PTSD and Addiction

Over the past twenty years, numerous research studies have proven a significant link between PTSD and ensuing addiction. In one study, where both addicted patients and a non-addicted control group were looked at, the substance abuse patients had a 97% positive PTSD result, while the control group had a 36% positive result. 

The treatment of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, has become a crucial part of full spectrum addiction treatment for the recovery community. 

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder defined by the American Psychiatric Association as occurring in people who have, in part, “experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury. People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel sadness, fear or anger; and they may feel detached or estranged from other people. A diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an upsetting traumatic event. However, the exposure could be indirect rather than first hand.”

Those struggling with the emotional and mental impacts of PTSD- anxiety, depression, panic attacks, disassociation, inability to focus- sometimes self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, starting the cycle of addiction.

Treatment for PTSD

The good news is that the understanding of diagnosing and treating PTSD has grown substantially over the last decade alone. The newly sober will find that most treatment centers have psychiatrists and psychologists on hand to guide them through PTSD recognition and management, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be very effective in minimizing the emotional and mental distress of the disorder, while increasing the person’s resilience to the stress of day to day life.

CBT is a therapeutic approach with a toolkit of ways to help the patient. Not every person with PTSD will respond to one approach of CBT so it is helpful to keep in mind that there are options if a certain tactic is tried and doesn’t offer relief. 

Many PTSD sufferers also find relief with EMDR, a completely different approach than Cognitive Behavior Therapy. EMDR therapy techniques to treat your targeted memories of trauma. Next to the therapist, you will be asked to focus on a negative thought, memory, or image, and do specific eye movements. Some therapists also include tapping of the fingers. 

A 2012 study found that EMDR was very effective for a populous with psychotic disorder and/or PTSD. Out of 27 patients, only five were still presenting with a diagnosis of PTSD after EMDR treatment.

Although EMDR was controversial when it first made its way into mainstream society, numerous small research studies have shown that it is an effective treatment for PTSD, specifically. There are not harmful side effects associated with this therapy, such as an increase is anger, paranoia or negative behaviors, so a person can attempt the protocol without worry about worsening their state.

Similarities in the Brain

PTSD negatively changes the part of the brain associated with memory and emotion. PTSD interferes with the function of the brain that recognizes past experiences as rooted firmly in the past; a person with PTSD can feel as if the past event is actually occurring, with the same emotional weight and impact. The brain responds as if it is under immediate threat, and the cycle of trauma repeats. Both CBT and EMDR attempt to interrupt this faulty process and root the brain in the present moment, releasing the past.

Addiction works in a similar way, with triggers causing the brain to intensify a craving for drug or alcohol. The triggers of PTSD and the triggers of addiction can inflame each other, worsening symptoms of both disorders.

This is why treating PTSD in sobriety is key to staying clean. With proper treatment, support, and hard work, a person can be relieved of the worst of both the PTSD and addiction reactions, making positive changes easier to obtain, which then increases the person’s self-worth and belief that they can, after all, stay clean.

Maine is averaging nearly 50 overdose deaths a month in 2021

by Lia Russell

In this Jan. 23, 2018, file photo, Leah Hill, a behavioral health fellow with the Baltimore City Health Department, displays a sample of Narcan nasal spray in Baltimore. The overdose-reversal drug is a critical tool to easing America’s coast-to-coast opioid epidemic. Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

An elevated number of Maine people died of drug overdoses in March and April, continuing a trend of rising drug overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data released Wednesday.

Some 57 people died of either confirmed or suspected drug overdoses in March, and 45 people died of overdoses in April, according to reports released by the Maine attorney general’s office.

So far this year, Maine has averaged nearly 50 overdose deaths for each month that data are available, compared with about 40 deaths each month in the first four months of 2020. That average puts 2021 on track to be more deadly than 2020, which was the deadliest year to date of the opioid epidemic.

Maine and much of the nation saw drug overdose deaths rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it disrupted daily life, isolated people from their social contacts and put many people out of jobs.

The synthetic opioid fentanyl has been responsible for the vast majority of those deaths, according to the reports. It was the cause of death in 76 percent of drug overdose deaths between January and April 2021, and it was responsible for 83 percent of overdose deaths in 2020.

Fentanyl is often cut into heroin, but is 100 times more potent.

The overdose antidote naloxone was administered in 38 percent of overdose deaths in the first four months of 2021, up from 33 percent of the time in the first four months of 2020.

Marcella Sorg, a forensic anthropologist who compiled the data and directs the Rural Drug and Alcohol Research Program at the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, cautioned against drawing conclusions based on month-to-month fluctuations.

She also noted that numbers can change as more information becomes available as drug deaths are investigated, leading investigators to later revise numbers.

“It’s a process of determining cause of death,” she said. “When cases go to the medical examiner, we have to do toxicology testing and find medical records. Sometimes it goes by quickly and other times cases lag.”

The state in February began releasing what it said would be monthly reports on overdose deaths, within weeks of the end of each month. It released the monthly report on January overdose deaths in late February, and the February report in late March.

Sorg said the decision to release reports monthly instead of quarterly was due to a desire to release information more quickly, rather than “waiting for cases to complete.”

The attorney general’s office, however, did not release the March and April reports until Wednesday, more than three weeks into June.

Boys on the Tracks: The Story of Don Henry and Kevin Ives

Unconscionable and so frequent

By Noam Heller

In the pre-dawn hours of August 23, 1987, a 6,000-ton cargo train was carrying out its nightly run to Bryant, Arkansas, when, suddenly, the engineer on board spotted two immobile figures lying on the tracks. He instantly blared his horn, expecting them to pop up. But nothing. Not even a twitch. The train then hit the two bodies, carrying them under for what seemed like an eternity (in reality, it was no more than four seconds). Linda Ives / Dan Harmon / Train Tracks / Don Henry / Kevin Ives

Source: Facebook

The two bodies were identified as 16-year-old Don Henry and 17-year-old Kevin Ives – best friends, notorious goofballs, and popular seniors from Bryant High School. If you find it weird that they would remain on the tracks while a massive train was charging towards them, you’re not the only one.

Now, let us warn you. Don and Kevin’s story is arguably one of the most infuriating cases to date. It uncovers not only how corrupt our society is but also how evil some people truly are.

Thick as Thieves

Kevin and Don were both typical teenage boys. They loved to goof around, work on their cars, and hunt in the woods near their homes. Don was a jokester, and Kevin was his loyal companion who would always laugh at his lighthearted jokes. The two popular seniors spent their weekends double dating and hanging out with friends. However, on the night of Saturday, August 22, 1987, things played out a bit differently.

They kicked off the evening at a popular hangout place at the outskirts of Little Rock and then carried on back at Don’s house. Kevin waited out on the porch while Don went inside to let his dad know that they were going out for a round of spotlighting in the woods.

Night Hunting

With a .22 rifle and a flashlight in hand, Don and Kevin set out for their night hunt (also known as spotlighting). It’s technically an illegal activity in Arkansas, but that’s beside the point (as the story progresses, you’ll see that there were WAY MORE illegal things going on in the woods).

The boys strolled around their usual hunting ground, a path along the railroad tracks that ran behind Don’s house. So far, so good.

But only a few hours later, the two boys were lying motionless and side by side on the tracks, only seconds away from being run over by a huge train.

It Looked Like a Morgue

Engineer Stephen Shroyer couldn’t believe his eyes. As the train approached the two static figures on the tracks, his brain froze, then he came back to his senses a split second later. “I started laying down on the diesel horn, but I got no reaction. Not so much as a flinch,” he mentioned in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

Shroyer explained that they were lying exactly parallel on the tracks, with their arms by their sides and a light green tarp covering half of their bodies. “We just passed over them,” he recalled, shaking his head in disbelief.

What had caused the two boys to lie down like that? Well, according to one deceitful doctor – drugs.

Just Two Irresponsible Potheads?

The state medical examiner, a man named Dr. Fahmy Malak, was responsible for the initial autopsy and came out with the ridiculous (and even comical) claim that the boys had smoked around 20 joints that night, which had caused them to pass out on the tracks.

According to Malak, they were too high to hear the train’s horn, and he ruled the whole thing as an accident. Now, if you’ve smoked a joint or two in your life, you’re probably thinking to yourself – what is this nonsensical babble, and how did people buy into it?

Thankfully, most people didn’t—especially the Henry and Ives families.

A Reliable Doctor Came to the Rescue

“We checked the train, and it was 98 decibels, which is equal to a jackhammer, an air compressor running. I don’t think that no one can sleep through that kind of noise,” Curtis Henry, Don’s father, explained. Outraged and devastated, the families fought hard for a second autopsy, and thanks to their persistence, the bodies were exhumed.

This time, luckily, it wasn’t “doctor” Malak who looked into it. It was a man named Joseph Burton, a nationally recognized forensic pathologist from out of state. The disparities between the two examinations are baffling. While Malak concluded that the boys were high as a thousand kites, Burton said that they had likely smoked just one or two joints. But that wasn’t the only shocking thing he uncovered.

The Startling Findings

Joseph Burton found evidence that Kevin’s face had been smashed by a blow from the butt end of a rifle and that Don had been stabbed in the back. Both attacks happened a while before they were placed on the tracks. This would explain the thickness of their blood, as noted by the emergency first responders who arrived at the scene.

Burton believed that this information alone suggested that the boys had been badly injured or even killed before their bodies were run over by the train.

Arguably the most disconcerting thing Burton noticed was how severely mutilated their bodies were, thanks to none other than our dearest friend – Fahmy Malak.

What Was Malak Hiding?

Malak had mutilated Kevin’s skull by sawing it in different directions, and he also completely dismantled his jaw. It looked he had purposely messed around with Kevin to make it impossible to tell where the original injuries were.

“I’ve performed thousands of autopsies and had never seen anything like it,” Burton admitted. Was Malak trying to hide something?

When confronted with Burton’s new findings, Malak remained loyal to his original verdict – “Was there a stab? The answer is no. Were they dead beforehand? Absolutely not. They were alive,” he shamelessly concluded.

From Accidental to Homicide

In addition to Burton, two additional forensic pathologists and seven other forensic investigators with years of accumulated experience reviewed the case. It was their collective opinion that the ruling be changed from accidental to murder.

So, what did this do to Malak’s reputation? It opened a pandora box, that’s what it did. More than 20 additional cases where Malak had falsified evidence surfaced in the news. His bizarre rulings include “suicide” for a man who had been shot five times in the chest and “ulcer” for another man who was found decapitated.

They Gave Him a Raise

Media coverage of Malak’s dishonest rulings resulted in a massive public outcry, with calls for his removal from office. Astonishingly, Arkansas’s governor at the time, Bill Clinton, and chairman Jocelyn Elders not only insisted he remain, but they gave him a $14,000 raise.

“Based on the facts that I have, I really feel that Arkansas owes Dr. Malak a great debt and a real apology,” Jocelyn told local interviewers. Clinton agreed and added that if Malak missed out on any details, it was because he was simply overworked, tired, and underpaid.

The Police Turned a Blind Eye

Malak wasn’t the only sketchy player involved in this bungled investigation. “Reliable” sources, all the way from federal officials to local officers, were caught acting suspiciously. Stephen Shroyer (the engineer from the train) said that he had told police about the tarp but that they later denied his claims.

“They even questioned its existence. That, to me, would be like questioning the existence of the boys on the track,” he argued, “Because what’s real is real and what’s not is not. And it was there. As well as the boys.”

In spite of it all, local Sheriff Jim Steed told the media he was extremely pleased with the “thorough” investigation.

At the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

All of this dodgy behavior begs the question – what’s going on? Why can’t Henry and Ives’ families get justice for the horror that was done to their sons? To answer this, we need to understand why they were killed in the first place. And like Malak’s obscene ruling – the reason has to do with drugs.

Unfortunately, the boys were at the wrong place at the wrong time. And their casual stroll into the woods landed them smack in the middle of a drug drop. A drug drop involving people from the “good-hearted” community of ordinary, local citizens, including the police.

Keep Your Friends Close, but Your Enemies Closer

In comes Dan Harmon – a key figure in this story of corruption. Harmon is a former prosecutor who, suspiciously, insisted on taking on the boys’ case. Despite having multiple domestic abuse charges thrown at him by his ex-wives, he has, for some reason, all always been protected by law enforcement.

Harmon grew close to the grieving families, embracing them with arms wide open and assuring them that he would find the killer. Little did they know, Harmon was involved in the whole scheme.

From up close, Harmon was easily able to manipulate the case in his favor.

A Peculiar Warning

As 1988 came to an end, so did the investigation. It had been a little over a year, yet nothing had really changed. A bunch of suspicious behavior, ridiculous claims, and above all – the case had the same dodgy group of people “investigating” it.

Things finally began to shift once Jean Duffey, a newly appointed prosecutor, was hired to investigate the drug and corruption issues in the Saline County area. But before she began connecting the dots, she was warned not to look into anything involving government officials.

She Found It Hard to Believe Any Cops Were in the Wrong

On her first day at work, Duffey’s immediate supervisor Gary Arnold stood in front of her, looked her straight in the eye, and told her, “You are not to use the drug task force to investigate any public official.” As confused as she was by his remark, she shrugged it off because, at the time, she genuinely didn’t believe that there were any cops involved in illegal acts.

It didn’t take long for her to realize how naïve she was. After hiring undercover agents to collect information on drug activities in the district, she discovered there was a huge drug-smuggling ring operating out of Meena airport and that packages were being dropped in the exact same spot where Kevin and Don had been murdered.

One Name Stood Out

Duffey’s undercover agents came to her with names of the people involved. And one name, in particular, stood out, both because of how frequently it came up but also because of the person’s status. It was Dan Harmon. The state’s “law-abiding” and “honest” prosecutor.

Ironically, Dan Harmon and fellow prosecutor Richard Garrett, the very same people working on Don and Kevin’s murder case, were now two of Jean Duffey’s main targets.

It wasn’t long before Harmon detected Duffey was after him. Can you guess his response?

She Was Smart Enough to Take Off

Harmon wasted no time and launched a massive media campaign against Jean Duffey. He spread lies upon lies, doing whatever he possibly could to lower her status and credibility. Unfortunately, the man was so well connected that nobody questioned whether he was speaking the truth.

Magazines and newspapers printed whatever he asked of them. Whether he had evidence to back up his claims was utterly irrelevant. He left Duffey no choice. She eventually quit and became a schoolteacher in Texas until things quieted down.

Silenced Witness Number One

Through the years, people with information about Kevin and Don’s murders would be killed. And all of their cases grew cold, except for the murder of one man named Keith McKaskle, who’s said to have been murdered by his neighbor (even though there’s virtually no evidence to back that up).

Even more, concerning is that McKaskle had reportedly told his friends and family a few days before he was killed that he knew too much about the murders of Kevin and Don and that he felt that his days were numbered.

Silenced Witness Number Two

Witness and victim number two is Keith Coney, a friend of Kevin and Don’s who was with them that dreadful night. Like McKaskle, someone saw Coney as a potential threat and decided to kill him off. Coney’s mom, Betty Alexander, informed interviewers that she knew her son was afraid for his life.

“A couple of months before, he said a couple of times that he knew he was being watched and that he was afraid,” she revealed.

Despite the obvious connections, officers refused to link Coney and McKaskle’s deaths to Kevin and Don’s. Prosecutor Richard Garrett stated that both fellows probably suffered from “a lot of paranoia.”

A Ride to Nowhere

In 1993, the Ives family urged to reopen Don and Kevin’s murder case, and the new man assigned to it was an out-of-state detective named John Brown. However, just like Jean Duffey, Brown was given some bizarre instructions on his first day at work.

His immediate supervisor took him for a one-hour ride “to literally nowhere,” all while babbling on and going around the bush saying things like, “there’s nothing to this. This could have been an accident. It’s going to bring you a lot of grief if you continue on and do this.” Finally, when they parked the car, his supervisor said, “John, you really need to leave this alone.”

The Case File Had Been Robbed

Disturbed by his superiors’ peculiar request, Brown decided to do some digging. It soon became evident that the case file had been robbed of crucial evidence. There were no crime scene photos, no sketches of the accident scene, no list of evidence. Nothing.

The one thing John Brown managed to collect was valuable testimony from a woman named Sharlene Wilson, who claimed to have been there that night. “She told a horror story that I didn’t really believe at the time,” Brown said. “So I started searching for evidence to substantiate what she said. That’s when Harmon went ballistic. He threatened everyone. All because I talked to this one woman.”

What Did Sharlene Wilson Have to Say?

Wilson told Brown that the people on the track that night were herself, Dan Harmon, Keith McKaskle, and an individual named Larry Rochelle. She also claimed to have seen the boys that night on the tracks. “They were watching the drop sites, and they got curious as to what was being dropped there,” she stated.

Dan Harmon wasn’t pleased with Wilson’s little confession, so he began sending death threats to Brown in the hopes of scaring him off. But detective Brown stuck around for a while, interviewing more and more people, including pilots from Mena airport, to verify whether they had any knowledge of the shady flights.

Devious Dan Strikes Again

No matter how hard he tried, John Brown was up against a mountain of resistance when it came to the investigation of both Mena airport and the deaths of the boys. Like Duffey, he eventually retired from the force for fear of what his snooping around might lead to.

After driving Duffey out of state and forcing John Brown into early retirement, Dan Harmon appointed his loyal pal Roger Walls as head of a new task force, which is pretty much the same position once held by Duffey. Again, very convenient.

His Nefarious Deeds Caught Up to Him

For a while there, Harmon felt like he was in control. But his criminal ways eventually caught up to him. In the mid-‘90s, both he and his buddy Roger Walls were convicted of several felonies, including drug charges and racketeering.

Unfortunately, investigators never connected Harmon’s drug crimes to the murders on the tracks from 1987 because they weren’t allowed to look into anything from the 80s. So, despite his arrest, justice hadn’t really been served yet.

Another Valuable Eyewitness

Wilson wasn’t the only witness putting Harmon’s name on the map. A young boy named Tom Neihaus claimed to be in the woods as well and confirmed that Dan Harmon was really there that night. He knew for a fact it was him because, at the time, his mother was dating Harmon. So, there was no way he would have mistaken his face for somebody else.

Tom said he kept his distance from Harmon and the rest of the group, peaking at them from afar. He then spotted two young guys (Don and Kevin) with a rifle and a flashlight, minding their own business, and when Harmon spotted them, he signaled them to come closer. At first, they hesitated but eventually agreed to go near.

A Hidden Confession Letter

Tom added that at a certain point, he heard what sounded like a gunshot, followed by a sudden flash. He and his friends were so terrified that they turned on their heels and made a run for it.

This testimony, as well as Wilson’s, was kept under wraps for years.

What’s crazier is that Wilson wrote a confession letter revealing everything, a letter that targeted Dan Harmon and uncovered some ugly truths about what was happening in the area. But due to some influential (and evil) people, the confession letter never reached the Ives and Henry families.

Linda Had No One to Talk To

In 2015, a retired police officer and a friend of Linda Ives (Kevin’s mom) managed to get his hands on Sharlene’s letter. Linda then took it straight to Saline County prosecutor Ken Cassidy, who rudely brushed her off and even refused to look at it. He told her to see the Saline County Sheriff instead.

But, lo and behold, guess who the Sheriff was at the time? Dan Harmon’s nephew, a man named Rodney Wright. Unbelievable, really.

What was Linda supposed to do now? Show Rodney the letter accusing his uncle of being a drug lord/murderer?

So, What Really Happened That Night?

Let’s try and put the pieces together. So, Don and Kevin went out hunting the very same night that Sharlene Wilson, Dan Harmon, and another guy named Larry Rochelle were out there in the woods waiting for their drugs to fall from the sky (Keith McKaskle still hadn’t arrived).

Kevin and Don were walking along the tracks and happened to stumble upon Dan Harmon and the rest, as witnessed by Tom Neihaus and his group of friends who were peaking at them from the nearby bush. A shot was then fired either by Harmon’s group or by one of the boys.

A Brawl Outside the Woods

But that’s not the end of the story. The boys didn’t die from the gunshot. They reportedly managed to run out of the woods, eventually reaching a local grocery store where they met their friend, Keith Coney (according to two eyewitnesses from the store named Ronnie Godwin and Mike Crook).

Godwin and Crook told investigators that Coney left on his motorcycle when two police officers, Kirk Lane and J. Campbell, showed up and beat Kevin and Don unconscious outside the store. They were then thrown into the vehicle and taken back to the tracks, where they were placed side by side and covered with a green tarp.

A Very Toxic Political Machine

With a heavy heart and a long face, Henry’s mom, Linda, told interviewers: “Our lives revolved around the ball field and going to the lake… until the Arkansas political machine reached into our lives and destroyed the tranquility that we had.”

Tragically, no one has been held accountable for the murders. Yes, Dan Harmon was thrown behind bars for drug charges and other felonies. And many more corrupted officials were tossed into jail for all sorts of crimes they couldn’t get away with. But no one was arrested for Don and Kevin’s murders.

Enough With the Cover-Ups

Lastly, here’s an interesting tidbit about chairman Jocelyn Elders (who argued for Malak’s innocence), Her son, Kevin, was arrested in the mid-‘90s for selling cocaine to undercover agents. Surprise, surprise, right? Somehow, all the people entangled in this sordid affair were related to the world of illegal goodies.

In the words of Linda Ives: “It’s time to make our government work for us, instead of against us.” So, enough with the corruption. Enough with the cover-ups. Enough with this sickening obsession over power and money.

Harm reduction advocates celebrate advance of bill that would decriminalize some drugs

Harm reduction advocates celebrate advance of bill that would decriminalize some drugs

June 21, 2021 Dan Neumann

Long-fought efforts to reform the state’s punitive drug laws had success in the Maine Legislature this session, with two notable reforms advancing and a third that would make possession of certain drugs a civil violation still awaiting approval in the Maine Senate.

The Maine House on Thursday voted 77-62 to pass LD 967, sponsored by Rep. Anne Perry (D-Calais), which would allow those in possession of scheduled drugs to pay a $100 fine or be referred for an evidence-based assessment of treatment options for substance use disorder instead of facing incarceration.

Reps. Robert Alley (D-Beals), Joe Perry (D-Bangor) and Bruce White (D-Waterville) joined Republicans in opposing the bill. The Senate has tabled a vote on the bill until later this month.

The successful House vote Thursday evening was seen as a major victory by advocates who have led a years-long campaign against the failed policies of Maine’s War on Drugs. LD 967 is one of a number of policies that advocates and lawmakers have backed in an effort to move Maine away from punishing the disease of substance use disorder and toward providing people with options for recovery. Another bill that would reform the state’s drug trafficking laws cleared both chambers of the Maine Legislature on Wednesday and will go on to Gov. Janet Mills. 

Advocates argue that after a year in which over 500 Mainers died from drug overdoses, it’s clear that criminalizing people who use drugs is not working and that a new approach centered around treatment is needed. 

The decriminalization measure spurred a vigorous debate in the House on Thursday afternoon, with Republicans arguing that law enforcement is the best approach to treat substance use disorder. However, proponents of the bill pointed out that a policing-focused strategy has been tried again and again and has had a staggering cost in the form of overdose deaths.

“Substance use disorder is a disease,” said state Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell). “And we’ve tried criminalizing this disease for decades and 11 Mainers a week are dying.”

Warren described how during a hearing on LD 967 in late April, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard from a number of doctors who are experts in substance use disorder. As Beacon previously reported, those medical professionals told the committee that the disease is treatable and preventable but that incarceration is not an effective remedy, urging lawmakers to prioritize treatment rather than punishment.

State Rep. Grayson Lookner (D-Portland) also spoke during the House debate, reading a quote from a well-known activist in Maine who died of an overdose in September.

“To quote the late, great Jesse Harvey, an advocate of the recovery community, ‘People who use drugs don’t deserve to die. We don’t need to be shaming people into hiding, we need to be welcoming people into recovery with understanding and support,’” Lookner said.

Reforming Maine’s drug trafficking laws

Another priority for criminal justice reform advocates is LD 1675, sponsored by House Assistant Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), that would rein in Maine’s felony drug trafficking law, which is among the harshest in the country, and eliminate the disparity in Maine law between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, which are essentially the same drug chemically.

The trafficking bill cleared the House Tuesday and passed the Senate 20-15 on Wednesday. 

“This bill would restore integrity, honesty, and clarity to our drug laws,” state Sen. Craig Hickman (D-Kennebec) said after the vote, explaining that prosecutors are allowed to pursue a drug trafficking charge if someone possesses two or more grams of heroin or fentanyl regardless of whether prosecutors can prove an intent to sell. “This bill will curb a government that has gotten too comfortable playing fast and loose with the English language, a government that redefines ordinary words to curb the freedom of ordinary people.”

Progressive lawmakers and groups promoting harm reduction like the Health Equity Alliance, the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, the Church of Safe Injection and the Maine ACLU say they are very encouraged by other measures that have cleared the Maine Legislature and are now on the governor’s desk, including LD 994, which would remove criminal penalties for possession and exchange of hypodermic needles, and LD 1688, which would shutter Maine’s last youth prison, Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, and divert its $18 million annual budget to community-based programs and services.

“Eleven Mainers a week are dying to overdose,” Warren told Beacon. “Substance use disorder is a disease. And a symptom of the disease is possessing the substance. That’s why the House voted to no longer criminalize possession. We need to treat the disease in order to save lives. What we are doing is not working. We want to save lives.”

If We Solve the Drug Crisis

Tweaked Version of Ketamine Could Solve the Opioid Crisis | Drug Discovery  And Development

There is no doubt we have a problem in the United States. That problem is drugs. What would happen if we solved this single problem? The United States is one of the worst countries in the world as far as the drug crisis is concerned. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It affects all families regardless of income, social status or any other factor that people see as making them immune to the problem.

In the United States we spend in an average year more than 78 Billion dollars on drug related issues, healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement. The is overwhelming and in most American families an insurmountable expense. There is much research on how to fix the issue. But importantly, drugs are an economic issue.

To solve the problem, follow the money. We all know that the massive crisis we now face was largely precipitated by pharmaceutical companies and the bottom line. Once in active addiction, people are thrown off addictive substances and turn to illegal means to feed that illness. This in turn, as we know leads to a bevy of social problems and the ongoing expense to our country, states, communities and families. The massive amount of dollars flowing in and around the drug trade in the country is unacceptable.

My ideas, based on years of observation and research, on how to fix this issue are pretty simple.

  1. Stop the stigma. You can’t fix this monster creation when you affix blame to each person for their part in the creation. This problem was homegrown and is perpetuated by media, criminal justice and a lack of empathy for an individual’s circumstance.
  2. We are not at war with addicts. The goal is not to take every day people with addiction issues, lock them up and throw away the key. Fifty years of this mentality has led to the United States having the largest prison population in the world, and spending the most tax dollars on those efforts.
  3. We can’t continue to separate physical and mental health as two different species of healthcare. Taking care of physical health is viewed as noble and right, mental health is stigmatized and treated as a personal choice. WRONG.
  4. In Washington, write clear and purposeful legislation. Stop making ambiguous laws that are open to interpretation. You want to combat massive incarceration with the “First Step Act.” Exactly who does that apply to and when is is to be used. State that clearly so that those who should receive the benefit conceived by this act are the ones who do. Stop giving the prosecution and judges the ability to individually decide who they want to benefit.
  5. Be clear in your intent in adding programming that benefits inmates and helps them to return to their families and communities as productive members who’ve been able to get the help they need to lead a life of recovery. Are they to get time off the sentence or extra phone minutes. Don’t make stupid promises you have no intention of keeping.
  6. Stop letting organizers go who offer substantial government assistance. Why do they have the most information to offer? Because they are the ones who move into communities and recruit addicts to grow their own drug business. Why are you letting them off and jailing those same addicts for years and years? What do you think happens when you do this? They move to new communities and new addicted people and start all over again.
  7. Use the dollars you can save by decreasing the incarcerated population for recovery and treatment services. That seems like something any simple minded politician could figure out.
  8. Make addiction and mental health treatment a priority. Support the cost of that treatment for the generation of people we are losing to addiction every single day in this country. Bring these treatments into the criminal justice system. Make them the first step for every single person who is arrested for something related to addiction.
  9. Stop advertising your arrests. You perpetuate the stigma by putting names and faces in the media for others to bully and make into monsters. You are wrong. No one grows up wanting to be an addict and people don’t need to judge those who fall into that.
  10. Accept your responsibility for the monster you have created. This goes for all in Washington and to the companies who hid results and watched people die or be lost in this cycle with no way out.
  11. Try listening. Listen to what people say. Listen when someone has ideas that are different than yours. Try to make an effort to ensure government is working for you and not the ones who line their pockets. We hired them, if that’s how they want to do their job, they should be fired. From legislators, to any employee that steals money for you.
  12. Try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would you feel? What would you do?

We have lost the ability to practice any sort of compassion or empathy in this county. We have lost an entire population because of that. We can’t go back and change for some of those, but we sure can get off our ass and try to make a difference for the next ones. It’s time to start doing that. It’s time to reach out the those who can help to affect these changes.

Stop running on fast forward all the time, slow down, look around you. This place is bigger than our business and complaining about others is not making anything better. If you can’t be the change, sit back and shut up while I do it.


How Substance Abuse Impacts the Whole Family

Substance use disorder can do a lot of damage to a person’s life, but it doesn’t stop with only one person. At Granite Recovery Centers, we’ve heard many heartbreaking stories from families that have come to us for help.

Families are affected by substance abuse in many ways. The story is different for each, but there are a few things we’ve noticed, so we incorporate family members into our rehab programs to help everyone confront the past and make a better future.

Understanding how substance abuse might affect your family is important because it can be a springboard to healing. Communication is key, so let us help you and your family talk about the following issues.

Teenage Experimentation

One danger of substance abuse is teen experimentation. The saying that the young will copy the old has some truth to it.

Children will likely follow the example of an older person in the household. This could be a parent or an older sibling. It doesn’t matter if the child knows the behavior is wrong and has been negatively impacted by the substance use disorder; that child might still develop curiosity toward the substance or another one. This could stop at experimentation, or it could develop into a substance use disorder.

Risk of Domestic Violence

Another hard truth is that the risk of domestic violence increases with substance abuse, and that could put every person in the household in danger. We’ve heard some tragic stories, but we’ve also seen families put their lives back together again after rehab.

Violence can occur in a household for various reasons. Sometimes, it happens because the person with the substance use disorder is going through some type of turmoil and can’t control themselves. Substance use disorder can create mood instability, which might turn violent.

Sometimes, the abuse happens for other reasons, or the person dealing with the disorder is having a bad day and doesn’t have a better way of unloading negative emotions. Whatever the reason, you can see why volatile domestic situations are dangerous for everyone you love and why something must be done. Our team at Granite Recovery Centers is ready for your call to put you on the path to a more peaceful existence.

Physical violence isn’t the only type of violence that could happen because of this substance use disorder. Verbal abuse is also likely and can be very hurtful. If it goes on long enough, it can lead to things like PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). This affects more than just adults: It can scar any children in the household.

Part of the reason family members affected by substance use disorder have a hard time forgiving each other is that these types of abuse take place. They are incredibly destructive, but solutions are available.

Financial Troubles

Financial stress also ends up impacting a family in different ways. Feeding a substance use disorder is costly, and it only gets worse along with the severity of the disorder.

An addiction could be manageable at first, but the reality is that it will become unmanageable at some point. This could lead to all sorts of problems related to money. Financial stress could be one reason there’s violence in the family, but it could also lead to families not eating as well as they should or missing important payments, like the electric bill or even the rent.

We don’t know what your family has been through because of your financial problems; we can only imagine. No family deserves to live under this kind of financial burden because of a substance use disorder.

Things can get so bad for families that some end up losing their homes and other assets because of the financial strain that substance use disorder causes. Help is necessary before things gets worse. After the family member becomes stable in their recovery, they can begin to rebuild.

Employment Issues

One reason that families suffer financial strain as a result of addiction is employment problems. The person dealing with substance use disorder may provide some or all of the income that the family depends on to live. If this happens to be you, then you know how important your income is to your family. The problem is that a substance use disorder doesn’t recognize important roles in a family.

A person dealing with addiction forgets everything and only thinks about their substance of choice. This could mean overlooking things like personal hygiene, but it could also mean neglecting work.

It may start small, maybe a day late here or there, but it gets worse. At some point, you could lose your job, which could be devastating. If your substance use disorder hasn’t been properly dealt with, the chances of finding another job are low because you won’t care about employment in the throes of addiction. You do not want to put your family through this kind of stress, so please don’t hesitate to call Granite Recovery Centers. We can work with you to put you back on track.

Legal Repercussions

Many of the drugs used by those with a substance use disorder are illegal. Even the ones that aren’t could cause legal trouble should you get caught under the influence while operating a vehicle.

An arrest would not only affect you but also impact every person in your household. Having a loved one get arrested is a devastating situation that can traumatize family members. Things can get worse if well-intentioned family members allow the use of illegal drugs in the household and get caught.

At that point, the person with the disorder won’t be the only person in legal trouble. Facing drug-related legal problems can create long-lasting repercussions that extend beyond the substance use disorder. This could make it harder for you and your family members to get a job in the future.

Feelings of Guilt

A substance use disorder leads to guilt. If the person going through this happens to be a teenager, then the parents often feel guilty. They might wonder if they spent enough time with the child or if they saw signs of trouble earlier but decided to ignore them. People can always think of a reason to feel guilty, and that guilt can tear families apart.

If you have a substance use disorder and you’re a parent, then the problems you’re causing will give rise to some guilt too. Maybe you will start to feel bad because your family isn’t eating well or you’re all losing your home.

There’s a lot to feel bad about. What’s worse is that an overwhelming feeling of guilt can lead to more problems, like more dependency. If not that, guilt can lead to conditions like depression, which can be dangerous if it goes untreated and gets worse.

Guilt is a hard feeling to live with, and it can be overwhelming. Keep in mind that this feeling will only increase if you continue without treatment. A lot of people with substance use disorder experience guilt as they face the heartbreak they’ve caused. One thing we do at our rehab facilities is teach you and your family how to approach this subject.

Child Neglect

Family neglect is another issue that substance use disorder can cause. Neglect is one of the worst things that can happen to children because a child needs plenty of attention, love and care in addition to having their basic needs met.

Substance use disorder can make a person forget parental duties and cause psychological damage to their children that will continue to affect them throughout their lives. The only thing that matters to someone suffering from this disorder is when and how they’re going to fulfill the need for the substance. It can become an obsession that forces them to neglect their children. The neglect is emotional, but it can also be physical, which could become dangerous. Sadly, many adults face mental health issues because of childhood neglect.

Relationships between the person suffering from the disorder and his or her children may be healed. We’ve heard both sides of this story, and our hearts melt every time. The bond between parent and child shouldn’t be broken, but this disorder is incredibly devastating in more ways than you can imagine, which is why it’s so important to seek help as soon as possible.

Family Breakups

Substance use disorder may increase the chances of a family breaking apart. This can lead to many issues that stem from family separation.

Sometimes, addiction leads to divorce. Another possibility is that parents might get separated from their children because they’re deemed a danger to them.

All these situations are extremely difficult to bear and quite heartbreaking. Things may get better with hard work, and any improvement is better than nothing at all, but it’s easy to see why families fall apart because of this disorder.

The violence linked to addiction could be the reason for strain on a family and could lead to a breakup. You should know that we’ve seen individuals fall deeper into their substance use disorder because of a family breakup. These separations are incredibly brutal because these relationships are important.

A person who’s already dealing with this disorder is going to find coping with this change even more challenging. It’s important to follow through with your desire to overcome the substance use disorder for everyone’s sake.

Long Term Effects Of Meth Use

Meth use effects

This article is about the objective consequences to one’s health that occur when meth is used over a long period of time. If you know someone who is using meth, this may scare them straight.

Stimulants are often used to stay awake or increase production. They were even used in WWII by Nazi Germany, who advocated these drugs made their soldiers “fearless.” The affected soldiers were overconfident and less attentive to details. Military authorities gradually realized there was no improvement in the performance of the soldiers. They also discovered there was rampant paranoia amongst the ranks. Germany eventually stopped giving stimulants to the soldiers, who then experienced more extreme levels of paranoia and even hallucinations. Germany learned a valuable lesson about using drugs to try and boost performance. There is always a catch.

The paranoia associated with meth use and withdrawal is really some scary stuff. Many users report experiencing a combination of paranoia, aggression, delusions, and hallucinations. Some of these experiences can be quite disturbing. Users have reported “bugs underneath their skin” and “bees in their teeth.” If they are left alone, they will often pick at their own skin repeatedly until they bleed, trying to get these perceived “bugs” out. Another scary symptom of meth abuse is the perception someone or something is watching you.

Gang stalking meth user

Many current and past meth users have had shared experiences that are collectively referred to as “gang stalking.” This is an expression referring to the hallucination that a group of people is out to get you. This group of people can range from the government or the police, to “those guys in black hats.” Whoever the user thinks are following them, despite bring completely irrational, are entirely real to them. Trying to reason with someone experiencing this phenomenon can result in them accusing you of being “one of them.”

Delusions such as this can follow an addict long after they have stopped using. In severe cases, it can take months or years for a recovered meth addict to genuinely understand there were no hidden cameras, no microphones, and no secret society watching their every move. In some extreme cases, the person never fully pops out of it.

Hallucinations aside, there are several physical consequences of long-term meth abuse. I’m going to skip those that simply regard appearance, but there are many. There is more severe and longer-lasting physical damage that is caused by methamphetamine abuse.

Some of the medical consequences of long-term stimulant abuse include:

  • Liver damage
  • Lung disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Brain damage
  • Memory loss
  • Heart Damage
  • Stroke

According to one study, when it comes to methamphetamine-induced strokes, the real risk of methamphetamine use is a larger increase in strokes among younger people, a demographic which is typically at very low risk of stroke. Also, young men are 50% more likely to suffer a stroke than women. The other alarming issue is that strokes in younger individuals seems to have a significant mortality and morbidity rate.

Meth use also increases the possibility of Lung Disease or pulmonary issues. Both regular and irregular use of the drug can cause toxic injury to the soft tissue of the lungs. This was reported on by Eilís McCarthy and Erik McClain in 2019 in a paper. A person smoking meth is more likely to have pneumonia and can cause long-term damage to their lungs even with short-term use of the drug.

In addition, they are at a higher risk of heart disease which can cause increased complications medically. Acute methamphetamine use causes a rapid increase in both heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of a stroke. Long-term methamphetamine use serves to exasperate the risk of vassular issues including heart disease. In a study it was found that methamphetamine users had a 19% increase in contraction of coronary artery disease when compared to a .5% contraction rate of those in a comparable control group.

Getting your loved one the treatment they need to recover from methamphetamine addiction could not only be the difference between life and death. It could also prevent some very serious long-term medical issues that are caused by the substance. Even though they might not end up looking like this immediately, it does not mean their body is not being damaged. The Narconon program has a unique approach to help individuals to recover from the physical effects of addiction. Before digging into the underlying issues of their addiction.

‘Every overdose is a policy failure’: Mainers in recovery ask legislature to end punitive drug laws

‘Every overdose is a policy failure’: Mainers in recovery ask legislature to end punitive drug laws

June 9, 2021 Evan Popp

With the 50th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “War on Drugs” approaching, Mainers who have been criminalized for substance use disorder gathered Wednesday at the State House to ask lawmakers to move away from decades of failed, punitive policies and support a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs.

Dozens of advocates and people in recovery rallied in favor of LD 967, sponsored by Rep. Anne Perry (D-Calais), which would make drug possession a civil violation and offer people a pathway to treatment and recovery instead of incarceration. Dressed in black, advocates lined the State House hallways and handed flowers to lawmakers as they walked to the House and Senate chambers. 

Courtney Allen, policy director for the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, said the flowers represented all the people who have been lost due to the criminalization of people who use substances. The goal of the event, she said, was to hand a flower to every lawmaker and urge them to vote in favor of LD 967. 

As Beacon previously reported, over 500 Mainers died of drug overdoses in 2020, setting a new record in the state. Pointing to that grim tally and the large number of people incarcerated for drug-related charges, lawmakers, doctors and Mainers in recovery argued during a late April public hearing that criminalizing the disease of substance use disorder is not working. Advocates urged the state to take a new approach that centers treatment rather than punishment. 

A 2020 study conducted by the Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health found drug overdose is the leading cause of death after release from prison, with such individuals’ risk of dying from a drug overdose as much as 12.7 times higher than the general population in the first two weeks after release.  

“We’re all here to send a message to our lawmakers. One death is too many and every overdose is a policy failure,” said Whitney Parrish, director of advocacy and communications at the Health Equity Alliance.

Ryan Gary, who is in recovery, said the way people who use substances are treated by the state is simply not effective. During the times he was incarcerated on drug-related charges, Gary said he was not offered treatment, but instead was placed in situations that spurred recidivism. 

In contrast, putting people in a position to get treatment and form community with others in recovery would be a far more effective way to treat substance use disorder, he explained. 

“When I got out of jail, if it hadn’t been for people in the recovery community, I don’t think I would have been able to find housing, employment opportunities,” Gary said. “These things are barriers for people to really recover and take the next step acclimating back into the community and becoming productive members of society.” 

Another participant at the event, Adam Rice of the Church of Safe Injection, said LD 967 is about changing the tenor of the discussion about people with substance use disorder toward a commitment to helping people, the same way society would seek to treat someone with a disease like diabetes. 

“I look at it as shifting the tone to more of a health issue than a criminal justice issue,” Rice said. “People just need help that they’re not getting right now.” 

“I don’t think anybody isn’t worth fighting for,” Rice added. 

Marshall Merceo, who has been incarcerated on drug-related charges, also spoke about the importance of LD 967 in combating the stigma against those who use substances. 

“I looked for help but didn’t find it. I got stigmatized looking for help,” he said, explaining that “every time I would look for help, there’d always be someone looking down on me. So we’re not going to go looking for help if people are arresting us and throwing us in jail.”

LD 967 is one of a number of policies that advocates and lawmakers are backing in an effort to move Maine away from punishing substance use disorder and toward providing people with options for recovery. Along with the decriminalization bill, groups are also pushing for a bill that would decriminalize possession and exchange of hypodermic syringes. That bill has been passed by the House and the Senate. 

An additional bill lawmakers will soon take up seeks to rein in Maine’s felony drug trafficking law, which is among the harshest in the country, and to eliminate the disparity in Maine law between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, which are essentially the same drug chemically. Both that bill and LD 967 were advanced out of committee late last month and will soon face votes before the legislature. 

The need to reform the state’s drug laws to emphasize treatment and connection with others in recovery is clear, Merceo said, who is now four years sober and attending college.

“I found a community that loved me, helped me and showed me how to live through love not punishment,” he said. “Love brought me back.” 

Addiction Recovery for Mothers

Written By Granite Recovery Centers

Clinically Reviewed By Cheryl Smith MS,MLADC

June 8, 2021

Addiction recovery is an accomplishment for everyone going through the process. Anyone who is able to handle detoxing a drug from their system and using the tools that they’ve learned in therapy to move on with their lives is a superhero. Mothers who go through this process are practically legendary. It is extremely difficult to go through recovery as the average person, but when you throw children into the mix, there are so many more variables that make recovery a must-do and not a hope-to-do.

There are so many struggles that recovering moms need to deal with. In addition to the physical and mental strength needed to withdraw from and stay away from drugs or alcohol, they also have to parent at the same time. There may be so many conflicting feelings that they’re dealing with. Some of those feelings could include shame, guilt, embarrassment, and a host of other emotions that come up when a parent feels that they’ve failed their children.

Some women are so overwhelmed by the shame and embarrassment of having to heal from addiction that that shame threatens their recovery. They are so obsessed with and consumed with what other people think about them that they don’t focus on using all of that strength and energy toward rebuilding themselves. This is a dangerous mindset to have, and it could put the mother at risk for a relapse.

Shame, guilt, and other negative feelings often lead people to seek out some sort of solace or relief. Because they used to self-medicate with drugs in the past, a recovering mother struggling with these issues could be more likely to reach out and seek those drugs again. This is devastating for the family, and it’s devastating for the mother.

If you are a mother struggling to stay on track while recovering from an addiction, there are so many resources, techniques, and strategies that you can turn to in order to help ensure that you stay on track. Some of those are listed below.

Find Your People

When anyone goes through addiction recovery, it’s important for them to build up a strong community of supporters. Those are the people they will turn to if they have questions, get weak, need advice, or simply need someone to hold their hand. This supportive community can make all the difference between healing and failing.

When a mother is going through the recovery process, it is absolutely critical that she get this type of support. The saying goes that it takes a village to raise children, and that’s in the best of times. When a mother is going through recovery, she’ll need a bigger village to rely upon. Some of the best types of supporters are other women who have gone through exactly what she’s gone through.

By working together, sharing emotional resources, and simply being there for each other, the outcome is better for all. While every addict understands what it takes through to go through the recovery process, only a mother who’s a recovering addict knows what another mother like her is going through. With this kind of support, mothers don’t have to explain in detail why certain things are difficult. They just know.

There are many recovering mothers who have formed communities that provide support to each other as well as to new recovering members. They understand that it might be difficult for a new member to reach out, so they often reach out themselves in a way that doesn’t make those newer members feel any pressure. They understand the intense shame that these new members must be feeling, so they make it easy for them to come into the space without judgment.

Admit When You’re Not OK

One thing that newly recovering addicts who are mothers do is pretend that everything is fine. They’re desperate to prove to society that they care about their children enough to make all of the sacrifices necessary to be able to take care of them in a healthy and supportive way.

Privately, however, they are struggling. They may find themselves craving drugs, or they may be dealing with issues of doubt. The shame of not being OK forces them to pretend to be OK. Some of them may be afraid of losing their children, so they’ll lie even though they’re in desperate need of some sort of support. At Granite Recovery Centers, we understand this. We understand that things can become difficult. We help our clients find resources in their own communities, and we help them with our own resources if it works for their situation.

People who are dealing with recovery should understand that many aspects of it may be difficult, and there will be times when they will be tempted. Mothers need to understand this more than anyone. The stresses of motherhood, raising a family, handling a career, finding work, and a host of other issues often force former addicts to relapse. When it starts to get difficult, their support networks should be there to step in.

Release Anger

One of the worst things you can do as part of any healing process is to hold on to negative feelings. Negative feelings destroy any kind of hard work that you do. They overtake your mind, and they make it impossible for you to make the moves that you need to make to heal.

Mothers in recovery struggle with issues of anger all the time. Many of them may be dealing with issues of resentment toward people that may have hurt them in the past, people who were instrumental in their drug or alcohol use, or anyone who they feel did not support them.

They need to let go of all of this. The best way to do this is through some sort of therapy. In therapy, they’ll be able to address the past anger and resentments that either caused them to become addicts or that may have made them stay in the world of addiction.

By dealing with those issues, they’ll learn how to deal with their anger constructively. By talking about the things that happened in the past, they’ll be able to process those situations properly, figure out what their roles were in those incidents, and create healthy new ways of dealing with the trauma. In certain cases, trauma therapy is needed to address serious, long-unresolved issues.

Over time, those issues will become less and less triggering. The recovering mother will be able to look at the feelings and situations objectively and move forward.

Enjoy Self-Care

When someone is in the throes of addiction, the last thing they think about is taking care of themselves. Their only goal will be to get their next fix. As mothers go through recovery, their first thoughts often revolve around taking care of their children. Some of them may not have been able to take care of their children before, and they’re anxious to do so. It’s an opportunity for them to show that they are good mothers, and this is an absolutely amazing and necessary step.

One thing they must not forget, however, is to take care of themselves. They need to practice the art of self-care. Practicing self-care could be anything. It could mean taking the time to have a long hot bath. Practicing self-care could mean treating oneself to a manicure every other month. Practicing self-care could be something as simple as making a special ice cream sundae for oneself. By engaging in healthy, joy-inducing practices that make her feel happy, the recovering mother will learn to love herself again. Once she loves herself, she’ll be free to give all of her love to her children.

Find Spirituality

Some people confuse spirituality with religion. If someone struggling through addiction recovery hears the word spirituality, but they are not a part of a religion, they may believe that it’s not a practice or a philosophy they can access.

This is completely wrong. Spirituality is any sort of connection a person has with the universe outside of themselves. Some people believe that this means their relationship with God. For others, it could mean how they interact with nature.

There is no one true definition for what spirituality is, but it’s generally described as a belief system that helps you feel more at peace with your inner self as you ponder the world beyond yourself. You can access spirituality through meditation, volunteerism, walking in nature, swimming in the ocean, or any other activity that allows you to disconnect from your physical form and engage with your spiritual and emotional soul. Again, this looks different to many different people.

Forgive Yourself

One of the most important things that a mother who is a recovering addict can do is forgive herself. Many mothers feel guilty by nature. They wonder if they’re doing enough for their children, providing them with the tools they need to succeed as they grow up, and giving them a happy childhood. Many also wonder if their children look to them as someone they can turn to if they needed help.

For many recovering addict mothers, they may have already been in situations where they had let their children down. Addiction makes people do things that they wouldn’t do without the addiction. It makes them engage in behaviors that they wouldn’t engage in otherwise. It makes them do or say harmful things to friends and family.

When the addiction is on its way out and the mother starts to get clarity, she may be left horrified. Many recovering addict mothers are wracked with guilt over all the time they believe they took away from their children’s childhoods. In order for them to move forward, they are going to have to forgive themselves.

Addiction isn’t something anyone chooses. It is a physiological, physical, and mental disease that grips people until they can’t think about anything else except the drug they’re seeking. It changes the brain chemistry, so they end up engaging in behaviors they would never have otherwise. Mothers have to allow themselves the gift of forgiveness. One thing that they could teach their children is that in life, everyone makes mistakes. The issue is not whether a mistake was made but whether an attempt was made to correct it.

Mothers who are in recovery deserve the right to feel proud of themselves. They deserve the right to be able to forgive themselves for the mistakes that they have made in the past, and they deserve the right to have a chance to make things right for themselves and for their families. They can’t control how other people respond to the mistakes of their past, but they can do everything that they can on their end to make things right if they wish to.

If recovering mothers learn to forgive themselves, they learn to be kinder to themselves. If they are kinder to themselves, they allow themselves to be loved and forgiven by others. This may take a lot of time, and no one knows what the ultimate outcome will be. Giving themselves that love and forgiveness is the first step.

The FDA Waited 9 Months to Warn the Public on Tianeptine, a Supplement ‘Worse Than Heroin’

It just goes on and on…

February 24, 2021

While the agency investigated, people were harmed, even died after taking the opioidlike substance

All around the country, in late 2017 and early 2018, alarm bells were going off regarding a drug called tianeptine.

In Michigan, lawmakers sought to ban sales of the drug, which has opioidlike effects, after reports that users became addicted. In New York, researchers found that it could lead to abuse and overdose. In Texas, a couple alleged that their son had died as a result of taking the drug.

Now, emails obtained by Consumer Reports reveal that the Food and Drug Administration at the time was also looking into the dangers of tianeptine, which is used as a dietary supplement ingredient despite being illegal. But the agency—which regulates drugs and supplements in the U.S.—waited at least nine months to alert the public about the risks.

A recent investigation by CR found significant shortcomings with the agency’s enforcement efforts around tianeptine. The new emails, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, underscore concerns about the FDA’s ability to effectively police the $46 billion dietary supplement industry.  

“When there are blatant examples of illicit drugs being sold as supplements, particularly drugs that are known to be harmful, we need to have an agency that’s proactive,” says Pieter Cohen, MD, a Harvard Medical School associate professor who studies dietary supplements.

Tianeptine appears to have arrived in the U.S. in the mid-2010s, when opioid-crisis crackdowns on fentanyl and oxycodone drove people to seek cheaper and easier-to-come-by alternatives. 

At least four people have died using it, CR’s report found. It remains available for sale online to this day.

The FDA denies dragging its feet, citing instead its intensive review process. The agency must analyze the ingredient, do a market survey, and collect documentation of harm, says Courtney Rhodes, an FDA spokesperson. “Those things take time, especially when done in the context of limited resources and competing priorities,” she says. 

But health experts, consumer advocates, and supplement industry groups say the FDA had slam-dunk evidence of harm and illegality and should have brought enforcement action against tianeptine manufacturers much faster.

“It’s not a resource issue,” says Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president of the Natural Products Association, a supplements industry group, and a former director of the FDA’s supplements division. “These are easy cases.”

Chuck Bell, programs director in CR’s advocacy division, says the nation’s dietary supplement safety system should have “zero tolerance for illegal and unregistered prescription drugs in supplements.” 

“These products should have been pulled off the market in 24 or 48 hours—not after months or years,” Bell says. “But Congress also needs to strengthen federal supplement safety laws so that zero tolerance is hardwired into the oversight and enforcement system.”

‘People Got Hooked’

The emails obtained by CR show that when the FDA began investigating tianeptine in early 2018, it appeared to be operating with little sense of urgency and failed to develop a full view of the problem.

The earliest communication in the records CR obtained was from Bob Durkin, then-deputy director of the FDA’s supplements office, who on Feb. 22 wrote an email to colleagues with the subject “TIANAA/tianeptine.” (Tianaa is the brand name of a popular tianeptine supplement.)

“I’m coming to this late,” Durkin wrote by way of apology. 

None of the FDA emails mention what was happening in Michigan at the time. There, lawmakers were working to pass legislation to ban the sale of tianeptine after a flurry of adverse event reports linked to the drug alarmed health experts and law enforcement. Several users interviewed by Michigan state police described the effects of tianeptine as being “worse than heroin,” a spokesperson told CR last month. 

Michigan lawmakers received written testimony from Alyssa Wood, a local resident and former heroin user who described her addiction to tianeptine.

“The withdrawal that I experienced from heroin was [overshadowed] by the withdrawal from this poison,” she wrote in February 2018. 

Several studies have linked tianeptine to addiction. But emails suggest Durkin’s colleagues unearthed none of them. 

“This product is inadequately regulated in the United States and poses a risk to public health.”

—Conclusion from a May 2018 article on tianeptine in the journal Clinical Toxicology

Even new reports of harm seem to have escaped the FDA’s notice. A May 2018 article in the journal Clinical Toxicology examined tianeptine-related poison control calls in New York. The researchers noted several exposure calls citing adverse effects and advised that the drug posed “risk for abuse, overdose, and physical dependence.” 

“This product is inadequately regulated in the United States and poses a risk to public health,” the researchers wrote. 

Nor did the FDA apparently heed warnings captured by its own adverse-event database, where several alarming incidents involving tianeptine use were reported by consumers. Tianeptine in high doses, one consumer wrote in 2016, provides euphoric effects similar to those of opioids, while tolerance “skyrockets with each use.”

“People like myself got hooked on it,” the consumer wrote, adding that anecdotal evidence of risks was readily available on the internet, including on social media site Reddit. The consumer also provided names of websites where tianeptine was available for purchase.Narrative summary from report submitted to the FDA about an incident linked to tianeptine. Narrative summary from report submitted to the FDA about an incident linked to tianeptine.

Durkin, now a lawyer in private practice, says it’s difficult to remember the specifics of what he and FDA colleagues did or did not do in 2018. But, he says, federal law requires the agency to follow an “extensive” process before taking action on a supplement suspected of causing harm.

“FDA also has its limitations,” he says. “There is often not enough information for FDA to establish causation, and it is difficult for the agency to independently develop a basis for how a product is harming people.”

Fabricant, the former FDA supplements office director, says he doesn’t understand why the FDA review of tianeptine took so long. One aspect the agency considers is whether an ingredient is eligible to be used in dietary supplements; tianeptine, which is not a botanical, is not. “Nobody is saying it’s anything other than a drug,” he says. 

In the summer of 2018, the FDA received another serious report detailing the death of a 24-year-old man who suffered a fatal brain injury after taking tianeptine. A month later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounded alarm bells. The agency found a sharp uptick beginning a few years earlier in the number of calls to poison control centers citing tianeptine.

“The associated outcomes and health effects associated with tianeptine use suggest a possible emerging public health risk and underscore the need for public outreach to increase awareness,” the CDC wrote in a report.

‘We Won’t Stand By’

The emails obtained by CR indicate that within weeks of the CDC report, the FDA drafted warning letters to send to tianeptine manufacturers. But the agency did not issue an alert to the public or put tianeptine sellers on notice about selling their products until November. 

In a statement at the time, then-FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, pointed out that companies were marketing tianeptine to opioid addicts who may be seeking alternative drugs. 

“They’re also selling products with known safety issues,” Gottlieb said. “We won’t stand by and allow this to happen.” 

The effect of the agency’s alerts appear to have been limited. Tianeptine-related poison control calls jumped to a record high in 2020, CR reported last month. One vendor warned by the agency in 2018 continues to sell tianeptine supplements, according to a review of the company’s website this week. 

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., and other consumer advocates urged the FDA last August to clamp down on tianeptine sales (PDF), but as of last month, an agency spokesperson said it was still reviewing the request. 

Laura MacCleery, policy director at the CSPI, says regulatory agencies move at a “glacial pace” and that it’s a particular problem with the FDA not acting expeditiously on public health threats. 

Cohen, the Harvard professor, agrees that the FDA’s slow response to tianeptine is par for the course. 

“You need an agency that’s going to get the job done in a timely fashion,” he says. 

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