California: Crack and Cocaine Sentencing Will Finally Be Equal!

Let’s go back, way back to the 1980’s when when the Reagan Administration began implementing divided sentencing for cocaine possession and crack cocaine possession. Many people are unaware of the major differences between the two drugs, and the truth of the matter is…there’s not very much difference aside for two chemicals: baking soda and water (which creates the rock). Crack cocaine is the smokable version of cocaine. images2crack2

I bet you are asking yourself, “I always thought crack cocaine was worse.” One of the reasons for that mindset probably has to do with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 which basically perpetuated the myth. This law solidified that penalty for crack cocaine over cocaine charges included a minimum of a 5 year prison sentence and a 100:1 weight ratio. At the time cocaine was much more expensive which meant primarily used by white individuals while crack cocaine was primarily used by African Americans. This law created what we know today as a major racial disparity in sentencing. According to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, “The sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has contributed to the imprisonment of African Americans at six times the rate of whites and to the United States’ position as the world’s leader in incarcerations.”

As you can imagine, this new law equalizes the disparity which is a huge win for continued civil rights of all Americans. “The California Fair Sentencing Act takes a brick out of the wall of the failed 1980’s drug war era laws that have devastated communities of color, especially Black and Latino men,” said Lynne Lyman, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, “we are actively dismantling institutional racism. I hope California’s action gives momentum to the remaining 11 states that still retain this unjust and irrational racial disparity in their penal codes,” Lyman concluded. Read the full story here: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2014/09/governor-jerry-brown-signs-california-fair-sentencing-act-eliminate-disparities-crack-a

Chicago Mayor Seeks To Decriminalize Pot and Reduce Penalties for Controlled Substances

Raum Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor has publicly recommended that the city amend their drug policies. Many say this is a political maneuver but many from across the systems affected see its value. Where do you stand? Read the Chicago Tribune article featuring comments about stigma by our Executive Director: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-heroin-penalties-suburbs-reaction-met-20140926-story.html#page=1.

Pharmacies Warn Patients of New Schedule II Hydrocodone Rules

Our Outreach Coordinator, Genevieve Przybylo, came across this gem yesterday at her local neighborhood Walgreens. As you could imagine, we were all happy to finally see the information publicly emphasized regarding hydrocodone’s restriction. For those unfamiliar with what’s happening, hydrocodone is a very powerful narcotic opioid pain relief medication commonly prescribed to anyone who has endured any level of pain. Yes, even people who get scratches and bumps are sometimes prescribed this by their doctor. The number one prescriber of these meds are dentists – ever get a root canal or had your wisdom teeth pulled? Millions do every single day. This drug is extremely addictive which has contributed to the drug dependencies and addictions/substance use disorders of millions, and not to mention the overdose deaths of individuals every 19 minutes in the United States of America. Because of the epidemic, the DEA finally re-classed hydrocodone as Schedule II instead of Schedule III which prevents a consumer from being able to get a refill.

While this is a phenomenal step in the right direction, the sociologist in me feels like there is cause for concern here. For those of you familiar with opioid addiction, many people start their journey by orally ingesting or snorting opioid pain medications. Because of the high price of these meds, many users switch to heroin (a Schedule I opioid) which is FAR cheaper (as low as $5 per bag) and FAR more powerful (thus more addictive). My concern is that the unavailability of pain medications will lead people to heroin use, putting those individuals at a much higher risk for an elevated use disorder as well as overdose. If you understand use disorder you know that withdrawal from opioids is extremely powerful and all consuming which would make any human desperate for anything to help relieve them of their pain.

My question to the medical community is, what steps are being taken by primary care physicians and other MD’s to properly coach their clients through this process? Is there a referral to treatment process being executed? How are MDs following up with their clients? Or, are they left to defend for themselves without medical care? Regardless of the answers, the ultimate fear I have is that the heroin economy will surge right back up causing more deaths.

WARNING: If you have any level of dependency or use disorder to opioid pain medications, please do not try detoxing from this alone or without medical assistance. It is very dangerous. Please reach out today and we can help guide you through this process as well as refer you to an appropriate treatment facility.

Chelsea Laliberte
Executive Director, Live4Lali

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Finally a legislator develops groundbreaking prevention and education bill for Illinois!

U.S. Representative Bill Foster (D- Naperville, IL) has done it! For a long time we have been hearing about Rep. Foster’s amazing concern and understanding of a great need for opioid abuse education and overdose prevention. Read about it here: http://dailynorthwestern.com/2014/09/21/city/bill-introduced-to-prevent-drug-abuse-encourage-drug-take-back-programs/

“People typically do more research when shopping for a new car than when seeking treatment for addiction.”

Addiction – to anything – can be a very confusing disease to grasp even for those who are suffering from it. When the active user or their loved ones are discovering what addiction is and learning to accept its presence in their lives, identifying an appropriate course of action to treat the addiction can be an extremely daunting task. Many people think that a typical 30-day inpatient treatment program from a 12-step based facility is the way to go. They think, “this is the magic bullet that will rid my loved one of addiction forever.” To their disappointment and surprise, when relapse might occur following the completion of a program, they blame the facility or in most cases, scold/shame/guilt their loved one for not being “able to just stop.”

Understanding addiction as a disease is imperative to treating it. Drugs become like food or water to those who are dependent upon them. In order to appropriately treat the disease, each person must be provided with the customized plan designed for them. So what do you do when 12-step is the common practice but not what is needed for you or your loved one? You consider what other options are out there. Understanding effective treatment addiction is the difference between seeing long-term, positive recovery results and experiencing a long and winding road of relapse and discouragement. Click here to read this article written by Jane Brody on this very interesting topic.

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Neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart Dishes on All Things Drugs at TEDMED 2014

We all have heroes! One of ours is Dr. Carl Hart professor of psychiatry and psychology at Columbia University. Dr. Hart’s remarkable work has provided America with groundbreaking, up-to-date education about the biological, social, legislative, economic, and racial implications of drug hysteria.

Overdose Awareness Day 2014: A Night to Remember

The evening of August 30, 2014 was memorable for our entire team. Since early March, we worked tirelessly to put together this evening of remembrance, hope and action. It was incredible to see it all come together and even more wonderful to be in such wonderful company. It was impossible not to feel a sense of unity amongst our entire community.

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Working to End Addiction Stigma One Family at a Time

A Message from Live4Lali’s Executive Director, Chelsea Laliberte:

Welcome to our labor of love and consider yourself a member of the family. Live4Lali is an organization dedicated to providing a voice for the voiceless, advocating for the rights and services for those suffering from the disease of addiction and their loves ones, supporting and funding addiction and social science research efforts, providing effective and evidence-based drug prevention and overdose prevention education to all demographics, and to eventually ending overdose.

Live4Lali’s journey began in January 2009, just one month after the loss of my little brother, Alex Laliberte, to an accidental opioid/benzodiazepine overdose. At the time, no one wanted to talk about addiction or drug use on any level. Even mentioning the word “heroin” resulted in blank stares, looks of disgust and statements of resistance and confusion. My family and I fought the “should of, could of, would of” feelings of regret, judging neighbors, friends who found it easier to walk away then to stand strong with us, and a devastating journey through grief that caused each of us to get to know ourselves again without Alex.

I was 23 years old and suddenly forced to understand life again. Losing Alex meant losing half of myself. It meant starting over. It meant finding the will and strength to survive. Soon enough we crossed paths with other families that were sadly going through the same exact situation. This community was like a secret club, drenched in shame and stigma that was produced by the outside world. My parents, siblings and others close to us were angry, distraught and more motivated than ever to fight for what Alex no longer could fight for: life. Why did this have to happen? Why Alex? What did we miss? Why didn’t we know? These questions and others plagued us until we could not stand by silently any longer.

Little did we know, the Chicago-land area was hit so hard from the underground opioid (heroin and Rx pain pills) market that in 2012 its availability took the lives of 533 people in the city of Chicago and throughout Cook county. That figure topped the murder rate that same year which was the highest it had ever been anywhere in America.

Over time, our support system has grown into what is now a powerful advocacy community of hundreds of passionate individuals. While it devastates me that my new found friends have lost someone to a preventable and reversible death, it also gives me hope that through our voices, much needed change will occur. Live4Lali’s changes have proven that the tides are turning. We started out as a small awareness group which focused on funding other programs and are now funding our own by providing public education and overdose prevention learning experiences for the community, professionals and those directly impacted.

We can no longer ignore humanity. We can no longer put off brain diseases as worthy causes to pay attention to. We can no longer allow the war on drugs to beat us. Together, we are making a difference. Join us.

Chelsea A. Laliberte

PS Learn a little bit about Alex by viewing his story in pictures: