Heroin vaccine might have saved my son’s life

Doctor K.D. Janda at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA has developed a heroin vaccine that has proven effective in animal. He is seeking funding to take the drug along the path to clinical trials in humans.

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I attended a meeting of a group called the Compassionate Friends. These are people who one thing in common. They’ve lost a child. We lost our son, Patrick, in December of last year. Two and a half months that seem like a few days one minute or a year the next. The people at this meeting were kind and as the title of the organization states, compassionate. We heard stories from people who had lost their children under a variety of circumstances: cancer, car accident, suicide, addiction drug overdose. Our son fits into the latter category. Each story had its own attributes and impact on friends and family. Losing a son or daughter is about the worst thing that can happen to parents. People suffer loss in their own way. But, I noticed something unique about our group, the loss to heroin addiction group.

People who’ve lost their child (or a loved one) to a heroin overdose spend a great deal of time (every day) trying to help their loved one take control of their addiction and prevent the worst from happening. The stress pervades everything else you do. Initially, our time was spent simply trying to get our son into a rehabilitation program. Had there been a vaccine, he would have been inoculated and that would be the end of heroin for him. I’m not naive to think he might still struggle with opioids. But that would be more expensive to obtain and more difficult to prep and shoot.

We didn’t know anything about rehabs. I searched the Internet, made phone calls, can’t remember how many organizations I contacted. I can’t prove it, but I remember feeling at least one place was trying to scam us into an elaborate program even after I told the counselor we couldn’t afford it. I guess to some people it’s just a business business and must make a profit. Our insurance would pay for what we would discover to be the standard a twenty-eight-day program, so that’s what we got him into. He was put on a medication called buprenorphine also known as naloxone (Suboxone). The drug, a partial opioid agonist, acts similarly to heroin, and partially satiated his body’s desire (craving) for heroin. He only stayed at the rehab for two weeks. He was over eighteen and we couldn’t force him to stay. He found the twelve-step approach there unhelpful and chose not to participate. We were fortunate that he loved his studies at school and stayed at home for a semester where we could keep an eye on him, that is, until he transferred back to the University of Cincinnati.

While he was still home, he got into a new treatment program, a six month program, in which he took monthly injections of Vitrol, an extended release suspension of naltrexone, an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of heroin. While on this medication heroin has no effect on the individual. The addict can shoot heroin and nothing happens. Our son complied and received the injections along with counseling, but one day simply refused to receive his monthly injection. He’d decided he missed heroin and wanted a taste of it. I became furious with him, but he got what he wanted. Eventually, we were able to talk him into going back on Suboxone. The medication comes in a sub-lingual form that dissolves under the tongue, but Patrick figured out a way to liquefy it and shoot it.

These are just a few of the things we went through with our son. Haven’t even mentioned that most of this was not covered by insurance so we were paying cash. The Vivitrol injections were over a thousand dollars each month. From the day we discovered he was hooked on heroin until the day he died we were under constant stress over whether he’d begin shooting again, drop out of school and end up in the streets living on scant food and dope, kill himself accidentally, or commit suicide. He tried the latter one night when he went out into the city and tried to buy heroin and was ripped off for $150 twice. He became so enraged that he unbuckled his seat belt and drove his car into an embankment at over 100 mph. He miraculously survived. He told us he wanted to live and from the day of the accident on he began to recover. He stayed clean for over two years until December 12, 2015 when he was found dead in his dormitory room.

A heroin vaccine could have saved his life. He would have been immune to the drug.

Heroin Vaccine

Yeah, a vaccine for heroin, and one for its synthetic cousin fentanyl. Work on these is taking place at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA by a Dr. K D Janda. Since the overdose death of our only son, Patrick, my wife and I are doing everything we can to assist Dr. Janda in his efforts. His biggest stumbling block is money. If you are inclined to find out more:

Kim D. Janda
Professor, Departments of Chemistry and Immunology
Ely R. Callaway
The Scripps Research Institute
10550 N. Torrey Pines Rd., BCC-582
La Jolla, CA 92037

Phone: (858) 784-2516
Fax: (858) 784-2595

Admin Asst.: Jon Ashley
Phone: (858) 784-2515
or (858) 784-2529
e-mail: jashley@scripps.edu

Here is how donations can be made:

1. Go to the TSRI website: http://www.scripps.edu
2. Click on the blue tab (right side) that says “Support Us”
3. Click on the pull down menu that says “Donate Now”
4. Under the “Designation” field (pull down) choose “Other”
5. Then you can type in where the money is to be spent. For example: “Janda Lab Heroin Vaccine Research”

And watch here for news on the fight against the drug epidemic attacking our nation.

Heroin and fentanyl vaccine

Dr. K D Janda at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla is working on two drug vaccines. His biggest roadblock is money

Here is how donations can be made:

1. Go to the TSRI website: www.scripps.edu
2. Click on the blue tab (right side) that says “Support Us”
3. Click on the pull down menu that says “Donate Now”
4. Under the “Designation” field (pull down) choose “Other”
5. Then you can type in where the money is to be spent. For example: “Janda Lab Heroin Vaccine Research”

Tragedy

On December 12, 2015 my son died in a drug overdose in his dorm at the University of Charleston WV pharmacy school. My wife and I intend to work with Dr. K D Janda of the Scripps Institute in San Francisco. He has been researching a vaccine for heroin for years. Here’s part of a letter my wife sent to him on December 28:

My husband and I are so sad, grief-stricken, and also angry with the whole situation with our talented, smart, capable son. I always hoped the heroin vaccine would go to clinical trials so that Patrick would take part and eliminate this scourge in his life. He so desperately wanted to be rid of its siren call.

I told Patrick that when I retire, I’d like to get back into research. I started my career as a medical research technician working with cytotoxic T lymphocytes at Washington U School of Medicine many years ago. However, I found myself leaving research and working for several laboratory product sales organizations. My husband is a retired VP of Regulatory Affairs from Celsis Laboratory Group.

So – what can we do to help get the heroin vaccine to clinical trials? I have met so many people over the last couple of weeks that had loved ones die from heroin overdoses or have been former users upon telling them about what happened to Patrick. If this is what I have encountered just in the last few weeks, what is happening all over the country? For Patrick’s legacy and to help end this scourge, how can we move this vaccine forward? We’re in a better position to help than most – my husband and I are very familiar with pharmaceutical/drug manufacturers, drug discovery, drug interactions, etc.

Thank you so much for all you do in this area of research.

How do they do it?

Later this week I will promote all of my books with a free offering. No strings, you’ll be able to go to Amazon and download them.

I don’t know how writers maintain a daily blog. I enjoy reading and writing and don’t find the time to tell people what I’m doing. I expect to finish my novel and market it. I don’t expect to blog about it and try to convince you to buy it and read it. I hope to obtain a publishing contract and expect to market the book by hiring a firm to do that for me with as little of my attention as possible. Will this happen? We will see.

Novel is still difficult

I have a couple hundred pages now. Things have changed. Some of what I thought would be difficult was easy, and some of what I thought would be easy became difficult. It’s a strange process, but I love the way a scene or narrative section will unfold before my eyes and issues will become complicated or will resolve in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

Writing a memoir is certainly different. But there is a crossover with fiction in using fictional tools to shape the story. I presented the material in my memoir in a way that produced turning points and falling and escalating dramatic material.

In a memoir, one cannot combine characters or fabricate scenes or dialogue. Fiction is liberating in that sense, but also intimidating because I have anything and everything to choose from. Memoir forces you to stick to the facts as best as you can remember them. You have a guideline, a sort of outline, to carry you through.

The Novel is Killing Me

Writing this novel is breaking my back. I’m considering shelving the project and starting something else, something completely different. I have to write about something worthwhile. If fiction, the story should be well told, entertaining, and change the reader’s life (even if just a wee bit.) Lofty goal.

Novel in Progress (NIP?)

I’m working on a novel based on some of the incidents in my memoir, The Girl Who Had No Enemies. The basic story I’m writing is about a detective who struggles to free her sister from prison for a murder the detective suspects was committed by her high school boyfriend (and father of her daughter), now a convicted killer. The man promises to close dozens of unsolved murder cases before his execution, but only if the detective interviews him. He suspects her child is his and wants to meet her before he is executed.

It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s fun but real work to write out the story and plot line, work on character depth, scene construction, and structure, all while I’m outlining to keep focuses on where I’m going. I have about a hundred and twenty pages of rough draft and feel I’m about 1/3 to 1/4 of the way from the finish line.

Excerpts and Info

Welcome to the blog for the serial memoir, THE SEX LIFE OF ANDY ASHLING. BE SURE TO CHECK THE ARCHIVES ON THE RIGHT. That’s where you’ll find excerpts from all the episodes (eventually) and any promotions. The NEWEST EXCERPT is below. All the new Andy Ashling info can be obtained here. Andy’s books are available wherever eBooks are sold. Episodes 1-8 are available on Amazon.com. They and all future episodes will continue to be available at Amazon, but are being published through Penguin Books’ e-Publisher Book Country.

EXCERPT FROM EPISODE 3: THE WARRENTON CIRCLE JERKS

I wake in the middle of the night one evening and start masturbating in bed. As orgasm approaches, I can feel something wanting to come through my dick, and I panic. What if I shoot white sticky goo on the ceiling and it splatters all over the bed and walls? I pinch the tip of my penis and run with it throbbing, threatening to explode in my hands, to the bathroom down the hall. Thank God, I’m the only one up at this hour.

Bending forward toward the toilet bowl, I force my erection down, release my grip at its end praying the spray won’t blow all the water out and soak the bathroom. How will I explain that? But the sensation stops. Nothing shoots out. I squeeze my penis, like I would a tube of toothpaste, from the bottom end to the tip. A pea-sized amount of sticky, creamy stuff oozes out. It’s elastic like snot, and I stretch it between my forefinger and thumb. So this is it? No big explosion? No gusher of milky goop all over everything? The blond kid lied, but it doesn’t surprise me. He’s goofy anyway, putting his dick in assholes and licking butts.

I keep masturbating every day, mornings and evenings during school days; and then mornings, afternoons, and evenings on the weekends. I beat off to pictures of women in panties and bras in Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs. When I see a pretty actress on TV, I get excited trying to look down her blouse.

The Warrenton Circle Jerks

The Sex Life of Andy Ashling

I have been tagged in the Next Big Thing by fellow writer Mary Glickman. Mary is the author of the novels Home in the Morning and One More River, a 2011 National Jewish Book Award Fiction Finalist. You can read Mary’s Next Big Thing here: www.maryglickman.com.

Andy ep one-2

Mary invited me to answer ten questions about my current work in progress and then to tag other authors about their Next Big Thing. I’ve answered the questions, and I have to say I enjoyed it. I derive the most out of making art that is new in some way. My first short film was an homage to a filmmaker, but my second was all me, and I am most proud of it. I’m proud of my first book a standard memoir that’s been well reviewed. The second book is in a form I created in order to tell the story effectively. Answering the following 10 questions has reaffirmed for me the value in the choices I made to tell my current story in the way I’m telling it. So, here goes!

What is the title of your new book?
The Sex Life of Andy Ashling, a serial memoir.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
After completing my second memoir, The Girl Who Had No Enemies (and the man who hated women), I outlined a novel and began developing the characters loosely based on true events. I guess I came to understand that even in the task of fictionalizing something I was drawing heavily on real life. I think I’m a better creative nonfiction writer than a fiction writer, at least for books. I love writing fictional screenplays. Anyway, I put the novel aside (I still plan to write it).

At 61, I looked at my life and realized the unique role that sex has played in it. My sex drive has ruled my life. It permeated my thinking. I’ve rarely, if ever, interacted with a woman, any woman, without at least wondering what it would be like to sleep with her. I didn’t think much of this, until I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1992. Besides hyperactivity in thought and creative output, manic episodes include an intense sexual desire. In my youth—my mother described me as “high strung”—I took for granted that I was simply a restless soul. I never thought that I had a disorder.

I decided to write a book in which a man examines his sex life, looking at each unique episode. Obviously, no one would be interested in all the sex and lovemaking of a man’s life. But key moments of experimentation, especially in my childhood, might prove interesting to a reader and also reveal things to me. I’m discovering things about myself with each episode. It’s coming along nicely.

What genre does your book fall under?
Memoir, which is creative nonfiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I would think a film adaptation would need an actor who could play a man from his 20s into his 50s. Edward Norton (42) has a youthful, boyish look that could make the transition. Also, child actors that could play ages from four to the early twenties. They’d use a couple of actors or a half dozen, hard to tell.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Something like: Oversexed and Analyzed: the Sex Life of Andy Ashling.

Hard to know what the title of the final book will be. Right now “the book” exists as a series of 99 cent episodes. I’m on episode seven, Billy Hays’ Sister and the Wild Boy. I foresee somewhere between 15-20 episodes. I’m terrible with titles. My best effort is the title of my first book, She Had No Enemies. Several agents told me not to change it. As for my current work, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m publishing the Andy Ashling series myself. I’ll run the final book by my agent to see if he wants to handle it. I’ve had two agents. One couldn’t get me a publishing contract for my first book. I don’t think she knew how to handle it. The other agent got me an offer for my second book from a publisher who wanted me to rewrite the book in a true crime form. I looked at the types of books they published and couldn’t see myself writing in that style. It’s why I call my first two books literary true crime. It’s a genre given to me by a couple of other agents who liked the book, but didn’t know how to sell it either (a problem many agents had with it).

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I can’t think of another book that is being written this way, or focuses almost exclusively on a man’s entire sex life.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The desire to write something original in an original form. I received a grant in 1990 to make a 17-minute film from a script I wrote titled Rest Room. The story was interesting, but I wasn’t satisfied with it until I got an idea in the editing room. I broke the film down into six segments and numbered them 1-6. Then I reordered them by putting the last segment first and the first segment next. The new order became 6,1,5,2,4,3. The audience had to put the story together in their minds. Ending the story in the middle (section 3) of the story emphasized its dramatic irony. I’d never seen a film like it and still haven’t. Movies like Memento and Pulp Fiction, which do similar things, hadn’t been made yet.

Also, I get to refer to my pseudonym, Andy Ashling, and that allows me some objectivity while writing subjectively, if that makes sense. I am very pleased with my book The Girl Who Had No Enemies. That book’s form grew organically, as I wrote it, which made it very special to me. The reviews are telling me that it worked.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Each episode is only 99 cents. The episodes are between 8-12 pages long. Starting with the first episode at age four, the reader can follow Andy’s attitudes and behaviors as he ages and does or does not mature sexually. There are plenty of women, close to 70. Also Andy was sexually molested by men twice before he was 18.

So far, feedback from readers has been enlightening. I’d say half the readers of the first episode with whom I’ve spoken or corresponded see an element of molestation going on. I never saw it that way. I think people bring their own experiences into the intimacy of the narratives. Since these are true stories, one gets a glimpse into a specific part of the mind of someone with a lifetime of bipolar disorder.

Here are a couple of authors I’m tagging to tell you about their Next Big Thing:

1. Ruth E. Walker is the author of the acclaimed novelLiving Underground and co-author of the creativity resource book Inspiration Stationhttp://ruthewalker.ca/weblog/

2. Gerry Mandel is an author and a playwright. His play Open Sundays, All Makes Repaired opens in St. Louis on 1/11/13. His novel Shadow and Substance: My Time with Charlie Chaplin is available in paperback and as an e-book. Gerry’s entertaining blog Hey You Hoser can be found at http://heyyouhoser.blogspot.com/2013/01/my-next-big-thing.html