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Timothy McMahan King: I’ve struggled with an opioid addiction – To find a solution, we must break the silence

Westlake Legal Group Addiction-Nation Timothy McMahan King: I've struggled with an opioid addiction – To find a solution, we must break the silence Timothy McMahan King fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/opinion fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health/mental-health/addiction fox news fnc/opinion fnc c6ddc7b3-4ea0-5031-acc5-594e8c4803eb article

For years, I thought my story was just my own. I didn’t think anyone else needed to know, or would even care, that I struggled with an opioid addiction.

But since the year 2000, over 400,000 have lost their lives to this crisis, more than all the Americans who died during World War II combined.

As I saw the death toll on the rise, I knew I needed to tell my story publicly. But honestly, I wasn’t sure what difference it would make in the face of such an epidemic.

NEWT GINGRICH: ‘THE WAR AT HOME’ FOCUSES ON OPIOID ADDICTION

Then I read a study that completely changed my mind. It demonstrates just how important it is that share our stories of both hardship and recovery. When we put a face to this crisis and remove the stigma and shame that too often comes with addiction, we can help change the trajectory of this epidemic.

Two researchers, Leake and King, went to three different alcohol recovery centers and started analyzing the files and data on the patients there.

No, we aren’t going to just talk ourselves into a solution for this crisis. But it is clear that how we talk about it and what we believe about what can happen actually changes what is possible.

At the end of their time, they told the staff at these centers which clients they believed were most likely to recover.

The researchers then tracked the progress of everyone leaving the center.

A year later, the individuals they identified were still more likely than the rest to be employed and sober and to have had fewer and shorter relapses.

What had the researchers observed that allowed them to so accurately predict success?

Nothing.

Leake and King randomly assigned people to be on the list of those with a high chance of recovery.

They didn’t tell the patients, only the staff.

What changed is that the staff were more likely to believe that someone could recover. When the beliefs of the staff changed, so did the outcomes.

It doesn’t end there.

Another study showed that just the tone of voice a doctor uses, judgmental versus empathetic, can change the likelihood of someone recovering.

Small changes can have an outsized impact.

This epidemic spread under across the country under a cloak of silence, stigma and shame. Individuals, families and communities were afraid to speak out out of fear that they would be labeled as immoral, out of control or worthless.

While addictions themselves are harmful, some of the greatest harm can come from how we treat those who struggle with addiction.

We need to share our stories so that there is hope. We need to change how we talk so that those wrestling with an addiction always know that there are those who care for them and understand what they are going through.

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No, we aren’t going to just talk ourselves into a solution for this crisis. But it is clear that how we talk about it and what we believe about what can happen actually changes what is possible.

It’s time to start a better conversation about opioid addiction.

Westlake Legal Group Addiction-Nation Timothy McMahan King: I've struggled with an opioid addiction – To find a solution, we must break the silence Timothy McMahan King fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/opinion fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health/mental-health/addiction fox news fnc/opinion fnc c6ddc7b3-4ea0-5031-acc5-594e8c4803eb article   Westlake Legal Group Addiction-Nation Timothy McMahan King: I've struggled with an opioid addiction – To find a solution, we must break the silence Timothy McMahan King fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/opinion fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health/mental-health/addiction fox news fnc/opinion fnc c6ddc7b3-4ea0-5031-acc5-594e8c4803eb article

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Pennsylvania mom avoids jail time after son dies from drinking drug-laced breast milk

A Pennsylvania mother whose 10-month-old son was killed by drugs in her breast milk will not serve jail time after agreeing to a plea deal, police said Thursday.

Samantha Jones, 31, of New Britain Township, pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter, admitting she had taken drugs prior to breastfeeding her baby last spring, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

She was originally charged with homicide.

“I never wanted this to happen. I loved my little boy more than anything,” Jones said during her sentencing, according to the press release. “I loved him, and I have to live with this every day.”

PARENTS OF TEEN GIRLS HARASSED BY BRIAN SIMS RAISE OVER $100G FOR PHILLY PRO-LIFE ORG

Police responded to Jones’ home on April 2, 2018 where officers found the 10-month-old in cardiac arrest. Medical examiners concluded her son died after ingesting a mix of amphetamine, methamphetamine and methadone.

Westlake Legal Group samantha_jones Pennsylvania mom avoids jail time after son dies from drinking drug-laced breast milk fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/pennsylvania fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/us/crime fox-news/lifestyle/parenting fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/us fnc Danielle Wallace article 3373f007-3785-529e-8a1c-6cc88c415f62

Samantha Jones admitted to taking drugs before breastfeeding her 10-month old son who later died from cardiac arrest due to a deadly mix of amphetamine, methamphetamine and methadone. (Bucks County District Attorney’s Office)

Jones was legally prescribed methadone, a drug that alone is not considered unsafe for breastfeeding mothers and their babies, to help combat her narcotic addiction, the press release stated. Prosecutors argued that Jones had relapsed on drugs and failed to ask for help in caring for her newborn son.

“Samantha was in control of this situation,” Deputy District Attorney Kristin M. McElroy said. “She was in charge of a defenseless baby. He relied on her for everything, and it’s because of her actions that he’s not here today.”

Defense asked for leniency, arguing that people battling addiction are not in their normal states of mind. Jones told responding officers that she had switched to bottle formula but decided to breastfeed her son when he woke up crying at 3 a.m., People reported.

“She just said she was so tired that she didn’t have the energy to go downstairs and make a bottle,” New Britain Township Detective Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cummins testified during a preliminary hearing last year.

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She said her husband prepared a bottle for her son three hours later and then left for work. At that time, Jones fed the baby the bottle formula and fell back asleep. When she woke up again, Jones noticed her son was “distressed” and called for help. Officials said the formula bottles tested negative for drugs.

A judge sentenced Jones to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service working with parents or expectant mothers struggling with addition.

Westlake Legal Group samantha_jones Pennsylvania mom avoids jail time after son dies from drinking drug-laced breast milk fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/pennsylvania fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/us/crime fox-news/lifestyle/parenting fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/us fnc Danielle Wallace article 3373f007-3785-529e-8a1c-6cc88c415f62   Westlake Legal Group samantha_jones Pennsylvania mom avoids jail time after son dies from drinking drug-laced breast milk fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/pennsylvania fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/us/crime fox-news/lifestyle/parenting fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/us fnc Danielle Wallace article 3373f007-3785-529e-8a1c-6cc88c415f62

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Philadelphia’s move toward decriminalizing drug possession: smart or dangerous?

Westlake Legal Group philadelphias-move-toward-decriminalizing-drug-possession-smart-or-dangerous Philadelphia's move toward decriminalizing drug possession: smart or dangerous? fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/pennsylvania fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/us fnc Elizabeth Llorente article 27a480a9-7d77-53c9-a5d0-e3aa2969282f
Westlake Legal Group smoking_pot_istock Philadelphia's move toward decriminalizing drug possession: smart or dangerous? fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/pennsylvania fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/us fnc Elizabeth Llorente article 27a480a9-7d77-53c9-a5d0-e3aa2969282f

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner says that the city is moving toward the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of drugs,  on the grounds that often medical treatment – and not criminal charges – is the right solution.

On “Fox & Friends” Thursday, host Brian Kilmeade asked if Philadelphia puts the plan in place, becoming the first city in the nation with such a policy, would it be the right approach, or would it amount to “a free pass on possession, too easy on crime?”

Luke Niforators, chief of staff at the non-profit Smart Approaches to Marijana, or SMART, told Kilmeade he saw more harm than good in the Philadelphia plan.

“Obviously we don’t want to give people records,” Niforators said. “But by the same token, having these policies make drug use seem like it’s no big deal and is sending the wrong message to our country and [younger] generation.”

DENVER NARROWLY VOTES TO DECRIMINALIZE ‘MAGIC MUSHROOMS’  

“These policies say…this is more of a medical, not really a criminal, problem. They are missing the point. It’s not either/or, we can do both,” Niforators said. “There are the drug courts. We have ways to address treatment and drug issues medically while also discouraging use and having our criminal laws.”

In a recent interview with “Axios on HBO,” Krasner said that diverting people found with small amounts of drugs to treatment or community service rather than jail ultimately would be the most fair and beneficial approach for both the user and the rest of society. In 2014, Philadelphia became the first major city in the nation to pass an ordinance allowing people with less than 30 grams, which is less an ounce, of marijuana to get just a $25 ticket.

“We are talking about people who are using drugs,” Krasner said. “The vast majority of them suffering from addiction. I do not see value in convicting people like that.”

Michael C. Barnes, chairman of the not-for-profit Center for U.S. Policy, and former counsel in the White House drug policy office under President George W. Bush, agrees with Krasner.

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“This is not just decriminalization, this program would be pre-arrest diversion for people who are nonviolent or who have mental health or substance abuse disorders,” Barnes said on “Fox & Friends.” “What this means is cops on the street who actually know mental illness and substance abuse better than anybody else…have the discretion, based on their experience, to divert somebody to treatment. The crime remains the same….if it were somebody who has also committed some violent crime or is not in need of treatment.”

“We still reserve the right to file charges and sent the person to the criminal justice system,” Barnes said.

Niforators, however, remained unconvinced.

“Obviously we should have [treatment] programs,” Niforators said. “The concern on the other side…is that if we don’t have some sort of stick in place, people are going to think that drug use is no big deal…Sending a message that this is just a medical problem is not the right way to go. We have to let the public know that [drug use] should be discouraged.”

Westlake Legal Group smoking_pot_istock Philadelphia's move toward decriminalizing drug possession: smart or dangerous? fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/pennsylvania fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/us fnc Elizabeth Llorente article 27a480a9-7d77-53c9-a5d0-e3aa2969282f   Westlake Legal Group smoking_pot_istock Philadelphia's move toward decriminalizing drug possession: smart or dangerous? fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/pennsylvania fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/us fnc Elizabeth Llorente article 27a480a9-7d77-53c9-a5d0-e3aa2969282f

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Doctors eye deep brain stimulation to treat opioid addiction

Westlake Legal Group doctors-eye-deep-brain-stimulation-to-treat-opioid-addiction Doctors eye deep brain stimulation to treat opioid addiction fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health/mental-health/addiction fnc/health fnc b1016aaa-e304-5a3c-ab80-f36e0e6a1b0b Associated Press article
Westlake Legal Group opioid_treatment_AP Doctors eye deep brain stimulation to treat opioid addiction fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health/mental-health/addiction fnc/health fnc b1016aaa-e304-5a3c-ab80-f36e0e6a1b0b Associated Press article

Patient Number One is a thin man, with a scabby face and bouncy knees. His head, shaved in preparation for surgery, is wrapped in a clean, white cloth.

Years of drug use cost him his wife, his money and his self-respect, before landing him in this drab yellow room at a Shanghai hospital, facing the surgeon who in 72 hours will drill two small holes in his skull and feed electrodes deep into his brain.

The hope is that technology will extinguish his addiction, quite literally, with the flip of a switch.

The treatment — deep brain stimulation — has long been used for movement disorders like Parkinson’s. Now, the first clinical trial of DBS for methamphetamine addiction is being conducted at Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital, along with parallel trials for opioid addiction. And this troubled man is the very first patient.

FORMER US DRUG CZAR SAYS NATIONAL FOCUS ON OPIOID EPIDEMIC IS OVERLOOKING REAL CULPRIT

The surgery involves implanting a device that acts as a kind of pacemaker for the brain, electrically stimulating targeted areas. While Western attempts to push forward with human trials of DBS for addiction have foundered, China is emerging as a hub for this research.

Scientists in Europe have struggled to recruit patients for their DBS addiction studies, and complex ethical, social and scientific questions have made it hard to push forward with this kind of work in the United States, where the devices can cost $100,000 to implant.

China has a long, if troubled, history of brain surgery for drug addiction. Even today, China’s punitive anti-drug laws can force people into years of compulsory treatment, including “rehabilitation” through labor. It has a large patient population, government funding and ambitious medical device companies ready to pay for DBS research.

There are eight registered DBS clinical trials for drug addiction being conducted in the world, according to a U.S. National Institutes of Health database. Six are in China.

But the suffering wrought by the opioid epidemic may be changing the risk-reward calculus for doctors and regulators in the United States. Now, the experimental surgery Patient Number One is about to undergo is coming to America. In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greenlighted a clinical trial in West Virginia of DBS for opioid addiction.

___

HUMAN EXPERIMENTS

Patient Number One insisted that only his surname, Yan, be published; he fears losing his job if he is identified.

He said doctors told him the surgery wasn’t risky. “But I still get nervous,” he said. “It’s my first time to go on the operating table.”

Three of Yan’s friends introduced him to meth in a hotel room shortly after the birth of his son in 2011. They told him: Just do it once, you’ve had your kid, you won’t have problems.

Smoking made Yan feel faint and slightly unhinged. Later, he found meth brought crystalline focus to his mind, which he directed at one thing: Cards. Every time Yan smoked, he gambled. And every time he gambled, he lost — all told, around $150,000 since he started using drugs, he estimated.

His wife divorced him. He rarely saw his son.

WARREN UNVEILS $100 BILLION PLAN TO TACKLE OPIOID CRISIS

Yan checked into a hospital for detox, moved to another town to get away from bad influences, took Chinese traditional medicine. But he relapsed every time. “My willpower is weak,” he said.

Last year his father, who had a friend who had undergone DBS surgery at Ruijin, gave him an ultimatum: Back to rehab or brain surgery. “Of course, I chose surgery,” Yan said. “With surgery, I definitely have the chance to get my life back.”

Before there were brain implants in China there was brain lesioning. Desperate families of heroin users paid thousands of dollars for unproven and risky surgeries in which doctors destroyed small clumps of brain tissue. Brain lesioning quickly became a profit center at some hospitals, but it also left a trail of patients with mood disorders, lost memories and altered sex drives.

In 2004, China’s Ministry of Health ordered a halt to brain lesioning for addiction at most hospitals. Nine years later, doctors at a military hospital in Xi’an reported that roughly half of the 1,167 patients who had their brains lesioned stayed off drugs for at least five years.

DBS builds on that history. But unlike lesioning, which irreversibly kills brain cells, the devices allow brain interventions that are — in theory — reversible. The technology has opened a fresh field of human experimentation globally.

“As doctors we always need to think about the patients,” said Dr. Sun Bomin, director of Ruijin Hospital’s functional neurosurgery department. “They are human beings. You cannot say, ‘Oh, we do not have any help, any treatment for you guys.'”

Sun said he has served as a consultant for two Chinese companies that make deep brain stimulators — SceneRay Corp. and Beijing PINS Medical Co. He has tried to turn Ruijin into a center of DBS research, not just for addiction, but also Tourette syndrome, depression and anorexia.

In China, DBS devices can cost less than $25,000. Many patients pay cash.

“You can rest assured for the safety of this operation,” Yan’s surgeon, Dr. Li Dianyou, told him. “It is no problem. When it comes to effectiveness, you are not the first one, nor the last one. You can take it easy because we have done this a lot.”

In fact, there are risks. There is a small chance Yan could die of a brain hemorrhage. He could emerge with changes to his personality, seizures, or an infection. And in the end, he may go right back on drugs.

____

A BUZZING DRILL

Some critics believe this surgery should not be allowed.

They argue that such human experiments are premature, and will not address the complex biological, social and psychological factors that drive addiction. Scientists don’t fully understand how DBS works and there is still debate about where electrodes should be placed to treat addiction. There is also skepticism in the global scientific community about the general quality and ethical rigor — particularly around issues like informed consent — of clinical trials done in China.

“It would be fantastic if there were something where we could flip a switch, but it’s probably fanciful at this stage,” said Adrian Carter, who heads the neuroscience and society group at Monash University in Melbourne. “There’s a lot of risks that go with promoting that idea.”

The failure of two large-scale, U.S. clinical trials on DBS for depression around five years ago prompted soul-searching about what threshold of scientific understanding must be met in order to design effective, ethical experiments.

“We’ve had a reset in the field,” said Dr. Nader Pouratian, a neurosurgeon at UCLA who is investigating the use of DBS for chronic pain. He said it’s “a perfectly appropriate time” to research DBS for drug addiction, but only “if we can move forward in ethical, well-informed, well-designed studies.”

In China, meanwhile, scientists are charging ahead.

At 9 a.m. on a grey October Friday in Shanghai, Dr. Li drilled through Yan’s skull and threaded two electrodes down to his nucleus accumbens, a small structure near the base of the forebrain that has been implicated in addiction.

Yan was awake during the surgery. The buzzing of the drill made him tremble.

At 4 p.m. the same day, Yan went under general anesthesia for a second surgery to implant a battery pack in his chest to power the electrodes in his skull.

Three hours later, Yan still hadn’t woken from the anesthesia. His father began weeping. His doctors wondered if drug abuse had somehow altered his sensitivity to anesthesia.

Finally, after 10 hours, Yan opened his eyes.

___

BODY COUNT

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the decade ending in 2017 — increasingly, from synthetic opioids that come mainly from China, U.S. officials say. That’s more than the number of U.S. soldiers who died in World War II and Vietnam combined.

The body count has added urgency to efforts to find new, more effective treatments for addiction. While doctors in the U.S. are interested in using DBS for addiction, work funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health is still focused on experiments in animals, not people.

At least two U.S. laboratories dropped clinical trials of DBS for treating alcoholism over concerns about study design and preliminary results that didn’t seem to justify the risks, investigators who led the studies told The Associated Press.

“The lack of scientific clarity, the important but strict regulatory regime, along with the high cost and risk of surgery make clinical trials of DBS for addiction in the U.S. difficult at the present time,” said Dr. Emad Eskandar, the chairman of neurological surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

China’s studies have offered mixed results. Sun and his colleagues have published one case study, describing a patient who used heroin and fatally overdosed three months after getting DBS. But a separate pilot study published in January by doctors at a military hospital in Xi’an showed that five of eight heroin users stayed off drugs for two years after DBS surgery.

Based on those results, SceneRay is seeking Chinese regulatory approval of its DBS device for opioid addiction, and funding a multi-site clinical trial targeting 60 participants. SceneRay chairman Ning Yihua said his application for a clinical trial in the U.S. was blocked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

But in February, the FDA greenlighted a small, separate trial of DBS for opioid use disorder, said Dr. Ali Rezai, who is leading the study at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. They hope to launch the trial in June, with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The FDA declined comment.

“People are dying,” Rezai said. “Their lives are devastated. It’s a brain issue. We need to explore all options.”

___

‘YOU CAME TOO LATE’

Two unsteady days after Yan’s surgery, doctors switched on his DBS device. As the electrodes activated, he felt a surge of excitement. The current running through his body kept him awake; he said he spent the whole night thinking about drugs.

The next day, he sat across from Dr. Li, who used a tablet computer to remotely adjust the machine thrumming inside Yan’s head.

“Cheerful?” Li asked as the touched the controls on the tablet.

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“Yes,” Yan answered.

Li changed the settings. “Now?”

“Agitated,” Yan said. He felt heat in his chest, then a beating sensation, numbness and fatigue. Yan began to sweat.

Li made a few more modifications. “Any feelings now?”

“Pretty happy now,” Yan said.

He was in high spirits. “This machine is pretty magical. He adjusts it to make you happy and you’re happy, to make you nervous and you’re nervous,” Yan said. “It controls your happiness, anger, grief and joy.”

Yan left the hospital the next morning.

More than six months later, he said he’s still off drugs. With sobriety, his skin cleared and he put on 20 pounds. When his friends got back in touch, he refused their drugs. He tried to rekindle his relationship with his ex-wife, but she was pregnant with her new husband’s child.

“The only shame is that you came too late,” she told him.

Sometimes, in his new life, he touches the hard cable in his neck that leads from the battery pack to the electrodes in his brain. And he wonders: What is the machine doing inside his head?

Westlake Legal Group opioid_treatment_AP Doctors eye deep brain stimulation to treat opioid addiction fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health/mental-health/addiction fnc/health fnc b1016aaa-e304-5a3c-ab80-f36e0e6a1b0b Associated Press article   Westlake Legal Group opioid_treatment_AP Doctors eye deep brain stimulation to treat opioid addiction fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health/mental-health/addiction fnc/health fnc b1016aaa-e304-5a3c-ab80-f36e0e6a1b0b Associated Press article

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Former US drug czar says national focus on opioid epidemic is overlooking real culprit

Westlake Legal Group former-us-drug-czar-says-national-focus-on-opioid-epidemic-is-overlooking-real-culprit Former US drug czar says national focus on opioid epidemic is overlooking real culprit fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/health fnc Elizabeth Llorente c0155725-6ea8-5134-991c-be45a5b55e8e article
Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6033412767001_6033400296001-vs Former US drug czar says national focus on opioid epidemic is overlooking real culprit fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/health fnc Elizabeth Llorente c0155725-6ea8-5134-991c-be45a5b55e8e article

William Bennett, the nation’s first drug czar, said Monday that the debate about the opioid overdose epidemic wrongly focuses on prescription drugs.

While the government’s opioid crackdown has involved reducing the supply of legal opioids and reducing painkiller prescription rates, black market opioids such as illicit fentanyl and heroin actually have been the driving force of the epidemic in recent years, said Bennett during an interview on “Fox & Friends.”

“The nature of the problem has changed in the last two or three years,” said Bennett, who served as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H. W. Bush. “It’s now fentanyl, it’s now heroin” that account for most of the overdoses.

A key reason, Bennett said, is that fentanyl and heroin are cheaper than prescription drugs.

AS DOCTORS TAPER OR END OPIOID PRESCRIPTIONS, MANY PATIENTS DRIVEN TO DESPAIR, SUICIDE

“When I was up in New Hampshire, they told me you [can pay] $10 for a pill –to get an Oxycontin, [but] two bucks to get heroin, three bucks to get fentanyl.”

“And that’s the nature of the problem,” Bennett said. “You talk to law enforcement people that will tell you they haven’t seen a lot of the other stuff – OxyContin — on the street but they’re loaded with these cases of fentanyl.”

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report last week said that about 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017. Nearly 48,000 involved at least one type of opioid, roughly 30,000 involved fentanyl or some other kind of synthetic opioid, 15,500 involved heroin, and 14,500 involved prescription opioid painkillers. Other government data have indicated that many people who overdosed on prescription opioids stole them or obtained them from the person to whom they were prescribed.

Bennett said he is glad to see pharmaceutical companies prosecuted if they engaged in illegal activities – such as lying about the addictive properties of some painkillers — in order to boost sales of prescription opioids.

Just last week, in the latest of a series of actions against pharmaceutical companies, the founder of a highly addictive legal fentanyl spray was convicted on charges related to paying doctors millions in bribes to prescribe the drug.

The founder, John Kapoor, the 76-year-old former chairman of Insys Therapeutics, was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy after 15 days of jury deliberations.

TOUGH NEW OPIOID POLICIES LEAVE SOME CANCER AND POST-SURGERY PATIENTS WITHOUT PAINKILLERS

“They should be investigated and convicted if they committed a crime,” Bennett said, adding, “What I am concerned about is the emphasis [is] so much on these pharma companies – on OxyContin and Oxycodone—yes, they can be dangerous, yes, people have gotten addicted.”

“But most of the deaths that come from those drugs and where you see deaths from OxyContin, and Oxycodone, prescription drugs, it’s because of illegal diversion.”

The federal crackdown on legal opioids has led many prescribers to forcibly taper down or altogether abandon chronic pain patients who have in many cases responsibly taken painkillers for years in order to function.

Many states have implemented strict regulations as a result of a 2016 CDC guideline on opioid prescribing.

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The CDC has said often that the guideline was not meant to be enforced, and that it was issued to help primary care physicians prescribing opioids to a first-time user.

“Most people, the vast majority of the people, who are prescribed these [painkillers] do not abuse them,” Bennett said. “The CDC had to come back and issue another kind of guidance, saying a lot of people who need pain pills are not getting them.”

Both the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned doctors last month not to abruptly stop prescribing opioid painkillers to patients who are taking them for chronic debilitating pain, generally lasting more than three months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6033412767001_6033400296001-vs Former US drug czar says national focus on opioid epidemic is overlooking real culprit fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/health fnc Elizabeth Llorente c0155725-6ea8-5134-991c-be45a5b55e8e article   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6033412767001_6033400296001-vs Former US drug czar says national focus on opioid epidemic is overlooking real culprit fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/health fnc Elizabeth Llorente c0155725-6ea8-5134-991c-be45a5b55e8e article

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Former US drug czar says national focus on opioid epidemic is overlooking real culprit

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William Bennett, the nation’s first drug czar, said Monday that the debate about the opioid overdose epidemic wrongly focuses on prescription drugs.

While the government’s opioid crackdown has involved reducing the supply of legal opioids and reducing painkiller prescription rates, black market opioids such as illicit fentanyl and heroin actually have been the driving force of the epidemic in recent years, said Bennett during an interview on “Fox & Friends.”

“The nature of the problem has changed in the last two or three years,” said Bennett, who served as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H. W. Bush. “It’s now fentanyl, it’s now heroin” that account for most of the overdoses.

A key reason, Bennett said, is that fentanyl and heroin are cheaper than prescription drugs.

AS DOCTORS TAPER OR END OPIOID PRESCRIPTIONS, MANY PATIENTS DRIVEN TO DESPAIR, SUICIDE

“When I was up in New Hampshire, they told me you [can pay] $10 for a pill –to get an Oxycontin, [but] two bucks to get heroin, three bucks to get fentanyl.”

“And that’s the nature of the problem,” Bennett said. “You talk to law enforcement people that will tell you they haven’t seen a lot of the other stuff – OxyContin — on the street but they’re loaded with these cases of fentanyl.”

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report last week said that about 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017. Nearly 48,000 involved at least one type of opioid, roughly 30,000 involved fentanyl or some other kind of synthetic opioid, 15,500 involved heroin, and 14,500 involved prescription opioid painkillers. Other government data have indicated that many people who overdosed on prescription opioids stole them or obtained them from the person to whom they were prescribed.

Bennett said he is glad to see pharmaceutical companies prosecuted if they engaged in illegal activities – such as lying about the addictive properties of some painkillers — in order to boost sales of prescription opioids.

Just last week, in the latest of a series of actions against pharmaceutical companies, the founder of a highly addictive legal fentanyl spray was convicted on charges related to paying doctors millions in bribes to prescribe the drug.

The founder, John Kapoor, the 76-year-old former chairman of Insys Therapeutics, was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy after 15 days of jury deliberations.

TOUGH NEW OPIOID POLICIES LEAVE SOME CANCER AND POST-SURGERY PATIENTS WITHOUT PAINKILLERS

“They should be investigated and convicted if they committed a crime,” Bennett said, adding, “What I am concerned about is the emphasis [is] so much on these pharma companies – on OxyContin and Oxycodone—yes, they can be dangerous, yes, people have gotten addicted.”

“But most of the deaths that come from those drugs and where you see deaths from OxyContin, and Oxycodone, prescription drugs, it’s because of illegal diversion.”

The federal crackdown on legal opioids has led many prescribers to forcibly taper down or altogether abandon chronic pain patients who have in many cases responsibly taken painkillers for years in order to function.

Many states have implemented strict regulations as a result of a 2016 CDC guideline on opioid prescribing.

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The CDC has said often that the guideline was not meant to be enforced, and that it was issued to help primary care physicians prescribing opioids to a first-time user.

“Most people, the vast majority of the people, who are prescribed these [painkillers] do not abuse them,” Bennett said. “The CDC had to come back and issue another kind of guidance, saying a lot of people who need pain pills are not getting them.”

Both the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned doctors last month not to abruptly stop prescribing opioid painkillers to patients who are taking them for chronic debilitating pain, generally lasting more than three months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6033412767001_6033400296001-vs Former US drug czar says national focus on opioid epidemic is overlooking real culprit fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/health fnc Elizabeth Llorente c0155725-6ea8-5134-991c-be45a5b55e8e article   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6033412767001_6033400296001-vs Former US drug czar says national focus on opioid epidemic is overlooking real culprit fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime/drugs fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/topic/fox-news-flash fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/health fnc Elizabeth Llorente c0155725-6ea8-5134-991c-be45a5b55e8e article

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Trump calls on parties to ‘come together’ after ‘costly & time consuming investigations’

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In a pair of Twitter messages late Thursday night, President Trump called for Republicans and Democrats to “get back to business” after what he described as two years of “each party trying their best to make the other party look as bad as possible.”

The president also issued a to-do list for Congress for the second half of his term, with items including immigration reform, investment in infrastructure and working to lower prices on prescription drugs.

“The Mueller Report strongly stated that there was No Collusion with Russia (of course) and, in fact, they were rebuffed … at every turn in attempts to gain access,” the president wrote.

OBAMA TOOK TRUMP’S WIN AS A PERSONAL INSULT, BOOK SAYS

“But now Republicans and Democrats must come together for the good of the American people. No more costly & time consuming investigations. Lets do Immigration (Border), Infrastructure, much lower drug prices & much more – and do it now!”

The messages came soon after a Fox News interview with President Trump — conducted by Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge – aired on “Fox News @ Night.”

During that interview, Trump claimed that his administration provided “total transparency” during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and other probes, and that it was now time for the country to move on.

“They shouldn’t be looking anymore,” Trump told Herridge, referring to congressional Democrats. “It’s done.”

But House Democrats were angered Thursday when Attorney General William Barr failed to show up to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the Mueller findings.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL: AG BARR GETS ATTACKED BECAUSE HIS PROBE ENDANGERS POWERFUL PEOPLE

“The very system of government of the United States, the system of limited power, the system of not having a president as a dictator is very much at stake,” committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said at Thursday’s hearing.

But it seems that Trump is looking past partisan bickering and working toward accomplishments he can point to with his 2020 re-election campaign looming ahead.

Just two days earlier, the president met at the White House with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and reportedly worked out a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. It was a far cry from the contentious meeting among the same group just four months ago – which led to a record-setting partial shutdown of the federal government.

On Tuesday, the White House said Trump plans a similar meeting with leading Democrats soon to discuss drug prices, Reuters reported.

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Several drugmakers froze prices last year following criticism from the president, but price hikes resumed this year, according to the report.

In late April, the president and first lady Melania Trump attended the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, where the president spoke of his administration’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and stop the flow of drugs arriving through the U.S.-Mexico border.

Also in April, special White House adviser Jared Kushner disclosed that he was preparing a merit-based immigration plan for the president that would favor immigrants with high-level job skills over those who already have family members in the U.S.

Earlier Thursday, Trump tweeted the results of a Rasmussen poll that showed his job approval rating at 51 percent among the public.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6032421230001_6032427093001-vs Trump calls on parties to ‘come together’ after ‘costly & time consuming investigations’ fox-news/us/infrastructure-across-america fox-news/us/immigration/border-security fox-news/us/immigration fox-news/shows/fox-news-night fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/politics fnc Dom Calicchio article 9df9a939-7313-5640-ae6e-6ff89595b82c   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6032421230001_6032427093001-vs Trump calls on parties to ‘come together’ after ‘costly & time consuming investigations’ fox-news/us/infrastructure-across-america fox-news/us/immigration/border-security fox-news/us/immigration fox-news/shows/fox-news-night fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/politics fnc Dom Calicchio article 9df9a939-7313-5640-ae6e-6ff89595b82c

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Trump touts success in battling opioid epidemic during Atlanta speech

Westlake Legal Group trump-touts-success-in-battling-opioid-epidemic-during-atlanta-speech Trump touts success in battling opioid epidemic during Atlanta speech fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/politics/executive/white-house fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/politics fnc d6f41057-2f7b-5a13-820d-6efc27a10408 article Andrew O'Reilly
Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6029528216001_6029527070001-vs Trump touts success in battling opioid epidemic during Atlanta speech fox-news/topic/opioid-crisis fox-news/politics/executive/white-house fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/politics fnc d6f41057-2f7b-5a13-820d-6efc27a10408 article Andrew O'Reilly

President Trump on Wednesday touted his administration’s success in combating the opioid epidemic in the United States, while acknowledging that there is still more work to do.

Speaking at the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, the president’s remarks noted the steps his administration has taken to battle the epidemic, but also veered into his frequent critique of drugs coming over the U.S.’s southern border into the country.

“We will not solve this epidemic overnight,” Trump said to an audience of elected leaders and health and law enforcement officials gathered in the Georgia capital. “But we will never stop until the job is done.”

Trump added: “We will succeed and we’re making tremendous progress.”

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The president has declared opioids a national health emergency, while First Lady Melania Trump, who also spoke at the conference, focuses on the issue in her national “Be Best” child welfare campaign.

“I’m proud of this administration’s historic progress,” the first lady said before introducing her husband.

Opioid abuse claimed a record nearly 48,000 American lives in 2017. An estimated 2 million people are addicted to the drugs, which include both legal prescription pain medications and illegal drugs like heroin.

There have been signs of progress.The number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers filled in the U.S. fell substantially in 2017. Still, it’s unclear whether the opioid problem is on the decline.

Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s top advisers, said at a White House gaggle Wednesday that Twitter and Google have helped the administration combat the opioid and drug crisis. So far, the administration has helped collect 3.7 million pounds of unused and expired medications — enough to fill seven Air Force One planes, she said.

The next “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” is Saturday.

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Conway said she met Tuesday with drug enforcement and officials from Google, which is helping the administration by displaying links to about 5,500 locations where people can drop off unused and expired pills.

Trump also hit Mexico for allowing heroin and other opioids to come into the country, and promised that his much-touted border wall will help stem the flow of drugs into the U.S.

“Heroin alone kills 300 Americans, 90 percent of which enter the Southern Border,” Trump said.

While it’s true that the vast majority of heroin in the U.S. comes from Mexico, virtually all of it makes its way into the country through legal ports of entry and not by traffickers sneaking it across the border unnoticed.

“A small percentage of all heroin seized by CBP along the land border was between Ports of Entry (POEs),” the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a 2018 report.

There is also contention over Trump’s claims of progress in combating the opioid epidemic.

Keith Humphreys, a drug policy adviser in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations who now is at Stanford University, said some states are making progress in combating opioids abuse, but not because of Trump’s actions. Humphreys cited Rhode Island and Vermont as examples. He also said some states have regressed.

Humphreys said the president’s declaration of opioids addiction as a public health emergency in 2017 failed to translate into significant concrete action. Members of Congress, he said, “figured out they were going to have to do it themselves and they did.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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2020 candidates pushing pot legalization on campaign trail

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Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6028849090001_6028844673001-vs 2020 candidates pushing pot legalization on campaign trail fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox news fnc/politics fnc Faith Mangan article Alicia Acuna 6b09e840-bbb6-5768-8da7-d4c6f46d0a81

The record number of 2020 Democratic contenders for U.S. president may be divided on a host of issues, but on marijuana legalization, most find themselves on the same page.

But how they parse it, and how far they’re willing to go, varies somewhat.

“I think what we’re seeing in 2020 is that this is becoming a litmus test in the Democratic primaries as all of these different candidates are competing to be perceived as the most progressive candidate. This question is going to be one of those tests that the progressive activists use to decide who is truly most progressive,” said Emily Ekins, research fellow and director of polling at The Cato Institute.

A Quinnipiac University poll last month found 60 percent of registered voters think marijuana should be legal in the United States. And, a few percentage points more from the same poll, 63 percent, are in favor of erasing criminal records for marijuana possession.

Campaigning in New Hampshire this past weekend, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said: “it’s such a mess,” the country has created a “weird patchwork.” He pointed out a lot of people are in prison for non-violent offenses and “everything about the way this has been handled is wrong…. states are leading the way but the federal government needs to do the same.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has spearheaded the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize marijuana at the federal level. The bill would take marijuana off the list of controlled substances and expunge criminal records of those who have served federal time for use and possession.

“How can we elect presidents who used marijuana, but not let people vote for president for the rest of their lives, because of such a charge?” Booker said during the rollout. The legislation is co-sponsored in part by fellow candidates Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders.

Recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

CORY BOOKER, OTHER 2020 DEM PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS INTRODUCE FEDERAL MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION BILL

Candidate and former Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, oversaw the grand experiment when his state became the first to legalize recreational marijuana. He opposed the amendment, before voters passed it.

Shortly after jumping into the presidential race, he told reporters: “We should make sure that the federal laws are changed so that those states that have chosen to legalize marijuana can do so in an efficient and safe manner.”

He also wants to see legal banking for the industry, pointing out, “…if you want a recipe for how you get corruption and create a generation of gangsters, make sure that a new industry is all cash.”

Sanders has been talking pro-weed on the stump for years. Earlier this month in Pittsburgh, he marveled how far the country has come.

“Oh Bernie, you can’t do that. Oh my god, the world will fall apart, if you legalize marijuana,” he said he was told at first. “Well in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of states are now doing, just that.”

“I think what happened is Americans kind of wanted to see what would happen if we legalized this drug and when things seemed to go OK, people became more comfortable with it and people also started to believe that marijuana was not especially harmful to people’s health,” Ekins said.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke makes it a regular talking point on the trail. He lines up with others on ending the prohibition and expunging records. Adding, at a recent rally in Houston: “Let’s end cash bail. Let’s end for-profit prisons. And let us, once and for all, end the war on drugs.”

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President Trump has been more vocal regarding the flow of illegal drugs coming over the border. White House spokesperson Sara Sanders has said the president believes in enforcing federal law. As a candidate, he stated it should be up to the states.

“I think this is going to be an issue for the Democrats and they’re going to hope to try to use this against Trump in the general. But I don’t think it’s going to work very well, because Trump has come out and said that he supports letting states decide if they want to legalize marijuana at the state level,” Ekins said.

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She notes, “There are very few issues where Americans have so dramatically changed their attitudes. Same sex marriage is one of them, marijuana legalization is the other.”

Here is a look at other campaigns, which responded to Fox News requests for a position on recreational marijuana:

John Delaney, former U.S. Representative from Maryland

Has said he supports the federal government getting out of the way of states that want to legalize or decriminalize marijuana.

Andrew Yang, entrepreneur

Supports: full legalization of marijuana at the federal level and removing it from the controlled substances list; expunging the federal convictions of all marijuana-related use or possession offenses; identifying non-violent drug offenders for probation and potential early release.

Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Representative from Hawaii

Her campaign team pointed to this link for a summary. The campaign’s policy director says Gabbard has been fighting to decriminalize marijuana and she is on the House Cannabis Caucus and has been endorsed by NORML.

Jay Inslee, governor of Washington

The campaign said he successfully implemented the legalization of marijuana as governor and is now offering pardons to those with marijuana offense on their record.

Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator from Minnesota

“I support the legalization of marijuana and believe that states should have the right to determine the best approach to marijuana within their borders,” the campaign said in a statement.

Eric Swalwell, U.S. Representative from California

The campaign says the former prosecutor has consistently has co-sponsored bills to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.  He also has co-sponsored bills to provide for taxation of marijuana.

Seth Moulton, U.S. Representative from Massachusetts

According to his campaign, he has said in the past people will smoke marijuana regardless, we should find ways to regulate it and make it safe. In an interview Monday, he said, criminal justice reform is needed and he has been an advocate for legalizing marijuana.

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Dr. Nicole Saphier: What is kratom? And why is it being promoted as a ‘wellness’ product to our kids?

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My college-age son called me recently and asked me about “kratom,” saying that it was all over campus and even some of his friends were trying it. Thankfully, I got the phone call asking about what it was rather than him just hopping on the bandwagon of trying the latest trend. “What is it?” he asked. And for once, I had to admit, that although I had heard of it, I didn’t know much else about it.

This concerned me on many levels. How is there a “wellness” product being promoted and sold all over a college campus and I, a doctor and a parent, know very little about it?

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And now, after doing my research, I feel compelled to spread the word about not only what this trendy new supplement is, but to warn everyone of the dangers associated with it.

Mitragyna speciosa, commonly known as “kratom,” comes from a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia – primarily Malaysia and Thailand. Most commonly the leaves are brewed as a tea or even chewed directly. My son tells me that the tea form is most common, and a tea labeled “green tea and kratom” is quite popular and being sold in most stores around his campus.

However, kratom is not a safe, benign plant. In fact, emerging data is providing strong evidence that kratom and its compounds work on the same central (brain) nervous system receptors as opioids, and therefore have the potential for addiction and abuse.

It is because of this opioid association that people are using kratom for pain relief and the euphoric high. But patients are also, according to the FDA, using kratom to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms.  Alarmingly this can lead to further dependence, withdrawal and abuse.

Manufacturers of these products should not be allowed to mislead consumers into believing kratom is a “safe” alternative to opioids or that it is an effective therapy for any disorder. 

Since kratom products are not regulated or required to be tested, there may be a risk of contamination by toxic substances or other drugs. The use of kratom is also associated with serious side effects such as seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms.

Earlier this month, the FDA issued a warning about heavy metal contamination in 30 kratom products they tested. So not only are you introducing an opioid-like substance into your system, but you may also be slowly poisoning yourself with lead or another heavy metal that causes long-term damage.

There have even been reports of kratom being laced with other opioids like hydrocodone. Using kratom, especially in combination with opioids or other psychoactive drugs that affect the brain, has resulted in death.

But even when not mixed with other prescription or illicit drugs, kratom might result in death. There’s clear data on the increasing harms associated with kratom. Calls to U.S. poison control centers regarding kratom have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015, with hundreds of calls made each year.

And U.S. health officials are now saying overdose deaths involving the herbal supplement are more common than previously reported.

A government report released last week said kratom was involved in 91 overdose deaths in 27 states. Officials previously said they knew of 44 nationally. Although the majority who died had also taken heroin, fentanyl or other drugs, kratom was detected as the only substance in seven of those deaths.

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We are still in the midst of a monumental opioid epidemic. Manufacturers of these products should not be allowed to mislead consumers into believing kratom is a “safe” alternative to opioids or that it is an effective therapy for any disorder.

Bottom line, there are no FDA-approved uses for kratom, and we are seeing very concerning evidence about its safety. So in no way can I tell my son I think it’s OK for him or his friends to even experiment with this substance.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM NICOLE SAPHIER, M.D.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-567571b366cb4110b8dd688f3f697f58 Dr. Nicole Saphier: What is kratom? And why is it being promoted as a ‘wellness’ product to our kids? Nicole Saphier fox-news/opinion fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health fox news fnc/opinion fnc d7001581-1f2e-56a7-ae98-c8bac645276c article   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-567571b366cb4110b8dd688f3f697f58 Dr. Nicole Saphier: What is kratom? And why is it being promoted as a ‘wellness’ product to our kids? Nicole Saphier fox-news/opinion fox-news/health/mental-health/drug-and-substance-abuse fox-news/health fox news fnc/opinion fnc d7001581-1f2e-56a7-ae98-c8bac645276c article

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