Ira Levy's Blog

Fooled you once, Now You’re Dead

My collegue John Moriarty in New Jersey has published a blog post warning of the dangers of fentanyl, a powerful drug that drug dealers in NJ are mixing into their products. It is a very important issue. Small doses of fentanyl can kill quickly.

But fentanyl isn't the only deadly substance being distributed by drug dealers. In one day, 15 people died of overdoses in one day Camden, NJ. Police say it wasn't fentanyl.

Fool me once, now I'm dead.

Drug dealers are in the business of profiting by exploiting the trust their customers place in them. Whether it comes sooner or later, the drug dealer will take everything he can, leaving the customer at great risk, or even dead.

You don't get a second chance at recovery if you're dead.

As we see more and more individuals become addicted to prescription pain killers, we see more driven to buy illegally, in order to obtain enough to sustain an active addiction and avoid withdrawal sickness. But buying illegally means doing business with a drug dealer. And drug dealers seek profits first, even if it means fooling the customer with a cheap, custom mix of chemicals that can kill.

We are here for those who need help 1-888-443-3869.


Home made Heroin : New recipe from Yeast?

Scientists are learning to make opiates (for morphene) using genetically-modified yeast, instead of more expensive poppy flowers.

Scientists are learning to make opiates (for morphine) using genetically-modified yeast, instead of more expensive poppy flowers.

Can heroin now be made at home, from yeast? And how big of a problem is this?

Scienists have been working to genetically alter yeast in order to find a cheaper way to develop opiate pain killers. Heroin is made from poppy, as are opiate analgesics such as morphine. If scientists can genetically modify yeast to replace poppy, they reduce the cost of producing these drugs.

Will they also create a new recipe for heroin that can be made at home, from something as simple as yeast? It's not likely, say those who know the science.

There are approximately 18 steps to chemically produce opiates. The process is complex and not fully understood. This new research accomplishes just one of those steps, and therefore scientists are not raising alarms about home-brewed heroin any time soon. The research causing a stir appears in DeLoache, W. C. et al. Nature Chem. Biol. (2015), and was reported in Nature (

Some law enforcement and some caring addiction professionals are asking society to “get out in front” of this development, to prevent such a nightmare scenario as cheap home-made heroin.

Krokodil Drug (desomorphine) in the USA: Why It Matters

Krocodil has been observed since early reports such as this one from Russia in 2011, when the practice of deriving crude desomorphine from codeine using petro chemicals emerged from Siberia.

Krocodil has been observed since early reports from Russia in 2011, when the practice of deriving crude desomorphine from codeine using petro chemicals emerged from Siberia.

We are hearing reports that the dangerous and hideous drug krokodil is here, in the US. Initial reports of possible krokodil use started 2 years ago, but this week we are facing what may turn out to be the first confirmed death from krokodil in Oklahoma, after several reports in Illinois.

In 2010 we first heard graphic reports of “Krokodil” abused by addicts in Russia. The horrific images and stories of addicts so lost to hope that they willingly inject themselves with visibly destructive chemicals, while drug dealers watch them die, drew media attention. To addiction treatment professionals, this was evidence of the severe end game of an addict abandoned by society, left to rot, and powerless under the forces of chemical addiction and commercial manipulation.

Krokodil, or desomorphine, is an opioid derived from morphine. It is also known as dihydrodesoxymorphine, once sold under the brand name Permonid. When codeine was deregulated in Russia a few years ago and sold over the counter, addicts seeking lower cost opioid highs experimented with codeine-containing medicines. They used any available chemical solvents to formulate desomorphine from codeine products, including gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner — or the cheapest of all: red phosphorous scraped off the heads of matches pulled from “free” matchbooks given away with cigarettes.

Krokodil is made from over the counter products containing codeine. The Russian government returned codeine to controlled status in 2012, reportedly due to the abuse of krokodil.

Drug users injecting krokodil are expected to live less than a year or two, due to the severe damage caused by injecting the drug. The horrific skin damage that leads these addicts quickly to disease and death, is caused by the solvents injected into the skin. The solvents cause blood vessels to burst, interrupting blood flow to the skin around injection sites on the arms and legs and wherever the addict injects, killing the skin.

While the media seems fascinated with the imagery of deformed and hideous addicts literally falling apart as they continue to inject, what is the real problem with krokodil? It comes down to two main issues: economics, and substance abuse treatment policy.

Krokodil is the cheapest high these addicts can find, by far. That economic fact… that these addicts cannot afford any other satisfaction from their addiction than an obviously suicidal injection of krokodil, tells the primary story behind the drug. The consequences of injecting krokodil are clear to all who witness it, which we can see from the Russian reports. Addicts surrounded by other addicts dying of the consequences, continuing to inject it. Krokodil is a high of last resort. And that fact highlights the second reason we must pay attention to krokodil: co-occurring mental disorders are behind many addictions, and must be treated.

The addicts we see with krokodil have abandoned all hope. They see no alternative to life under their addiction, except death, and choose death by krokodil over death by something else. This behavior reflects the mental state of the extreme addict left alone to die of addiction.They accept that since they have no hope, and no help, and are dying, they will die one way or another, which may include via the damage done by krokodil.

“While one can say the krokodil addict died of infection or another consequence of the skin damage caused by injecting desomorphine mixed with toxic petro chemicals, I can equally state they died of untreated mental illness, concurrent with terminal addiction”.Ira Levy, Sunrise Detox in Florida

We eagerly await news from the scientific and policy agencies on these current reports of krokodil in the US. As the investigations get under way, we hope that everyone will look at the true root causes of the problem, which is untreated behavioral disorders associated with the disease of addiction, and the economics of drug abuse and treatment.

No addict in the US should ever be left alone to conclude there is no hope, and our society should not allow the criminal conditions of drug sale and encouragement witnessed in the early Russian video reports about krokodil.

September Recovery Month Events in Florida

September is National Recovery Month, and in Florida that means opportunity to get out and celebrate hope and success with my friends and colleagues, and to meet new faces in the vibrant recovery community here. Here are some of the specific events on my calendar for September:

On Saturday, September 14th, Sunrise Detox is sponsoring the Jeff Annas Memorial Firefighters 5k in Wellington, Florida. The run will begin at 7:30am.  Run for fun and to support a great cause, and look for the Sunrise Detox to say hello.

On Sunday, September 15th, Sunrise Detox is sponsoring the Voices of Recovery fundraiser for treatment centers throughout Palm Beach County. This event is held at the South Florida Fairgrounds from 11am to 4pm .

On Friday, September 20th, Sunrise Detox and Rockers in Recovery are sponsoring the Annual Broward Addiction Recovery Center fundraiser dinner. It will be held from 1pm to 5pm.

On Saturday, September 21st, Broward county is hosting a gathering for Recovery Month at the Central Broward Regional Park from 11 am to 4 pm.

Here are some additional events that were submitted to the Recovery Month calendar. Follow the links to check for more details or to confirm that the events are still planned (some may have been updated since this was posted)

Recovery Month Events in Florida:

Block Party FL

09/27/2013 5:00PM – 8:00PM Client get together in celebration of recovery link

Candlelight Kick off FL

09/06/2013 6:00PM – 8:00PM Clients and Sponsors will gather in our Serenity Park for a moment of reflection on their path to recovery. Clients will share their stories and testimonials. A reception will follow. link

CR St. Pete presents RE-CREATION: A Conference Celebrating Recovery FL

09/14/2013 9:00AM – 4:00PM RE-CREATION: First Annual RECOVERY Conference. All alcohol and addiction professionals and counselors in Tampa Bay are welcome! This faith-based conference will feature 3 keynote speakers, addressing Recovery in our community; other topics range from Prison Ministry to Co-dependence. Agenda includes small groups workshops and registration includes box lunch. link

Florida's Recovery Month Celebration FL

09/12/2013 1:00PM – 5:00PM Strengthening Families Training will take place at SMA Behavioral Healthcare Women's Center and Project Warm for female client's and program alumni to introduce them to the Strengthening Families Approach and Community Cafe. This training will launch introduction to Community Cafe Talk and a new process for aftercare for these women so that they can learn 6 protective factors and participate in Cafe Talk as part of their aftercare process. link

Florida's Recovery Month Celebration FL

09/21/2013 4:30PM – 8:00PM September 21 5 PM Motorcycle Run finishes at the Daytona Band Shell But the festivities are just beginning . . . And it’s FREE ! Line Dancing-Pre Event activity begins at 4:30pm Escorted Bike Run-Pre Event activity begins at 1pm Recovery’s Got Talent! Kids Zone Uplifting Testimonials Resource Tables CONNECT… Promote Awareness… Support Others . . . Get out the message: Recovery in all it’s forms is ACHIEVABLE! Requests for accommodations as required under the ADA can be made a minimum of seven days in advance. link


09/07/2013 5:00PM – 7:30PM AWARD CEREMONY AND DINNER link

Lee and Pinellas County's National Recovery Month Celebration FL

09/20/2013 6:00PM – 9:00PM The Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida and Live Free Pinellas celebrate National Recovery Month. A short film by Street Chicks in Recovery will be premiered. link

Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and Recovery: A Refreshing New Perspective of Addiction, Effective Prevention and Productive Treatment FL

09/27/2013 9:00AM – 1:00PM Tranquil Shores Treatment Center and Addiction Professional Ken Donaldson are partnering to celebrate National Recovery Month by offering a unique workshop: Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and Recovery: A Refreshing New Perspective of Addiction, Effective Prevention and Productive Treatment. The cost to participate is $47.00 and is limited to the first 40 registrants. 4 CEUs are offered to mental health professionals. The primary learning objectives for the workshop are identifying the origin of addiction; understanding the role mindfulness and emotional intelligence plays; understanding the current, available treatment options; developing effective intervention tools; and review a number of proactive prevention models. Ken’s 25 years of expertise includes mental health and addiction counseling, as well as working with numerous organizations as a trusted emotional intelligence advisor. The goals of this workshop are to build awareness in the community about addiction and the impact it has on everyone, as well as offer positive options to create effective prevention and treatment modalities for a problem that impacts everyone: addiction. link

Movie night featuring “Anonymous People” FL

09/09/2013 7:30PM – 9:00PM View the documentary ” Anonymous People”, a film about people in recovery ( including high profile people in recovery) and how to advocate for change as well as reducing the stigma attached with the disease of addiction link

National Recovery Month With The TAMPA BAY RAYS! FL

09/22/2013 11:00AM – 2:30PM In celebration of National Recovery Month (September), BayCare Behavioral Health and the Tampa Bay Rays are hosting a special discounted Sunday game when the Rays take on the Baltimore Orioles. Enjoy a discounted seat at this family-friendly event and arrive early to catch pregame ceremonies in recognition of National Recovery Month. Following the game, children can come onto the field and experience what it is like to run the bases. To purchase discounted tickets for this event, visit and enter the pass code NRM2, or call (727) 940-2837. Phone purchases are available only Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Deadline to purchase is Monday, Sept. 16. Lower level outfield tickets are only $15. link


09/28/2013 8:00AM – 11:00AM This fun Recovery Run/Walk 5K celebrates recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders. Participants include serious runners and casual walkers. This event is family and pet friendly. Prizes and refreshments provided to registered participants. Register at or link

Recovery Month Rally FL

09/14/2013 3:00PM – 6:30PM We are celebrating our first Recovery Month Rally at Stepping Stone Center and will be joined by the community from The Refuge in Jacksonville Beach. Get together with patients, alumni, friends, family and the community for a gathering celebrating recovery and spreading the message of prevention and treatment link

Recovery Month Rally FL

09/28/2013 3:00PM – 6:30PM We are celebrating our first Recovery Month Rally at Lakeview Health and will be joined by the community from The Refuge in Jacksonville Beach. Get together with patients, alumni, friends, family and the community for a gathering celebrating recovery and spreading the message of prevention and treatment link

Recovery Walk FL

09/21/2013 8:00AM – 10:30AM Annual Recovery Wlak with Gateway Community Services and River Region. link

Softball and Kickball Game FL

09/14/2013 10:00AM – 1:00PM Gateway Community Services vs community partner River Region and softball and kickball annual sporting event. link

Step In the Name of Love Walk/Run FL

09/14/2013 7:30AM – 12:00PM The Orange County Drug Free Coalition in partnership with the Multi-Cultural Addictions Network will host the “Step in the Name of Love” Walk/Run at Barnett Park. This is a free event, with food provided (as long as supplies last) featured speaker, entertainment, community vendors, and recognition of the Orange County Drug Free Coalition Treatment Committee members for their hard work. link

Talent Show FL

09/20/2013 6:00PM – 8:00PM Talent Show presented by the clients link

The Silent Majority FL

09/19/2013 6:30PM – 09/23/2013 6:30PM The Silent Majority to Air on PBS station WEDU and affiliates September 19, 22 and 23rd A unique collaboration for the first time brings an independent film about teens to Public Television to celebrate National Recovery Month. The movie, “The Silent Majority” shot in Florida and New York, directed by Leslie Glass and hosted by Lindsey Glass, founders of Reach Out Recovery, spotlights surprising programs that help teens stay alcohol and substance free and impacts their lives forever. PBS Station WEDU will produce 20 minutes of panel discussion by experts to accompany the film and will broadcast “The Silent Majority” six times in September and October to an audience of 5 million in 16 counties as a potential pilot for future programming on the subject. link

Voices of Recovery Together on Pathways to Wellness FL

09/15/2013 12:00PM – 5:00PM This family fun event includes a chili cook off, cupcake contest and talent show called “Recovery’s Got Talent”. This event if fun for all age with activities for children and information and entertainment for all. link

Y12SR Yoga for 12 Step Recovery FL

09/10/2013 7:30PM – 8:30PM Combining the wisdom of yoga with the success of 12 Step philosophy to pave the road of recovery. link

Rockers in Recovery Ft. Lauderdale


From left: Jessica Kyle and Lynda Michaletti with me (Ira Levy) and Stephanie Palyvos. Jessica and Stephanie are nurses at Sunrise Detox in Ft. Lauderdale. Lynda is Lead Counselor.

Recovery can be fun! That’s what I was feeling after the awesome live concert last week in Fort Lauderdale featuring celebrity musicians from Aerosmith, Vanilla Fudge, Southside Johnny, the Billy Joel Band, and even the SNL Band. This show was a non-alcohol event at Revolution Live at which those in recovery could have a safe, great time. What a great venue – Revolution Live  was voted “Readers Choice” and “Best Rock Club”by The New Times recently, and for good reason.

The Rockers in Recovery blockbuster fundraiser was held by Susan Israel (wife of the new Broward County Sheriff Scott J. Israel) and Rockers In Recovery for The Special Olympics and The Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County on March 22, 2013.

It was awesome to see some old name favorites raising money for causes like these. The children had a great time. It was cool to see them smile. Performers included Ricky Byrd (Joan Jett and The Blackhearts), Liberty Devitto (Billy Joel Band), Christine Ohlman “The Beehive Queen” (SNL Band), Muddy Shews (Southside Johnny), Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge) and Richie Supa (Aerosmith).

I’m not the only one who loved this show, my friends and colleagues did, too. Attendees included Jessica Kyle, RN, Sunrise Detox Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Levy, National Marketing Director, Sunrise Detox, Lynda Michaletti, Lead Counselor, Sunrise Detox Ft. Lauderdale, Stephanie Palyvos, RN, Sunrise Detox Ft. Lauderdale and George St. Louis, Director of Admissions Holistic Drug Rehab Center in Miami.]

I am hoping to get Richie (from Aerosmith) or Ricky (from Joan Jett and The Blackhearts) to come to Sunrise Detox to play a set of acoustics for patients showing how you can have fun in recovery. I really look forward to being more involved with Rockers in Recovery next year.

Heroes in Recovery 6k Walk and Run South Florida

6K Walk and Run April 27, 2013 at Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek, FL

The Heroes in Recovery 6K Walk and Run April 27, 2013 at Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek, FL

What could be better than spending a spring morning having fun with friends and neighbors and getting some exercise? Supporting a worthwhile cause at the same time! Please join me on Saturday, April 27, 2013 for the “Heroes in Recovery South Florida 6K Run & Walk”.

The mission of Heroes in Recovery is to work to reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse treatment, to help raise awareness of the need for treatment, and to provide support to people in recovery. Heroes in Recovery hosts similar events across the nation. Money raised at the South Florida 6K Run/Walk will benefit Mount Bethel Human Services.

The Heroes in Recovery Run & Walk will run from 7:00am to 10:30 am at the Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek. I will be there representing Sunrise Detox, to show our proud support of this worthy organization.

There are over 23 million people in America who need help with addictions and mental health issues. Only about 3 million actually seek treatment. Heroes in Recovery believes many more people would seek treatment if they didn't sense a social stigma associated with substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Events like the South Florida 6K Run & Walk raise community awareness of the wisdom of seeking treatment and help to remove that stigma. If addiction and mental health disorders treatment is viewed in a positive way, and accepted by the community, more people needing treatment will seek treatment. In other words, more lives can be saved.

Come join me on April 27th at the Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek, for the Heroes in Recovery 6K Run & Walk. It's a great way to show our community's support of our friends and neighbors who are making the heroic effort to break the chains of addiction, to give themselves and their loved ones the great quality of life they deserve.

Pain Meds Creating New Addicts in New Jersey

Drug trafficking in New Jersey is known to be very dangerous. Due to its location between New York and Philadelphia, along with easy access via major roadways and seaports, it has become a major transportation route for illegal drugs.

We also face a serious problem with the sometimes legal, sometimes illegal practice of abusing painkillers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration notes that prescription forgery and doctor shopping are very common here. In Morris County, one doctor was caught exchanging prescriptions for services.

Why are so many people in New Jersey focused on drugs?

Many of us in the drug and alcohol treatment community generally believe addiction is a disease, something people are genetically predisposed to. There is a lot of evidence to support that claim. There is also a lot of evidence that the medical treatment people receive can affect whether or not they become an addict. Over-relying on pain medications, we're creating new addicts every day.

One of my patients was recently put on methadone after having major knee surgery. That's a recipe for disaster. The guy is asked to convalesce and before he can even fully recover from his surgery, he has a major addiction problem to deal with. We constantly see patients like this in our New Jersey detox center. Doctors give their patients large doses of medications that are known to be addicting rather than opting for solutions like physical therapy, acupuncture or massage. Even non-narcotic pain medications are a much better option.

Narcotic pain medication has its place in the medical world, but it has become far too prominent. Attempting to solve chronic pain by risking addiction doesn't help patients.

Problems this large don't go away on their own. Here, in New Jersey, we must be vigilant if we are going to curb addiction.