Teen dies after court-ordered to South Florida drug treatment center

A 17-year-old court-ordered to a South Florida drug treatment center for delinquent youths died at the facility.

The teen, found dead  Monday in his room at the Broward Youth Treatment Center, had been court-ordered into treatment at a privately run program under contract with Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice in Pembroke Pines.

Police said in a news release they don’t suspect foul play.10505404_996448617079268_7765672934859293466_n

DEA cracks down on kratom served at many kava bars

Kratom, served at some kava bars throughout Palm Beach County, will soon be considered in the same class of illegal drugs as heroin, LSD, marijuana and Ecstasy.

The Drug Enforcement Administration announced Tuesday its intention to place the active materials in the kratom plant into the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Kavasutra in Lake Worth is one of many kava bars to have opened in south Florida in recent years. (Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)
Kavasutra in Lake Worth is one of many kava bars to have opened in south Florida in recent years . (Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)

“Kratom is abused for its ability to produce opioid-like effects and is often marketed as a legal alternative to controlled substances,” the DEA said in a statement.

The drug also has been used to wean addicts off stronger drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methadone. Researchers at the University of Mississippi say it may even act as a suppressor for such highly addictive drugs.

The DEA crackdown is a victory for advocates who have warned of the dangers of kratom and also a financial hit for the several kava bars that operate from Boca Raton to Palm Beach Gardens.

“I think it is awesome. I am very happy that someone has listened to what we have been saying for the past three years,” said Linda Mautner, a Delray Beach resident.

Mautner blames her son Ian’s suicide in July 2014 on addiction to kratom. She says the drug is “seemingly benign” because it is touted as “all natural. She said Kava bars are very lucrative businesses and can lure unsuspecting young people into addiction.

“I hope this is right thing and I hope it will save lives,” she said. Currently, the mother has established a foundation in hopes of building a center for continuum of care for alcoholics and addicts once they finish their 30-day treatment.


Linda Mautner speaks about kratom and asks to have age restrictions on the sale of the herbal substance during the Palm Beach County Commission meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Tuesday, December 2, 2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Linda Mautner speaks about kratom a during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting in December  2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Most kava bars contacted did not want to  comment on the DEA’s move, but James Hare, manager of Native Kava in Boynton Beach, said the DEA is in overkill mode when it has been shown by researchers to have medicinal purposes.

“It’s crazy to go from zero to a schedule I substance. It is irresponsible,” he said.

Hare said most of the problems, such as so-called overdoses, associated with kratom comes from extracts in which other substances are added or it is mixed with other drugs by the user. There is even synthetic kratom.

“There is a market for it synthetic blends and people are having an adverse affect and they are blaming it on kratom itself,” Hare said.


Kratom comes in numerous forms, law enforcement says.

Kratom just doesn’t come in a drink served in coconut shell at kava bars. Law enforcement has seized it in powder, plant, capsules and even drug patches.

“Because the identity, purity levels, and quantity of these substances are uncertain and inconsistent, they pose significant adverse health risks to users,” the DEA stated.

The Centers for Disease Control says kratom abuse can lead to agitation, irritability, and hypertension. The DEA is aware of 15 kratom-related deaths between 2104 and 2016.

Kratom, from a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, can have stimulant effects at low doses and sedative effects at high doses, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

It is banned in Thailand, Australia, Myanmar, Malaysia. Several U.S. states have also moved to make it illegal, but Florida never followed suit after legislation failed.


Number of Florida babies born addicted to opiates double

Babies addicted to opioids – methadone, heroin and oxycodone – have doubled since 2010, according to a story by the News-Press in Fort Myers.

Using newly obtained hospital records, the newspaper found  2,487 Florida newborns showed signs of drug withdrawal or were otherwise affected by exposure to narcotics in 2015.

That is an increase from 1,903 the previous year and 1,336 reported in 2010, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.


A newspaper found the number of Florida babies born addicted to opiates have doubled since 2010

When babies are born addicted to opiates it is a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. A recent state report  noted that hospital charges for such patients average more than $53,000 – a bill commonly sent to taxpayer-supported Medicaid plans.

Neonatal intensive care unit staff in Southwest Florida commonly see a half dozen babies any given day.

“When I first started, you’d see maybe one occasionally,” said Heather Polland, a supervising nurse in the Golisano NICU. “Now, we could have four, five, six, seven sometimes.”


Rejected Boynton drug detox calls for sober home regulation

The lucrative drug recovery industry is now joining the growing din calling for more regulation of sober homes.

Novus Medical Detox Center released a statement Monday released to the media calling for increased oversight of sober homes.

Novus echoes a growing number of politicians, as well as residents who live near sober homes, also called halfway houses. Addicts often go to sober homes after completing a 30-day treatment stint at a recovery center such as Novus.

The growing concerns about proliferation of sober homes in single-dwelling neighborhoods throughout Palm Beach County could be hurting the bottom line of recovery centers, such as Novus.

Boynton Beach Commission last November rejected a proposed for an in-patient treatment facility by Novus after numerous residents of the suburb said they feared increased crime, traffic and patients wandering into nearby communities.


Novus Medical Detox, a New Port Richey company specializing in treating addicts, sent out a news release Monday calling for sober homes to be regulated. (Photo: Courtesy of Creative Commons).

The New Port Richey company in its statement Monday said increased sober home regulation would play a key role in an individual’s successful recovery. Such measures would also address concerns of neighboring homeowners, the release stated.

“Novus is a strong proponent of sober home regulations, and we truly believe they are in the best interests of those struggling to overcome alcoholism and addiction,” said Bryn Wesch, CFO of Novus Medical Detox Center.

He said while detox and rehab facilities are regulated and accredited, sober homes are not. “There is no way to tell if individuals with substance abuse disorders are receiving the support they need for a successful recovery or if lax oversight may put them at risk for a relapse,” he said.

Under a law passed by the Florida Legislature in 2015, Sober homes can volunteer for certification as of July 1. But it is unclear if the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, which would perform the certification, is receiving the necessary money from the state to enforce the requirements, Novus noted.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel last month took to the House floor during debate on a sweeping drug abuse and overdose bill to push her mission to regulate sober homes.

“We are seeing thousands, thousands of sober homes in South Florida disrupting services and the health and safety of neighborhoods,” the former West Palm Beach mayor said.

U.S. Surgeon General: Addiction a disease, not a moral failing

In an interview with Health News Florida, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy emphasized that the disease of addiction – be it alcoholism or heroin dependence – is a disease of addiction and is not a moral failing.

The news collective out of Tampa caught up with Murphy in Cleveland earlier this mother where he gave the keynote speech at the annual Association of Health Care Journalists conference.

Murthy said  wants to help change the way people look at addiction and the current heroin epidemic.

“We have to be sure that people see it for what it is, which is a chronic illness, that we have to treat it with the same urgency and the same skill the same compassion we would diabetes or heart disease,” he told Health News Florida.

He said the government and the private sector must ensure that not only are prescribing practices changing in regards to opioid medications but that first-responders have overdose antidotes like Nalaxone, also known as a “save shot.”

The disease may have taken one of our most beloved musicians.  Supposedly, Prince received a save shot the week before his death.

Addiction is hitting South Florida hard. It is home to unprecedented numbers of heroin overdoses.

Those overdoses reflect the large  numbers of people coming to Palm Beach County to recover from heroin- and the numbers of unscrupulous businesses exploiting them.  Read more about addiction in our series Addiction Treatment: Inside the Gold Rush.

US Surgeon General Vice Admiral (VADM) Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., center, tours FoundCare in West Palm Beach on February 6, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
US Surgeon General  Vivek H. Murthy , tours FoundCare in West Palm Beach on February 6, 2015. He says its time addiction is treated as an illness, not a moral failing.

Murthy said that because society didn’t address addiction as an illness for decades, many people have gone without treatment, missing out on living fulfilling lives and contributing to society. He is forming the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Substance Use, Addiction and Health.

“It’s there not only to bring together the best science and how to prevent and treat substance abuse disorders, but it’s also there to move the country toward a new way of thinking about addiction,” Murthy said.

To read all of Health News Florida’s report click here.


What a long, strange trip it’s been: Scientists map brain on LSD

In what is being called a scientific breakthrough, scientists for the first time have mapped the effect of LSD on the brain.

CNN reports that brain scans were taken from volunteers who agreed to take the drug associated with hallucinations and a feeling of oneness with the universe. The drug also can induce paranoia – or what is known among recreational users as a bad trip.

The findings have given researchers an unprecedented insight into the neural basis for effects produced by one of the most powerful drugs ever created.


A new study shows what happens to brain when it takes LSD. Scientists feel the drug may have medicinal benefits. (Image: Imperial College London)

As a result, LSD is getting mad respect in scientific circles these days.

The Post reported in February about another study that found that long-term use of the drug could lead to improved psychological well-being. The Imperial College London study found that the use of the  creates “cognitive looseness” and leads to “highly enhanced mental flexibility.”

Imperial was at it again by taking these brain scans that revealed subjects experienced images through information drawn from many parts of their brains. Usually, it is just the visual cortex at the back of the head that normally processes visual information

In an even more intriguing finding, scientists learned the drug allowed regions of the brain once segregated to speak one another.

David Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial, was ecstatic.

“This is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics,” he said. “We didn’t know how these profound effects were produced. It was too difficult to do. Scientists were either scared or couldn’t be bothered to overcome the enormous hurdles to get this done.”

LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, was first synthesized in 1938 and was part of extensive research until the 1960s when the drug started being used for recreation and led to it being banned.

In a story on the brain scan study in The Guardian, researchers said their findings  could pave the way for LSD or related chemicals to be used to treat psychiatric disorders.

Nutt said the drug could pull the brain out of thought patterns seen in depression and addiction through its effects on brain networks.

Amanda Feilding, director of the Beckley Foundation that helped fund the study said, said: “We are finally unveiling the brain mechanisms underlying the potential of LSD, not only to heal but also to deepen our understanding of consciousness itself.”