feeding and just let him go,” Muncy said.
She and Merrill’s little sister, Deanna Farley, sensed something perking behind his dull stare. Muncy called it “a kind of flicker.” Farley saw it as “a little smirk.”
Neither one of them was sleeping well from driving between Christiansburg and Lynchburg. When the Lynchburg doctor persisted with talk of letting her son die a dignified death — he’d been lying in bed with contracted muscles, and he was beginning to get bedsores — Muncy finally snapped.
“What part of this don’t you understand? I’m not stopping the feeding, period,” she said.
The doctor relented, but the hospital could not keep Merrill much longer. Muncy spent the next week calling 75 rehab and nursing facilities from Wytheville to Richmond, offering to personally provide all his nursing care.
Merrill was too young, too needy and too likely to trigger scrutiny from state long-term care inspectors, Muncy said. The more complicated a patient is, the more likely surveyors are to dive into their care to make sure every decision is backed up with paperwork.
“Patients like Dereck are risky,” Muncy said. “The philosophy is, if it’s not documented, it’s not done.”
Muncy and her husband, a Roanoke mail carrier, prayed for a miracle — for a facility in the region to take Merrill so they wouldn’t have to move.
Only one was willing to take him on.
Magic number eight
It wasn’t quite a flicker, but Stephanie Mangan thought she spotted something behind Merrill’s blue eyes the first time she saw him, four months after his overdose. An occupational therapist at Raleigh Court Health & Rehabilitation Center in Roanoke, she saw in his limp body and faraway stare “some form of drive, some kind of yearning to participate or move,” she recalled recently.
One day in July 2012, she was doing her usual range-of-motion exercises, bending Merrill’s arms and counting softly as she worked to keep his muscles limber.
“Four … five … six … seven,” she said, flexing his elbow as she counted.
“Eight,” Merrill said softly.
He hadn’t spoken in four months. Hadn’t communicated at all. Couldn’t move beyond blinking his eyes.
Now he was not just speaking a word, but saying the correct word in a sequence.
Mangan ran through the facility hallway, telling everyone she saw, “Dereck just spoke!”
The Raleigh Court therapy staff shepherded his gradual awakening, first teaching him to blink for yes or no, helping him put sound behind his mostly mouthed words and teaching him to eat.
His sister shocked everyone, including his doctors, when she described how Merrill happily mouthed the words to the entire Justin Bieber song, “Baby.”
No one believed her that he really knew the song, but Farley recorded the entire performance on her cellphone.
“We had to show the video to the doctors to prove that he was really all there,” said Farley, 21, who helps care for Merrill in the Grandin Court ranch house the family moved to so they could be near him. Farley said she postponed college to help him, and she wants eventually to be a rehabilitation therapist of some kind.
Once the Raleigh Court rehab staff got Merrill speaking and participating more fully in his recovery, he was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for a month of intensive rehabilitative training. Though he’s technically still a quadriplegic, he now has limited use of one arm and can feed himself with help.
Certified nursing assistant Andrea Trenor at Raleigh Court became so close to the family that she accompanied Farley to visit Merrill in Atlanta.
“I’m so proud of you, Dereck,” she told him during a recent social visit to the Raleigh Court facility. Muncy took the staff a giant sheet cake that said, “Thank you, Raleigh Court,” and the therapists and aides cooed over how much Merrill had progressed.
“When he first came in he was stiff, and he couldn’t bend or talk. Then he started whispering, then speaking, then making jokes,” Trenor said.
“Many of them inappropriate,” Farley said, laughing.
Not long ago, from the other room, his mother heard him whisper “Hey, baby” while watching a female weather broadcaster on TV. “His new love is Kristina Montuori,” Muncy explained of the WSLS (Channel 10) meteorologist.
When Muncy asked whom he was talking to, Merrill brightened and explained: “I’m saying hi to my girl on TV. Mom, she’s so hot, she’s making the temperature go up in the 70s.”
From acceptance to activist
She’s given up about $60,000 in nursing salary to care of Merrill, working only part-time on weekends for a local hospice company. Initial hospital bills were covered by Muncy’s insurance, followed by Medicaid once Merrill was rendered fully disabled.
The newlywed life she and Doug were enjoying pre-injury — going to church, fishing and going to auctions — has all come to a halt.
Family members say their goal now is to tell Merrill’s story as far and wide as they can, in person and through a social media campaign they call U Turn for LIFE. Muncy is teaming up with Robin Roth, the Roanoke County mother who lost her 21-year-old son, Scott, to a heroin overdose four years ago.
They hope to resurrect a 911 Good Samaritan bill that would provide legal immunity to people who call for medical assistance when someone overdoses, rather than flee the scene for fear of legal trouble. HB 557 was introduced by Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, but was tabled in the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, 23 states already have enacted similar legislation.
Carr said she plans to introduce another version of the bill next year, recrafted to address opponents’ concerns. Fear of prosecution was a factor in the cases of Scott Roth and Merrill, both of whom could have benefited from earlier interventions, their mothers believe.
Merrill’s friends “took him home and put him to bed when he was passing out,” Muncy said. “Later, at the hospital, they were afraid to tell what he’d done at the party. The doctors wanted to know so they could help him, but everybody played dumb,” she added.
In both men’s cases, smoking marijuana led eventually to much harder drugs, which is why both Muncy and Roth hope to stop efforts to legalize marijuana in Virginia. Roanoke County prevention coordinator Nancy Hans agrees with that strategy, citing Harvard Medical School professor Bertha Madras, whose research underscores how addictive and harmful the drug can be, especially to developing adolescent brains.
“Marijuana is definitely a gateway drug,” Hans said. “In Dereck’s case, it led to not just a drastic change in his life but to his whole family and beyond.”
A new purpose
Ferrara marvels at Merrill’s high quality of life, calling him an inspiration to his doctors and to other brain injury patients. He credits his mother for her remarkable care and advocacy.
“Although he has trouble learning the date and other things going on in the world, and certainly needs help in terms of [daily activities], I do think his family life is rich. He has a great sense of humor and is really a charming guy,” Ferrara said.
That charm was on quiet display during a recent visit to Hidden Valley High School, where Farley pushed him in his wheelchair, and Muncy showed the video Farley made to help spread the word about U Turn for LIFE.
“You can ask us anything,” Farley said at the start of the Q&A session, and slowly and shyly the students did open up: Why are drugs so accessible? What does the future hold? How do you deal with the stress of it?
Asked by one student what his goal is now, “If you don’t do drugs, I will have achieved my goal,” Merrill said.
“That’s why I lived,” he added. “It’s my purpose now.”

Source: roanoke.com  Story by Beth Macy

City Suing OxyContin Co. For Causing Opioid Epidemic By Allowing Criminal Trafficking

oxycontin
Courtesy of: Justin Gardner

A major pharmaceutical company that was exposed in 2016 for its complicity in wrecking countless lives is now facing a new kind of lawsuit. The city of Everett, Washington has filed suit against Purdue Pharma, claiming it ignored criminal trafficking of huge quantities of the drug OxyContin – in violation of federal law – and primarily caused an opioid epidemic.

According to the LA Times:

In a complaint in state Superior Court, city lawyers accused Purdue of gross negligence, creating a public nuisance and other misconduct and said the company should pay costs of handling the opioid crisis — a figure that the mayor said could run to tens of millions of dollars — as well as punitive damages.
OxyContin, a patented form of oxycodone which hit the market in 1995, ushered in the era of opioid addiction and brought billions in profits to Purdue Pharma. Owned by the Sackler family, Purdue came to control nearly a third of the U.S. pain pill market through massive marketing and a campaign of deception against doctors and patients.

Purdue identified doctors around the country who were prescribing the most pain medications – even doctors it knew were acting recklessly – and targeted them with a marketing onslaught. It worked, and “from 1997 to 2002 prescriptions of OxyContin for non-cancer pain increased almost tenfold.”

Purdue has been sued numerous times before concerning its marketing to doctors and OxyContin’s risk of addiction, but the Everett lawsuit is the first to focus on the company’s knowledge of criminal distribution after the Times investigation.

The Times’ investigation, published in July, disclosed that for more than a decade, an internal security team at Purdue monitored doctors and pharmacies it suspected of colluding with dealers and addicts. In the case of the L.A. ring, criminals set up a phony clinic near MacArthur Park in 2008 and worked with corrupt physicians and pharmacies to obtain pills over 18 months.

A Purdue sales manager dispatched to investigate the high volume of prescriptions at the clinic found a rundown building thronged with rough men and urged supervisors to alert the Drug Enforcement Administration, saying she was “very certain this is an organized drug ring.”

Despite her pleas and additional evidence suggesting that pills were pouring into the hands of criminals, company officials did not go to authorities until years later when the drug ring was out of business and its leaders under indictment. By then, 1.1 million pills had spilled into the illicit pipeline.”
These disturbing revelations come on top of a prior investigation that found Purdue maintained a secret Purdue database of 1,800 suspect doctors, but only about 10 percent of them were reported to law enforcement.

As a result of this willful ignorance, OxyContin – a powerful formulation of oxycodone which was labeled a dangerous drug before being patented – flooded the streets across America and gave rise to the opioid epidemic.

By the year 2000, Purdue was producing 160mg tablets which became wildly popular as users could crush, sniff or inject the pill for a powerful, long-lasting high. In 2010, Purdue reformulated OxyContin to make it harder to abuse, but this simply drove addicts to heroin.

Purdue claimed the potential for addiction was very small or “less than 1 percent.” In 2007, “Purdue and its top executives pleaded guilty to charges that it misled doctors and patients about the addictive properties of OxyContin and misbranded the product as “abuse resistant.””

Now, the city of Everett is seeking to hold Purdue accountable for allowing its most profitable drug to flood the streets, by failing to report known criminal trafficking of the drug, which has resulted in countless wrecked lives and millions of dollars in costs to the city.

Heroin is now an enormous problem, thanks to OxyContin. Fatal overdoses are common and government budgets are overwhelmed. Jails are full of addicts in need of detox, city blocks have become open-air drug markets, and homelessness has exploded. At one point, OxyContin was a factor in more than half the crimes in Snohomish County.

“Purdue’s improper actions of placing profits over the welfare of the citizens of Everett have caused and will continue to cause substantial damages to Everett,” lawyers wrote in the complaint. “Purdue is liable for its intentional, reckless, and/or negligent misconduct and should not be allowed to evade responsibility for its callous and unconscionable practices.”

Source: http://www.naturalblaze.com