Imagine being in desperate need of emergency medical attention and unable to seek help for yourself, yet not a single person witnessing your distress is planning on providing assistance or calling for help from emergency responders...
When it comes to saving lives and preventing unnecessary deaths due to drug overdose, Good Samaritan Laws, also known as overdose or 911 laws, are absolutely essential. Yet it wasn't until 2007 that the first Good Samaritan style law was adopted in the United States by New Mexico, and even today in more than 30 states, calling for help from the scene of an overdose could possibly land you behind bars. Pretty sobering stuff, right?
Last week, news started making the rounds about a new powdered alcohol product called 'Palcohol' becoming available in the US. Don't get too excited just yet, because now the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has more announced that this is no longer the case.
When it comes to IV drug use, clean and sterile syringes are an absolute must. While they are usually fairly accessible, there is still the very big problem of syringe reuse amongst intravenous drug users. Whether the needle exchange is closed, its outside pharmacy business hours, or for whatever reason clean syringes aren't accessible; almost every IV drug user has encountered the situation where they are forced to make a very risky decision when it comes to their health. Reuse an old syringe, or wait to do the hit? Unfortunately, many will make the dangerous choice of reuse, and sadly there is certainly no shortage of articles and instructables online claiming effective and safe methods to reuse syringes. Spoiler alert: Reuse of syringes is far from safe, nor is it a good idea. Ever.
More frightening news coming out of Russia. The drafting of a new bill proposes that HIV positive patients, as well as those with other dangerous diseases be required to submit to fingerprinting, which would then be contributed to and stored in a national database.
If you've ever had the experience of wasting precious time you'll never get back watching Dr. Drew Pinsky's 'Celebrity Rehab', you might be vaguely familiar with Bob Forrest. A musician and recovering addict himself, Forest had many appearances on 'Celebrity Rehab', in which he was a counsellor charged with assisting other addicts in their recovery during their stay with Dr. Drew. Nowadays, he has taken the leap into opening his own addiction treatment facility, called "Acadia Malibu". On the facility's website, Forrest runs a blog that features a post entitled "Legal Heroin - Chasing The Wagon", in which his feelings about Harm Reduction are made very clear; calling it nothing but a 'con'.
It's been a rough week. I have always been fairly good at brushing off the discrimination my pharmacy dishes out on no regular basis, but the past few days have just pushed me past my limit. They have truly made me feel like less of a human being this week, and it hurts. It bothers me even more that it's actually getting me to me - a lot. Thing is, I know I'm not a unique case. Addicts all over the place are being ignored, mistreated, disrespected, discriminated against and stigmatized. I've had just about enough of it.
It's not as though this is an unheard of problem. It rears it's ugly head in the media and communities on a regular basis. You'll most certainly hear all about it when addiction treatment centres and methadone clinics attempt to open a new clinic in a 'nice neighbourhood'. You'll find it alive and well at hospitals and healthcare facilities, where the general sentiment towards addicts seems to be one of disgust. Ask you neighbours or community members if they'd like to live right beside a known addict, drug user or methadone clinic, and I'm willing the bet the resounding response will be a big fat NO. This is not news. Rather than just complaining or sharing my personal first hand accounts, I thought I'd share some actual research, statistics and cold hard facts that shows the stigma of the addict is a very widespread issue.
For the purpose of this article, I'll be referring to definitions, facts and statistics from the website http://www.drugpolicy.org - I recommend checking out the site for more information, there's plenty of great stuff to sift through. Spread the awareness!
So what exactly is 'stigma'?
"Stigma is defined as the experience of being 'deeply discredited' or marked due to ones 'undesired differentness'. To be stigmatized is to be held in contempt, shunned, or rendered socially invisible because of a socially disapproved status"
Now that we've got a clearer understanding of what exactly it means to be stigmatized, let's take a deeper look. Do my experiences count as being stigmatized? You bet. It's not just me either. Addicts all over are being treated with disrespect and discrimination. Just how bad is it?
"No physical or psychiatric condition is more associated with social disapproval and discrimination than substance dependence"
Pretty glum. It's not just the general population that feels this way either. The stigmatization is rampant amongst healthcare workers as well. This creates huge problems when it comes to ensuring addicts are using safe injection practices and accessing healthcare services when needed.
"According to research, the majority of healthcare professionals hold negative, stereotyped views of people who use illicit drugs. Stigma is a major factor preventing individuals from seeking and completing addiction treatment and from utilizing harm reduction services such as syringe access programs".
My personal experiences sadly only reaffirm the above statement. I've experienced it in hospital ERs, physicians offices, and pharmacies - providing a very different level of care and treatment to addicts, and not in a good way. The stigma of addiction also exists amongst drug users. Those who use softer drugs such as marijuana can often hold negatives views of those using harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
So how do change these stigmas? Is it even possible to change such widespread negatives views? Changing the way we refer to those struggling with addiction is one place to start. Rather than calling derogatory and discriminatory names often used to describe the drug user in a negative light, focus on the person.
"The way we talk about drugs and the people who use them can create or uphold stigma. Words like ‘crackhead,’ ‘junkie’ and ‘pillhead’ dehumanize a person who may be struggling with addiction. Focus on the whole person, not a behaviour".
As much as I'd love to be able to brush it all off, it's not that easy. Honestly, It hurts. I'm a person too. I'm someone's daughter, someone's wife. I'm not just the nameless junkie wrecking havoc in your neighbourhood, trashing it up and lowering property values with my unwanted presence. Yes, I'm a recovering addict, but that is far from the only thing that defines me. I'm trying every day to ensure I don't ever slip back into that hell. Remember that no one aspires to be a 'junkie'. Trust me, that detour through addiction hell was definitely not in my ten year plan.
Image via http://stonetreeaus.wordpress.com/
The good old piss test. If you've ever had to submit to a drug test, you are most likely more than familiar with this thrilling process. For years Urinalysis has been the 'gold standard' when it comes to determining whether or not someone is clean or dirty, but a new technology is set to change the way drug testing is performed.
For Methadone patients, leaving a urine sample for drug testing is a common routine. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process, let me give you a better idea of what the drug testing process entails, from the perspective of the patient. Currently, I report to the clinic once weekly to leave a urine sample for drug testing. In this particular clinic, they have a Nurses station set up in back corner of the room, next to which is two bathroom stalls. Patients report to the Nurse and are then given a container in which to deposit their sample. Then, you head on over to the bathroom stalls to get down to work. The stalls themselves have doors, which you close and lock behind you. Although not that this really matters much, because you are being recorded on a camera mounted on the ceiling above you throughout the entirety of the process. Smile & say cheese! Why exactly are they recording their patients trips to the loo? Isn't that a little bit invasive? The camera is there for a very good reason: to ensure samples are not tampered with or switched. It's much easier than you might think to sneak in a sample of clean urine, even with the cameras in place.
If I'm being completely honest, sample tampering is a very regular occurrence. One of the motivations for doing this is to maintain the privilege of earned carry home doses. To many patients who have had a decent amount of clean time or work full time jobs, these carries are very valuable. It allows the patient to have their daily drink of Methadone at up home, as opposed to having to report to the Clinic or pharmacy each and every day for the pharmacist to witness ingestion of the dose. While I have been clean for quite sometime, and have been offered carry home doses by my physician on several different occasions, I still personally prefer to take my dose at the pharmacy daily to ensure I'm not tempted to take more than the days dose. I myself have been asked on several occasions by acquaintances if they could have a sample of my clean urine to pass off as their own, afraid of losing their carry doses with a failed drug test. I have also spoken to several people who do this successfully on a regular basis, as daily pharmacy trips conflict with work schedules. With the emergence of a new drug testing technology, this practice of sample swapping could become a thing of the past relatively soon.
A new form of drug test is about to make its way into the market, and it's one that isn't so easily tampered with. This new technology doesn't rely on urinalysis to test for drugs; it uses the sweat from your fingertips! That's right - all they need is a touch of your fingertip! This ground breaking new technology from Intelligent Fingerprinting Limited relies simply on your fingerprint to produce accurate drug testing results, and it can be done in as little as ten minutes right there in the physicians office. Pretty impressive stuff.
"The technique detects drug metabolites rather than the drugs themselves, so a positive result indicates that the person being screened has taken the drug and not simply touched a contaminated surface" according to Intelligent Fingerprinting Limited.
Not does it ensure accurate results, but a single sample can currently be screened for Amphetamines, Benzodiazepines, Cannabis, Cocaine and Opiates. This technology is capable of screening the actual fingerprint itself as well, which means it can also be used to identify and confirm the test subject, making it much harder to beat and minimizes the chance of inaccuracies or mismatching results. Having the ability to confirm that a specific sample does in fact match the fingerprint and identity of a specific patient is a huge leap forward when it comes to preventing sample tampering
Intelligent Fingerprinting Limited has also made this new technology convenient, portable and easy to use. They've packed it all into a handheld device capable of performing this advanced new testing right before your eyes. Not only is it noninvasive, portable, and reliable, it can also be tailored to meet specific needs by allowing the user to custom calibrate drug detection cutoff levels. Quite the feat for something that fits in your hand.
This very well could be where the future of drug testing. As someone who has to submit to weekly urine testing, the idea of implementing this new fingerprint drug testing technology is highly convenient, not to mention making the process much more comfortable for the person submitting a sample. Patients who have experienced traumas such as rape, sexual assault, or PTSD sometimes have a very difficult time managing produce a urine sample while being recorded on camera, with several people hovering around right outside the door. It is not the most comfortable experience, but this new technology is extremely promising when it comes provides a much higher comfort level for the patient, and accurate results for the physician. On top of all that, it's also easier and more effective than dealing with conventional screening methods that involve the collection and disposal of bodily fluids such a urine or sweat.
So don't be surprised if next time you're require to submit to a drug test if they ask for your fingerprint instead of your pee!
For more information on this new technology and to view the source information for the article, visit http://www.intelligentfingerprinting.com
Image via http://www.freevector.com
"The Meth Line"
If I never told you
you would probably never know
that young, pretty, petite brunette
just couldn't possibly be 'one of those'
but now you see me waiting in the meth line
you're giving me a confused stare
what on earth is that young brunette
possibly doing standing there
while you stand in the 'normal line'
I wait, segregated here
I've now been outed, and not by choice
left wishing I could disappear
How is it that you feel untouchable
that the pathetic addict could never be you
I've been there once, said that too
let me tell you it's far from true
yet you're able to simply brush me off
its not your place to care
but I could be your mother
any one of them, in despair
Once that wave of utter bliss hits you
it's warm embrace never let's go
it steals your heart
and drags it deeply down below
transforming into an empty slave
completely helpless to it's grip
pulled deeper still with every poke;
With nothing left
just an empty shell
the pain and suffering takes hold
what once was plenty is never enough
the urge increasing tenfold
life or death becomes the choice
but so many have lost their voice
tossed aside, muzzled by dope
so many living without hope
put hate aside
I shouldn't feel the need to hide
this daily drink allows me to live life
a way out of the endless pain,
a way out of the strife
- Studio L
Image Via alaskano @ deviantart
The US Food and Drug Administration made a big leap forward this Thursday when it comes to fighting the overdose deaths that have been quickly amassing due to the epidemic that is opiate addiction. The FDA has announced the approval of the first hand-held Naloxone auto-injector, designed to be easy enough to use that a caregiver or family member can administer the lifesaving dose of Naloxone upon suspected or confirmed overdose.
This is an impressive step when it comes to effectively treating opiate overdose. Currently, even though Naloxone is in use, it is not readily available to caregivers, family members or even street teams in the event they encounter an overdose. This lifesaving treatment is generally administered via syringe by trained hospital or EMS staff. This can be problematic, as it delays the time it takes to administer a lifesaving dose.
“Evzio is the first combination drug-device product designed to deliver a dose of naloxone for administration outside of a health care setting. Making this product available could save lives by facilitating earlier use of the drug in emergency situations” said Bob Rappaport, M.D., director of the Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
It truly can mean the difference between life and death!
The FDA states that the approval of Evzio is a major step forward when it comes to addressing the increasingly common problem of opiate addiction and overdose, and I have to agree with them. Any new weapon to combat overdose is a step forward, but the fact that Evzio is designed specifically for easy usage and administration by caregivers and family is ground breaking. Arming those who are most likely to encounter overdoses with a lifesaving treatment is an essential step. One the FDA is well aware they need to take, especially after the backlash and mounting criticisms relating to the approval of the strong opiate medication Zohyro.
While I'm not generally a fan of taking one step forward and two steps back, the approval of an easy to use, handheld device that is capable of delivering a lifesaving dose of Naloxone is be step I can't criticize. Putting it in the hands of caregivers and families will undoubtedly save countless lives, and allow addicts who would otherwise be facing death a second chance at life and sobriety.
By K. Lanktree
- Freelance Writer -
- Blog Mistress -
- Former IV Drug User -
- Methadone Patient -
- Lover of all things Harm Reduction -
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