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Catholic Medical Group . . . Hears Of Growing Risk Of Illicit Drugs Including Fentanyl

February 13, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — Notorious Philadelphia abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell first got into really hot water — hotter than a lax abortionist might use for sterilizing instruments — when investigators suspected he was running a pill mill out of his office. He was, but their raid in 2010 also exposed his baby-killing kinkiness.
In a July 2013 news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said Gosnell pled guilty to running the pill mill. It added:
“Gosnell went from writing several hundred prescriptions for controlled substances per month filled at pharmacies in 2008 to over 2,300 filled at pharmacies in January of 2010.”
His increased business in dangerous substances was to foreshadow growing ravages by illicit drugs across the United States.
In late January, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized the largest-ever load of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, about 254 pounds, with an estimated value of about $3.5 million. It was concealed in a truck carrying cucumbers, at the Nogales, Ariz., port of entry from Mexico, about a 180-mile drive southeast of Phoenix.
The Nogales International newspaper posted on January 31, “‘One kilogram of fentanyl produces one million fatal doses,’ said Juan Mariscal, assistant special agent for Homeland Security Investigations’ Nogales office.”
The truck also carried about 395 pounds of methamphetamine, with an estimated value of nearly $1.2 million, the newspaper reported, adding that CBP Nogales Port Director Michael Humphries said, “Over the last few years, marijuana has decreased and hard narcotics and opioids such as fentanyl (have) increased” in shipments.
The Fortune magazine site said on January 31, “Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is 50 to 100 times as potent as morphine. The CDC notes that fentanyl is often sold as heroin, or at least mixed with it, and in pill form, fentanyl is often mistaken for other potent painkillers.
“For all of these reasons, alarmingly, fentanyl has emerged as the cause of nearly half of all drug-overdose deaths in the U.S., a staggering uptick from just a few years ago and a major shift in how enforcement and public-health officials think about the ongoing opioid crisis,” the Fortune article said.
The Arizona Department of Health Services said that from mid-June 2017 through the end of January 2019, there were “2,348 suspect opioid deaths” in the state. Arizona has about seven million people.
The department’s site added, “Prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin are addictive and can be deadly. More than two people die every day from opioid overdoses in Arizona.”
Former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio wrote in the January 14 edition of The Washington Times National Weekly edition: “Around 75 percent of approximately 42,000 opioid-related deaths (nationally) in 2016 were caused by illicit fentanyl and heroin….(‘Illicit fentanyl’) is pouring into our country through our open borders and lax mailing system.
“Chinese online fentanyl vendors send hundreds of packages to at least 300 sources in the United States via the U.S. Postal Service,” Arpaio said. “China also commonly sends components of fentanyl to Mexico, where packagers fashion large quantities into powder to then smuggle across U.S. borders for distribution. As a border state, Arizona is in an extremely vulnerable position….
“Mexico has discovered a lucrative business of wrongfully selling illegal drugs as legitimate medicines and further escalating American drug addiction,” he said.
The Catholic Medical Association of Phoenix (CMAP) held a presentation on “Arizona’s Opioid Epidemic” at the downtown headquarters of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix on February 4, given by Matthew Schiumo, who does community outreach for the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Schiumo told The Wanderer that he makes a lot of presentations to schools, from grades seven through 12, with the attorney general’s office having started the presentations last summer. Schiumo touched on a number of aspects of the problem during his talk to the medical professionals.
He told them that most people start a heroin addiction by using prescription painkillers but become dependent. Reasons for addiction include the people they hang out with influencing them, and also psychological factors, he said.
Pointing out that fentanyl often is added to other drugs including heroin without the drug user’s knowledge, Schiumo told of the case of one woman who didn’t even have time to pull the needle from her arm before she died.
One in four high school athletes will experience an injury, Schiumo said, and these athletes are prescribed opioids at twice the rate of other adolescents.
“A lot of what’s going on, I think, we’re playing whack-a-mole,” he said during his hour-long presentation.
Schiumo warned that parents don’t want to be caught off guard by being unaware a child is involved in drug use. He presented an illustration of a New Jersey man whose “very social” son in high school went off to attend university in Colorado, where he died of an opioid overdose.
“We never saw it coming,” the distraught father said. “Every parent doesn’t want it. We got it. . . . What went wrong? Was it something we did?”
The CMAP program began with a 5 p.m. Mass in the chapel at the diocesan center, followed by a dinner buffet of green salad, meat and cheese wraps, cookies and lemon-flavored water.

A Gateway Drug

James Asher, D.O., CMAP’s vice president, told The Wanderer that young people are in a far different environment than when he graduated in 1959 from San Diego’s St. Augustine High School for boys. “About the most you’d expect back then,” he said, was the teenagers drinking some abandoned cans of beer they’d find in an alley.
As a physician, he said, he’s concerned because marijuana serves as a gateway drug, and it’s often a legal drug now.
Semi-retired, Asher said that he had worked in an emergency room, “and whenever I had reason to test for drugs, it always came back positive for marijuana, and this was before it was legalized.
“My concern now is that kids see marijuana is legal, so it must be OK, like Mom using a prescription from a doctor. The potential here for addiction and overdose is scary,” Asher said.
“I certainly can recall as a teenager being so heavily influenced by peers, and wanting to fit in. It assumes horrendous proportions that these days a kid can get into drugs because they’re so available,” he said.
Drug education should begin in early grade school, not waiting until high school, Asher told The Wanderer.
“Second grade would not be too young. I first saw a black-and-white movie about addiction, very graphic, very scary, about 1951-1952” in elementary school, he said.
An article about fentanyl dangers in the January 7 issue of The Washington Times National Weekly edition said: “Of the roughly 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017, more than 29,000 were linked to fentanyl and other dangerous synthetic drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represents an 850 percent increase since 2013.”
Because “fentanyl-fueled opioid deaths” are moving into public spaces such as libraries and restaurants, the Times article said, there’s an increasing risk of secondary exposure — “an immediate overdose if fentanyl is inhaled, comes into contact with the mouth or eyes, or is absorbed through a cut or other opening.”

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Fr. James Schall passed away today. A Jesuit priest & Georgetown professor, he served as mentor & model to a numberless many (including me). With penetrating insight & wit, he pointed us to Christ & those great Catholic minds we mustn't forget.

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