The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman Highlights the Increased Use of Heroin

We lost a great actor with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Once again the danger of drug use has resulted in the loss of life. He sought treatment for his addiction but failed to avoid an untimely death.

photo of Philip Seymour Hoffman by Jean Jacques Georges

Philip Seymour Hoffman at the Paris premiere of The Ides of March in 2011 by photo by Jean Jacques Georges

Hoffman death puts focus on heroin’s comeback

Hoffman, 46, was found on the bathroom floor of his New York City apartment with a syringe in his left arm and glassine bags usually associated with heroin. Police say they are investigating substances found in the apartment to determine which drugs were present, but Hoffman has been open about his drug use, which included prescription pills and heroin, and his decades-long struggle to stay sober.

As authorities crack down on clinics that prescribe pain pills by the thousands and pharmaceutical companies change their formulas so the pills are more difficult to abuse, opiate addicts are turning to cheaper and more-plentiful heroin.

In recent years, the number of people abusing prescription pain pills has dropped steadily as heroin use increased. The number of people 12 and older who regularly abuse OxyContin dropped from 566,000 in 2010 to 358,000 in 2012, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in December. The number of regular heroin users soared from 239,000 in 2010 to 335,000 in 2012, the survey found.

The tragedy caused by the abuse of drugs damages millions every day. We have to do a better job of reducing the damage done to society due to the abuse of drugs. Celebrities shine a light on the problem but it is a widespread problem that has an immense impact throughout society.

Related: Russell brand’s testimony on dealing with drug addictionPrescription painkillers kill more every year in usa than heroin and cocaine combined Eminem’s ‘relapse’ explores his drug addition and rehabilitation

The Causes of Drug Addiction are Complex

image of comic panels from rat addiction experiment

Comic panels, by Stuart McMillen, of the rat park drug addiction experiment, see the full comic.

The causes of drug addiction are not simple. Like many medical issues they are a complex interaction of factors.

Drug addiction: The complex truth by Tom Stafford

Many studies have shown rats and monkeys will neglect food and drink in favour of pressing levers to obtain morphine (the lab form of heroin). With the right experimental set up, some rats will self-administer drugs until they die. At first glance it looks like a simple case of the laboratory animals losing control of their actions to the drugs they need. It’s easy to see in this a frightening scientific fable about the power of these drugs to rob us of our free will.

But there is more to the real scientific story, even if it isn’t widely talked about. The results of a set of little-known experiments carried out more than 30 years ago paint a very different picture, and illustrate how easy it is for neuroscience to be twisted to pander to popular anxieties. The vital missing evidence is a series of studies carried out in the late 1970s in what has become known as “Rat Park”. Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander, at the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, suspected that the preference of rats to morphine over water in previous experiments might be affected by their housing conditions.

Rats are smart, social creatures. Living in a small cage on their own is a form of sensory deprivation. Rat Park was what neuroscientists would call an enriched environment, or – if you prefer to look at it this way – a non-deprived one. In Alexander’s tests, rats reared in cages drank as much as 20 times more morphine than those brought up in Rat Park.

As the article notes more research is needed, but there should be more research into the importance of social environment on drug abuse and drug abuse treatment.

Related: Methods to treat addictionHow effective is drug addiction treatment in the USA?Prescription drug abuse in the USALooking at the evidence of treating alcoholism

UK Drug Policy Commission Recommends Decriminalizing Drug Use

Decriminalise drug use, say experts after six-year study

A six-year study of Britain’s drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation.

The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use.

The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.

They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.

But their report rejects any more radical move to legalisation, saying that allowing the legal sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine could cause more damage than the existing drugs trade.

Abusive drug use should be a medical matter not a criminal one. The appropriate treatment options to provide people the change to regain their lives is what is needed; we don’t need to throw them in jail. Use the money saved from wasting people’s lives in jail and all the costs associated with that to help provide better drug abuse treatment options.

Related: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug AddictsStudy: Drug Treatment Success Rates in EnglandRussell Brand’s Testimony on Dealing with Drug AddictionPrinciples of Effective Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation

Drug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime Costs

Some interesting details and data from Texas government web site.

Drug users constitute a large and growing proportion of the criminal justice population. Drug users not only commit a substantial amount of crime, but as the frequency of drug use increases, the frequency of crime increases and the severity of crimes committed also increases.

Drug use in the general population appears to have declined over the past decade, yet the number of drug-involved offenders is increasing. The number of convictions for drug violations in Texas has increased from 8,103 in 1980 to 23,126 in 1988, a 185 percent increase in less than ten years.

Estimates of lifetime drug users among the nation’s incarcerated population range from 80 to 87 percent.

The American Correctional Association notes that more than 95 percent of drug and alcohol offenders will be discharged from prison, most without receiving any treatment. Because of the high association between drug abuse and recidivism, it is in the public interest to place offenders in the kinds of treatment programs that have been found effective. A noticeable reduction in drug use and criminality can occur with an alliance between the criminal justice system and drug abuse treatment.

Public expenditures for drug abuse treatment are wise and prudent investments. Treatment works to reduce crime, drug abuse, and recidivism. Sustained reductions in recidivism can be achieved up to six years after treatment. With appropriate drug abuse treatment more than 75 percent of offenders with chronic substance abuse histories can reenter the community and lead socially acceptable life styles.

For every dollar spent for drug treatment, $11.54 is saved in social costs, including law enforcement costs, losses to victims, and government funds for health care.

Research has shown that funds invested in drug treatment reduces future criminal justice costs for treated offenders. Every dollar spent on residential drug treatment in probation saves $2.10 in future criminal justice costs. Every dollar spent on outpatient drug treatment in probation saves $4.28 in future criminal justice costs.

This is an old report, from 1997 but the basic model doesn’t change. A large amount of criminal activity is driven by drug addiction. To reduce crime in society drug addiction needs to be reduced. While success rates of drug addiction treatment centers are far from perfect the results more than pay for the cost – just in reduced crime costs (without even considering the better lives these people lead and the benefits to their children and loved ones).

Related: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug AddictsResults of 4 Year Study of Women in Drug TreatmentAlcohol is a Major Cause of Drug Rehab AdmissionsHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?

Russell Brand’s Testimony on Dealing with Drug Addiction

Celebrity Russell Brand makes very intelligent comments to a UK government inquiry on how to deal with drug addiction problems. He was an addict and has been drug free now for years.

His main point seems to be that we need to take a pragmatic approach to what is a primarily a health problem not a criminal problem. Abstinence (all all drugs – including legal ones such as alcohol) based recovery is what he has succeeded with and he believes in. “I think what we need is love and compassion… because it deals with the problem and reducing crime”

Russell’s book, My Booky Wook, discusses this life including his drug use and recovery.

Related: Eminem’s ‘Relapse’ Explores His Drug Addition and RehabilitationPrinciples of Effective Drug Treatment and RehabilitationHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?

Recovery High Schools

In 1989 the first recovery high schools in the USA began. The Ecole Novelle (now known as Sobriety High) and Peers Enjoying A Sober Education (PEASE Academy) were both started in started in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area, and are still operating today. Today, there are approximately 30 recovery high schools around the USA.

Sobriety High School.

Sober High (on PEASE)

Since 1989, educators have used the basement and Sunday school classrooms at University Lutheran Church of Hope on 13th Avenue SE. as a haven, and one of 15 recovery schools in Minnesota, with names such as Sobriety High or Solace Academy.

Heidi Judge, the school’s full-time chemical dependency counselor, has attended funerals of students killed by overdoses. She left behind the 30- and 90-day stints of treatment centers for the chance to work with students long-term.

PEASE takes an almost zero tolerance stance on drug and alcohol use, unless students come forward and confess their relapse. Last year, 80 percent of the students who walked through the door stayed clean.

“We can empathize, but we try not to enable,” Durchslag said.

“You don’t put your arm around the kid and say ‘Oh, poor little addict.’ If you choose to use, you choose to leave the school.”

Related: Association of Recovery SchoolsNew Jerusalem NowWhy Can’t Drug Addicts Quit on Their Own?Improving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin – Madison

Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Rehab Centres in Australia

There are many of reasons why people resort to abusing substances such as drugs or alcohol. People from different levels of society and from different age brackets fall into drug or alcohol addiction. Many use it for socialization or enjoyment but others tend to abuse it leading to addiction. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation is so easy to plan about but it is in fact so difficult to start with and to be able to sustain it. This is great challenge for addicts, and why avoiding the problem in the first place is far more preferable. But if you find yourself, or a loved one, addicted there is hope.

Substance abuse/addiction is considered as a disease and should be treated by a health care provider with specialization on this area in order to arrive at a proper treatment protocol for that particular stage that client maybe in. For whatever the reason and at whatever kind of lifestyle the abuser may have, the question is, “Is help readily available and accessible for them?”

The good news is that help is just around the corner. Once someone makes the decision they need to make a change, in order to put their life back on track the next step is choosing the right option for them from the available drug and alcohol detox centers.

Here are some Rehab Centres in Australia:
The Sanctuary Byron Bay
Location: Byron Bay 2481, Lismore
Specialization: Offers inspiration, advice and support for those who want to overcome addiction.

Banyan House
Location: Berrimah, NT 0828
Specialization: treatment for people recovering from alcohol and drug addictions and any co-occurring mental health disorders

Karobran
Location: Adelaide, Melbourne
Specialization: Residential programs with intensive assistance in addiction recovery and life skill watching with a Christian Philosophy.

Narcotics Anonymous of Victoria
Location: Victoria, Australia
Specialization: fellowship of recovering drug addicts

Related: Top 10 Luxury Rehab CentersBetty Ford Center

Fighting Drugs With Drugs

An Obscure Hallucinogen Gains Legitimacy as a Solution for Addictions

Ibogaine, a brown powder derived from the African Tabernathe iboga plant, has intrigued researchers since 1962, when Howard Lotsof, a student at New York University and an opiate addict, found that a single dose erased his drug cravings without causing any withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, the hallucinogen can increase the risk of cardiac arrest, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency lists it as a Schedule 1 substance, a classification for drugs like ecstasy and LSD with “no known medical value” and “high potential for abuse,” making it difficult to get federal funding to run clinical trials.

Animal tests, however, have shown the drug’s medicinal promise. “Rats addicted to morphine will quit for weeks after receiving ibogaine,” says Stanley Glick, the director of the Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience at Albany Medical College. And addicts have reported positive effects in Mexico and Europe, where ibogaine therapy is legal. “Going cold turkey is horrible. There’s vomiting and diarrhea and pain and a constant drug craving,” says Randy Hencken, a drug user who was treated in Mexico. “After ibogaine, I didn’t feel any symptoms or cravings. I’ve been clean for nine years. Heroin and cocaine no longer have any power over me.”

Despite these successes, ibogaine lacks scientific credibility. “As great as ibogaine seems, no one knows exactly how effective it is as a treatment,” says Valerie Mojieko, the director of clinical research for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research (MAPS), a privately funded Massachusetts-based nonprofit. So starting this month, MAPS will enlist Clare Wilkins, the director of Pangea Biomedics, to run the first long-term study to gauge the drug’s lasting effects at her clinic in Mexico (where patients already pay $5,000 for the treatment).

Nearly seven million Americans abuse illicit drugs, costing the nation an estimated $181 billion a year in health care, crime and lost productivity.

We certainly need better ways to treat drug addiction. Current methods are helping people. But current methods fail far too often for too many people. The way to find better treatments is to run medical studies and analyze the results.

Related: Looking at the Evidence of Treating AlcoholismNIH on How Effective Drug Addiction Treatment Is?Principles of Effective Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation

Beyonce Donated $4 million to Drug Rehabilitation Center

Beyonce Knowles donated her entire $4 million salary for Cadillac Records to the Phoenix House rehabilitation charity. She spent 2 weeks at Phoenix House researching her role in the movie where she played signer Etta James. Etta James struggled with drug addiction throughout her career.

photo of Beyonce Knowles singing

Beyoncé Opens Cosmetology Center at Phoenix House

The new Cosmetology Center will offer a seven-month cosmetology training course, helping our clients gain the career skills they need to lead productive, rewarding lives in recovery.

Beyoncé spoke about meeting with women in treatment at Phoenix House while preparing for the role of Etta James in the 2008 film Cadillac Records. “Through their stories, I realized that all of us have our personal struggles and we all have something to overcome,” she said. “Drug addiction… has a stigma that must be removed. Addiction is a disease and these beautiful women I met did not choose to become addicts, but they have chosen to get better.”

Later donating her salary from the film, Beyoncé wanted to create a program that was geared toward women, “something that would teach them skills that would give them hope even after Phoenix House.” Together, she and her mother, who owned a popular hair salon in Houston when she was growing up, came up with the idea of our new cosmetology program.

As a child, she observed that her mother’s salon was a place for women to “share stories, cry, laugh, and get advice” – and she wanted to bring that experience the women at Phoenix House. “The first sign of recovery is caring about your appearance,” she said. “And hopefully, this Center will be a place that will change lots of lives every year.”

Photo by Hassy, 2009.

Related: Smokey Robinson Helping Fight Against Drug AddictionEminem’s ‘Relapse’ Explores His Drug Addition and RehabilitationMaradona Drug RehabCarrie Fisher’s Novel Explores Drug Addiction and Rehab

Looking at the Evidence of Treating Alcoholism

AA is Faith-Based, Not Evidence-Based

Alcoholics Anonymous is the most widely used treatment for alcoholism. It is mandated by the courts, accepted by mainstream medicine, and required by insurance companies. AA is generally assumed to be the most effective treatment for alcoholism, or at least “an” effective treatment. That assumption is wrong.

We hear about a few success stories, but not about the many failures. AA’s own statistics show that after 6 months, 93% of new attendees have left the program. The research on AA is handily summarized in a Wikipedia article. A recent Cochrane systematic review found no evidence that AA or other 12 step programs are effective.

The 1992, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey studied 42,000 Americans. 4500 had been dependent on alcohol at some time in their lives. Of these, only 27% had had treatment of any kind, and one-third of those who had been treated were still abusing alcohol. Of those who had never had any treatment, only one-quarter were still abusing alcohol. George Bush is a well-known example of someone who stopped drinking on his own without attending AA and without admitting that he was an alcoholic.

To me what matters is finding solutions that work. It is known that the success rates for treating addiction are not great no matter what treatments are used. We certainly should be doing more study of the effectiveness of various treatment methods to improve the success rates people experience. The impact on people’s lives is too large to rely on whoever markets better to end up being the deciding factor.

Related: How Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment? from the NIHCombination Strategy to Treat Alcohol DependenceResults of 4 Year Study of Women in Drug Treatment