Kratom Media Fueling Frenzy

Media Fueling Fear

3/11/2016 – Every once in awhile I come across something written by an addiction specialist that I think everyone needs to read, especially if you love an addict or have lost someone you love to addiction.

I lost my best friend to a Fentanyl overdose on my daughter’s tenth birthday. I lost my sister to suicide in 2010 and she had been taking Elavil and was also a drinker, although I wouldn’t say she was an alcoholic. She was just a few credits away from getting her Master’s degree in Psychology. She was 24 years old.

While these events are certainly tragic and need to be prevented, what isn’t helping is the way the media writes stories that get so many facts wrong. We need accurate and honest reporting and we’re just not getting that with Mainstream Media.

Below is an article posted on Rehabs.com and written by Kenneth Anderson

I agree with him up until the part where he says, “Methadone has been studied now for over 50 years and it is thoroughly established that methadone maintenance reduces death rates to one fourth of those of active heroin users. Maintenance treatment with methadone or Suboxone is the gold standard for treating opioid dependence. Patients on the proper dosage of maintenance medications are neither high nor sick – they are normal and functional”

Kratom is a much better alternative to methadone and much safer and more cost efficient. In fact, it’s likely the reason a methadone doctor in Arkansas had kratom outlawed – because it was interfering with his bottom line in exactly the same way Thailand was losing money on Opium taxes.

At any rate, here is the story, in part. You can read the full article here.

The media loves headlines about the demon drug du jour.

Whether it is crack babies, meth labs, or heroin overdoses, the media loves scare heads that will sell papers and values these far more than accurate reporting which could save lives. This is why every paper is currently running scare heads about a heroin overdose epidemic that is killing people right and left.

There is just one little problem: these stories are misleading, inaccurate, and killing people with misinformation.

The evidence shows that over 90% of so-called opioid overdose deaths are the result of polydrug poisoning. It is relatively difficult to overdose on heroin alone or painkillers alone, although it can be done if you are determined enough. However, mixing heroin with another drug such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, or opioid painkillers is extremely deadly.

The mix of opioids with benzodiazepines or alcohol is not simply additive; it is synergistic. The respiratory center in the brain contains both opioid and GABA receptors, and when the opioid receptors are shut down by heroin and the GABA receptors are shut down by alcohol or a benzodiazepine, the result is death.

The news media and television could be saving countless lives every day if they were running non-stop headlines about the dangers of drug mixing, but they are not. They have been bewitched by the myth of the “demon drug” and prefer to run stories inaccurately labeling opioid-related deaths as heroin overdoses instead of accurately reporting them as polydrug poisonings due to drug mixing.

The reason drug mixing is so common is that the current crop of new opioid users simply does not know how dangerous it is. This has not always been the case; as Edward Brecher attests, old time junkies in New York City used to pass on information about drug mixing to each other and they avoided it like the plague it is. If today’s opioid users were equally well-informed of the dangers of drug mixing, most would avoid it and countless lives could be saved.

The reason drug mixing is so common is that the current crop of new opioid users simply does not know how dangerous it is.-KENNETH ANDERSON

Another myth propagated by the press is that only heroin leads to overdose death and that painkiller addiction is dangerous because it is a gateway drug to heroin, which will cause people to overdose and die. In reality, twice as many opioid poisoning deaths in the US involve painkillers as involve heroin. And let me reiterate that whether heroin or a painkiller is involved, over 90% of these deaths involve drug mixing. Figure 1 shows the CDC data for drug poisoning deaths in the US in 2013.

U.S. Drug Poisoning Deaths 2013

Figure 2 shows the percentage of opioid painkiller overdose deaths involving another drug in 2011 in New York City. As we see from this figure, drug mixing is extremely common in drug poisoning deaths.

Opioid Painkiller Overdose Deaths 2011 in NYC

Another extremely dangerous and deadly myth spread by the media is the myth of increased drug purity–the so-called “super heroin” as exemplified by this recent story in the New York Post.

The truth is that heroin purity peaked in New York City in 1995 at 70% pure and is only now approaching that level of purity again.  But there was no spike in opioid poisoning deaths in New York City in 1995 because there were a lot fewer people mixing drugs and dying in 1995. Drug mixing kills; not drug purity.

The safest heroin is 100% pure prescription heroin which can be obtained at heroin maintenance programs in Europe. When the purity is known then the safe dosage can be calculated. Uncertainty in heroin purity in the US is a contributing factor to opioid poisoning deaths which could be eliminated by prescription heroin as is done in sane countries.

Another huge set of myths spread by the media which are exacerbating the polydrug poisoning epidemic in the US are myths about effective and ineffective treatments. The evidence is resoundingly and unequivocally in favor of the following strategies for preventing drug poisoning deaths:

  • Overdose prevention training
  • Narcan/naloxone distribution
  • Safe injection facilities
  • Maintenance with methadone or Suboxone/buprenorphine
  • Heroin maintenance

Although the above strategies are all proven effective, the media either condemns them wholeheartedly or claims that they are somehow controversial. The media also promotes the myths that 28-day 12-step rehabs and NA meetings are effective at curing addiction and that no one can recover from addiction without treatment and AA/NA – that untreated addiction is 100% fatal. This, of course, is belied by every scientific epidemiological study such asNESARC which shows that the vast majority of people who kick an addiction do it on their own without rehab ad without the 12-steps.

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