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We have heard a lot lately about “alternative facts” and “fake news” but I have not heard any mutterings about these misgivings as it relates to the current opioid epidemic. But then again, despite the number of deaths being claimed every day by fentanyl and heroin and in contrast to the sound bites heard during the presidential primaries, no one is talking facts about addiction. For that matter, politicians are barely  even talking about addiction! We are talking a lot about the murders caused by immigrants, and there is no one doubting that immigrants do murder people, but so do native born Americans, and at a much higher rate than first generation immigrants. So, yes, we need to be concerned why second generation immigrants commit crime at rates much higher than their forefather immigrants and at a rate similar to native-born Americans; but if we are really serious about saving lives, let’s also talk about that which claims more lives than gun crime or automobile accidents – the disease of addiction. Let's not get caught up in the fake news that building a great wall or cutting Medicaid funding and trashing the Affordable Care Act will stop the influx of drugs or assist those afflicted with the disease of addiction.  I hope you will read on.

So what are the facts:

Drug overdoses now kill more Americans than guns

Overall, overdose deaths rose 11 percent last year, to 52,404. By comparison, the number of people who died in car crashes was 37,757, an increase of 12 percent. Gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, totaled 36,252, up 7 percent.

More than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year — the most ever.

The disastrous tally has been pushed to new heights by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids.

Heroin deaths rose 23 percent in one year, to 12,989, slightly higher than the number of gun homicides, according to government data released Thursday.

Deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, rose 73 percent to 9,580

Overdose deaths rise by more than 100 percent in some states, CDC report says

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 states saw increases in overdose deaths resulting from the abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids. New Hampshire saw a 191 percent increase while North Dakota, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine had death rates jump by over 100 percent.

Louisville, Kentucky reports record spike of 52 overdoses in 32 hours

“What we’re seeing in the streets right now is fentanyl mixed with heroin, as opposed to heroin mixed with fentanyl.”

“Everything happens for a reason, and I’m thankful it did happen, because I have a new look-out on life,” said Nathan Johnson, who said a recent overdose has him ready to stay clean.  “They threw me in the shower, they did 18 minutes of CPR before the cops got there. Nothing was working, so the cop came in and he had to use two Narcans. It brought me back to life,” said Johnson. He can now use naloxone — or Narcan— on others. Kentucky’s ‘Good Samaritan’ law protects people who are administering the drug in an effort to keep someone alive.

“We’re often accused of being enablers, and we are. We are enablers. We enable people to live” said Read.

Drugs are the leading cause of accidental death in this country. Fatal overdoses surpassed shooting deaths and fatal traffic accidents years ago.

Drugs Kill

Heroin-related deaths increased 439% from 1999 to 2014. As of 2014, heroin-related deaths had more than tripled in five years and quintupled in 10 years.


Opioid Addiction – ASAM - 2016 Facts & Figures

Adolescents (12 to 17 years old)

  • In 2015, 276,000 adolescents were current non-medical users of pain reliever, with 122,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers.
  • In 2015, an estimated 21,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, and an estimated 5,000 were current heroin users. Additionally, an estimated 6,000 adolescents had heroin a heroin use disorder in 2014


  • Heroin overdose deaths among women have tripled in the last few years.

 Trump leaves out context in claim about immigrants and crime

Overall, there are about 16,000 murders and 10,000 drunk driving deaths a year (the drunk driver is the person killed more than 60 percent of the time)

About 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants accounted for about 3.5% of the total national population in 2014, according to Pew Research Center. Certainly some undocumented immigrants do commit violent crimes

While Trump’s discourse suggests waves of immigrants equals violence, scholars say studies don’t substantiate that message.

Research on immigrants and crime finds that immigrants are not more likely than U.S.-born individuals to take part in crime, said Christopher P. Salas-Wright, an assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work.

"Again and again, we see evidence that they are not," Salas-Wright said. "In fact, it’s the opposite."

Studies show that for the most part, people who migrate are a self-selecting group who want to better their lives, provide for their families back in their home countries and who don’t want to risk getting in trouble with the law, said Kubrin, the criminology professor at University of California, Irvine.

The American Immigration Council, a pro-immigrant nonprofit, analyzed data from the Census’ 2010 American Community Survey and found that about 1.6 percent of immigrant males between 18 and 39 years old were incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born population in that same age group. (The Census does not specify legal status.)

Justice Quarterly - An Examination of First and Second Generation Immigrant Offending Trajectories

Results suggest that the myth remains; trajectory analyses reveal that immigrants are no more crime-prone than the native-born. Foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course. Moreover, it appears that by the second generation, immigrants have simply caught up to their native-born counterparts in respect to their offending. Implications of the findings for theory and future research are discussed.

Crime rises among second-generation immigrants as they assimilate 


Author : skassels
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It has been quite a journey over the past several years trying to educate many members of the Legislature and the Governor of Maine as it relates to the benefits of Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependency. I would like to say that they have been as receptive as the Police, the Portland Chamber of Commerce, and many citizens - but unfortunately, I can not say that!

But I must commend Dr. Mary Dowd on a superlative piece, and what makes it so powerful is it could just as easily be titled, "Patients Do Matter"!!!  Listen to the Voices of Addiction.

We might be worn down, but when it comes to advocating for patients, never worn out. Hopefully some of our politicians will want to read my testimony to the Maine Health & Human Services Committee eleven months ago.

Maybe they might consider reading my book because Addiction Is On Trial in Maine.

Author : skassels
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So here we are on the cusp of choosing another POTUS and what a relief it will be to finally have this election season behind us.  My only hope is that after whoever wins (and yes, I have my fingers crossed and crossed tightly for one candidate!) that we can finally get down to the issues that really matter. I would like to challenge the next POTUS to do what has been dreadfully lacking during the campaign season - to focus on the issues that directly affect the electorate's lives, that affect our communities, that are robbing our kids of their future, that is tearing apart families...need I go on!!! It is time to deal with the scourge that is taking so many lives.  It is time to further advance the War On Addiction.  This is not a War On Drugs.  Please POTUS, tell us more how you plan to destigmatize the disease of addiction, to decrease demand and your strategies to further build upon the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act .

Take a look at the links and excerpts below, which only serve to reinforce the lost opportunity by both candidates to fully address the heroin/opioid epidemic with passion, commitment and a plan that it deserves.

PBS-Frontline - February 2016:  How Would the Candidates Fix the Heroin Epidemic?

"In 2014 alone, more Americans died of a drug overdose than in any other year on record. Nearly half of those deaths – around 29,000 – involved some type of opioid — like heroin. The candidates all agree on the severity of the epidemic, but their proposals vary widely. Some say the answer is more of a focus on treatment, rather than incarceration. Others say the solution is to build a wall with Mexico."

Hilary Clinton:  “We should be saying enough is enough. It’s time we recognize as a nation that for too long, we have had a quiet epidemic on our hands. Plain and simple, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, not a moral failing — and we must treat it as such.”

Donald Trump: “We are gonna try and help the young people and the old people and the middle-aged people and everybody that got addicted.”

The Week - September 2016:  America is Suffering from a Heroin Epidemic. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Don't Seem to Care.

"In May, police in Springfield, Massachusetts, seized 193 bags of heroin from two middle-aged dealers. The amount of heroin itself was a remarkable testament to how much heroin is flowing through the interior cities of New England. But there was something else remarkable about this heroin. It was branded with the face of Donald Trump."

"Our political class is largely ignoring what amounts to a nationwide drug epidemic every bit as serious as the 1980s crack epidemic."

"The CDC estimates that over half a million Americans have an opioid abuse problem involving heroin."

We must all encourage our politicians to make this non-partisan issue a priority. We must all write to the next POTUS and tell her/him how we really feel!!!


Author : skassels
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For the first time in U.S. history, the Surgeon General has sent letters to each and every physician warning them about the Opioid Epidemic.

Dr. Vivek Murthy is not only asking for changes in prescription practices, but also "asking clinicians to help us change how our country thinks about addiction."

For a more in-depth analysis of the role physicians play in this health crisis, please read my blog post, "Heroin Epidemic Reason #1: Blame the Doctors".

As evidenced by the Surgeon General's warning, we must all take steps to change how the country thinks about the disease of addiction.

To that end, I am donating all my author proceeds from my novel, Addiction on Trial, to addiction treatment centers, homeless shelters and academic endeavors that support the destigmatizing of addiction.

I hope you will consider buying a copy for yourself or to give it as a gift to anyone interested in changing hearts and minds about the disease of addiction.

Please also visit my Facebook page or Twitter account to learn which organizations have been identified as the beneficiaries of this ongoing fundraising campaign.

If you would like to recommend any additional organizations that would benefit from an author-proceeds fundraising campaign, or awareness-building social media posts, please send information to me through my Contact Page.

Below, please read about how Dr. Vivek has taken unprecedented steps by sending an official Surgeon General's warning to all doctors about opioids, which he calls 'the health crisis of our generation'.

Photo Surg GenI have included below a copy of the personal letter I received. I look forward to assisting the Surgeon General in his mission to destigmatize the disease of addiction!  Remember - "It Takes a Village" and "A Thousand Points of Light".

Surgeon General's Warning

I welcome your comments, questions and insights by either clicking "Leave a Reply" below, or by answering any of my Polls about the Heroin Epidemic!

Author : skassels
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I recently spoke with Acadia Family Center about their efforts in treating the disease of addiction.

Their work in treating the biological, psychological and sociological aspects of this illness is critical to the communities of Mount Desert Island, Maine. Like many treatment centers, they are facing the challenges of increasingly limited local resources and budget cuts despite the growing addiction epidemic.

To help their important cause, from August 22 through September 15 I am donating all author proceeds from the sales of my book, Addiction on Trial, to the Acadia Family Center.

Addiction on Trial, the first in a series of Shawn Marks Thrillers, revolves around the murder cases of attorney Marks. Addiction on Trial sends a powerful message of societal discrimination toward drug addicts and explores common misperceptions about what drug addiction really is - a chronic illness requiring a treatment approach similar to other chronic diseases. Medical and behavioral aspects of addiction are woven into the intrigue of this thriller, which culminates in a riveting murder trial.

Please also watch my brief conversation with Chris Popper about the issues related to addictive illnesses and the Acadia Family Center to learn more about effective treatment modalities.

Do you know of another treatment-related organization that needs extra help, in the form of donations, event promotion, or other support? Please reach out to me on the Contact Page on this site.

Author : Meghan
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