Breaking: Powerful pain reliever works in monkeys without addiction, OD risk

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Followers of my blog and Facebook page, David Heitz Health, ask me all the time: Why aren’t there any alternative to opioids that actually work to relieve pain just as well?

I have been saying there are a few things in the works, and I have promised to follow up when there is news to share. That day finally has dawned.

Research published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that a new compound, BU08028, works to relieve pain in monkeys without harmful side effects such as addiction or overdose. In fact, even at doses ten to 30 times larger than what’s needed for pain relief, BU08028 did not slow breathing or cause other cardiovascular problems that lead to overdose deaths.

As for dependency, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that the monkeys “found it less rewarding than cocaine and two different opioids.”

BU08028 works by interacting with both opioid and non-opioid receptors in the brain.

Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, the NIH reports. That’s nearly a third of our population, and it has led to a national opioid crisis. Beyond addiction itself, the sharing of needles by addicts who progress to injecting has caused HIV and Hepatitis C rates to spike nationwide in communities that previously enjoyed low incidence of both diseases.

Read more: My Plus interview with Dr. Don Des Jarlais, founder of the modern needle exchange

“A potent opioid analgesic without addictive and respiratory adverse effects has been a predominant goal for opioid national chemistry since the isolation of morphine from opium in the 19th century,” reads the PNAS abstract. “By examining behavioral, physiological, and pharmacologic factors, the present study demonstrates that BU08028 exhibits full antinociception and antihypersensitivity (pain relief) without reinforcing effects (i.e. abuse liability) respiratory depression, pruritus (itching), adverse cardiovascular effects, or acute physical dependence.”

Don’t expect a pharmaceutical company to begin churning out BU8028 for humans anytime soon. The next step would be a phase 1 trial on humans, followed by additional clinical trials. Clinical trials take years and are wildly expensive, but a non-addictive pain reliever in the face of a national opioid epidemic could result in political pressure and a slightly expedited process.

Even under the most hopeful scenarios, such a pharmaceutical opioid alternative would be several years away.

Read more: My Healthline News report on how centipede venom could yield a powerful new pain medicine

At Overdose Awareness Walk, angry moms want justice, competent care

Bridge OD

It’s one thing to make my living writing about addiction and recovery, with most of my stories these days being about our nation’s raging opioid crisis.

But it’s another to go out and meet the loved ones of those who have lost the battle – moms and dads who’ve buried sons or daughters, sons and daughters who’ve buried moms and dads.

But that’s just what I did Saturday when I participated in the 3rd Annual Overdose Awareness Walk sponsored by Quad-Cities Harm Reduction. You can see pictures and videos from the event by checking out their Facebook page.

You can’t rehabilitate people who are dead. That message was driven home repeatedly in speeches given after the walk, which took a meaningful route in and of itself.

The walk began at Davenport’s Lafayette Park, which has been known for being a hub of drug activity. The surrounding housing for years has harbored drug dealers, although one such complex recently was demolished and new housing is sprouting in its place.

The walk made its way from Lafayette Park across the Centennial Bridge and into Illinois, ending at the stunning Schwiebert Riverfront Park in Rock Island.

I had not walked across that bridge since my own days of drinking and drugging.

Heroin overdoses up 300 percent nationwide

Saturday’s event focused on opioid overdoses and Naloxone, which can bring somebody OD’ing on heroin or painkillers back from the brink. Quad-Cities Harm Reduction raises money so they can pass out free Naloxone kits to the loved ones of people prone to overdose.

Read more: Prince story demonstrates the stigma of opioid addiction, but will it help change it?

In my decades long battle with alcoholism and addiction, opioids never were my thing. They often were offered to me at the tavern, and during times when I suffered from gout or sciatica pain (both of which have pretty much disappeared since getting sober almost two and a half years ago) only then would I agree to take them. Otherwise, they just tore my stomach up too much.

I did have an introduction to heroin (at least I presume that’s what it was) – once. But not by choice (a phenomenon that has repeated itself in my community at least one other time that I know of in recent years). I was assaulted, injected, and lived to tell about it.

You can read about everything I have been through right here. I have a PTSD diagnosis and live in fear for my life every day.

For many people, a small taste of opioids is all it takes for them to become addicted, so physically addicted that they become ill and can even die when they stop using. Many people who become addicted to opioids do not fit the societal definition of an addict – they were prescribed painkillers for a surgery or injury and simply became hooked.

Read more: Almost everyone who overdoses on painkillers continues to get refills from a doctor

Others just fell into the wrong crowd, or met the wrong person.

Angry moms want justice for their babies

I chatted with several people during the walk. There are some angry moms out there. They want justice for their babies.

Several spoke of federal prosecutions of the “bad guys’ who supplied heroin to their dead loved ones. While the local news has been abundant with such reports, with some dealers even being convicted of homicide in overdose situations, obviously it’s an even bigger story than what the local news media is reporting.

Scott County has the highest overdose rate in all of Iowa, organizers said.

Walkers said Quad-City law enforcement is doing an excellent job of getting the drugs off the streets. Whether the justice system will do its part is another question altogether (and a bit controversial).

One woman told me her daughter could not get the treatment she needed for opiate withdrawal at a local hospital. She said they told her “We don’t do that.” Instead, they gave her Librium, the woman said. Librium generally is given to alcoholics, and she said her daughter didn’t even drink.

Many others said when they tried to seek help for their loved ones, it just wasn’t available.

It’s clear from speaking to the walkers that the Quad-Cities community in particular is poorly equipped for this crisis and has a long way to go. Accolades to Quad-Cities Harm Reduction for raising awareness of the problem and doing its part to save lives, and to Quad-Cities law enforcement for getting the garbage off the streets.

Read More: Study illuminates ways opioids are being misused, falling into the wrong hands

 

Study: Depressed people with HIV at greater risk for heart attack

HIV Church

We’ve known for quite some time that for a person living with HIV but treating it with modern antiretroviral therapy, a heart attack is a much greater threat than an opportunistic infection.

And now we know that when you put depression into the mix, the heart attack risk is even greater.

While the findings aren’t surprising because they mirror a link between depression and heart attack risk in the general population, the paper published online this morning in JAMA Cardiology is cause for concern. That’s because people with HIV already are at far greater risk of having a heart attack than the general population, due in part to the heightened state of inflammation HIV causes in the body.

“Our findings raise the possibility that, similar to the general population, major depressive disorder may be independently associated with incident atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in the HIV-infected population,” the authors wrote. “Considering the dearth of research in this area, future epidemiologic and mechanistic studies that include women and non-VA populations with HIV are needed.”

Researchers from Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University followed more than 26,000 HIV-infected veterans without cardiovascular disease at baseline (1998-2003) participating in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Aging Cohort Study from April 1, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2009. At baseline, 19 percent of them suffered from major depressive disorder as classified by the International Classification of Diseases codes.

“We report novel evidence that HIV-infected adults with major depressive disorder have a 30 percent increased risk for acute myocardial infarction (a heart attack) than HIV-infected adults without major depressive disorder after adjustment for many potential confounders,” the authors wrote.

Depression a problem among people with HIV

The findings are troubling because not only is heart disease far more prevalent among people with HIV than in the general population (one study showed that the risk is increased by 50 percent), so is depression.

Read more: My report for HIV Equal on a “PrEP Against Heart Disease” being studied now among people with HIV

Two years ago, I wrote a story for Healthline News headlined, “People with HIV Suffer from Depression Caused by Pain, Shame, Substance Abuse.” You can read the story by clicking here. I don’t think I ever have received more email from readers than I did for that story, mostly thanking me for bring me the issue to light. People with HIV run twice the risk of depression than the general population, studies show.

Many people with HIV simply are getting older, and older Americans are at greater risk for depression even without a chronic illness. Older people are at greater risk for heart attack, too.

The mean age among people with HIV with major depressive disorder in the Vanderbilt study was 48. The mean age among those without depression was 47.

“It is possible that the presence of major depressive disorder further exacerbates the persistent inflammatory and coagulatory activation already present in HIV, resulting in higher cardiovascular disease event rates,” the authors wrote. “Potential behavioral mechanisms underlying the major depressive disorder incident CVD association are poor health behaviors (eg. smoking and sedentary lifestyle and treatment non-adherence).”

Studies have shown that people who are depressed are less adherent to their HIV medication.

It all adds up to a deadly mix for people with HIV who aren’t taking care of themselves. The authors hope their study stimulates new research for depression treatments among people with HIV.

Read more: My Healthline News report on why people with HIV must stop smoking

Blame for pharma price gouging lies with politicians

Pharma prices

A special communication published online this morning in the Journal of the American Medical Association spells out just why prescription drug prices in the United States are far and away the highest in the world.

In the end, it comes down to two words: Pharma lobby. Our nation’s own laws make it easy for the pharmaceutical industry to gorge consumers, and the power of the seemingly bottomless pharma purse makes it difficult to get them changed.

“High drug prices are the result of the approach the United States has taken to granting government-protected monopolies to drug manufacturers, combined with coverage requirements imposed on government-funded drug benefits,” the authors concluded. “The most realistic short-term strategies to address high prices include enforcing more stringent requirements for the award and extension of exclusivity rights; enhancing competition by ensuring timely generic drug availability; providing greater opportunities for meaningful price negotiation by government payers; generating more evidence about comparative cost-effectiveness of therapeutic alternatives (more NIH-funded scientific research on alternative, non-pharma approaches, such as natural therapies, is sorely needed); and more effectively educating patients, prescribers, payers, and policy makers about these choices.”

The paper is an extensive review of research published in peer-reviewed academic journals from 2005 to 2016. The authors are pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics professors from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The paper is one of the most compelling and easy to understand pieces I ever have read on the topic.

I became interested in pharma pricing while working as a reporter for Healthline News. While I do not have HIV or Hepatitis C, those were my primary beats. The once-a-day pill that cures Hepatitis C (Sovaldi by Gilead) came to market while I was at Healthline News at a staggering $84,000 for a 12-week supply. A second-generation pill, Harvoni, came to market shortly thereafter, and costs more than $90,000. Doctors have reported its tolerability to be far superior to even Sovaldi, which was dubbed “game changing” medication and forever changed the health landscape.

Read more: My Healthline News report when Harvoni came to market

The medications still are priced less than the cost of a liver transplant. While the drugs have a tremendous public health benefit and will result in tremendous cost savings over the course of many years, those savings won’t be realized by today’s payers.

Interestingly, Sovaldi came to market just as Baby Boomers have come of age. Hepatitis C, a disease of the liver, is most common among Baby Boomers and injection drug users. It’s common among Baby Boomers because prior to the advent of the HIV epidemic in the U.S., hospital sterilization techniques and the monitoring of the nation’s blood supply were less thorough than they are today. Many Baby Boomers obtained the disease in those settings.

Some argue that many veterans obtained Hepatitis C while in the military due to unsterile vaccination procedures.

The Prilosec problem

The authors of the JAMA paper make several interesting points:

Since the advent of the Medicare drug benefit in 2006, government entities have accounted for 40 percent of the nation’s total drug expenditure.

“Drug prices are higher in the United States than in the rest of the industrialized world because, unlike that in nearly every other advanced nation, the U.S. health care system allows manufacturers to set their own price for a given product. In contrast, in countries with national health insurance systems, a delegated body negotiates drug prices or rejects coverage of products if the price demanded by the manufacturer is excessive in light of the benefit provided: Manufacturers may then decide to offer the drug at a lower price.”

Read more: My interview with an IMAK executive about Gilead’s decision to curtail its patient assistance program for Sovaldi, Harvoni (they were playing hardball with insurers)

Drug companies receive years-long patents, and then can extend the patents for many more years – decades — through a number of loopholes and legal maneuverings.  “In an example of this strategy, the manufacturer of the proton-pump inhibitor omeprazole (Prilosec) received an additional patent on the drug’s s-isomer, despite the absence of any compelling pharmacologic difference,” the authors reported. “This lead to the creation of esomeprazole (Nexium) as a newly branded product that was sold for $4 a pill, a 600 percent markup over the over-the-counter version of omeprazole.”

Essentially, companies are able to tweak products and move patients from one to the next, “sometimes discontinuing production of older version of the drug,” the authors reported.

Backlogs at the FDA office can delay generic applications for years even when a patent does expire and generics come to market. “Some innovator companies have refused to provide the samples of their products needed for the potential generic manufacturers to conduct bioequivalence studies, slowing or blocking the process,” the authors reported.

Contact your legislators and demand change

What does the pharmaceutical industry have to say about all of this? “The pharmaceutical industry has maintained that high drug prices reflect the research and development costs a company incurred to develop the drug, are necessary to pay for future research costs to develop new drugs, or both,” according to the authors. “It is true that industry often makes expensive investments in drug development and commercialization, particularly through the late-stage clinical trials, which can be costly…. Some economic analyses favored by the pharmaceutical industry content that it costs $2.6 billion to develop a new drug that makes it to market. However, the rigor of this widely cited number has been disputed.”

What needs to be done to lower prices? For starters, patent laws need to be changed, or at least the interpretation of those laws, according to the authors. This would allow for much needed competition. “For example, changes in how the U.S. Patient and Trademark Office interprets ‘novelty’ and ‘non-obviousness’ when issuing patents could help avoid new secondary patents based on clinically irrelevant changes to active drug products.”

Read more: My Healthline News report on the cost of HIV care around the world

And existing laws need to be better enforced.

Drug promotion budgets could be limited, resulting in cost savings. The only other high-income nation in the world that allows direct to consumer advertising by pharma is New Zealand. Of course, this opens up a can of worms about our free market economy, and that’s not a discussion I care to get into. Pharma advertising makes websites such as Healthline possible, and even though I no longer write for them, I remain a big fan.

“In theory, the most effective way for a government to reduce drug prices would be for it to set them for the entire marketplace, as central governments do in countries such as Sweden, or to engage in international reference pricing and set prices at levels similar to those of other countries,” the authors wrote. “Taking such a step in the United States would have major marketplace ramifications and is not at present politically feasible, in part because of the power of the pharmaceutical lobby in Washington, D.C. Nonetheless, the U.S. government can still take steps to help control excessive drug prices by reassessing some existing unusual and overly permissive policies.”

Read more: Yes, pharma reps likely do have a say in which medications you take

Yes, pharma reps likely do have a say in which medications you take

MedsYou probably have seen them in your doctor’s office: Those really nice looking young people in a coat and tie, or a pretty pantsuit, carrying a spiffy briefcase and a bag filled with medicine samples.

They’re pharmaceutical reps. And a new study shows they probably wield just as much influence as the cynical among us always thought they did.

Published today in BMJ, researchers from Yale and the Center for Medicare Services have shown an association between payments to physicians for speaking and consulting fees, food and drink and other perks and written prescriptions for those companies’ drugs – at least when it comes to non-insulin diabetes meds and oral anticoagulants, both common among our booming elderly population.

The study was massive. Researchers examined 46 million Medicare Part D prescriptions written by more than 600,000 physicians to more than 10 million patients. They looked at more than 300 hospital referral regions.

“One additional payment in a region (median value $13) was associated with approximately 80 additional days filled of the marketed drug in the region,” the study concluded. “Payments to specialists and payments for speaking and consulting fees were associated with larger regional changes in prescribing than payments for non-specialists or payments for food and beverages or education.”

We all know what prescription drugs cost. That’s some serious bang for the buck.

Docs got $169 million for these two classes of drugs alone

Just how much money are we talking in terms of the dollars doled out to docs?

Nearly a million payments were given to the physicians in the 300-plus regions in 2013 and 2014. Just for the anti-coagulants, which are used to treat atrial fibrillation (A-fib) and other cardiovascular disorders, payments totaled more than $61 million. For the non-insulin diabetes drugs, approximately 1.8 million payments totaling more than $108 million were showered upon the docs.

Read more: My interview with actor Howie Mandel about his A-fib

How this study, the first of its kind, finally became possible is noteworthy as well. In a word: Obamacare.

“The Open Payments program, enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, mandated manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices to report payments to physicians and teaching hospitals to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The resulting data include direct and indirect payments as well as payments in kind, such as the value of food and gifts, and details the manufacturers products associated with the payment.”

Previous studies have shown that doctors do not believe they are influenced by the payments.

Do you think your doctor is prescribing the best drug for you? Or is he or she possibly prescribing a more expensive drug that isn’t necessary, or even a drug that might not be as effective as something else? These are concerns I heard for more than two years as a reporter for Healthline News from patients with all sorts of medical conditions. I hope to someday write a long-form look at such practices as it pertains to HIV medications.

Read more: My infographic report on the cost of HIV medications around the world

Authors admit study has limitations

The study does have limitations, the authors admit.

“Our findings do not necessarily suggest that payments by pharmaceutical manufacturers are harmful for patient care,” they wrote. “Patients may benefit from physicians being made aware of newly approved, effective treatments that may have fewer adverse effects, reduce the need for monitoring tests, or improve adherence. However, our findings support long voiced concerns about the potential influence of even small payments to physicians by pharmaceutical companies, such as for food and beverages.

“This influence on prescribing can potentially negatively affect patients through inappropriate prescribing, or more likely prescribing of more expensive, branded drugs when cheaper, generic alternatives exist. By one estimate, the geographic variance in high cost or low cost drug prescribing cost Medicare $4.5 billion in 2008.”

I always have said I really have no idea whether Obamacare is a good or a bad thing, because I’ve written about it so much I could see it either way. But I will say this: This sort of transparency is good for America any way it comes in our current climate of rampant political and corporate corruption.

“Our study has important limitations,” the authors go on to note. “Firstly, as the study was cross-sectional, we cannot prove the causality that marketing causes prescribing; it is possible that pharmaceutical companies market in regions where prescribing is already higher. Secondly, our results likely underestimate the association between payments by the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and physician prescribing since we only had data on prescriptions filled, not prescribed, and our analyses were focused solely on Medicare Part D enrollees, who received approximately 25 percent of all the prescriptions written in the United States.”

The researchers report; you decide.

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Read more: My report on how insurers use higher drug costs to discourage sick patients from enrolling

BREAKING: Mass. insurers must pay to fix HIV medication disfigurement

Red RibbonIt’s finally law in Massachusetts: Insurers must cover the cost of surgeries to fix the disfiguring side effects of HIV medications, a condition which affects thousands of long-term survivors.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday signed the legislation, which undoubtedly will transform the lives of those who have paid a painful price for staying alive. Beyond the hit to the pocketbooks that HIV medications cause, many older-line medications have caused HIV-associated lipodystrophy syndrome.

The condition causes enormous fat deposits in certain parts of the body, often the belly or the back, creating a condition that has come to be known as “HIV humpback.” But it also can cause fat loss in the face and the limbs, creating a look of emaciation.

I first wrote about the condition and the efforts of then-Massachusetts Legislator Carl Sciortino in a story more than two years ago for Imstilljosh.

In an exclusive interview for HIV Equal last year, I spoke with Sciortino about why he left the legislature to become executive director for AIDS Action Committee.

You can read the details of the new law in this piece on Masslive.com. I will be chatting with Sciortino soon and will post a follow-up on my blog.

“Some of our longest-term survivors of the HIV epidemic have been suffering profoundly, silently and invisibly because of medications,” said Ben Klein, senior attorney and AIDS law project director at GLAD, in a statement to Masslive.

More than 100 doctors supported the bill. They stressed that the surgery to fix it is not cosmetic, and that the condition causes physical problems such as pain, poor posture, and insomnia.

“Treatment of lipodystrophy is basic medical care; it is not cosmetic,” the doctors wrote. “It is also sound health policy. It is costlier to address the harm of lipodystrophy (e.g. pain medications, physical therapy, psychotherapy) than it is to treat the underlying disease.”

Check back to DavidHeitz.com often, as I will post my interview with Carl Sciortino as soon as he is available. Continue to expect more news related to long-term survivors of HIV, as well as cure and vaccine news, from my brand new website in the days ahead. Follow me on Facebook at David Heitz Health and Twitter (@DavidHeitz).

Welcome to DavidHeitz.com! Here is what my blog and web page is all about

I get excited just saying it: DavidHeitz.com. 

DavidHeitz.com. DavidHeitz.com. DavidHeitz.com

Not even five years ago would I even have dreamed that one day I would have my own website bearing my own name — my very own brand, if you will.

For starters, I never would have guessed I would even get the domain DavidHeitz.com. There is another journalist named David Heitz (and we are even the same age, both with dark hair) right down the road, in Chicago. There’s a famous David Heitz winemaker in Napa Valley. There’s a big real estate agent named David Heitz in California, too.

But there’s only ONE DavidHeitz.com! And I’m thrilled it’s me.

So why did I purchase the domain and the software to create my own site and my own blog? Well, the short answer is, I’m writing a book, due out next year. Every author needs to have a website and a social media following. The working title for my book is “Sober Caregiver, Solitary Confinement.” It not only works literally, but figuratively too. On many levels.

The social media part I’ve been working on for about two and a half years now. Today, between David Heitz Health on Facebook, @DavidHeitz on Twitter, plus LinkedIn, Google Plus, and a tiny presence on Pinterest, I have more than 7,000 followers. And it’s growing pretty fast.

I admit it now — I have a story worth telling

When people talk about writing, so much focus is placed on the craft of writing. No doubt, that is very important. But in this age where, let’s face it, anyone can be a publisher, I think what you have to say is even more important than how you say it.

So who am I? Well, a guy who was an alcoholic and/or drug addict (always one or the other when not both) for about 30 years. I grew up in a violent home. I lost my mother to breast cancer at age 24 after she had divorced my dad the second time.

I found out in my early 30s that dad had Alzheimer’s disease, which turned out to be a misdiagnosis. A few years back, we learned it in fact was a very rare brain disease called behavioral-variant frontotemporal degeneration. You can read all about that by clicking here.  Essentially it causes people to be very mean, and otherwise behave outrageously. Toward the very end their mind disintegrates to the point where they lose control of bodily functions, the ability to walk, talk, and swallow. And then they die.

So I got sober two and a half years ago when dad went into a memory care facility. I knew I had to or I was going to die. Like so many families that go through this disease, ours fell apart. Nobody cared about my dad except for me, and I cared about him very deeply. I demanded quality care and respect from the people who were paid outrageous sums of money to make sure he was safe and I dropped in quite often to make sure they were doing just that. I wasn’t always nice when I felt he (or myself) were being treated poorly.

Even as a teen, my friends used to say, “You need to write a book about your crazy family.” I always said, “Oh, my life is not that interesting.”

Famous last words.

Jailed for reporting an intruder at dad’s facility

I even went to jail, stripped naked, held on no charges at all, for two days, for raising my voice at dad’s memory care facility. You can read all about that by clicking here. There’s a whole lot more to that story that I never have told (other than to authorities), and it will all be in the book.

I became very sick inside the jail and truly thought they were going to kill me, or that I was going to die from a heart attack based on what was happening to me in there.

When they did finally let me out, I  spent two nights in the hospital. I learned some chilling things about my community. Things that, in truth, I had heard about for many years as a reporter and editor for local news organizations. But never did I think I would get an up close and personal experience with it. Maybe they wanted a reporter in there to see what was going on for himself. Who knows. It was wild stuff, no doubt about that.

I have written about all of these things piecemeal in various columns for Healthline Contributors, Caregiver Relief, and LinkedIn Pulse. I wrote hard news stories for two years as a reporter for Healthline.com, the fastest growing health website in America. I’ve written about addiction and recovery, caregiving and elder advocacy, and many other health topics, namely HIV and Hepatitis C.

While I do not have HIV or Hepatitis C, in many ways, it was that reporting that served as my bread and butter when it came to paying the bills and my re-entry into the world of writing (and working, for that matter). I’ve gotten away from HIV reporting the past several months, and I may explain why in a future column. More importantly, I plan on bringing  back my HIV reporting soon — today, in fact. Check out my other blog post for breaking news today that will be of great interest to long-term survivors of HIV.

In fact, I pounded out this introductory column about my blog and my new website — even though the website isn’t exactly how I want it yet (I have no idea what a widget is, for example) because of that exciting HIV news. Expect my HIV reporting from here on out to be limited to stories regarding long-term survivors, a cure, and a vaccine. The other stuff I’m not even going to touch anymore.

Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

I do suffer from some personal health issues. Many years ago I was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder. In fact, I was a drug addict. Mixing the bipolar drugs with illegal drugs and booze no doubt did plenty of damage, and I went through bouts of depression where I would cry and not get off the couch for months at a time.

When I got off the bipolar medication things began to turn around, yet the hard drinking did not stop, even though I had quit using drugs and quit hanging out with the bar and drug crowd. Boozing it up by myself, at home alone, I knew then that indeed I was an alcoholic. I could not get to sleep otherwise, the anxiety associated with caring for dad and fighting with my family was so bad.

When I was violently assaulted by someone I knew, that was my “rock bottom.” I stopped drinking and by the grace of God hope I never take another sip. Things have been on the upswing ever since.

But I do live with PTSD, not only from that violent attack more than two years ago, but also from being taken to jail last year (almost exactly to the anniversary date of the assault). I also endured mental abuse inside the jail, and just the sheer disappointment of knowing our community runs a jail like that probably will forever linger.

But things are improving for me every day, and I have found that the best way to take care of myself is to completely isolate myself from the people of my past, including my own family. I have been told I should move out of this town, but I don’t want to do that. I enjoy living in my childhood home, which I now own, and I have made the decision to stay put.

So, what can you expect from this blog? Well, hopefully a lot of positive things. I recently began to write about travel (and plan to do some traveling myself soon), pets, eating out, and hopefully soon, home improvement. I mostly pay the bills writing branded content related to addiction/recovery and home care for seniors and people with disabilities. Those stories will continue to appear on my Facebook page, David Heitz Health. Be sure to like my page if you have not already!

So I have lots of great things happening in my life and am a very blessed man. I’m so excited to launch this new chapter — DavidHeitz.com — and hope you will continue to follow my work, as well as my path to finding happiness again.

All the best,

Dave