Opioids, painkillers: America's deadliest drug crisis

JASON Feldman was 25 when his dentist gave him painkillers for toothache. He loved the sensation so much, he started taking them regularly.

When he could no longer get his prescription, he started taking the pills off the street and then he became too hard, he gave in and started sniffing heroin.

"They wrote to me Vicodins, and then I became happy with them and yes, it just started from there," he tells news.com.au when we meet in Camelo, a residential treatment center in the States of New York. Island.

"It was then easy to get pills, every doctor would prescribe them, you start with a small Vicodin to a Percocet, the next, you know, you take OxyContins, oxys, and then you do drugs." [19659003] Jason, 39, has been using heroin for the past three years. The restaurant employee now shares a no-nonsense room in the imposing house with 45 beds, where he spends his days in therapy, helps in the kitchen and pool.

The facility is carried out according to strict, military style rules, but it is not a prison. Jason chose to come to the center, "because I know that the next step will be injecting".

His story is mirrored about a generation in the United States, which is in the grip of one of the worst drug epidemics in history. The monumental opioid crisis in America is seen by health authorities, the police and the Trump administration as the biggest public health emergency facing the nation.

The fallout has never been so visible, with singer Demi Lovato recently overdosing on opioids and Hawaiian surf champion Andy Oons' OxyContin addiction uncovered in a documentary.


The epidemic can be traced back to the beginning of the nineties, when the medical industry put more emphasis on treating pain.

It led to widespread and disastrous overprescribing painkillers, fueled by pharmaceutical companies, with OxyContin promoted as virtually non-addictive.

The government realized the mistake and began to encourage doctors to use other pain-reducing methods, and opioid recipes are now at a 10-year low in the US. But the damage was done.

With their dropping source of pills, a generation of American addicts turned to cheap and easily available heroin.

OxyContin now costs about $ 100 for an 80-mg pill, while heroin can be as cheap as $ 15 for a 50-mg (0.05 g) bag.

"In the worst case, I photographed a stone per day (2.5 grams or five" bundles "of ten bags each), so it would be from & # 39; m to & # 39; at night," Says Danny Cusick, a former sniper and Camelot resident of less than a month. "I would go into detox just to reduce my tolerance, it would be too high, I could not afford it."

Danny started working after he joined the US Army when he was 18 years old, when he was special operations in Iraq served, guarding poppy fields, a natural source of opiates

The former sniper thinks that as many as 60 or 70 percent of the soldiers he knew would take him away. "I worked there for a year and picked up this awful habit and became an addict," says the burly 35-year-old news.com.au.

When he returned to the US, he found the quality so much lower that he immediately signed up for another tour, just to get his solution. "I actually offered to go back because the quality was so good," he says. "I did another year in Afghanistan."

As in Australia, heroin in the US is now often mixed with fentanyl – a cheap and very dangerous synthetic opioid imported from China. It has skyrocketed the number of deaths.

More than 72,000 Americans died of an overdose in 2017, against 20,000 in 2001, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of deaths related to synthetic opioids including fentanyl doubled in 2016 and is now 30,000.

Overdose is the largest killer of Americans under 50.

In Australia there were just under 2000 drug-related deaths in 2016, but experts fear the epidemic is spreading.

Without Narcan (or Naloxone, which can reduce the effect of opioid overdose), the American police estimate that the number of deaths can be somewhere between six and ten times higher.

Fentanyl is so potent, addicts may need two or three doses if they can be resuscitated at all.

Danny is eight times & # 39; narcissistic & # 39; been. "I have returned all eight times", he says, beating on the wooden table.


His arms covered with traces, Danny lost his job on the Staten Island ferry two years ago and moved to a "shooting gallery" in New Jersey. "It's like an abandoned house where people can shoot heroin all day long," he says. "I just did not care, to be honest."

He came to Camelot after an indictment for an armed robbery and spent a sleepless first week with "going through the hallway" as he tried to kick his detox drug.

"I tried methadone for 10 years, it did not work," he says. "I was on a super-high dose, I finished taking pictures and injecting methadone for a while."

The use of medicines to help addicts is a topic of discussion. Slow-release Methadone, Buprenorphine and Suboxone act on the opioid receptors of the body to reduce the effects of withdrawal. The less common Vivitrol does not have the analgesic effect, but "blocks" the effects of opioid use.

Like Danny, Camelot director Luke Nasta is not convinced of the use of opiate medication to help repair addicts. A former user changed the pillar of the community, he doubts the long-term use of "liquid handcuffs" by the medical industry.

"Their whole goal is to stop the overdose of deaths," he told news.com.au. "Right? That's their whole – they see no further than that." Well, there's nothing like that when the person dies.

"We follow a behavioral change approach, which does not mean there's no room for addiction treatment drugs for addiction – there is – but in collaboration with intensive counseling.

"This country is looking for the medical profession to solve the problem, when it was the ignorant, duped medical profession that led us here."


The New York opioid crisis was once the worst on Staten Island, but now has all the corners infected with the city and most of the country.

In contrast to the iron beds and Camelot's basketball court, tea The carpet waiting room at Parallax Center in Midtown resembles every operation of a general practitioner. This outpatient clinic offers people the possibility to choose medically supported detox options and therapy for five months.

Emma Nagle, clinical coordinator at Parallax, sees both Medicaid patients with a lower socio-economic status and wealthier professionals from the age of 13 upwards. Her younger patients usually begin to use opioids with friends, "prescribed" or "some that they have found at home, mom or dad"'s recipes, that's almost always how it starts & # 39;

When the stock runs out, "they go out and find them on their own and that is usually of very short duration because they are difficult to get and expensive, so they will switch to heroin."

Emma says that despite the crackdown of the prescription, she still sees patients who are "doctor shopping" and professionals who have "no idea" despite the existence of a database that they can control.

"It's scary to see a doctor prescribing an opiate, a benzo (tranquillizer prescribed for anxiety like Xanax or Valium) and a stimulant," she tells news.com.au.

"Psychiatrists who did not know that their patients have been using heroin every day for the past two years, or a doctor who really prescribes carelessness, is always hard. [19659003]" I still see it and it is very shocking. "[19659003] Emma says working with outpatients gives her "more time and space" to help clients develop independence and adapt to life without drugs Many intramuscular intramural programs last only seven days or more month before they are released in the wild & # 39 ;, while more successful programs & # 39; s patients follow a year.

Parallax founder David Ockert says the clinic mainly sees men .He says that women now rather taking benzos or antidepressants, while men who suffer from anxiety or depression will turn to "another joint, another drink, another line."


Carrie Kappel, from Minnesota, was 34 when she started taking pills from a previous operation she found in her medicine cabinet. After about a year of increasing dependence, she became clean before returning a few years later.

A registered nurse, she began stealing several opioids left in the hospital. "In the beginning it was more that chasing high level, but as it went, it was just about feeling normal," she tells news.com.au.

"My brain started telling me that I needed drugs, as I needed air … I finally did things in my addiction I never intended to do.

" It was a huge frontier and morally wrong, but I would say to myself: "No one will miss it, nobody gets hurt."

] If she could not get medication, she would go through the withdrawal. "Take the worst flu symptoms and multiply by ten, "she says." You are hot and cold, you have sweating, malaise, you suffer from upset stomach, diarrhea and more. "

In the end," dopeick "addicts find it almost impossible to think differently from the need to feel better again.

Carrie was eventually fired and went to the Hazelden Betty Ford clinic in 2009. After she recovered and got help for underlying depression, she continued retraining and now works in the clinic that helped her as a drug and alcohol olconsulent. 19659003] "That I was so close to my favorite drug probably did not help," she says.

Carrie believes in "attacking the stigma of addiction" because even "someone who has done something against his own morals and limits can recover."

Barry Salop, from Philadelphia, also went from addict to counselor and tries "a message of hope" to pass on.

His parents were addicted and he began to use cocaine at 11 and to do other drugs. By the age of 32, he was able to sniff oxys and wash away heroin with vodka to get through the day.

"I needed to tie my laces, open e-mail, I never had a coping mechanism," he told news.com.au.

He entered a vicious circle of "terrorizing" his family with violent anger which he calls "brown-outs" because he remembers all the unbearable details.

Barry repeatedly tried to detox alone, but like many addicts he failed. Withdrawal was "absolute hell" because he suffered from the shakes, cold sweat and so much discomfort that he could not sit still. "I would take a night five or six times a night for only 15 minutes of sleep."

Bankrupt, unemployed and growing marijuana with a baby in the house, he says the wake-up call came with a loud knock on his door – a police drug attack.

He spent five months at Caron Treatment Centers in Pennsylvania and made a "cruel" detox before finding a "spiritual" but non-religious balance during a year at a retreat in Minnesota.

"I started living for the first time", says Chuck Wexler, the 52-year-old.

director of the Police Executive Research Forum, says that officers approach this crisis in a new way.

departments now equip their officers with Naloxone (Narcan) and recognize that someone suffering from the results of an opioid overdose needs immediate help, "he told news.com.au." That's another role for the police – the police have moved from the arrest of drug users to their treatment and that is a sea change from where the police were 20 years ago.

"There is no domestic problem that is more important to our health and safety than the opioid issue, it is by far, I think, the number one domestic issue when it comes to the health and safety of Americans."

"The numbers are amazing. "


Videos & # 39; s of parents who overdose their children or comatose users are sprawled in the streets of America now a normal phenomenon on social media.

Comedian John Oliver tackled the crisis and drug companies face litigation, with Donald Trump yesterday urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to hold them accountable.

Chuck mentions this in the years & # 39; 80 and & # 39; 90 a "different kind of epidemic" to previous with cocaine and crack.There is less violent crime – but there are many more overdoses.

"They are overdosing in plate s of being shot, what happened in the crack period where you had robberies and murders and so on as a result of drug addiction. traders who fight for grass, "he says.

" People get opioids, they buy cheap heroin that is very pure, low cost, so it does not seem to generate the same kind of competition.

"We had overdoses but not as far as now, I think the involvement of fentanyl has really been a game changer." That chemical has enabled drug dealers to buy at relatively low cost and mix it with heroin and therefore dying people

"In some epidemics you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have not seen that. "

While many addicts have had traumas, psychological problems or a family history of substance abuse, Camelot boss Luke Nasta came out of a stable home with a father of a war veteran and a housewife's mother." # 39; good excuse & # 39; why I became a heroin addict – I do not have a & # 39 ;, he says.

The 69-year-old started smoking cigarettes at the age of 13 and used heroin for 18 years. be arrested for trade. "We were a" high culture. "We inhaled cleaning fluid, glue, we took every type of pill – barbiturates, sleeping pills, tranquillizers, cough medicine with codeine, we smoked anything … then heroin was readily available and so it was just something else to try, we did hallucinogens, of course, we smoked pot. "

Several of his friends died during the AIDS crisis after sharing needles, and Luke poured his grief into his work in the field of addiction, trying to change how America approaches the crisis.

"The study says that you talk to a patient right after the treatment and say:" Do you have a desire? ", He says. "The last time I used heroin was 1974, am I hungry? Yes, I do not think about it, but it's always with me.

" My life is now fulfilled, I'm not that unsuitable, misplaced … I am substantial in the world, I have children, a kind of success I think.

"So you fill that, you do not have to have the medicine in you, but it's still there." [Recent]

Recently he received painkillers for his kidney stones. "I needed those painkillers, but there was also that familiar feeling, that familiar feeling that I had to be vigilant in not pursuing," he says. "And this is 40 years later, with family, in a community where I was a threat to public security and now everyone is called by me, from the highest level to the government on Staten Island, federal government."

good enough, right? But that monster is still there, he is still hiding there. "

He warns that the world must" watch the pharmaceutical industry "because the opioid crisis is starting to hit other countries hard.

" They are coming. They are already there, and they are coming, because the market is sharpening here and they do not want to lose money, "he says.

" They will go to a fertile ground to sell their wares, and it is opiates , which are more powerful than all our free will. "

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