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Tag: Heroin

DEA to Crack Down on Heroin Abuse with First-of-Its-Kind Program

800px-HeroinBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Hoping to crackdown on the rise of heroin and opioid abuse, the DEA has launched a first-of-its-kind program to target drug-related crime.

The Tribune-Review reports that the pilot program will be established in the Pittsburgh and focus on finding long-term solutions.

That will involve working with health care and social services agencies.

Why Pittsburgh?

Local authorities have been shocked by the proliferation of heroin and drug overdoses recently.

“Heroin and pill overdoses are through the roof, and it’s making us in law enforcement look at some different approaches,” DEA spokesman Patrick Trainor said.

In Pennsylvania, heroin or opioid deaths have increased from 47 in 2009 to more than 800 in 2013.

It’s not year clear how the pilot program will work and what impact it will have on existing prevention and enforcement efforts.

Other Stories of Interest

Heroin Becomes Law Enforcement’s Biggest Concern As Use Skyrockets

800px-HeroinBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Law enforcement nationwide believe heroin abuse is the largest drug threat, overtaking methamphetamine, according to a new DEA survey.

NBC News reports that the seizure of heroin has nearly doubled over the past five years, while the 51% more people are using the highly addictive drug.

“Heroin availability is up across the country, as are abuses, overdoses, and overdose deaths,” says the 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary, released Wednesday.

One reason heroin has become so popular is because of prescription painkiller abuse. Painkillers and heroin are both opiates.

The number of deaths in 2013 – 46,471 – is the highest on record.

“Roughly half of the overdose deaths are related to abuse of prescription drugs and another 8,000 involve heroin. So combined those two things account for two-thirds of the overdose deaths,” said DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg.

Other Stories of Interest

DEA Gets New Leader of Philadelphia Field Division; Pledges Fight Against Heroin

Gary Tuggle

Gary Tuggle

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A 23-year veteran of the DEA has been named as the next head of the Philadelphia Field Division.

Philly.com reports that Gary Tuggle will oversee the city and five regional officers in Pennsylvania and Delaware, replacing Don Dongilli, who retired last year.

Tuggle’s career began as a Baltimore City police officer before joining the DEA in 1992.

Most recently, Tuggle served as the assistant special agent in charge of the DEA’s Washington Office.

Tuggle said he plans to focus on the heroin and prescription drug epidemic.

Other Stories of Interest

New DEA Chief: Marijuana ‘Probably Not’ As Dangerous As Heroin

Marijuana

Photo by Steve Neavling

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The new head of the DEA says marijuana is “probably not” as dangerous as heroin, a position that was in contrast to his predecessor, the U.S. News & World Report. 

Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said the DEA would not prioritize marijuana enforcement, but emphasized that agents are still going to pursue pot cases.

“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is,” Rosenberg said. “Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.”

He added: “Let me say it this way: I’d rather be in a car accident going 30 miles an hour than 60 miles an hour, but I’d prefer not to be in a car accident at all.”

Marijuana advocates praised Rosenberg for being less aggressive with marijuana than his predecessor, Michele Leonhart.

“This is not a matter of opinion,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, says. “It’s far less harmful than heroin and it’s encouraging that the DEA is finally willing to recognize that.”

Other Stories of Interest

Parker: The Role of Doctors in the Heroin Plague

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

800px-Heroin

By Ross Parker

With the recent volume of media on the issue of the heroin epidemic, its overdoses and deaths, has come an effort to provide an easy explanation for the cause of and solution to this multifaceted problem. Much of the blame has been directed at doctors, who are charged with being either intentionally or negligently pill-happy with painkiller prescriptions. Their failures, it is charged, have made medical patients into addicts and, when the scrips became unavailable or too expensive, the patients were forced to turn to heroin and other opiates on the streets.

The tragic death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman who went from painkiller to heroin addiction and then to an overdose death is presented as a prime example for this explanation for the increase.

But the reasons for the current heroin upsurge are far more complex than the responsibility of a single group. Factors such as a failure of individual responsibility, insufficient education for kids, inadequate drug treatment resources, the emergence of Mexico as the dangerous big dog in shipping heroin up north, inadequate regulation and, yes, law enforcement, as well as a dozen other reasons contribute to the pandemic.

But doctors and their regulators do play an important role in this analysis and any feasible solution. It is not merely a coincidence that the country is in the midst of both a painkiller and a heroin overdose epidemic. The relationship between the two provide part of the cause.

The number of painkillers prescribed has quadrupled in recent years. Every day 44 people in the U.S. die from an overdose of painkillers. The number of deaths has skyrocketed from 4,000 to 16,000 annually. Experts from the health and law enforcement fields point to prescription drug abuse as a major cause of the epidemic. But they usually fail to add that 70% of these overdoses were by individuals other than the patient who obtained the prescription. Their access was from patients, many of whom legitimately needed the prescription, or from the street traffickers.

Which is not to say that medical profession doesn’t need to get its house in order.  Reforms need to be made even if doctors are not the only or even the primary culprit for the contagion.  It is true that a substantial percentage of physicians fail to find out about a patient’s history with controlled substances or their obtaining multiple scrips, even though this information is readily available. Plus many doctors lack the training and experience to identify opioid abusers and what alternative pain relief regimens could substitute for these drugs for patients at risk.

The February 2015 New England Journal of Medicine bemoans the absence of the use of proven medication treatment strategies both by physicians and drug treatment centers. The lack of insurance coverage, physician training, policy hindrances, and adequate resources are only part of the explanation for this failure.

Researchers of a study presented recently in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that many primary care doctors lacked an adequate knowledge base about opioid treatment and failed to appreciate the danger of diversion to non-patients. These two deficiencies often made the doctors prescribe them more often than necessary.

Read more »

FBI Agent Who Stole Heroin Seized As Evidence Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

fbi-badgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An FBI agent who stole heroin seized as evidence to feed his addiction was sentenced to three years in federal prison Thursday, a much lighter sentence than prosecutors wanted, the Washington Post reports. 

Matthew Lowry’s theft of evidence prompted prosecutors to dismiss drug cases against 28 defendants.

Calling it the most difficult decision in his 32 years on the bench, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said he choose a lighter sentence because of Lowry’s addition. The sentencing guidelines had called for seven to nine years in prison.

“What we have here is a successful young agent with a sterling reputation who abused his position and abused his trust,” Hogan said.

He added, however, that because of Lowry’s actions, “major drug dealers were put back on the street to harm our citizens and endanger our children.”

Ex-FBI Agent Who Stole Heroin From Evidence to Be Sentenced Today

fbi badgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former FBI agent who stole heroin from criminal investigations to feed his addiction should be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, prosecutors plan to urge a judge, the Washington Post reports.

Former agent Matthew Lowry, who worked in the Washington field office, spoiled drug case and forced prosecutors to dismiss drug charges against 28 people.

“Whatever can be said of the defendant’s decision to self-medicate, what is both indefensible and inexcusable is the fact that the defendant decided to supply himself with heroin by stealing it from FBI custody,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin R. Brenner wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Lowry is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:3o p.m. today.

Naloxone and the Surge of Fentanyl-Heroin Overdose Deaths

imgres

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

A young woman from Michigan we will call Janice started using heroin in her early 20s. Her family stuck by her and financed several rounds of rehabilitation. Each of these was followed after a short period of time by a relapse and her family or friends rushing Janice to a hospital emergency room when she overdosed. Each time the ER docs were able to stop the overdose and stabilize her.

Then one night Janice shot up with what she thought was heroin but which had such an immediate effect that she went into respiratory arrest with the syringe still in her hand. The people she was with called 911 but could do little else. By the time she got medical help, it was too late and she died during the EMT transport.

Last week this column focused on the deadly effects that fentanyl-heroin combinations were having on opiate addicts in Canada and the United States. Since fentanyl is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, dealers are lacing low quality heroin with it to boost the effect without revealing this to their customers. Plus fentanyl is accessible and not expensive. Much of the fentanyl is obtained through prescription drug abuse from patients who are supposed to use the drug to combat serious pain, for example from cancer. The result has been deadly.

There is a drug that could save hundreds of lives of overdosing users. Its use in scattered projects and medical facilities around the country demonstrates that it is safe, effective and easy to administer. The problem is a lack of public education, resources and facilities with access to the life saving drug.

Naloxone Making a Difference

Naloxone blocks opioid receptor sites in the CNS, especially those in the brainstem which affect respiratory effort. It does not cure an overdose. What it does is enable the overdosing person to breathe for long enough to get her/him to medical facilities where their breathing can be secured more permanently. With the latest generation of fentanyl-heroin overdoses, this extra half hour or hour can mean the difference between life and death.

In a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, writer Bridget Kuehn described a project where the Naloxone is making a significant difference. Northwest North Carolina had the third highest death rate for opiate overdoses in the country. Project Lazarus has cut the death rate essentially in half by a program of providing access to Naloxone treatment kits and training on how to administer it to laypersons who are likely to be the first to observe the overdose.

Read more »