John M. Blog

A Visit to the DEA Museum & DEA Foundation in Washington, DC

John F. Moriarty III from Surnise Detox, with Bill Alden, Director of the DEA Foundation.

John F. Moriarty III from Surnise Detox, with Bill Alden, Director of the DEA Foundation.

Recently I had the honor of visiting with Bill Alden, Director of the DEA Foundation. Bill is a former DEA agent (Drug Enforcement Administration). He served us for 45 years, including the entire “War on Drugs” era. Now Director of the DEA Foundation, Bill Alden is helping spread the word about the importance of awareness and prevention, not just enforcement, and the critical role education plays in that effort.

Bill and I share a great deal of perspective on the War on Drug Addiction, especially on the importance of increasing the efforts to bring treatment providers and youngsters into the conversation. Enforcement of laws is not enough.

Many people (including young kids), are not aware of the importance and often direct connections between illegal and illicit drugs, addiction, and wellness. Prevention is more than “Just Say No”, and education is an essential ingredient in the fight. The DEA has estimated the cost to US society at $180 billion dollars per year. I find that cost to be an underestimate. I don't know how to put a dollar value on families and individual lives lost to addiction, but I suggest it's higher than that.

It was a privilege to visit with Bill Alden. He gave me a tour of the DEA Museum, which is part of the Visitor's Center, and one piece of an extensive effort to help raise awareness about the efforts to protect our nation from the harm brought by the illicit and illegal drug trades. I will be posting more about some of the specific informational programs they have produced on this blog.

Ocean County DART Coalition Event May 27

Tonight is the Ocean County DART Coalition Forum “Can We Talk – Are You Listening?” at the Pine Belt Arena from 5pm to 9pm. The event is being organized by Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, and will focus on the heroin epidemic that is sweeping through New Jersey's communities.

I will be there, along with Ryan Singer from Sunrise Detox Toms River, to answer questions and do everything we can to help support the mission of raising awareness of the heroin problem. Some of what we do in person, that might not be well known:

Answer specific questions about specific situations, such as loved ones with dependencies, concerns about past treatment efforts that didn't work well, state-of-the-art detox and rehab for addiction, family issues when dealing with addiction in the home, etc.
Discuss the nuances of insurance coverage for substance abuse, including real-world facts that are not in the insurance company brochure, or not common knowledge.
Provide direct, honest, informative talks about substance abuse, addiction and treatment, beyond what is normally published or mentioned in public discussions.

Here are a few snapshots of the stage being prepped for tonight's show, which will feature Richie Sambora (guitarist for Bon Jovi). It should be a fun night out with community, addressing an issue that needs as much attention as it can get these days. Sunrise Detox is a proud sponsor and participant.

Sound checks on the stage

Sound checks on the stage while preparing for tonight's DART Coalition Forum on Heroin Addiction in New Jersey

dart-coalition-forum-setup-may2014

Sunrise Detox is a proud supporter of the DART Coalition and Prosecutor Joseph Coronato's efforts to raise awareness of substance abuse and addiction in New Jersey

 

Hard Work Pays Off: Raising Heroin Awareness in NJ

I had the honor or releasing the symbolic balloons to kick off the campaign

I had the honor or releasing 244 symbolic balloons in memory of those who died of heroin overdose in  Ocean and Monmouth counties last year, and the Daily Journal covered it.

Often times the one big message of successful recovery is “hard work pays off”. This week, and this month, and this year, that hard work has been raising awareness of the heroin epidemic in New Jersey, to prevent as much of the fallout from addiction as we can right now.

And the hard work is paying off. The stigma of heroin is starting to go away. Although there is a long way still to go, it is no longer uncommon to hear the word “heroin” in conversation  in our suburbs.

I am seeing an increased awareness of the role of prescription pain killers in our heroin epidemic as well. The “common man” in New Jersey is starting to understand that heroin is just a cheaper, more physically dangerous form of the prescription pain killers prescribed by doctors or “borrowed” from unsuspecting friends and relatives.

Treatment is Available for Opiate Addiction

The time to get treatment for addiction is when a dependency is acknowledged. If that dependency is on prescription pain killers like hydrocodone or oxycodone, Percocet, or any number of other opioids, it is no less a risk than a heroin addiction. The primary risk appears to be the switch to heroin (which is  cheaper, and more readily available). But the other, perhaps more important risk, is the tightening grip of opiate addiction.

Heroin Addiction is best Treated Early, not Late

It is easier and less “costly” in all terms, to treat an addiction earlier, rather than later, regardless of the substance.

“Stigma can be deadly. We hope that this campaign plays a role in busting that stigma and helping the public understand that addiction is a disease.” Celina Gray, Acting Executive Director of the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction quoted in the Daily Journal.

This past week Jersey Shore Radio's 107.1 FM Morning Show dedicated virtually an entire week to raising awareness of the heroin problem in New Jersey. Sunrise Detox spent as much time on-site with them as we could. We knew that those seeking help would need someone to talk to. Someone who could answer the real-world questions about addiction and addiction treatment. And since we do that every day, we wanted to help.

Sunrise Detox in New Jersey Malls

We helped people one-on-one at all three malls, every day of the campaign. We spoke honestly about addiction and the grip it has on otherwise smart and strong individuals. We spoke honestly about treatment, insurance, and the untold “costs” of addiction on society. And we told real-world stories that brought the message home to those who needed to hear them.

In some cases we got people directly into treatment. Sometimes at Sunrise Detox, and other times at other treatment centers. The key to successful treatment is immediate medical attention (such as at our medical detox), followed by admission to the appropriate inpatient rehab center, which is usually selected based on individual factors. At Sunrise Detox, we work with individuals and families during the initial detox stage, to understand the rehab process, and select the one that fits.

Keeping Up the Fight: More Heroin Awareness is Needed

This week New Jersey's administration (the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction) kicks off another awareness campaign – this time one funded with marketing and advertising dollars, and expected to carry through the entire summer. “Addiction does not discriminate” is a strong message that needs to be heard. Let's raise awareness amongst those who believe that heroin addiction happens to other people, before that devastating addiction pops into their lives unexpectedly, and challenges the entire family unit and more.

 

 

 

10% of America’s Heroin Addicts Live in New Jersey

According to Radio 107.1 FM, 10% of the nation's heroin addicts live in New Jersey.

This week, I'm helping Radio 107.1 FM to raise awareness about the heroin epidemic that is ravaging our local communities. It's a serious problem; according to on-air statistics, 10% of all heroin addicts nationwide live in New Jersey.  Last year, more people died from heroin overdose than from vehicular DWI accidents, and addicts are as young as 10 years old.

3 Malls with Experts On-Hand to Help

On May 19th through May 23rd, from 7am until 10pm, Sunrise Detox staff will be at all three locations covered by this event. Joe Horrocks will be on-hand at Freehold Raceway Mall, Ryan Singer will be at Ocean County Mall, and I will be supporting our efforts from Monmouth Mall. Each of us are on-site answering questions and working with clinicians to try and help people to get into treatment immediately.

Ocean County deaths doubled from 2012 to 2013.

We've set up a call center specifically for this event to help raise awareness about New Jersey's heroin problem; if you or someone you know needs help, they can call us at (877)759-9757.

Raising Awareness of a Growing Problem

Statistics prove that the problem of heroin addiction in our state is quite severe. Since 2006, heroin use in New Jersey has tripled. The number of opiate overdose deaths jumped about 33% from 2011 to 2012. In Ocean County, which includes parts of the Jersey Shore, heroin deaths more than doubled between 2012 and 2013. These staggering numbers underscore a critical reality; that many of our fellow citizens desperately need help.

Real Help, Right Now

After just 2 days, we are seeing results. Parents, siblings, and neighbors have come down and voiced their concern and desire to help people they know, or loved ones who have problems with substance abuse or are in treatment, or recovery. Some have come down to admit they need help, and told us stories of their friends overdosing and in some cases dying in their presence. We've already helped a few people get into treatment immediately – in one case literally going from the mall directly to a treatment center.

Get Help and Advice, Right Now

Come on down to Ocean County Mall, Freehold Raceway Mall, or the Monmouth Mall and meet our professionals, counselors, admissions experts, and others who have come to provide help and assistance. Ask about how addiction starts, the connections between legal prescription pain killers and heroin, the symptoms of drug abuse, and the importance of getting medical assistance as soon as a dependency is recognized.

If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol or drug use, stop by and you will find a friendly, informative ear to listen and provide expert advice, or call (877)759-9757

Paterson, NJ Heroin Bust : 300 “Bricks” Won’t Change Much

While I commend all law enforcement in what they do and in their battle against this heroin epidemic here in New Jersey, April's first heroin bust is just a pin prick in the fight.  Police report having seized 300 bricks of heroin, said to have a $120,000 street value. The heroin bust took place in Paterson, which is in Passaic County and central to Northern New Jersey.

To add some perspective, a “brick” of heroin is usually 5 bundles. A “bundle” of heroin usually leans  10 “bags” of heroin.  Heroin users consumer heroin “by the bag”.

According to a vast majority of our clients at Sunrise Detox in Northern New Jersey and Toms River at the Jersey Shore,  a New Jersey heroin addict seeking treatment (for whatever reason) is using 7-10 bags of heroin a day. Roughly one bundle of heroin, per day.

So 300 “bricks” is 1500 bundles, or 1500 “days” of heroin addiction. In a state with 9 million people, is this a big deal?

Yes, it is. It can take just one  dose to kill a son or a daughter (or mother, or father, or teacher, or someone you loved). For an addict suffering under addiction, it takes just one more dose to stave off the effects of withdrawal, and continue the addiction instead of seeking help with heroin addiction treatment. We all know that heroin addiction doesn't get weaker over time — heroin consumes lives, because active heroin users are driven to need increasing amounts of the drug over time.

Each bag of heroin is important. Every single one. But we have to do much, much more.

The seizure and arrests are hopefully the start if a trend here in New Jersey in this fight. Too often in the fight against drugs we are always talking in quantities of heroin and dollar values of sized drugs “kept off the street”. Rarely do we talk about the number of actual lives affected, or in this case saved by the enforcement action.

Tuesdays arrests in Paterson, if we use the math above, saved the lives of 5 individuals consuming a bundle a day for the next 300 days.  Unfortunately in a state with tens of thousands of individuals addicted to heroin, the user will find another dealer, and then another. The loss of 300 bricks is not likely to impact the street price except perhaps in the short term, in Paterson, as dealers rearrange their turfs and supply chains.

Authorities broke up a drug ring over the weekend, seizing semi-automatic handguns, $20,000 in cash, and more than 300 bricks of heroin in a bust that brought down two heroin mills and saw six people arrested in Paterson, New Jersey – UPI news report

We are entering a delicate time here in New Jersey with heroin. Public awareness is being raised due to recent public figures taking active roles, which is a plus. But more needs to be done with awareness, law enforcement and treatment.

Comfortable living room of the Toms River Sunrise Detox center. Comfort, safety, confidentiality, and expert medical detox.

Comfortable living room of the Toms River Sunrise Detox center. Comfort, safety, confidentiality, and expert medical detox.

At Sunrise Detox we strongly advocate for insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment, and increased access to funds that will enable safe and comfortable detox for individuals to start their journey of healing in treatment. We know that a safe, respectful, and comfortable initial detox from heroin, is the very best start to a successful recovery.

For every brick or bundle of heroin seized and taken off the streets, we must also provide treatment for substance abuse, especially heroin addiction treatment, to help addicts get off of the drug and stay safe in recovery. Any unbalanced approach to the heroin epidemic may end up raising prices and increasing the risks associated with addiction, without saving as many lives.

Reference: 2011 East new York heroin bust reported by NJ.com

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a Son, Partner, and a Dad for 3 Children

Superbowl Sunday started with some negative news here on the east coast. Academy award winner Hoffman had died due to a suspected overdose. Hoffman was in detox last year after a heroin relapse following 23 years of sobriety. He was found on Sunday with a needle in his arm.  The harsh reality of heroin always seems to come to the forefront when a celebrity overdoses.

The truth though is that Hoffman was a dad of 3 young children. He lived with his long time girlfriend and mother of his children since 1998. That's the pain.  That's the part of this that hits home for all of us. Take the celebrity out of it, and there are 3 children who won't have a dad anymore. There is a single mom asking why, why, why.

Details are unclear as to Mr. Hoffmans detox last year, but stories claim  he went to detox and returned to work. At Sunrise Detox we advocate strongly fur clinical care after detox to deal with the emotional struggles usually associated with heroin addiction. There is no quick fix to opiate use.

While the world will miss a great actor I am thinking of another family destroyed by heroin!

 

Addiction Doesn’t Have to End in Death

New Jersey is suffering from a wave of heroin and prescription pain killer abuse, but it is not a new thing like a plague or infectious agent. The abuse is a continuation of known behavior we've seen increase over many years — people experimenting and abusing drugs and alcohol.  The difference, and the reason our kids are dying now, is in the drugs. The drugs, the combinations of drugs, and the combination of drugs and alcohol is deadlier than ever before.

At Sunrise Detox we treat those who have an acknowledged physical and/or psychological dependency on substances like heroin, opiates (Percocet, Oxycontin), and mood altering prescription drugs like Xanax. We help them break free of the addiction that is running their lives, hopefully before it destroys everything. But many of the overdose deaths are from sudden, deadly over-dosing of drugs that were of unknown purity, or were also mixed with alcohol in deadly combinations.

At some point this year,  drug overdose counts in New Jersey climbed to alarming levels. Those involved with drug abuse and overdoses noted that nearly 60% of the deaths were of kids aged 20-26.  It is true that some of these  could have been prevented if the kids were admitted into treatment (drug detox for 10 days, followed by residential rehab or other treatment). But it is also likely that many would have died even if treatment had been arranged, because the overdose was a sudden, unexpected event. They didn't know that last hit would kill them.

Here are some of the key reasons why over 115 New Jerseyans (most in their twenties) have died this year:

Prescription Drugs are considered Safer than Heroin

As young adults experimented with drugs, they watched doctors prescribe numerous high-potency medications for various purposes (post-surgical pain management, sports injury pain management, toothache pain, etc) and came to understand that these pain drugs were pure, controlled, and recommended by doctors. So when it came time to “take some drugs” to get high, those prescription pills were a safer bet than street drugs of unknown composition or purity.

Many who would say they would never engage in street drug activity or “shoot heroin” were willingly ingesting, snorting, or smoking crushed up prescription pills which were, in fact, almost chemically identical to heroin.

Prescription Opiates and Opioids were Readily Available for Years

Opiate and opioid prescription pain killers are highly addicting, yet were readily available for many years in New Jersey. When a physical addiction sets in, the addict must work hard to secure enough supply to stave off the sickness of withdrawal. That is why heroin addicts often turn to petty crimes so quickly… they need more and more drug to stave off withdrawal sickness, and become desperate for money to pay for the drugs.

In effect, the ready supply of powerful prescription drugs in New jersey enabled addictions to advance without some of the real-world pressures associated with drug seeking. Until…

Prescription Opiates and Opioids (Painkillers) suddenly became Scarce

As awareness of the prescription drug addiction problems grew, the controlled channels for addictive prescription pain killers shut down. The New Jersey Prescription Drug Monitoring Program shut down a lot of doctor shopping, which was a primary way to get more than an appropriate amount of a drug by prescription. Various enforcement efforts stepped up, including increased drug take-back and medicine cabinet clean out or lock up awareness campaigns. These efforts removed more drugs from easy reach.  Additionally, enforcement actions taken against “over prescribers” and loosely-managed pharmacies meant the steady supply of pure, high-potency drugs was shutting off.

An unintended consequence of these positive efforts to contain the pill problem was that many unacknowledged pill addictions were left without a supply of pharmaceutical grade drugs of known, controlled dose. Then…

Enter the Heroin Dealer : Supply and Demand

Did you know that many prescription pain killers are just about chemically equivalent to heroin, the most addictive street drug? Faced with an active addiction to pills and a suddenly curtailed supply chain, what would an addicted young adult in New Jersey do?After just a day or two without drugs, the withdrawal sickness can get quite severe.

The drug dealers provided an answer: heroin. Cheaper than ever, and often stronger than ever, heroin became the only acceptable substitute for an addict in desperate need of pills to prevent sickness from withdrawal.

This is where heron detox is the right move — get into a drug detox center as withdrawal sickness threatens. When the pill supply runs out, and the money runs out, the addict faces real challenges. The only options available are much more dangerous than the drug abuse has been up to that point.

Engaging in high-risk, illegal activities to raise money might seem preferable to withdrawal sickness. Taking on debt to the potentially violent drug dealer might start to seem like a good idea. Or starting to sell drugs for profit, to cover the need, despite the risks of arrest and prison. When the addiction is pushing the addict towards the most dangerous drugs on the street, and the highest risk behaviors, the right move is to get into drug detox center under medical care.

At Sunrise Detox our medical assessment quickly sets the stage for managing the addiction. Medications are used to prevent withdrawal sickness from interfering with efforts to get clean of the influence of the drugs. Our focus in on comfort and care, with sincere determination to break thru the physical dependency, while securing whatever medical and perhaps psychological treatment is needed.

The Street Drugs are often Deadly

Detox is also the right move before the addict takes the much bigger risk of ingesting or otherwise using the street version of the drugs. What's been mixed in with the drug? In what concentration?

The dealer can't be trusted. Street drugs are often mixed with various fillers to increase profits, but sometimes are kept extremely pure to encourage further dependency. How do you know what you are getting?

A hit of heroin of unknown purity and composition can be deadly for one person, while tolerable for another. Our kids may have been feeding an active addiction to moderate doses of opioids, and then left to chance their lives with what was supposed to be an equivalent dose, but turns out to be a deadly overdose.

Drugs and Alcohol Don't Mix Well

One of the more common contributors to overdose death on New Jersey is alcohol. Again, a user may have become accustomed to a specific dose of prescription drugs, and survived taking them with alcohol, but then die from a deadly mixture of the same alcohol with street heroin of unexpectedly purity or composition.

We Need Education, Prevention, Awareness, Intervention, and Treatment

All of this is needed to fix the problems we're experiencing in New Jersey right now. We need to recognize addiction for what it is – a physical and psychological dependency on substances which change our bodies and minds, so we are not in control of our actions and futures. We need to intervene as soon as we have an opportunity. Get the individual into medical detox or addiction treatment, in any way possible, to begin the process of regaining control over the addiction. And then, through determination, commitment, and unconditional love and acceptance, help move them towards successful recovery. It won't be easy, but it can be done.

Every addiction drives the victim hard towards and end, but addiction doesn't have to end in death. Intervene as soon as you have a chance, and please ask for help. If Sunrise Detox can help, call us at  888-443-3869.