Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

Fentanylis the deadliest opioid of all the opioids being abused in this country. It is said to be 50 times more powerful than pure heroin, making it very easy to overdose on the drug-hence the highest rate of fatal overdoses in this country can be attributed to Fentanyl. In 2017, an estimated 19,000 people died from Fentanyl overdoses.

Contributing to this epidemic is Fentanyl’s ease of manufacture and transport. It is a synthetic drug, requiring only chemicals, cheap equipment, and a little bit of knowledge to make. Most of the illicit Fentanyl on American streets are made in Chinese laboratories. Sometimes referred to as a “Drug Bazaar,” chemical laboratories operate all over China with little oversight or regulation. Many of the labs are producing fentanyl and fentanyl analogues by the tons. China denies this but there is plenty of evidence supporting the charge.

Moreover, the sale of fentanyl is an extremely lucrative business. By way of example: $1,000 worth of bulk heroin divided up into retail portions would net the dealer a profit of $4,000. The same purchase of bulk fentanyl from China would net a profit of $7.8 million! These figures, as incredible as they may seem, come from the Drug Enforcement Administration (per Bloomberg News).

OxyContin, first introduced by Purdue Pharma in 1996, was aggressively marketed to physicians, nurses and pharmacists as a superior, longer-lasting, and safer treatment for cancer-related chronic pain as well as other pain, and as a treatment for “non- malignant pain” (long-lasting pain with no identified precursor).  The marketing campaign was intense even though randomized double-blind studies found that OxyContin was no more effective than opioids already in use for the treatment of pain.  Purdue’s intense promotion of the drug proved to be very lucrative for the company. From the time of its introduction to 2000, a mere four years, sales of OxyContin grew from $48 million to over $1 billion.

Purdue Pharma claimed that the risk of addictionto the drug was minimal, maintaining that less than one percent of those that used the drug got addicted. The company even cited studies to confirm this “fact.” We know now that OxyContin is highly addictive; Purdue knew it then. OxyContin, zealously promoted and widely available, was a “gateway” drug to theopioid crisesthat continues to grip the country. Yet, Purdue Pharma claimed for years that it was unaware of OxyContin’s addictive properties. That was an outright lie.

A United States Justice Department investigation exposed conclusive evidence that Purdue was well aware of OxyContin’s addiction risks as early as 1997. Yet, when Purdue’s chief medical officer was called to testify before the House Appropriations subcommittee in 2001 concerning the then evident risks of OxyContin addiction abuse, he claimed that Purdue was unaware of the problem for the first four years it was on the market.

The opioid epidemic is costing the state and federal government billions of dollars. Numerous lawsuits have been filed by cities and counties in courts across the nation. Recently the federal government indicated it is exploring a lawsuit against the companies that manufacture and distribute opioids seeking reimbursement of the costs the government has expended fighting the epidemic.

Tens of thousands of people die each year in this country from opioid overdoes and exponentially more individuals receive treatment, often—if not usually—at the taxpayer’s expense. The lawsuits accuse the pharmaceutical companies with deceptively marketing the drugs as safe, non-addictive painkillers. When these drugs were first introduced, many doctors and patients believed the pharmaceutical companies’ representations. It wasn’t long before it became obvious that these drugs were highly addictive and dangerous. As more patients became addicted, the demand for these drugs increased. Yet, the opioid manufacturers and distributors ignored the proliferation of suspicious orders for the drugs.

Over 400 cities and counties across the country are plaintiffs in a multidistrict federal lawsuit in the Northern District of Ohio. The defendants are pharmaceutical companies that manufactured and, as the plaintiffs allege, “aggressively marketed” opioid drugs even though the companies were aware that the drugs were addictive and dangerous. The lawsuit names not only the pharmaceutical companies as defendants but also pharmacy chains, alleging that the pharmacies sold these drugs to individuals even though they were aware that many of the individuals were returning again and again to fill these prescriptions, which should have alerted the pharmacies that the individuals were addicted or otherwise using the medications for other than legitimate medical reasons.

LEGAL MARIJUANA COMES WITH MANY RULES AND NEW TAXES

The pot shops will soon open and even though recreational marijuana is legal now, there are still plenty of reasons a black market in marijuana sales will not be going away with the opening of your local cannabis shop. To begin with, the laws regulating the legal cannabis shops are onerous. In fact, it might be a challenge to even understand all the regulations in the 276-page Bureau of Cannabis Control regulations book. And that’s not all: cannabis shops also have to abide by regulations promulgated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Public Health.

The cannabis products that do end up for sale must be tested and tracked under strict rules including limits on the amount of THC allowed in edibles. Furthermore, the fees and licensing requirements are confusing and often costly.

Before he resigned as Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price created a bit of an uproar over comments about medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. It was reported that former Secretary Price stated that providing drugs that reduce craving for opioids is just replacing one opioid for another. To a point, that is true. But it is not that simple. Secretary Price’s comments were somewhat more nuanced but the news reports that Secretary Price suggested that medication-based treatment for opioid addiction was not an effective treatment prompted 600 medical experts and academics to pen a letter to Secretary Price asking him to reconsider.

Secretary Price is no longer head of Health and Human Services but the issue of medication-assisted treatment as one option to address this country’s opioid crisis. The medication treatments most commonly used to treat opioid addiction, buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone, are called “opioid agonists” or “partial agonists.” These drugs activate receptors in the brain, creating a high similar to what the addict experiences when he or she takes other opioids but the drugs do not have the same effect of physiological dependence, nor do they make the user feel euphoric.

While the treatment drugs do activate opioid receptors, they do so less strongly and they relieve drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It is true that with medication-assisted treatment, the addict may never be free of drugs but the drug they are taking allows them to function normally, without the causing the user to be a highly addicted individual ever searching for a stronger fix. Furthermore, the treatment drugs do not render the user unable to function normally. By substituting a medication-based treatment for an opioid addiction, the former addict has the opportunity to become a contributing member of society rather than a strung-out addict looking for the next high, possibly stealing from others to get the money to feed his or her addiction.

PORTUGAL’S DRUG POLICY IS WORKING

As the “War on Drugs” threatens to heat up, we might ask our current administration to take a step back and consider Portugal. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs—yes, all—including hard drugs like heroin and meth. Critics expected the incidence of drug abuse in Portugal would skyrocket as a result. That is not what happened. Drug use fell over the ensuing 15 years and more importantly, drug-related deaths fell precipitously.

Drugs aren’t legal in Portugal but being in possession of any drug is also not criminal. Rather the country treats drug use as a health issue. Anyone caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug is required to get drug treatment. There is no criminal charge, no court hearing, and no incarceration. The policy isn’t expected to rid Portugal of drug abuse; rather, the intended outcome is harm reduction.

CREATE THE ENEMY AND MAKE THE WAR: AMERICA’S WAR ON DRUGS

The History Channel is running a very interesting Docuseries about the War on Drugs. Many viewers of the series may be shocked to learn how one arm of the government has been prosecuting the War on Drugs while the other arm is actually facilitating the entry of drugs into the United States. The documentation leaves no question that the history of drugs in this country is a history of the United States government, and in particular the military/security agencies, as the drug kingpin. Does that sound outrageous? Unfortunately, it is documented truth.

Many readers will recall the Iran-Contra affair, if not the details, at least the name. The Iran-Contra affair was a complicated conspiracy to bring weapons to the Contra rebels fighting the nascent “Communist” government in Nicaragua in the 1980’s. The United States Congress had passed a law forbidding weapons sales to the Contras, but those in the Regan Administration, zealous to wipe out the perceived communist threat, were determined to support the Contras anyway. An illicit scheme was devised by the National Security Council. Weapons to the Contras were supplied by a clandestine operation run by the National Security Council with Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North in charge. The weapons were flown into Nicaragua and the planes returned to the United States loaded with cocaine, which was sold to drug dealers mostly in Los Angeles. The proceeds from the cocaine sales were used to buy more weapons for the Contras. It is made clear in the documentary—and anecdotal first-hand accounts support the claim—that this affair was known to, and approved by, then Vice President George H.W. Bush. Hard to believe, but it is well-documented and the facts are not disputed.

With the recreational use of Marijuana now legal in eight states including California and its medical use legal in many more states, it might be time to revisit Reefer Madness. We laugh at that 1936 film that claimed marijuana created psychotic addicts but there may have been some truth in that old movie. While there is no evidence that “the burning weed with its roots in hell” as marijuana is depicted in Reefer Madness causes users to become violent or insane, there is substantial evidence that marijuana usage can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

The risk is particularly pronounced in adolescents who have a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia. In a study conducted at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv (Israel) University, researchers conducted experiments on mice that had a mutant gene indicating a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia and on a control group of mice that were not susceptible. The mice were there exposed to THC. After exposure, the schizophrenia-susceptible mice exhibited behavioral and biochemical brain pathologies indicating a schizophrenic episode, while no similar indications presented in the non-susceptible mice. I am simplifying the research and findings but the upshot is that the researchers found that the clinical representation mimics a schizophrenic “first episode” in humans.

Now you might think, as I did, that this is one study and it was done on mice. But other studies, independent of the one conducted at Tel Aviv University, have confirmed these results. At Bristol University in England, researchers found that THC disrupted the brain activity in rats that is responsible for memory and decision-making leaving the rats no longer able to navigate a maze. The areas of the brain affected in this study are also the areas of the brain implicated in schizophrenia. The authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience, believe that there is a connection between abuse of marijuana, which causes the brain disruptions, and onset of schizophrenia. One U.K. study even estimated that if marijuana use were eliminated in the U.K., schizophrenia would decrease by 8%.

Way back in 1971, President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs.” The federal drug control agencies were dramatically beefed-up, the DEA was created (1973). Quaint as it seems now, much of the effort was directed at marijuana. Back in those innocent days, marijuana was considered a major drug problem. By the 1980s the use of cocaine and its cousin, crack, became a major problem in this country. Cocaine usage increased by 700% just in the years 1978-1984. Many believed that marijuana was a gateway drug to these harder substances.

By the early 80’s, President Reagan, initiated get tough laws on drugs. “Zero tolerance” initiatives were the trend. It was during the 1980’s that this country’s prison began to fill with drug users. From 1980 to 1997, the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offense increased eight-fold! The DARE program, an off-shoot of the War of Drugs was initiated in the 1980’s by Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, who was actually quoted as saying that casual drug users should be shot. (I’m sure he didn’t mean that literally but it sure did fit in with the “war” theme.)

By the 1990’s Presidents Bush and Clinton continued to escalate the so-called War on Drugs. The prison population continued to explode in great part because of the increasingly hysterical War on Drugs. Three-strikes laws became a thing and many who found themselves in prison for life under three-strikes laws were there because at least one of the strikes was a drug offense. I am not talking about cartel-type drug dealers, these were often drug users and addicts and no more.


HOW TO BE A DRUG DEALER WITHOUT GETTING BUSTED

No, I am not really going to tell you how to break the law and get away with it, but Purdue Pharma certainly knows how to deal an extremely dangerous drug, which has been abused by millions in this country, without going to jail. I’m talking about the pain killer OxyContin. OxyContin is believed by experts to have been the synthetic opioid that triggered the serious epidemic of opioid abuse sweeping this country. No longer confined to certain areas of this country, the opioid epidemic is everywhere.

You might be familiar with OxyContin, maybe it was prescribed to you for pain, maybe you are even addicted to it. It is estimated that over the last 20 years, more than 7 million Americans have been or are now addicted to OxyContin and there are 2.1 million people in this country presently addicted to opioid painkillers; many of these addictions started with legitimate prescriptions for pain. OxyContin and similar opioids have killed almost 200,000 people in this country since 1999. I’ve previously discussed this terrible opioid epidemic, but how did this happen?