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From The Front Lines: The Latest Drug Trends Of 2016

Posted by David Vittoria, MSW, CAP, CPP, ICADC, NCAC II, Assistant Vice President, South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center on September 21, 2016 at 11:19 AM

As an Informed Families board member and the Director of South Miami Hospital’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center (ATRC), I’m grateful to share my experience and observations about drug trends from the “front lines” at Baptist Health South Florida. Boy, we really do see it all. On a regular basis, I see many people at their lowest point, struggling with the disease of addiction. For many who attend our programs, I get to witness a wonderful transformation back into good health. However, I am dedicated to doing whatever I can to prevent children and families from getting into drugs in the first place.  

Leading up to the start of each school year, we focus our energy on preparing kids for a success, whether by purchasing the necessary school supplies, meeting with new teachers and mapping out our fall schedule. One thing we hope to never worry about is our kids falling into the wrong crowd and adopting new negative and dangerous behaviors, such as using drugs. But, hoping isn’t enough sometimes. As parents, we need to educate ourselves and take action to protect our children. By staying involved with our children, contributing to their self-esteem, setting healthy boundaries, monitoring behavior, getting to know their teachers, knowing their friends, despite any pushback we might get from them, we are truly making a difference and reducing the likelihood that they will get into trouble.  

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Topics: prescription drug abuse, David Vittoria, recovery, heroin, prescription drugs, prevention, opioids, fentanyl

President's Message - February 2016

Posted by Peggy B. Sapp, President & CEO on February 26, 2016 at 1:11 PM

Informed Families Is About Drug Prevention, Not Drug Abuse

Please repeat this 7 times and then ask, “What’s the difference?” “How do I learn Prevention?”

After several phone calls from friends and family telling me to make sure I watched “Chasing Heroin” on Frontline, I tuned in and now I’m asking you to please watch “Chasing Heroin” on Frontline.  It will definitely debunk a lot of myths that society has created about who uses drugs, why they use drugs and how people get out of addiction.

Actually, Informed Families could have written the show; several of the speakers are professional colleagues and good friends. I’ve served on both The White House Office of Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and National Institute of Drug Abuse at NIH.  I have tremendous respect for Dr. Tom McLellan, a great researcher and former head of Demand Reduction at The White House ONDCP.  Tom is great person and parent when he levels and admits that all the researchers still don’t know where to send a kid when he/she has a drug problem. Tom lost a son to drugs.  Hats off to the brilliant Dr. Nora Volkow, head of NIDA, when she says, “no one has all the answers about the brain.”

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Topics: President's Message, heroin, prescription drugs, prevention, nida, ondcp

From The Front Lines: Rx for Heroin Addiction

Posted by David Vittoria, MSW, CAP, CPP, ICADC, NCAC II, Assistant Vice President, South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center on February 24, 2016 at 2:44 PM

Eric, a teenager, started taking Oxycontin from his uncle’s medicine cabinet and using it at parties with his friends.

Harold, a 45-year-old father and construction worker, suffers from chronic back pain and was prescribed Percocet by a primary care physician lacking training in pain management.

Both are now heroin addicts.

How did this happen?

According to the CDC, between 1999 and 2014, unintentional overdoses on Opioid prescription medications, such as Oxycontin and Percocet, have quadrupled. There are a number of reasons for this:

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Topics: prescription drug abuse, David Vittoria, recovery, heroin, prescription drugs, prevention, oxycontin, opioids

From The Front Lines: From Painkillers to Heroin

Posted by David Vittoria, MSW, CAP, CPP, ICADC, NCAC II, Assistant Vice President, South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center on December 16, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Recent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations of painkiller abuse in the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) have highlighted the results these drugs can have on relieving pain and energizing players. The FDA and former NFL team members who’ve filed a class-action lawsuit say players were given drugs like Percocet, Toradol and Novocain to energize them before games and relieve pain afterward.

But there’s another epidemic related to painkiller abuse sweeping the country, and it’s also a dangerous one. Painkiller addiction often serves as a gateway to heroin use and has led to skyrocketing levels of addiction to and deaths from the illegal and highly-addictive drug, according to a recent government report.

The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 2010-2012 mortality data from 28 states found deaths from heroin overdoses doubled in those two years, from 1 to 2.1 deaths per 100,000 people, while deaths from prescription opioid drugs fell to 5.6 from 6 deaths per 100,000. The South region of the U.S. saw the second-highest increase in heroin overdoses – a whopping 181 percent leap.

As a result, addiction rehabilitation programs, are seeing an increase in patients seeking help for heroin addiction, including the South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center. We’re definitely seeing an increase. There are three things at the base of the current heroin epidemic.

Reasons for Increased Use

First, the closing of the “pill mills” in Florida meant there was no more easy access to narcotics. Strip malls and street corners laden with “pain clinics” attracted a constant flow of “patients” consuming narcotics. When these sources closed, these people sought the next readily available substance – heroin.

Second, the government challenged the pharmaceutical industry to change the content matrix of oxycodone to prevent it from being easily crushed and turned into a powder that can be snorted or injected to get high. As a result, people who were used to crushing, cooking or injecting starting using heroin.

Third, when a physician cuts off people who are legitimately taking prescription pain medicine for pain or recovering from an injury, they realize they’ve become dependent and go to heroin to fill the void. When access to the drug of choice is taken away, the addict becomes “dope sick,” a condition in which they feel so ill that they have to keep using to feel better. To many, the high that heroin provides is the cure. It‘s cheaper, readily available and its effects are relatively predictable.

Dangerous Effects

Many heroin users don’t think about how the illicit drug can damage the body. Pulmonary infections and endocarditis, a serious infection of heart valves, are the two most common infections that result from heroin use. The infections are caused by the white powdery substances mixed with heroin to bulk up volume in order for the sellers to charge more money for the drug. When things like talc, sugar and artificial sweeteners are injected or snorted into the body, they get into airways and heart valves, damaging or sometimes destroying, the body’s vital pulmonary or cardiac systems. Heroin itself, in its pure form, is like morphine, providing sedation and pain relief. It’s the contaminants in heroin that cause so many of the serious reactions and deaths.

Meanwhile, drug companies have created quick-acting, emergency treatments for overdose cases. To help save lives, several police and fire rescue crews and emergency rooms are now equipped with Narcan, a drug that serves as an immediate antidote to narcotic overdose. The medication also is available over-the-counter, and the White House recently issued a nationwide plea to people who regularly take narcotics, and even to heroin users, to keep it on hand.

So what can you do about preventing this epidemic in your own home? Lock Your Meds. Secure your medication, take regular inventory and safely dispose of expired and unused medications.

Learn More About Lock Your Meds

 

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Topics: addiction, painkillers, prescription drug abuse, David Vittoria, recovery, heroin

About Us

We teach people how to say no to drugs and how to make healthy choices. To reduce the demand for drugs, Informed Families has focused its efforts on educating and mobilizing the community, parents and young people in order to change attitudes. In this way we counteract the pressures in society that condone and promote drug and alcohol use and abuse. The organization educates thousands of families annually about how to stay drug and alcohol free through networking and a variety of programs and services .

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