Don't Die: Glenn Talks With Former Addict and Founder of National Addiction Foundation

UPDATE: Aaron Brower followed up to correct a misstated fact. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, not opiate addiction. Drugs abuse is one and a half times more likely to be the cause of death than any other accidental or unnatural cause.

Aaron Brower, former addict and founder of the National Addiction Foundation joined Glenn on radio this week to talk about the staggering opioid epidemic in America. In 1980, there were 6,000 deaths attributed to drug overdose. Fast forward 35 years, and more than 52,000 people died from drug overdose in 2015. An estimated two million Americans are dependent on opioids, with an additional 95 million using prescription painkillers within the past year.

"This is an epidemic. Where do we go from here? How can we help? Stop looking to the government," Glenn said.

The importance of help and information cannot be overstated. That may seem simple, but many people, including family members of addicts, don't know where to turn or how to navigate the complex health care system. That's where the National Addiction Foundation comes in.

"There is help available. It's just that people don't know how to access it or know that it's available to them," Brower explained.

The most important thing, Brower emphasized, is getting connected to the right care, as well as exploring treatment and insurance options.

To learn more, visit the National Addiction Foundation online.

GLENN: I will tell you that at one point in my life, I was addicted to opioids and -- just through medical use. And it is horrendous. It is -- you know, there's something to say about drug users who are going out and storing drugs and everything else. Another about being addicted to opioids because of pain. And you -- you want to get off them. You can't get off them because of pain. And you can't get off them because you're addicted to them. And it is horrendous. It is horrendous.

I have been addicted to alcohol. And I've been addicted to opioids. I think I would take alcohol any day of the week over opioids. Aaron Brower is here. He runs the Southern California Addiction Center. And knows a little bit about it. He sounds very much like me, growing up. Began using alcohol and marijuana as a copying mechanism to deal with a traumatic event. And then in his mid-20s, he became somebody who was jumping in and out of court.

Welcome to the program, Aaron, how are you?

AARON: I'm doing great. Thanks for asking. Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.

GLENN: You bet. Give us some stats. Because this is something that is going around on TV. But I don't think people know how bad this really is.

AARON: Yeah, I agree with you, Glenn. I mean, it is absolutely the number one medical issue in America. You know, when looking at just the statistics you rattled off, which is just staggering when you really think about it, is you're looking at, you know, in opioid overdoses, not counting all the other alcohol and drugs and cocaine and all that. In 2015, you know, it was four people an hour overdosed on opioids alone. You know, overdoses on opioids alone. When you're looking at 2016, when you're looking at the overdose deaths just like you talked about, it jumped almost 20 percent. I mean, when you go all the way back from 1980 to 2015, in 1980, there was 6,000 total drug overdose deaths, and now you fast forward to 2015, and there was 52,404 deaths.

GLENN: Jeez.

AARON: I mean, it's 1.5 times greater than any other killer of Americans.

GLENN: Than any other killer of Americans?

AARON: Any other killer of Americans.

PAT: Heart disease and all that?

GLENN: That doesn't include heart disease.

AARON: It includes accidents, cancer, heart disease. Everything. The number one killer of Americans.

GLENN: Wow.

PAT: Wow.

AARON: Five times greater than the second place killer.

GLENN: You know, in looking at this, you see in places like Ohio, where heroin has really -- the heroin overdoses has gone almost to zero. That fentanyl is now the -- the killer, not heroin, says something.

AARON: Yes, it does. And fentanyl is basically just a -- it's a thin -- a synthetic painkiller. And most of the fentanyl that's coming in is produced by Chinese companies. And then, you know, the Mexican cartels or whatever are mixing it in everything. When you're looking in 2016, there have been over 35,000 drug possession charges -- you know, where they've actually seized drugs and then tested it. In 35,000 different cases, they're finding fentanyl and cocaine, heroin, everything. But what it is, is it takes very little heroin mixed with a little fentanyl. And then you get a drug that's super potent. And the reason why it's killing so many people is because it's so hard to gauge. I mean, these guys are mixing it up in some warehouse or some back alley somewhere. They're mixing it up. It is absolutely not an exact science. That's why you get some doses that are extremely strong and some doses that aren't.

GLENN: I will tell you, that fentanyl -- I had surgery. This is years ago. And I had never even heard of fentanyl. And I -- I have a system of a horse. You just can't put me out. I've actually woken up on the operating table. I mean, they almost have to kill me to take me out of pain.

And I woke up and I was on a cocktail that included the fentanyl patch.

AARON: Right.

GLENN: And that patch scared the hell out of me, especially after my wife read that it said for end-of-life use only. But that is now being prescribed -- my niece, who was in her 20s, at one point, was prescribed fentanyl patches.

AARON: Yeah, absolutely.

GLENN: It's not something you hand out.

AARON: It's staggering. Glenn, one of the scariest reasons you're seeing this switch is I was in New Jersey at the New Jersey Hospital Association Summit. And I was there with my friend, Dr. Drew and Bob Forest. And then Governor Christie was there and Patrick Kennedy. All just absolute champions for this cause. And what's interesting is Dr. Drew gave a talk and talked about the big lobbying. The Big Pharma and all that kind of stuff. And one of the biggest things that made this pandemic grow so rapidly is when Big Pharma was able to lobby and get pain as the fifth vital sign. I mean, think about that. You know, and so what happened is, back in the '80s, doctors were being sued for underprescribing. Can you imagine ignoring a vital sign? You know, and so they got the fifth vital sign to be pain. And so with that, doctors that were underprescribing. You know, they were getting sued for underprescribing. And that sort of thing. Some of them in California actually lost their licenses.

GLENN: For underprescribing?

AARON: Underprescribing.

GLENN: Now we -- do you believe we have a problem of overprescribing?

AARON: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

I mean, it is just staggering. When you are looking at some of the communities that are just ripped, like Ohio. You're looking at -- in certain cities in Ohio and other places across America, certain counties, there are almost three prescriptions for Oxycodone per one citizen or, you know, per one resident. It's just absolutely staggering. The overprescribing is just absurd. And it reminds me of a kid that -- for example, this kid, Riley, here in Southern California, he was just a beautiful, beautiful 20-year-old boy. You know, went to Aliso Niguel High School. He was a football star. Had an injury in high school. Was prescribed Oxycotin. And then came across -- and then obviously that turned into an addiction. And he was struggling with it and couldn't quite kick it like you were talking about in your intro here. And what happened is he came across a doctor. Her name was -- Dr. Lisa is what she went by on the streets. And, you know, this one doctor prescribed over a five-year period, prescribed over 27,000 prescriptions for Oxycodone and made over $5 million, killing 12 kids.

GLENN: Wow.

AARON: And you might have read about her or heard about her. She was the doctor that was sentenced just recently to 30 years to life in prison. And, you know what, we need to see more of this.

GLENN: So, Aaron, which -- what's really happening? Is it people trying to get high? Or is the -- is the epidemic also include high numbers of people who are in pain, have had problems, maybe still have problems, but they just can't get off of it?

AARON: Yeah, well, it -- mainly, the more common story that we see in all of our addiction centers and that sort of thing and also at the National Addiction Foundation is you see just the story like I just said. You know, you see more so the cases of people having surgery, getting -- you know, having an injury. And what happens is people have what you and I talk about or what you talk about, as far as core issues, whether it's sexual trauma or whatever that is as a young adult. You have the unresolved issues.

GLENN: Right.

AARON: What happens is, there -- it's way more likely to have an addiction issue, you know, let alone just national statistics say one in four people that are prescribed Oxycotin, for example, one in four with will struggle with addiction issues.

GLENN: The -- the problem is I think the stigma that nobody wants to talk about it, nobody wants to admit that they are addicted to it. And then nobody knows what to do about it. So let me tell you --

AARON: That's right. Yeah, absolutely. And that's why I appreciate you, Glenn. Like, you wear your story of recovery like a badge of honor on your arm. I do the same. I've been sober now 15 years, coming up on 16 here. You know, recovering intravenous heroin addict and that sort of thing. And prescription pills and been there and done that. And we do. It's the stigma. The stigma that comes about this is a moral choice. This is something that they're just acting bad. No, it's a disease. You know, it's been diagnosed as a disease. And it is a disease. And so, you know, crushing that stigma. Guys like you and I and that sort of thing is one of the most important things we can do.

GLENN: So, Aaron, I'm going to ask you for -- if somebody is listening and they are addicted or they have somebody who is addicted, what can they do? You know, yesterday, with the national health care garbage, you know, we're not going to find an answer in Washington. We need to find it ourselves. So what can people do? I'll come back to you with that in just a second.

[break]

GLENN: Welcome back to the program. I'm so glad that you have tuned in today.

All right. So -- so, Aaron -- Aaron Brower from the Southern California Addiction Center. So what does somebody that is listening do if they are addicted through a prescription or if they know somebody that is addicted? What do they do?

AARON: Well, you know, Glenn, thanks for asking that question. Finding the right kind of care for somebody, if you're addicted and you're trying to find the right kind of care, to see what kind of options are out there for you. It's just -- it is a web. And insurance companies make it very, very difficult. You know, as difficult as they can in order to get -- to allow people to access their benefits.

I founded this National Addiction Foundation. This nationaladdictionfoundation.org. It's a nonprofit. And what's interesting is, there is help available. It's just that people don't know how to access it.

Or know that it's available to them. And so what happens is, for example -- I mean, the most important thing, Glenn, is to get connected to the right care. You want to make sure that if somebody is struggling, that they get connected to the appropriate kind of care. Like, for example, if somebody has a sexual trauma from an early age or something, they need to get connected to a place that has trauma therapy. You know, if they are -- if they can't -- if they have recently had what's called a triggering event, there's lots of different options for them.

When I'm talking about that, a lot of people don't know a lot of the things we know in the industry and have learned over the years. Like, for example, you know, people don't know that, let's say your son or your daughter gets arrested. They end up going to jail for a drug possession. Then they're released from jail. Well, that's a qualifying event to get insurance year around. Okay?

So you no longer to have wait for the open enrollment period for insurance. Like, for example, other triggering events. A divorce. Going to jail. Moving from state to state. Those are all qualifying events that get insurance year around. And most these kids -- what's amazing is you have these families call in to our foundation, and we just guide people through that process.

And you see such a high percentage of them. Let's say, you know, little Cindy gets arrested. And then all of a sudden you tell the mom, hey, without release paperwork from jail, you put it together with an application for an insurance company, you submit it. And then within 30 days, you know, your insurance is available to help them.

There are also a lot of free resources available to people, okay? So what we've done is we've created a large database, a nationwide database, if somebody is calling from San Francisco. You know, we can help guide them through that process in getting connected to the indigent facilities around, if they haven't had a qualifying event --

GLENN: Yeah, I don't think we have any of those in San Francisco. So don't worry about that one.

(laughter)

AARON: Yeah. So there are ways to get help. It's just a matter of having the knowledge to be able to access it. There are grants. There are all sorts of stuff out there that can help people obtain coverage in order to get -- to get care.

GLENN: You know, this is what killed my mother. She was addicted to prescription drugs. And she needed to move away from the doctor. Because she knew the doctor, you know, would continue to prescribe. This is in the '70s.

And so we moved away. And then she switched her drug of choice. And within a year was -- was dead because, you know, there was no help. She tried to do it by herself. And, you know, depending on where you are, you can't do it by yourself.

AARON: No, you can't. And that's why help is so important. And things like the National Addiction Foundation and other great resources out there -- I mean, there is help available for people -- you know, passionate people like ourselves that will hold their hand, walk them through the process.

And a lot of times, what's kind of interesting is a lot of times, you know, the addict is not ready or the alcoholic is not ready. And so one thing that we love to do through our foundation is we -- you know, we'll call -- if they call in and they're not ready, we'll talk to them for another 20, 30 minutes. And then we'll call them back in three days and just shower love upon them. Because what happens is the families and everyone around them, it's a painful thing, addiction is. Okay?

They steal. They lie. They -- you know, when you're in active addiction, those sort of things happen. Are they thieves? No. They're in active addiction. Are they liars? No. They're in active addiction. And so what happens is the addictive process just isolates these people. As you know and I know, it just isolates these people and puts them on an island alone. And that's why it's so difficult. Because half the time they're on an island alone.

GLENN: All right. Nationaladdictionfoundation.org. Nationaladdictionfoundation.org. Aaron, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.

AARON: Thank you so much, Glenn. I really appreciate it.

GLENN: You bet. God bless.

As somebody who has gone through addiction, I want you to know I understand how hard it is. And I know what you probably feel about yourself today. And I want you to know that there is help. There are ways to stop this because I know you want to stop it. You just don't see a way around it. Please, reach out and get help because what's waiting for you on the other side is unbelievably great and warm.

Here's a question unique to our times: "Should I tell my father 'Happy Father's Day,' even though he (she?) is now one of my mothers?"

Father's Day was four days ago, yes, but this story is just weird enough to report on. One enjoyable line to read was this gem from Hollywood Gossip: "Cait is a woman and a transgender icon, but she is also and will always be the father of her six children."

RELATED: If Bruce was never a he and always a she, who won the men's Olympic gold in 1976?

Imagine reading that to someone ten — even five — years ago. And, honestly, there's something nice about it. But the strangeness of its having ever been written overpowers any emotional impact it might bring.

"So lucky to have you," wrote Kylie Jenner, in the Instagram caption under pre-transition pictures of Bruce Jenner.

Look. I risk sounding like a tabloid by mere dint of having even mentioned this story, but the important element is the cultural sway that's occurring. The original story was that a band of disgruntled Twitter users got outraged about the supposed "transphobic" remarks by Jenner's daughter.

But, what we should be saying is, "who the hell cares?" Who cares what one Jenner says to another — and more importantly and on a far deeper level — who cares what some anonymous Twitter user has to say?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob? Because, at the moment, they've got it pretty good. They have a nifty relationship with the mainstream media: One or two Twitter users get outraged by any given thing — in this case Jenner and supposed transphobia. In return, the mainstream media use the Twitter comment as a source.

Then, a larger Twitter audience points to the article itself as proof that there's some kind of systemic justice at play. It's a closed-market currency, where the negative feedback loop of proof and evidence is composed of faulty accusations. Isn't it a hell of a time to be alive?

These days, when Americans decide to be outraged about something, we really go all out.

This week's outrage is, of course, the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal immigration along the southern border. Specifically, people are upset over the part of the policy that separates children from their parents when the parents get arrested.

RELATED: Where were Rachel Maddow's tears for immigrant children in 2014?

Lost in all the outrage is that the President is being proactive about border security and is simply enforcing the law. Yes, we need to figure out a less clumsy, more compassionate way of enforcing the law, but children are not being flung into dungeons and fed maggots as the media would have you believe.

But having calm, reasonable debates about these things isn't the way it's done anymore. You have to make strong, sweeping announcements so the world knows how righteous your indignation is.

That's why yesterday, the governors of Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut declared they are withholding or recalling their National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border until this policy of separating children from their parents is rescinded.

Adding to the media stunt nature of this entire "crisis," it turns out this defiant announcement from these five governors is mostly symbolic. Because two months ago, when President Trump called for 4,000 additional National Guard troops to help patrol the border, large numbers of troops were not requested from those five states. In fact, no troops were requested at all from Rhode Island. But that didn't stop Rhode Island's Democratic governor, Gina Raimondo, from announcing she would refuse to send troops if she were asked. She called the family separation policy, "immoral, unjust and un-American."

There's so much outrage, we're running short on adjectives.

The governors of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York all used the word "inhumane" in their statements condemning the Trump administration policy. There's so much outrage, we're running short on adjectives.

In a totally unrelated coincidence, four of these five governors are running for re-election this year.

I've made my position clear — separating these children from their parents is a bad policy and we need to stop. We need to treat these immigrants with the kind of compassion we'd want for our own children. And I said the same thing in 2014 when no one cared about the border crisis.

If consistency could replace even just a sliver of the outrage in America, we would all be a lot better off.

I think we can all agree, both on the Left and the Right, that children who have been caught up in illegal immigration is an awful situation. But apparently what no one can agree on is when it matters to them. This past weekend, it suddenly — and even a little magically — began to matter to the Left. Seemingly out of nowhere, they all collectively realized this was a problem and all rushed to blame the Trump administration.

RELATED: These 3 things need to happen before we can fix our border problem

Here's Rachel Maddow yesterday:

I seem to remember getting mocked by the Left for showing emotion on TV, but I'll give her a pass here. This is an emotional situation. But this is what I can't give her a pass on: where the heck was this outrage and emotion back in 2014? Because the same situation going on today — that stuff Maddow and the rest of the Left have only just now woken up to — was going on back in July 2014! And it was arguably worse back then.

I practically begged and pleaded for people to wake up to what was going on. We had to shed light on how our immigration system was being manipulated by people breaking our laws, and they were using kids as pawns to get it done. But unlike the gusto the Left is using now to report this story, let's take a look at what Rachel Maddow thought was more important back in 2014.

On July 1, 2014, Maddow opened her show with a riveting monologue on how President Obama was hosting a World Cup viewing party. That's hard-hitting stuff right there.

On July 2, 2014, Maddow actually acknowledged kids were at the border, but she referenced Health and Human Services only briefly and completely rushed through what was actually happening to these kids. She made a vague statement about a "policy" stating where kids were being taken after their arrival. She also blamed Congress for not acting.

See any difference in reporting there from today? That "policy" she referenced has suddenly become Trump's "new" policy, and it isn't Congress's fault… it's all on the President.

She goes on throughout the week.

On July 7, 2014, her top story was something on the Koch brothers. Immigration was only briefly mentioned at the end of the show. This trend continued all the way through the week. I went to the border on July 19. Did she cover it? Nope. In fact, she didn't mention kids at the border for the rest of the month. NOT AT ALL.

Do you care about immigrant kids who have been caught in the middle of a broken immigration system or not?

Make up your minds. Is this an important issue or not? Do you care about immigrant kids who have been caught in the middle of a broken immigration system or not? Do you even care to fix it, or is this what it looks like — just another phony, addicted-to-outrage political stunt?

UPDATE: Here's how this discussion went on radio. Watch the video below.

Glenn gives Rachel Maddow the benefit of the doubt

Rachel Maddow broke down in tears live on her MSNBC show over border crisis.

Progressives think the Obamas are a gift to the world. But their gift is apparently more of the metaphorical kind. It doesn't extend to helpful, tangible things like saving taxpayers money. Illinois has approved $224 million to pay for street and transportation upgrades around the planned site of the Obama Presidential Center. The catch is that Illinois taxpayers will have to cover $200 million of that cost. For a presidential museum.

Eight years of multiplying the national debt wasn't enough for Barack Obama. Old fleecing habits die hard. What's another $200 million here and there, especially for something as important as an Obama tribute center?

RELATED: Want to cure millennials' financial woes? Reform the payroll tax.

That's all well and good except Illinois can't even fund its pension system. The state has a $137 billion funding shortfall. That means every person in Illinois owes $11,000 for pensions, and there is no plan to fix the mess. Unless Illinois progressives have discovered a new kind of math, this doesn't really add up. You can't fund pensions, but you're going to figure out a way to milk the public for another $200 million to help cover the cost of a library?

It's hard to imagine who in their right mind would think this will be money well spent. Well, except for maybe Chicago Mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel who said, "The state's… investment in infrastructure improvements near the Obama Center on the South Side of Chicago is money well spent."

Some presidential overreach lasts longer than others.

The spending has already been signed into law, even though the Obama library has not received construction approval yet. Part of the holdup is that the proposed site is on public land in historic Jackson Park. That doesn't seem very progressive of the Obamas, but, you know, for certain presidents, you go above and beyond. It's just what you do. Some presidential overreach lasts longer than others.

Here's the thing about taxing the peasants so the king can build a fancy monument to himself – it's wrong. And completely unnecessary. The Obamas have the richest friends on the planet who could fund this project in their sleep. If the world simply must have a tricked-out Obama museum, then let private citizens take out their wallets voluntarily.

As the Mercury Museum proved this weekend, it is possible to build an exhibit with amazing artifacts that attracts a ton of visitors – and it cost taxpayers approximately zero dollars.