White House Opioid Summit big on compassion, short on innovation

I had no idea U.S. Surgeon General John Maynard Woodworth had a brother in prison as a result of drug dealing.

And did you know that former Fox News commentator Eric Bolling lost his son to a deadly cocaine/fentanyl mix on Sept. 8?

I didn’t. I always liked Eric Bolling, mostly because he always maintained a sincere smile and showed respect to his guests.

Eric Junior’s chair is among thousands that will be empty when Americans sit down for Easter dinner. An estimated 174 people per day perish due to opioid overdose.

I have been without Fox News quite a while, my DirecTV disconnected months ago. I have been largely unemployed almost a year now, after all, despite relentlessly looking for work every day.

So, when I began to see Bolling on Twitter – and saw “former” Fox News commentator on his handle – I wondered what was going on.

He also seemed rather angry in his Tweets (not like I’m one to talk). So, I Just kind of wondered what was going on with him, as he always struck me on TV as a generally happy person.

In the interest of full disclosure, Bolling is yet another member of the news media fired for allegedly sexually harassing female coworkers. That’s why he’s no longer with Fox News.

But when I reviewed a recording of the White House Opioid Summit on Saturday, I learned what really has been bothering Eric Bolling.

His beautiful son is now dead.

So many dead children, moms, dads

There’s nothing fake about Eric Bolling. It’s why I like him. His tears were real during a statement before the White House Opioid Summit.

His respect for President Trump for hosting the summit also was real.

The commander in chief did something really huge with that summit: He encouraged top Republicans, not exactly a set known for being public about their troubles, to stand up and talk about addiction.

Families in denial about substance abuse can expect only one outcome in the midst of this opioid epidemic. People like Eric Bolling don’t want other families to live his grief.

Medication-assisted therapy is way overrated

If I had to focus on just one comment I most disagreed with, based on my interviews with dozens of opioid addicts, it was one made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions said that only a third of rehab centers in America are using medication-assisted therapy, and that it’s “unacceptable” because it’s scientifically proven effective.

Sessions also is allowing states to sue Pharma for creating the opioid epidemic.

This is a big disconnect. For as much as we all want to say medication-assisted therapy is the way out of addiction, I believe it to be a big lie for many people.

Do we treat alcoholism by tapering down drunks with less booze? I hope not. I never would have gotten sober had I not admitted I had a huge drinking problem and quit cold turkey.

Tapering down drinking is a great harm reduction model for alcoholism that should be tried; everything should be tried. But I’d flip if the government started giving people booze in a pill as part of “alcohol maintenance therapy.”

Read more: Illinois lawmakers say treating addiction with cannabis works

In a sense though, they already do. More on that in a minute.

I was paid handsomely by a Fortune 500 company to write about medication-assisted therapy for two years. I have been unemployed since last June, when the gig ended.

I no longer believe much of what I wrote about opioid maintenance therapy, but I am very proud of the work I did overall for Universal Health Services’ psychiatric hospitals and Foundation Recovery Network’s rehab centers.

Yes, there’s research saying medication-assisted therapy works. Research written by doctors in bed with Pharma.

And the behavioral health industry, in particular, knows this to be fact.

I have interviewed dozens of opioid addicts who say Suboxone is the devil. They’re not hard to find. There are newer, supposedly better opioid maintenance therapies out there, too, but they are not widely available. Perhaps those are what Sessions was referring to.

Help coming to rural areas

I have no doubts that medication-assisted therapy helps some severely addicted people detox. AA also was developed for severe alcoholics; not the masses.

But the fact is this: Suboxone allows the dependent to remain dependent and makes getting off Suboxone – also an opioid – nearly impossible, many say.

Why? Well, maybe your doctor doesn’t know what he or she is doing. This is not a slam on doctors – this epidemic has required primary care providers to suddenly become addiction specialists.

Read more: My report from the American College of Physicians Conference (I was there!) on what’s being done to educate doctors about the opioid epidemic.

The truth is, there are no guidelines for tapering people off Suboxone. And the dosing is at the doctor’s discretion, for better or for worse.

One recent study conducted in Finland declared “Polydrug abuse among opioid maintenance treatment patients is related to inadequate doses of maintenance treatment medicine.”

The study claims, “Both methadone and buprenorphine in fixed doses are effective in suppressing illicit opioid use. Fixed-dose studies do not require individualized dose levels because of retention in treatment, and treatment outcomes.

“However, fixed doses are rarely used in clinical practice as the flexible dosing of the medicine is more relevant to patient care. Contrary to fixed-dose studies, flexible-dose studies suggest that the optimal dose of the (opioid maintenance therapy) medicine should be tailor-made and differ between patients, to account for differences in severity of addiction, chronicity, main substance of dependence, method of administration, potency of main opioid used, tolerance acquired, and idiosyncratic issues.” (1)

So, they’re saying opioid addicts seek out other illicit drugs when their opioid desires aren’t being met, so we should up their opioids (a la Pharma sponsored, medical establishment approved, opioid maintenance therapy).

That is one wacky addiction treatment model if you ask me. That’s not even harm reduction as far as I’m concerned.

Opioid replacement therapy alone a recipe for disaster

In an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer (Philly.com), an addiction expert who has a realistic grasp on opioid maintenance therapy explains it must be done in concert with other treatments.

But too often, this is not the case. Community mental health centers are more overwhelmed than ever, especially in small towns and rural areas. And quite frankly, that’s where a huge chunk of our nation’s opioid epidemic lies.

Simply prescribing buprenorphine with no additional, meaningful support is par for the course in many of these towns. The Trump administration has announced it has made millions available, however, to bring suitable treatment to rural areas.

“It’s not that abstinence is not a goal, but the aim of (maintenance therapy) is rather to stop the devastating consequences of this terrible illness (such as HIV and Hepatitis C from injection drug use) and keep the patient alive and engaged in treatment,” wrote Scott Teitelbaum, a psych professor at University of Florida. (2)

“Many have serious co-occurring health problems, such as mental illness and a history of trauma. They may not yet have the ability to deal with the physical and emotional discomfort of being opioid-free.”

While buprenorphine and other maintenance therapies may be keeping people off heroin for a while vis a vis a harm reduction model, if not done properly it’s sure to be disastrous long term.

Prepare for the benzodiazepine blizzard

I was given 4 mg Ativan per day after I was jailed and tortured in Rock Island County on no charges at all for blowing the whistle on political corruption and suspected human trafficking. Eventually, the Ativan began to have a reverse effect and make me explosively angry (Ativan/Xanax/all benzos affect the brain the same way as alcohol).

Then, after almost three years, I had an alcohol relapse that lasted six months. And, it happened as I was getting cognitive behavioral therapy twice a week at my community’s premier psychology practice.

So, giving someone with an addiction a drug that affects them exactly the same as the substance they are addicted to is risky business.

I do think this example (opioids and benzos) is apples to apples, and mark my words: The Benzodiazepine blizzard is lining up to attack this country right behind the opioid epidemic.

At the White House Opioid Summit, a parent stepped up and explained how he thought his child had recovered from opioids. Until, that he is, he bought a Xanax off the street that was laced with fentanyl.

Now, the young college student is dead.

The Fentanyl factor

Just because someone overdoses on opioids once doesn’t mean they’re a severe addict. This is where fentanyl comes in.

Fentanyl is so deadly – indeed, it’s being used in homicidal ways – that all of these national overdoses may be a bit taken out of context.

For example, I nearly was murdered in my basement. I was held down and injected with a substance and fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning on my couch.

While in the Rock Island County Jail, I heard a former bartender/carnival worker turned jailer say, “(Politician) tried to kill Dave last year, but he woke up on his couch.”

I can’t help but suspect perhaps I was injected with heroin/fentanyl? I pray to God it remains an open investigation with the Rock Island Police Department, and I firmly believe it is.

Why would anyone want to kill me? Because of what I know. They failed in multiple homicide attempts from what I can tell, and now I have relayed all that information.

I have chronic PTSD from all I have been through. This has left me dependent on either benzodiazepines or cannabis.

Yes, I exercise. Yes, I eat right. Yes, I have had dozens of years of therapy. Yes, I have allowed them to dope me up on every Pharma medication under the sun the past 20 years. They all have led to suicidal thoughts, weight gain, and underemployment/unemployment.

When I got sober, a full year after I got off all the poisonous Pharma mental health medications, I began to thrive.

Until I was jailed and tortured a year into that sobriety. Now, I am damaged goods. I cannot find a job.

I have received zero justice and zero compensation from the county of Rock Island. I have not even heard a peep from my former AA sponsor, who sits on the county board and by now most certainly knows the truth about what happened to me. An apology would go a very, very long way.

Let’s set aside personalities and focus on the truth, please.

But this is no surprise, given the nature of the case. It’s chilling, and it’s barefaced corruption.

Read more: I was jailed on no charges at all after telling two classmates turned cops about drugs, suspected human trafficking

What pain advocates say

People who live with chronic pain say they are the real victims of the opioid crisis. They say now they have difficulty getting medication and are suffering.

I can relate to this inasmuch as I freak out when I can’t get my medical cannabis.

But I admit I’m addicted to it. My therapist suggested when I got the card that I oscillate between benzos and the cannabis so as to not get addicted to one or the other.

So, my heart breaks for these people. And here’s why.

There ARE alternatives to opioid pain medications, which is how so many people got hooked. Problem is, they are NOT widely available.

And that the government wants to make opioid maintenance therapy available to everyone instead seems downright insane to me.

Read more: Check out my interview with NBA Atlanta Hawks owner Grant Hill

Forced rehab not the answer; choices are

I think 12-step groups are snake oil and exploitative. I never have made that a secret.

But I never had a problem with step one: I am powerless over my addiction.

And anyone who does have a problem with that first step, whether they are a 12-stepper or not, never will get sober.

So, forced rehab is a joke. It’s nothing more than a way for providers of rehab to make money providing treatment they know will fail.

And yet that’s what the Trump Administration apparently wants to do. Some talk at the summit centered around changing language to make forced hospitalization of the addicted a reality. Currently, laws do not allow this. This is intended to protect the mentally ill from being falsely institutionalized.

This is a frightening, unconstitutional step to take. And science has proven again and again that forced rehab doesn’t work.

The rehab industry is, quite frankly, extremely dirty.

The relationship between the Rock Island County Sheriff’s Department and UnityPoint Trinity already is highly questionable and reeks of nepotism and corruption as far as I’m concerned. I never will set foot in UnityPoint Trinity or Robert Young Center ever again after what happened to me.

I was totally sober when I was taken there from the jail. And let’s not forget: I was jailed on no charges after narc’ing out suspected human trafficking and drug activity.

Nationally, the rehab centers have horrid reputations, especially in Florida.

It all centers around “volunteers’ who get kickbacks for luring the addicted into laughable treatment.

In an extremely well-done investigation, NBC News shined a light on this practice.

“Crooked treatment centers partner with ‘body brokers’ and operators of so-called ‘sober homes’ to find patients with good health insurance. Brokers and sober home owners offer those trying to get clean free rent and grocery store gift cards, cigarettes and manicures in exchange for going to a specific treatment center, which pays kickbacks for every client. (3)

“Once they’ve reeled patients in, these treatment centers bill their insurance tens of thousands of dollars for often questionable counseling, costly and potentially unnecessary drug screens, and exotic laboratory tests.

“Some treatment centers not only overlook drug use – they encourage it. To Florida’s worst operators, relapse doesn’t mean failure. It means profit.

Nuff said.

A glimmer of innovation in New Jersey

The truth is, there is great need for legitimate sober homes. A stable living environment is essential to recovery.

But in the end, the greatest need is this: We need to find a way to get people in that moment of “I surrender, I want help” before they change their mind. There is a very, very limited window of opportunity and it generally comes when people are jailed or hospitalized due to opioids.

To that end, a man named Kevin Meara founded “City of Angels” in New Jersey. City of Angels dispatches volunteers at just that critical moment when a person in the throes of opioid addiction may say, “Yes, I’m ready to give sobriety a shot.”

It is exactly what addiction experts not beholden to Pharma, the 12 steps, or any one way to get sober advocate for.

“I’m not a professional, I’m just a guy who buried his son,” Meara explained at the summit.

“And it has taken me from the bedroom, where he died, to the East Room of the White House.”

That is tremendous progress, and not surprising.

Meara’s got the right idea.

Until next time.


1. Heikman, P, et al. (2017, July 6). Polydrug abuse among opioid maintenance treatment patients is related to inadequate dose of maintenance treatment medicine. BMC Psychiatry. Retrieved March 4, 2018, from https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-017-1415-y
2. Teitelbaum, S. (2018, Feb. 27). Using drugs to treat opioid addiction: Handle with care. Philly.com. Retrieved March 4, 2018, from http://www.philly.com/philly/health/addiction/using-drugs-to-treat-opioid-addiction-handle-with-care-20180227.html
3. Riordan Seville, L. et al. (2017, June 25). Florida’s Billion-Dollar Drug Treatment Industry is Plagued by Overdoses, Fraud. NBC News. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/megyn-kelly/florida-s-billion-dollar-drug-treatment-industry-plagued-overdoses-fraud-n773376

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