Many experts on policy, politicians and the United States (US) public are not only pushing towards a change in the US drug policy, but are worried what will happen if we don’t. The current structure of our policy is turning those with the disease of addiction into criminals and we are spending a huge amount of money doing this.

President Obama commuted the sentences of 8 Americans as part of an effort to commensurate the great differences in the criminal justice system. As New Hope Recovery Center discussed previously in America's Failed Drug Policy, crack cocaine and powder cocaine held dramatically different sentences, while both substances were harmful and illegal and were essentially the same drug but were different in form. If these offenders were charged with having powder cocaine they would have a much lessor sentence. The law was changed in 2010 to remove these drastic differences, but for those who are already locked up, the change had no meaning as they were sentenced when the law did not stand. Although 8 offenders is a very small amount of people compared to the thousands are that still unjustly incarcerated, we are happy to see any type of movement in the right direction.

The House I Live In is a documentary that points out the many flaws in the United States' "War on Drugs." Most importantly it points out that criminalizing drug users and incarcerating them is not going to help us win the "War on Drugs." The United States has put money towards more prisons (which has become an extremely lucrative business for the private prison systems), bonuses and paid overtime for police enforcement that make arrests related to drugs, and spends little money on education, treatment, and early intervention practices. The House I Live in also shines a light on the unique laws that were put in place for each substance, from marijuana to heroin. It also provides information about what drugs specific races were more likely to use and how the races were treated differently by the criminal justice system.

This year another movie came out called The Anonymous People. This film also provided evidence that the United States needs to change its current methods in trying to fight the "War on Drugs."  It also proved to be a great way to inform people that alcoholics and addicts are not criminals who need to be put in jail to get "fixed." Alcoholics and Drug Addicts need treatment, therapy, support, and fellowship to gain sobriety. These resources cost significantly less than it does to incarcerate someone for years. Incarceration is useful at times, but when non violent offenders are getting numerous years without the chance of getting treatment and help, its useless. We are not treating alcoholism and drug addiction like the disease it is, we are only criminalizing it.

Some interesting facts about the War on Drugs provided by The House I Live In:

1. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world – both per capita and in terms of total people behind bars. The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it has almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.

2. 1 in every 8 state employees work for a corrections agency.

3. It costs an average of $78.95 per day to keep an inmate locked up, more than 20 times the cost of a day on probation.

4. Even though White and Black people use drugs at approximately equal rates, Black people are 10.1 times more likely to be sent to prison for drug offenses. Today, Black Americans represent 56% of those incarcerated for drug crimes, even though they comprise only 13% of the U.S. Population.

New Hope Recovery Center is located in Chicago, IL. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please call New Hope Recovery Center to find out how you can get help or help a loved one. You may also email at info@new-hope-recovery.com. Call us at 773.883.3916.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

The above Documentary: The House I Live In really pushes Americans to think about how we need to change our strategy when fighting the "War on Drugs."

Recently, Roosevelt University hosted the Third Annual Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy.  This year, the three main panels concentrated on (1) the opiate (heroin) epidemic in the Chicago area, (2) the potential Naloxone (an opiate antagonist that can reverse the effects of opiates) has to prevent overdose deaths and save lives, and (3) the future of drug policy in the United States.  While all three are immensely important topics, the latter particularly caught our attention.

Drug policy in the United States (US) is something that can either be easily overlooked, or easily misinterpreted.  The panel of policy experts explained the history of US drug policy, the current status of the “war on drugs” and the possible future of US drug policy.  Throughout the panel, it became easier to understand what has, and has not been, achieved by current US drug laws.

About 2/3 of the United States (US) budget for drug policy is spent on source reduction (interceptions at the border, source elimination in countries of origin, and apprehending suppliers in the United States).  The leftover 1/3 is spent on “demand reduction” (treatment, education and intervention programs). What these ratios tell us is simple:  the US looks at drug addiction as a criminal issue, as opposed to a public health concern.  The American Medical Association (AMA) considers addiction a disease, so why doesn't our Federal Government?

Since the early 70's when Richard Nixon launched his “War on Drugs,” many politicians and citizens alike have been under the assumption that arresting drug dealers, destroying fields of coca in Columbia and influencing other governments will help “win the war on drugs.”  What we have seen over the last 40 years is that drug addicts still exist in the US despite spending more than $2.5 TRILLION on the war on drugs.  We now see that if the disease of drug addiction is not treated, the problem itself will not go away.  Instead, we have seen an alarming increase in the availability of illicit substances.  Arrests related to drug abuse are extremely high: over 1.5 million arrests in 2010 were related to drug abuse according to the FBI.

It appears it’s time to change the way we fight this war.  Many experts on policy, politicians and the United States (US) public are not only pushing towards a change in the US drug policy, but are worried what will happen if we don’t. The current structure of our policy is turning those with the disease of addiction into criminals and we are spending a huge amount of money doing this.  It is estimated the US is spending at least $40 billion a year on the war on drugs (including police costs, jail costs, etc.). Drug lords are reaping records profits and addicted Americans are not being helped with their disease.  Increasingly, more Americans agree that it is time for a change and time that our fellow Americans get the help they really need to live a sober life - free of their addictions.

If you or someone you love suffers from drug or other addiction, please contact us for help.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

We previously discussed Chicago’s heroin epidemic and saw that the rapid increase in young adults becoming addicted to heroin is truly startling. There are steps that parents can take to prevent their loved ones from becoming a sad statistic of the heroin epidemic.

DO NOT keep prescription medications in an  easily accessible spot such as in your medicine cabinet. Protect your prescriptions by monitoring them and check periodically to see if any are missing. Particularly dangerous for your youth are the opiate-based painkillers, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. As we mentioned, these opiate-based drugs have increasingly become a major gateway to heroin use.

DO NOT assume it can’t happen to your child – no young adult is immune.

DO pay attention to your youth’s friends. Most heroin use results when current friends begin using, as opposed to getting new friends who use. If you notice signs of drug and heroin use in friends, or your youth begins to spend a great deal of time with new friends, pay attention.

DO look for warning signs of heroin use which include:

  • Loss of interest in family
  • Sudden decrease in appetite - unexplained weightloss
  • Drop in grades
  • Increased secretiveness
  • Sullen, withdrawn, depressed
  • Unusually tired
  • Silent, uncommunicative
  • Hostile, angry, uncooperative
  • Frequent requests for money
  • Missing valuables
  • Lethargic, no motivation
  • Nodding off
  • Unable to speak intelligibly, slurred or rapid-fire speech
  • Decrease in personal hygiene or personal care
  • Needle marks
  • Paraphernalia: smalls baggies, needles or needle tip covers, small cotton balls, burns on spoons, any tube-like objects such as inkless pens, straws, rolled up money
  • Large increase in mileage on car odometer

DO understand the workings of heroin. Withdrawal symptoms are horrible and often are what keep the addict using. These symptoms are quite painful and unpleasant:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Severe bone aches
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Cold sweats and chills
  • Dilated pupils
  • Involuntary spasms
  • Nausea/Vomiting

ACTIONS TO TAKE:

1. Educate your youth about drugs, and heroin in particular. Don’t rely on schools for heroin education. The typical drug education provided in schools does not adequately cover heroin dangers. Check out Heroin Prevention Education - it is a great source of information.

2. Discuss the extremely addictive nature of heroin and the horrible withdrawal symptoms.

3. Discuss the dangers and effects of prescription drugs. Listen to what your young adult thinks about prescription drugs.

4. Contact Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization (HERO) They offer guidance and education regarding heroin use.

5. Realize that heroin and opiate-based prescription drugs are VERY addictive. Your youth will almost certainly not be able to just stop on their own. They will need professional treatment and possibly medical help.

6. Understand that snorting and smoking is just as dangerous as injecting. Most people begin using heroin by using snorting and quickly move on to injecting. We have seen parents mistakenly believe that snorting pills or drugs is not a big concern - IT IS!

7. Take action IMMEDIATELY if your young adult is using heroin or any opiate-based drug. Remember how addictive heroin is AND how lethal. With a median age at death of 30, understand you are dealing with a VERY dangerous substance. Fast action is critical. Don’t let shame or guilt keep you from quickly getting help.

New Hope Recovery Center has had years of experience treating heroin addiction in young adults 18 and over. Contact us anytime at 773-883-3916 or via email at info@new-hope-recovery.com if you have questions or need help.

By Jeff Zacharias LCSW CAADC RDDP

Experts Say Drugs Are Similar, And Addicts Will Switch When One Becomes Unavailable

Chicago Tribune / Robert McCoppin

Hurt in a car crash, a Geneva woman got hooked on the painkiller Vicodin. When one doctor stopped prescribing it, she got it from others and was sneaking around so much that her husband thought she was cheating, said her counselor, Jake Epperly.

The face of drug addiction, experts say, is increasingly white, suburban and upper-middle class. New users include older adults seeking relief from pain and teens looking for a high.

The resulting abuse of prescription medications represents the greatest epidemic in drug abuse since crack cocaine ravaged cities in the 1980s and 1990s, said Epperly, owner of New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago and Geneva.

Statistics tend to back him up. Deaths from prescription drugs tripled nationwide from 2000 to 2008 and exceeded deaths from heroin and cocaine combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug deaths reached an all-time high of almost 37,500 in 2009, the tipping point in an ongoing trend reported by the Los Angeles Times: For the first time, drugs killed more people in this country than car crashes.

In Illinois, drug deaths first outnumbered traffic fatalities in 2006, when 1,410 drug-related cases were reported, according to the CDC.

As drug abuse has increased in the Chicago area, none of the traditional street drugs has gone away. Instead, heroin use has spread from the city to the surrounding counties, according to a 1998-2008 Roosevelt University study last year.

In Lake County, for example, researchers found that heroin deaths rose 130 percent from 2000 to 2009. In McHenry County, such deaths increased by 150 percent over one three-year period.

In Cook County, the number of deaths actually decreased during the decade leading up to 2008 with one notable exception, which underscores the spread of the drug: Heroin-related deaths increased 40 percent among white women, Roosevelt researchers reported.

Heroin and prescription painkiller abuse is intertwined, experts say. The two are similar enough that addicts who run out of one may take the other as a substitute.

Users often start on prescription meds because they are easily available and considered safe. Once hooked, they may move on to heroin, which is now easier to try because it's pure enough to snort or smoke rather than inject, Epperly said.

Both types of drugs have something else in common: They are depressants that kill by suppressing breathing, particularly when mixed with alcohol or other downers.

And the most common way teens get started on prescription pills, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, is through the medicine cabinet at home.

Though the war on illegal drugs has been hotly debated in recent months, prescription drug abuse involves a product that is legal but controlled — and deadly when misused.

The DEA estimates that 1 in 6 people younger than 20 has tried prescription drugs to get high.

Jack Riley, special agent in charge of the DEA's Chicago division, said he's alarmed that drug cartels are starting to supply street gangs with prescription drugs. And the gangs are sending members to doctors to fake ailments and get prescriptions.

"It'll take educators, parents and law enforcement to go after people involved in prescription drug abuse — just like we're going after the Mexican drug cartels — because they're doing that much damage," Riley said.

Special Delivery

A drug dealer is no longer someone standing on a street corner, law enforcement officials say. Instead, he or she may be, intentionally or unwittingly, a doctor or pharmacist, even a package delivery driver.

In June, an Aurora man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally deliver drugs through a package delivery company. Prosecutors said Steven Immergluck, 35, a sales representative, and others recruited a pharmacy and doctors to write and fill prescriptions for an Internet drug provider. They then delivered the goods nationwide to customers' homes.

Through just one of multiple schemes, prosecutors alleged, the defendants delivered 35,000 packages and made almost $500,000.

Similarly, a Calumet Park man was charged this month with illegally diverting the painkiller hydrocodone from the Skokie pharmacy where he worked, the DEA reported. Earl Newsome, 57, is accused of selling some 700,000 pills with an estimated street value of up to $7 million.

Among users, Bill Stelcher, a retail salesman from Hoffman Estates, knows firsthand how prescription drugs can ruin a life.

Wracked with pain from a bad back, Stelcher, 44, had surgery in 2000. For three years, he lived with excruciating pain and took a succession of painkillers, including Vicodin and Oxycontin.

He was taking 30 to 40 pills a day and stayed in bed most of the time, but a pain management clinic kept renewing his prescription, he said. Follow-up surgery finally fixed his back, but by that time he was hooked, he said.

Five or six times he tried to quit on his own, going through painful withdrawal, but he ended up back on the painkillers, he said.

"The drugs completely take over," Stelcher said. "It was killing me. If I'd had it my way, I would have been dead."

His wife got him into rehab, and he has been clean for almost seven years, he said.

"There are places you can get help," he said. "It will bring life back. You can smell and taste and see things again differently."

Heroin In The Cornfields

In Will County, the recent focus is on the troubling rise of an old scourge: heroin. A decade ago, the county had five or six heroin deaths a year, with most of the victims men in their 40s.

In recent years, the number of deaths has nearly quadrupled, to more than two dozen annually. More victims are in their teens and 20s, as John Roberts learned.

Roberts, a retired Chicago police officer, had moved his family to what he thought was a safe community in southwest suburban Homer Glen.

Two years ago, his son Billy, 19, tried heroin, Roberts said. The teen was put into rehab, then monitored closely to keep him away from other users, he said. His son went to meetings but didn't think he needed them because he wasn't an addict, Roberts said.

The teen turned up dead at a friend's house, he said.

"I thought I'd seen a lot and knew how not to become a victim," Roberts said. "It's like, 'How is this happening?'"

In response to such tragedies, Will County officials have started HELPS — Heroin Education Leads to Preventive Solutions. The program, launched in the summer, will use TV commercials and public speakers at schools and churches to warn about drug abuse.

Signs of opiate drug use include pinpoint pupils, too much sleep, too little motivation, unexplained absences and worsening school grades, counselors say.

Parents need to keep their prescription drugs away from children and throw them out when they're done with them.

More generally, the Roosevelt University researchers recommend drug education for young people, increased funding for treatment and overdose prevention.

They also recommend limited protections for those who call 911.

Overdose victims die needlessly, health advocates say, because their friends are afraid they'll get arrested if they call for help.

In memory of his son, Roberts is pushing for a new law to give drug users immunity from prosecution if they call for emergency help.