Concerning sales tactics involving a potent opioid medication were highlighted in a new Senate committee report
Family members of those who died of opioid overdoses take part in a rally to end the opioid epidemic in Washington, D.C., in 2016.
To sell addictive opioids, sales representatives were encouraged to “own” doctors, keeping a close eye on how and how much they prescribe.
Speaker programs that helped drive sales left out safety problems and, in one instance, didn’t say that Insys, the drug’s manufacturer, was sponsoring the event.
And high dosages of the addictive opioid Subsys were linked to bonus payments, with company presentations encouraging this behavior through slogans like “Strength Makes the Difference” and “Don’t Forget the Doses.”
“It is much easier to take an existing patient and double their units (which in essence is the same as generating a new prescription),” one sales manager wrote, referring to patients as “low hanging fruit.”
Those tactics and more were hallmarks of drugmaker Insys Therapeutics Inc.’s INSY, -2.20% approach at the height of the opioid crisis, according to a new report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s minority staff.
The Chandler, AZ-based Insys has become notorious for the role it played in advancing America’s devastating, drawn-out opioid crisis, which continues to this day.
Subsys consists of the potent opioid fentanyl, formulated in a spray that allows the drug to work faster. Approved for use in managing cancer patients’ pain, Subsys came on the U.S. market in 2012, and sales grew to roughly $329 million in 2015, at what appears to be the peak.
After a Department of Justice investigation into the company’s promotion of the medication, Insys agreed to pay at least $150 million in fines. Former executives as well as doctors also had criminal charges brought against them.
The new report “pertains to past events involving former employees that would have occurred well before 2016 and have since been dealt with by the company,” said Insys spokesperson Joe McGrath. McGrath had not reviewed the report when he spoke with MarketWatch and did not comment specifically on the facts cited in the report.
Pharmaceutical companies often bring in speakers, usually doctors, to discuss their products and drive sales. Insys viewed speaker programs as the crown jewel of its sales strategy.
The programs “are basically the ONLY thing you should be focusing on to increase your sales,” Sales executive Alex Burlakoff wrote to all sales personnel in 2013, according to the Senate committee report. “If you are not living, eating, and breathing [Insys speakers programs] to drive sales, you should not be in specialty pharma.”
In fact, speaker programs generated six times more revenue per prescriber, according to an internal company presentation cited in the report. Doctors also got more speaking opportunities when they met the prescribing expectations that Insys set for them, the report said.
However, the speaker programs had serious problems, including the omission of safety information in more than one presentation — something an outside consultant brought up with the company in 2014.
Insys later cut down on, and then stopped, the speaker programs, the Senate report — based on 1.6 million pages of internal company documents that were requested by Sen. Claire McCaskill — noted.
Insys also encouraged salespeople to push off-label prescriptions of Subsys, or prescriptions of the drug intended for non-cancer patients, the report found.
An external consultant called this strategy “troubling” in 2016, according to the report, saying that it “incentivized non-compliant behavior and was way outside the norm.”
Internal company communications also instructed employees that they must “own” doctors, including by tracking doctors’ prescribing rates and encouraging them to prescribe more, according to the new report.
Representatives should “[o]wn your territory — own a doctor — and own your destiny,” Burlakoff wrote in another email to sales representatives.
Insys’ opioid sales tactics have been the subject of many additional lawsuits, including from the state of New Jersey and health insurer Anthem. Opioid litigation, which has been brought against many drugmakers and drug distributors, could well rival the well-known lawsuits against Big Tobacco.
Insys shares rose 1% in Wednesday trade. Shares have surged 21.7% over the last three months, compared with a 0.1% rise in the S&P 500 SPX, -0.04% and a 2.5% rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.26% . (Click to Source) Get online and get completely recovered! We are a Biblical Online Recovery Program that is life changing and empowering. We are Teen Challenge Certified Teachers and have integrated the world famous Teen Challenge PSNC curriculum for the most healing fusion of elements for your recovery. VRM is breaking the chains of addiction for a lifetime! Check us out!
PATRICK REILLY firstname.lastname@example.org – Updated
Lake County is poised to join a national wave of lawsuits against the makers of opioid-based painkillers.
The county commissioners have retained a group of Texas- and Montana-based law firms to represent them in a lawsuit against several drug manufacturers. This step links Lake County to hundreds of other local governments who charge the companies with stoking the opioid-abuse crisis.
The Centers for Disease Control report that overdose deaths from prescription opioids increased fivefold from 1999 to 2016, claiming more than 200,000 Americans in that time. Prescription opioid overdoses have killed 700 Montanans since 2000,according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.
This problem has drained county resources, said Commissioner Dave Stipe. “We know that there were costs, just like we know how meth costs us money.”
In recent years, state attorneys general, and local and tribal governments, have started trying to recoup these costs by taking the drug makers to court, accusing them of deceptive marketing practices that denied or downplayed the painkillers’ risks. One of their main targets, Purdue Pharma Inc., did not reply for a request for comment on this story, but has denied these allegations when they’re raised in other lawsuits, and stressed its commitment to being part of a solution to the opioid epidemic.
In May, hundreds of these cases were bundled together in a massive multidistrict litigation in the federal court system’s Northern District of Ohio, where Judge Dan Aaron Polster will start hearing the first cases next year.
One of the key firms involved in this litigation, Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett P.C., has partnered with Montana firms to represent Treasure State communities.
“Of the 56 counties, the most populated counties have been approached,” said attorney Scott Stearns, a shareholder at Missoula’s Boone Karlberg P.C. The firm, in conjunction with Simon Greenstone and others in the state, now represents Cascade and Gallatin counties, as well as Anaconda-Deer Lodge and Great Falls.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have secured representation from Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry LLP — a firm specializing in Indian law — in partnership with other firms, but they have not yet filed any complaints.
Stearns explained that, when filed, Lake County’s complaint will closely resemble the one that Cascade County filed last November. It accuses Purdue and several other drug manufacturers of fielding a deceptive, multi-pronged marketing campaign that transformed opioids from a rarely-used painkiller into a profitable product line, at devastating financial and human cost.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox made similar accusations against drug makers in a lawsuit currently pending in state court. But while that case seeks court-ordered penalties for the drug makers’ alleged violations of state laws, as well as reimbursement of Medicaid and other state funds that Purdue obtained through its activities, Commissioner Stipe explained that Lake County is focused on other needs.
“We’re suing for what it costs the police to respond, what it costs the court to prosecute, what it costs the health department” — the local toll of the opioid epidemic.
“It’s under the theory of, ‘You broke it, now you have to buy it,’” Stearns said. “They’ve broken the system here in America, and now they have to pay for the solution, and the solution is usually at the community level.”
At the same time, “we want to be somewhat selective” in picking cases. “We want to make the best case we can, and some counties have more clear-cut cases than others.” Stearns and his colleagues identified Lake County and the Flathead Indian Reservation as areas with “more of an opioid and drug problem than other areas that lead to jail overcrowding and dependent-neglect” cases.
George Simpson, a sergeant with the Polson Police Department, has seen these challenges firsthand. “When you have users, that obviously becomes a strain on first responder resources, and we try as hard as we can,” he said. His agency is currently training officers to administer naloxone, a lifesaving nasal-spray medication that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose.
But the challenge goes far beyond reviving users. “You start to see an increase in property crimes, you start to see an increase in domestic violence,” as users’ habits prompt them to steal, and sour their relationships. “Treatment centers can be expensive,” too, he added.
All of these ills have drained public coffers in Lake County, Stipe said. “We don’t have the hard data yet, but we know for sure that some of the people who served hard time in jail … were there because of opioid addiction,” he said. Stearns agrees. “Early on we recognized Lake County as an important client to have to tell the full Montana story,” he said.
Under the retention agreement, the law firms will receive compensation up to 25 percent of gross recovery from the case, in addition to attorney’s fees and litigation-associated costs. “In the event that no recovery is realized, the law firms shall receive no compensation or reimbursement,” the contract states.
While a county employee will be designated to monitor the claims, Lake County is not required to assign a staff member to pursue them. “Lake County and the Law Firms both recognize that the claims present numerous factual and legal obstacles and that no assurance of success on the claims has or can be made,” according to the retention agreement.
Some Montana localities have been wary about litigating their opioid problems. In January, Butte-Silver Bow County Commissioners voted against joining the fight, citing the lawyers’ profit motives, the litigious trends in U.S. society and the absence of solid local data on the matter.
Missoula County Commissioners voiced similar concerns last November, with Deputy County Attorney John Hart telling the Missoula Current that “we have not seen, at least from a criminal justice standpoint, a significant opioid problem in Missoula County that’s costing us a lot of money and that we can quantify.”
In a follow-up email to the Missoulian, Hart said that County Commissioners did discuss the topic over the summer, but “no decisions have been made” yet. The City of Missoula has not yet decided whether to take part.
Lake County will need to tally the costs of its opioid problem for inclusion in a Plaintiff Fact Sheet. Commissioner Stipe expects that any damages or settlement funds that reach Lake County will be distributed to the involved groups in proportion to the costs they bore.
However the litigation plays out, the Polson Police Department’s Simpson predicts that resolving the problem will take time.
“The whole country didn’t get in this problem overnight, so it’s not going to be an overnight solution.” (Click to Source)
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Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in 2015, more than 20,000 overdose deaths in this country were directly related to prescription pain relievers. Given all the media attention on this subject, you may not be at all surprised by such statistics. As bad as this news is, it is likely underestimated.
Recent research by a team at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Public Health revealed that many drug overdoses are so broadly classified that they are not being counted properly as opioid-related.
As stated in the report published in the journal Public Health, “Potentially 70,000 opioid-related, unintentional overdose deaths from 1999 through 2015 have been missed because of incomplete reporting, indicating that the opioid overdose epidemic may be worse than it appears.” The University Of Pittsburgh findings support other recent studies that show opioid overdoses as undercounted.
When health care professionals refer to opioids, they are referencing a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin, as well as the lawful prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl. A large number of overdoses today are currently being attributed to new drugs, including fentanyl-related substances. It is believed that the problem of opioid-related deaths could get even worse as new synthetic drugs come on to the market.
The dilemma we now find ourselves in: More than one-third of the population experiences some form of acute or chronic pain in the U.S. When looking at older populations, this number rises to 40 percent. Opioids effectively kill pain. That is what they are being prescribed to do. They also can kill people and create drug addicts. To combat pain, we desperately need safer pain medications. One of the most common conditions linked to chronic pain is chronic depression. It is a major cause of suicide.
In an effort to come up with a safer solution, biochemist Dr. Tao Che, a research associate at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is focusing on a structural and functional study of opioid receptors – in particular, what are known as mu and kappa opioid receptors. Nealy all currently marketed opioid drugs exert their drug action through the mu opioid receptor (clinically called MOR).
MORs are embedded in the surface membrane of brain cells and block pain signals when activated by a drug. As described by Dr. Che in an analysis posted on the Conversation, in addition to blocking pain, current opioids stimulate portions of the brain that lead to additional sensations of “rewarding” pleasure, as well as disrupt certain physiological activities. The “pleasure” trigger may lead to addiction, the “physiological” disruption can lead to death. As Che writes, “Which part of the brain is activated plays a vital role in controlling pain. For example, MORs are also present in the brain stem, a region that controls breathing. Activating these mu receptors not only dulls pain but also slows breathing. Large doses stop breathing, causing death.”
MOR is not the only opioid receptor. According to Che, there are two other closely related proteins – called kappa and delta, or KOR and DOR respectively – that also alter pain perception.
Recent lab studies are now focusing much of their attention on the KOR protein due to its ability to block pain without triggering euphoria, meaning it is non-addictive. This receptor also does not slow respiration, which means it also is not lethal. It is not without some side effects, primarily sensations of unease or sleepiness. This issue is being addressed. The ultimate goal is to design a drug that only targets the pain pathway without side effects; to utilize what are called “biased” opioids and transform these molecules into safer drugs.
I wish Che and his colleagues well. The fate of so many could depend on their success. Let us pray that the solution does not debut as yet another new exclusive high-priced designer drug by a major pharmaceutical company – one that puts the major financial burden for access on the patient. Without affordability, the introduction of such a solution would essentially be meaningless in fighting the drug overdose epidemic.
Health plans that put patients on the hook for thousands of dollars in monthly medical costs are widespread in this country and growing. The industry rationale has been that requiring workers to shoulder more of the cost of care will also encourage them to cut back on unnecessary spending. In a world where so many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, that result was never going to happen.
Instead, studies now show that many folks are choosing to put off routine care or skipping prescribed medication entirely to save money. They simply are reducing the amount of medical care they use – including preventative care. As a result, illnesses that might have been caught early go undiagnosed. Many conditions go on to become potentially life threatening and enormously costly for the medical system.
The Trump Administration recently charged that drug companies are keeping lower-cost drugs out of the market. These mega companies are “gaming” the regulatory processes and the patent system in order to unfairly maintain monopolies, the announcement said. This is one area the Administration’s “American Patients First” Plan, announced in May, is targeted to address.
In response to the president’s announcement, Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer for AARP, told Forbes’ Robin Seaton Jefferson: “There is no justifiable reason for Americans to pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world. High-priced drugs hurt everyone, and seniors, who on average take 4.5 medications a month, are particularly vulnerable.”
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s “The State of US Health, 1990-2016” study found preventive services are key to giving everyone an opportunity to achieve their best state of health. Preventative health appears to be one of the areas in greatest jeopardy. (Click to Source)
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Officials call for prescription curbs, as anxiety drugs show up in more overdose deaths.
07/18/2018 10:19 am ET
THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS
Clonazepam (traded as Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are among the most sold drugs in a class of widely prescribed anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines. Public health officials warn the pills should be used only in the short term and should never be mixed with opioids or alcohol.
By Christine Vestal
The growing use of anti-anxiety pills reminds some doctors of the early days of the opioid crisis.
Considered relatively safe and non-addictive by the general public and many doctors, Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin have been prescribed to millions of Americans for decades to calm jittery nerves and promote a good night’s sleep.
But the number of people taking the sedatives and the average length of time they’re taking them have shot up since the 1990s, when doctors also started liberally prescribing opioid painkillers.
As a result, some state and federal officials are now warning that excessive prescribing of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines or “benzos” is putting more people at risk of dependence on the pills and is exacerbating the fatal overdose toll of painkillers and heroin. Some local governments are beginning to restrict benzo prescriptions.
When taken in combination with painkillers or illicit narcotics, benzodiazepines can increase the likelihood of a fatal overdose as much as tenfold, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. On their own, the medications can cause debilitating withdrawal symptoms that last for months or years.
Public health officials also warn that people who abruptly stop taking benzodiazepines risk seizures or even death.
With heightened public awareness of the nation’s opioid epidemic, some state and local officials are insisting that these anti-anxiety medications start sharing some of the scrutiny.
“We have this whole infrastructure set up now to prevent overprescribing of opioids and address the need for addiction treatment,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, a researcher and addiction specialist at Stanford University. “We need to start making benzos part of that.”
“What we’re seeing is just like what happened with opioids in the 1990s,” she said. “It really does begin with overprescribing. Liberal therapeutic use of drugs in a medical setting tends to normalize their use. People start to think they’re safe and, because they make them feel good, it doesn’t matter where they get them or how many they use.”
Public health officials also warn that people who abruptly stop taking benzodiazepines risk seizures or even death.
The number of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased by two-thirds between 1996 and 2013, from 8 million to nearly 14 million, according to a review of market data by Lembke and others in the New England Journal of Medicine. Despite the known dangers of co-prescribing painkillers and anti-anxiety medications, the rate of combined prescriptions nearly doubled between 2001 and 2013.
Since then, prescriptions for benzodiazepines may have leveled off or declined slightly, according to recent data from a market research firm that tracks prescription drug sales, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. At the same time, opioid prescribing has dropped by more than a fifth.
Still, Lembke said, the level of prescribing is much higher than it was in the mid-1990s and benzo dependence appears to be rising based on her own clinical observations.
First marketed in the early 1960s, benzodiazepines have been cyclically abused throughout their history. What’s notable now, Lembke said, is that overuse of benzos is coinciding with overuse of opioids.
But a newly formed group of researchers and pharmacologists, the International Task Force on Benzodiazepines, wrote in an editorial that recent negative publicity has made it difficult for many doctors around the world to prescribe medications they consider essential.
Some scientific articles “achieved a common goal that negative propaganda frequently reaches: they aroused suspicion of benzodiazepines and suggested difficulties in using them, while overlooking their benefits,” the pharmacologists said. (Three of the 17 co-authors reported having consulted for or received support from drug companies.)
Psychiatrists, including Lembke, agree that relatively inexpensive benzodiazepines can be effective at relieving acute cases of anxiety and sleeplessness.
Physicians agree that benzos should not be used long term to solve psychiatric problems. Research indicates that use of the drugs for more than a few weeks can cause tolerance, including withdrawal symptoms between doses, and physical and psychological dependence.
To raise awareness of benzodiazepines’ dangers, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and New York City have issued prescribing guidelines that limit the duration of Xanax, Valium and other benzo prescriptions, similar to many state guidelines for opioids.
In addition, the Massachusetts Legislature this month passed a wide-ranging opioid bill that included benzodiazepines as a class of restricted drugs.
Nationwide, most states require doctors and pharmacists to track opioid prescribing through online databases that monitor patients who receive them and doctors who prescribe them. Benzodiazepines are not included in half of the states, according to an analysis of state laws by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which also supports Stateline.
As prescriptions for benzodiazepines have grown since the late 1990s, so have deaths, according to a study at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines quadrupled from 2002 to 2015.
New highly potent forms of benzodiazepines that are illicitly traded are also causing overdose deaths, addiction doctors say. Adding to the dangers, the Drug Enforcement Administration has reported that the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl has been found in counterfeit forms of Xanax.
Xanax and Valium were involved in more than 30 percent of opioid overdose deaths between 2010 and 2014, far more than cocaine and methamphetamines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some parts of the country, the prevalence of Xanax in drug overdose autopsy reports was even higher.
Xanax for the past several years has been found in more overdose autopsies in Kentucky than any specific opioid, according to Dr. Kelly Clark, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and an addiction doctor who lives in the state. “In fact, community mental health centers in Louisville stopped prescribing Xanax because it is such a common drug of abuse and so dangerous in combination with alcohol and opioids,” she said in an interview with Stateline.
Researchers and patient advocates argue more needs to be done to educate medical students and inform doctors and patients about the drugs’ dangers.
Dr. Christy Huff, who is in recovery from dependence on Xanax, co-directs the Utah-based Benzodiazepine Information Coalition. The nonprofit advocates for stronger warnings for patients who take Xanax and other benzos, as well as better education for prescribing physicians.
“Our population of patients is experiencing extremely difficult withdrawals, and they have neurological injuries because of unsafe prescribing,” Huff said. “Doctors need to be informed that the medications should be prescribed for no more than two to four weeks. They were always meant to be short term.”
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the dangers of combining opioids and benzodiazepines. That prompted many doctors to force patients to choose one drug over the other without warning them about the potential symptoms of withdrawal such as seizures or even death, Huff said.
“Patients who are on the medications should be given the choice of how and when they are tapered off,” she said. “Too many doctors are taking people off their prescriptions too rapidly.”
The benzo task force wrote in its editorial that it was developing research that it hoped would support preserving the drugs as a valuable part of the medical arsenal. (Click to Source)
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Those are two feelings both Brooke and her mother shared during the height of Brooke’s heroin addiction.
Brooke, a straight-A student born in a wealthy churchgoing family, hated herself for losing control of her life. Her mother, a prominent psychologist of 30-some years, blamed herself.
Neither one saw this coming. Brooke grew up singing in church with her mother. She remembers accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior at 6 years old. Meanwhile, her mother tried to look out for the best interest of her daughters.
But even the best-intentioned, God-centered parenting meets its match against the realities of everyday life. Brooke started taking Xanax for anxiety after some rough moments during her teenage years. In college, she applied herself equally to making good grades and partying and drinking. She was hospitalized 18 times for what appeared to her mother to be legitimate medical reasons such as pneumonia, bronchitis and kidney issues.
But everything changed after Brooke experienced complications delivering her daughter at age 22. She said the doctor prescribed Dilaudid, a hydromorphone so potent the U.S. National Library of Medicine cautions against letting the liquid form touch your bare skin or clothes. The site also suggests some patients will have to be weaned off the highly addictive opioid.
“That was the beginning of my opiate addiction,” Brooke said. “I was very over-prescribed. All types of pain pills for things that weren’t very serious.”
Additional pain pills weren’t hard to find at her job as a health care professional. She occasionally stole her patients’ medicines. Before she knew it, she was taking 300 milligrams of opioids a day (typically 10 pills of 30mg Roxicodone), and the nerves her opioid abuse had opened screamed at her for more every time the high wore off.
“It was all prescriptions, and then one day I couldn’t get them anymore. Someone told me heroin is the exact same as a pain pill so I said, ‘OK.’” I was addicted at this point. I couldn’t go a day without them or I’d get really sick.”
Think about the worst flu you’ve ever had. Times 100. That’s just a small taste of what opioid withdrawal is like, so heroin, an illegal opioid, seemed like the easiest way to prevent getting sick. At first she snorted it. She remained somewhat functional around her family and friends.
“Apparently I hid it very well, but once I started using the needle, my life got really out of control,” Brooke said.
An intravenous dose of heroin hits the user’s bloodstream immediately, bringing instant relief to all those fired-up nerves. But that little needle also delivered a seemingly unending dose of destruction. Brooke lost her job, her family, her daughter. Her family staged an intervention with her, and she agreed to go to rehab in December 2013.
“It was so surreal, like an out-of-body experience,” Brooke remembered, saying she weighed just 98 pounds then. Her liver was so taxed her skin had turned an ashy gray/green color. “But I was in such denial at that point.”
Her sense of entitlement didn’t do her any favors in rehab. She was kicked out after 10 days. Her mom swooped in, picked her up and took her to the next center. This continued nine more times to the tune of more than $100,000 until finally, her mother realized that she couldn’t fix it.
‘Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done as a Mom’
During Brooke’s struggles, her mom, Robin, attended help meetings for herself in another town since she was too ashamed to find one locally. She started seeing things she needed to fix in her own life—learning boundaries, for instance, or quelling her desire to fix everything. But she never quit praying for her oldest daughter.
The hardest moment happened after Brooke’s final rehab stint failed. Brooke didn’t want to go back, and Robin couldn’t make her. Robin and Brooke’s dad, often split over how to handle her situation, agreed that Brooke couldn’t come to either of their homes.
“I had to get to that point, and it killed me,” Robin said. “I have this one picture of Jesus leaning over that cliff reaching for the one out of the 99. I prayed with that picture crying so many times that God would please help Brooke when I knew the drugs were running her. I was just waiting for that call [that Brooke fatally overdosed]. God, I know I shouldn’t say that, but I feel like I’m going to get that call, and if I get it, I know You’re going to help me, but I just don’t know if she’s going to live another day.
“And me having to lock my door and say, ‘You cannot come here,’ and not give her any money. She had no money, no food, and she was out there killing herself. I had to let go and give her totally to God so she could get well. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a mom.”
Robin stayed in Brooke’s life during this time, though. It wasn’t unusual for her to visit her daughter at her hotel room with fast food and food cards, things she hoped wouldn’t be used to score more heroin.
“I would sit on the bed with her in her hotel and give her food cards to Burger King where she could walk to get food, and then I would go get in my car and I would cry uncontrollably for 30 minutes before leaving her, knowing I might not see her again.”
‘I Wanted to Just Not Wake Up’
Brooke knew in her heart she wanted to get clean, and she knew she couldn’t do it on her own. She didn’t know what to do. And she felt as though she had let everybody down. Turning to the church seemed out of the question because she was too embarrassed. She had become the person she never thought she’d be. She stole from her family. She was brought up on charges after someone overdosed at her house. She even used her then-boyfriend’s heroin in his hospital room while he recovered from a near-fatal overdose. This wasn’t the life she wanted, either, but she felt stuck.
“I knew the Lord, and that’s what made my addiction so miserable,” Brooke said. “It was just so miserable because I knew better.
“[My mom] commended me to the Lord, and I think I was already kind of dead in my family’s eyes because they had tried for years at the best treatment centers around, but nothing worked. I went to do a shot of heroin to kill myself. I knew how much I was used to doing, and I did like the whole needle. I wanted to just not wake up. I was so miserable and hated myself and felt like such a piece of trash.”
She woke up 24 hours later after some people found her and administered three doses of nalaxone, a nasal spray often called NARCAN that can reverse an overdose. This medicine is often carried and administered by law enforcement officials and emergency personnel, but in 2017, Walgreens and CVS were given the green light to sell it over the counter in 40-some states.
In Brooke’s case, a neighbor had the life-saving third dose that brought her back.
“When I woke up, I remember being in such darkness. It was like a black hole I was sucked in and just oppression and depression. It was like a spiritual fight right there.”
The battle wasn’t limited to Brooke’s area. That same morning she was revived, her mother was in church singing worship when she said she had a vision that demons were choking the life out of her daughter. Robin stopped singing.
“I literally said, ‘In Jesus’ name, get your hands off her. You’re not going to kill my daughter. She belongs to Jesus,”’ Robin said. “I said it several times. I said it emphatically but not really loud. I don’t know if anybody else heard me.”
‘You Can’t Do This Without Jesus’
Two days later, Brooke called her mom from jail. Her drug abuse had landed her behind bars for the sixth time, and the cold-turkey, flu-like detox was yet again unkind.
“God stopped me from going to jail a lot, but that was the only way that I was going to listen and cry out for Him,” Brooke said. “I was so miserable. It really gave me time to sober up and think about what am I doing?
“I made a commitment right then [after hearing her mom’s vision]: God, I’m doing this Your way.”
Brooke knew a quick rehab trip wasn’t the answer so she looked into the Gastonia’s Potters House near Charlotte, North Carolina, which she learned about from another inmate. Client Director Danielle Crowley, a graduate of the 18-month women’s rehabilitation facility, visited Brooke in jail.
“The first thing she said to me, she said, ‘You know you can’t do this without Jesus, right?’” Brooke said.
At the Potters House, the focus is all on Jesus. Newly admitted patients cannot have cellphones or visitors, and even their television access is limited. Director Cindy Marshall, who celebrated her 28th year of recovery this past February, started the Potters House in 2003 as a way to minister to women trying to start a clean life. During the last year, Marshall said the faith-based, nonprofit rehab has seen a 70 percent increase in applicants like Brooke who want to be free of opioid addiction.
At the Potters House, it’s not just about staying clean; it’s about living a brand-new life in Jesus. It’s about declaring God’s promises every day and living them out, spending time every day in God’s Word.
“This is a lifestyle,” Danielle said. “The goal isn’t to be sober. The goal is to change your life, to live a different life. It’s a completely different lifestyle. If you’re willing to go to a quarter of any length you were to get your drugs, then you’ll make it. If you’ll just put that much into it and surrender, you’ll make it.”
A Truly New Life
Brooke has been at the Potters House for about a year now. She’s learned who she is in Christ, and even though her 6-year-old self never could have seen this coming, she has a passion now for ministering to people, particularly women, dealing with addiction. During the week, Brooke and other residents at Potters House visit a local detox center in Gaston County, North Carolina, to share their testimonies and be an encouragement.
Meanwhile, her mother is learning to share more about her side of the struggle, and it’s clear she’s not alone. Tragically, three people she knows have lost loved ones to overdoses just within the last two years. Robin also has shared her story from the pulpit, talking with one North Carolina church recently.
“The stigma is to admit that your child is an addict or alcoholic,” Robin said. “You feel that it reflects on your parenting and that you had to do something wrong if all these other kids that are there are doing well, so it’s really hard to talk about it. And then I don’t want to break Brooke’s confidence and tell things that she doesn’t want to have told. Satan uses that feeling of shame.”
Brooke was consumed with shame during her opioid abuse, keeping her from the people who most wanted to help her. But now, there’s a radiance that seems to flow from Brooke when she talks about life today. Sitting in the Potters House this past February in a North Carolina hoodie, she couldn’t help but reiterate how grateful she was to be there, a new creation free from her heroin addiction.
“The only thing that’s bigger than addiction is Jesus,” Brooke said. “I can’t imagine living any other way now.” (Click to Source)