Category Archives: Personal Stories

Naloxone awareness can combat opiate deaths: WRCPC

Although opiate overdoses are skyrocketing in the U.S., many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. (This always amazes me, but I myself didn’t know about naloxone until well after my brother’s heroin overdose death in 2009. It took less than 10 minutes for me to get trained in Narcan use by the wonderful folks at the D.O.P.E. Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce fatal overdose deaths by providing overdose prevention education and naloxone to drug users and their loved ones — and if you live in the Bay Area, I highly suggest contacting them to get trained.)

In Canada — which is second only to the U.S. in per-capita consumption of prescription opiates — naloxone costs less than $12, but isn’t widely distributed or acknowledged, according to the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. In a powerful new short film, the WRCPC explains how naloxone can help save lives and highlights the need for expanding overdose prevention.

Distributing the life-saving opioid overdose reverser naloxone can save one life for every 227 naloxone kits distributed, a study found earlier this year.

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Renewing the fight in the new year

Visiting my brother Pat’s grave on New Year’s Day, I wished for two things. First, for resolution, a sense of peace with Pat’s death. And second, for a sign from him that he would want me to continue the fight.

On both counts, I came away empty-handed.

As I mentioned in Oxy Watchdog’s most recent weekly newsletter (if you haven’t signed up already, you can do so by clicking the link below our video on the right), the end of 2012 saw signs of progress in the fight against prescription drug addiction. But the battle is far from over. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the feeling that all of this is just a drop in the bucket – that even with the wonderful efforts of advocacy organizations like the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids (to mention just two) and stellar investigative reporting from major media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and CNN, the addiction and deaths continue to mount. On average, one person dies every 19 minutes from an accidental prescription drug overdose, and heroin abuse is on the rise.

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Taking action on International Overdose Awareness Day

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates in the U.S. have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher: in 2009, more than 37,000 people died from drug overdoses, and many of these deaths were caused by prescription painkiller opiate drugs, such as OxyContin.

As this editorial notes, today is a difficult day for those who have lost loved ones to drug addiction.

So, what can be done?

Several things:

Share your personal story. Unless you live on an island in the middle of the ocean, I guarantee you know someone who has struggled or is currently struggling with addiction. Fear and shame keep too many of these stories hidden. Start talking. End the silence. My brother Pat was addicted to prescription painkillers and later heroin, but he kept much of his addiction hidden from his family because he felt ashamed. After he died of a heroin overdose in 2009, I found some of his journals and learned how deeply he struggled with feelings that he had let us down. I wish I had known this before he died. I wish he wasn’t the reason behind this website.

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In Calif., rise in young painkiller abusers leads to more heroin overdoses

Today, Oxy Watchdog founder Erin Marie Daly has a report produced with the California Report, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, on the rising prescription drug epidemic in California. While few hard statistics are available on the number of people moving from prescription drugs to cheaper heroin in the state, interviews with drug treatment experts and public health officials suggest a marked increase in heroin use that is accompanying the steady and dramatic rise in prescription opioid abuse among young people, the article says.

The report includes two radio stories produced with KQED, San Francisco Bay Area’s National Public Radio station, as well as an audio slideshow.

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“Allowing Discomfort:” Psychologist Candace Plattor on recovering from pill addiction

In this guest post, Candace Plattor, psychologist and author of “Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction,” discusses the process of recovering from drug and alcohol addiction – including her own personal experience recovering from an addiction to prescription drugs after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

Allowing Discomfort: The Secret to Successful Recovery From Addictive Behaviors
By Candace Plattor

You’ve given it a lot of thought. You know that your addiction is overwhelming your life and causing you a lot of problems. You really want to stop engaging in these self-defeating behaviors and have a better life. You’re so sure you’re ready, but…

“It’s going to be so hard!” you tell yourself. “How am I going to get through the rough times without having that substance or behavior to fall back on?”

The truth is, you’re right! It will be difficult. When we have been soothing ourselves with long-held, dysfunctional patterns, habits or addictions, we have developed a “comfort zone” for ourselves. This means that we have been comfortable using these behaviors, and we will have to learn all over again how to live without them. For most people this takes some time, vigilance, commitment and yes – discomfort.

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In Ohio, pills and heroin prompt action

In Ohio, where prescription drug addiction has a strong foothold, state officials are planning to unveil a new protocol in order to treat opiate addiction. The number of people overdosing on heroin and OxyContin has reached epidemic levels. Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services recently launched a new campaign, Don’t Get Me Started, designed to educate young adults about prescription opiate abuse and addiction.

According to the campaign’s website, 27% of the state’s high school students use illegal prescription drugs, and there has been a 335% increase in Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisonings. Ohio is also ranked third in the nation for pharmacy-related robberies.

The site also has a series of powerful videos with personal stories of how painkiller addiction has affected the lives of Ohio residents.

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The Oxy King of Marin County: Profile of a Prolific Dealer

In California, prescription drug addiction is especially rampant among teens and young adults in middle- and upper-class areas like Marin County. In the latest issue of SF Weekly, Oxy Watchdog founder Erin Marie Daly profiles one major OxyContin dealer who is now behind bars but claims he did nothing wrong.

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Watch it: ‘Overtaken’ documentary

Jodi Barber and Christine Brant of Laguna Niguel, Calif. – who were recently profiled in our Oxy Activists section – produced “Overtaken,” a short documentary educating young adults on the truth about prescription drug addiction and the often deadly consequences pills have. The film is now available to watch online here. Check it out!

Read more about Jodi and Christine here.

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Pill dealer pleads guilty to murder in OD case

Jeff George, the 30-year-old prescription drug kingpin arrested last week in Florida, has pleaded guilty to felony second-degree murder in the overdose death of Joey Bartolucci, a 24-year-old addict who died in February 2009 after taking hydromorphone and other drugs. Jeff and his brother Chris have been accused of running the largest illegal pain clinic network in the country, raking in $40 million in two years. Each of their four clinics pulled in up to $50,000 a day, and the brothers sold 20 million pain pills by the time the clinics were shut down, prosecutors have alleged. Fifty-six overdose deaths have been traced to the George clinics.

Sentiment surrounding the George case is split between those who think justice is being served to a drug dealer who showed a callous disregard for human life, and those who say he shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of a drug addict (read more here).

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The Ryan Creedon Act

Like many moms, Kathy Creedon of Palm Desert, Calif. never dreamed her son Ryan would become a drug addict. But Ryan became addicted to prescription drugs, and in 2009, he died of an overdose of OxyContin and Xanax. He was just 21 years old. Kathy has taken up the fight against prescription drug addiction, starting a nonprofit organization called M.A.P.D.A. (Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse) to bring awareness to the public about the risks of pill abuse. In addition, California Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack has introduced federal legislation in Ryan’s name. The Ryan Creedon Act of 2011 aims to educate doctors about the dangers of prescribing OxyContin and other drugs that are subject to abuse, and hopefully prevent Ryan’s situation from happening to others.

According to Kathy, in the 13-month period prior to Ryan’s death, he experienced six near-fatal prescription drug overdoses – yet his health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, continued to prescribe him massive amounts of pills even though Kathy repeatedly warned them that her son was an addict. The day before Ryan died, for example, he was given a prescription for 60 Xanax pills. “Every single time I thought I’d covered my tracks and put a stop to it, I’d see another bottle from Kaiser and it made me sick to my stomach that this could go on,” she says. “It’s mind-boggling that it happened to me and Ryan, but even more so that it’s happening all over the place.”

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