Meghan Ralston

Are People Dying Because Rehabs Fail to Do This One Simple Thing?

This article was originally published by The Influence, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on Facebook or Twitter.

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‘Silk Road’ Was A Better, Safer Way to Buy and Sell Drugs

In the aftermath of the guilty verdicts handed down in the case of Ross Ulbricht, some journalists have been having a field day reporting on the downfall of the ‘alleged mastermind’ behind Silk Road, while  others are shining a light on the apparent miscarriage of justice . But curiously absent in the deluge of reporting around Silk Road is the discussion about the drug war. While it’s disappointing that we’d rather use words like ‘alleged mastermind’ than ‘evidence of drug war failure,’ it’s perhaps understandable, because it’s not always easy to talk about the uncomfortably obvious:

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California Chips Away at the Stigma of Addiction

It’s not every day that a state does something compassionate and sensible for people who use drugs, but recently, California did just that. On September 15, Governor Brown signed AB 1535 (Bloom), which will allow people who use drugs and their loved ones to walk into a pharmacy without a prescription, ask for the lifesaving opiate overdose reversal medicine naloxone , get educated about its use, purchase it and walk out with it. It’s a good health practice—and it’s also making a strong statement of support that people at risk of an opiate overdose should be able to easily obtain the medicine that can save their lives. 

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The Viral "Faces of Drug Arrests" Infographic Is Inaccurate and Damaging

An eye-poppingly offensive infographic has been making the social media rounds this week, even making appearances in unlikely places like TIME.com.

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Why It's Wrong to Call Drug Users "Addicts"

“Addict’” is one of those words that so many of us use, largely without pausing to wonder if we should. We just take for granted that it’s totally okay to describe a human being with one word, “addict”—a word with overwhelmingly negative connotations to many people.

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The Tragedy of Philip Seymour Hoffman: How We Can Prevent Overdose Deaths

The suspected overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman is hitting millions of people, including myself, like a tsunami today. The story keeps unfolding and the tragedy just keeps compounding. Recent reports are suggesting that he was discovered with a needle in his arm and bags of a substance (presumed to be heroin) nearby. Like many of you, I was a huge fan of his, considered him to be the most gifted actor of his generation. And like many of you, I am horrified to think that he died from something so often easily prevented.
What makes the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman all the more tragic is that it happened in New York, a state with a wide array of policies and services designed to reduce drug overdose deaths and save the lives of people who use drugs. New York has a 911 Good Samaritan law, which offers some protection from drug charges for people who call 911 to report a suspected overdose. Many people panic at the scene of an overdose, fearing they or the overdose victim will be arrested for possessing small amounts of drugs. Good Samaritan laws in over a dozen states, including New York, encourage people to act quickly to save a life without fear of drug charges for minor violations. New Yorkers also have limited access to the opiate overdose reversal medicine naloxone. If administered right away, naloxone can can reverse an overdose and restore normal breathing.

Naloxone is generic, inexpensive, non-narcotic, works quickly and is not only safe, but also easy to use. It's been around since the 1970s and has saved tens of thousands of lives. New York also just this week introduced legislation to expand access to it.

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Molly Is Not Killing People at Music Festivals, Prohibition Is to Blame

Reports on deaths related to Ecstasy and methamphetamine use are always heartbreaking. It’s easy to understand why people are worried about young people consuming stimulants at music festivals. Drug-related fatalities at large music events are, thankfully, still pretty rare given the sheer number of music festivals and the enormous crowds many of them draw, and with a little effort, we could reduce drug-related harms even further. But don’t expect event promoters to do all the work—people who use drugs and our prohibition-approach to all of this bear some responsibility, too.

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End of the Silk Road: Will Shutting Down the 'eBay for Drugs' Cause More Than Harm Than Good?

The website called Silk Road, referred to as “the eBay for drugs,” has been seized by US federal agents according to the New York Times and other outlets. Silk Road has been used, successfully and discreetly, by countless people around the world since February 2011. Operating as an above-ground source for a variety of drugs, ranging from marijuana to heroin and virtually everything in between, Silk Road created a safe environment, free of weapons and violence during the transaction, where people could acquire drugs.

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Drugs Like Krokodil Are the Result of Irresponsible 'War on Drugs' Policy

It’s easy to focus on the sensational aspects of the emerging krokodil “flesh-rotting drug” story, but that ignores the most troubling issues around its origins, its popularity and its continued use. Krokodil is the street term for a home-made injectable opioid called desomorphine, a drug with effects similar to, but not as long lasting, as heroin. Desomorphine was first patented in the U.S. in 1932, but the homemade version has risen in popularity in Russia in recent years. Desperation often breeds tragedy and disaster, and Russia’s shoddy methods of treating their sick and addicted created the desperation that led to the disastrous popularity of krokodil.

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How Prescribing Heroin Could Actually Save Lives

Another International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug. 31) approaches and many people are still focused on prescription opioid drugs and their role in overdose fatalities. Those do indeed play a big role. But another threat is snaking through the country and we need to plan for its impact.

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