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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Antipsychotics Ineffective Treatment for Recovery

There isn't a science associated with helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction, no formula to make everything better. Every case is different, what worked for the last patient may or may not work now. It is often the case that people checking into treatment facilities are dealing with other psychological disorders that hinder recovery. Such cases are classified as "dual diagnosis" or "co-occurring disorders" and generally require more attention from doctors or specialists. Doctors in the recovery field will, at times, use medications typically used for other disorders to treat patients dealing with substance abuse - "off label". In some cases this practice has helped people recover, but, there are a number of cases that certain medications have exacerbated the problem.

Drugs known as anti-psychotics are often used in the treatment and recovery field to help patients get well. A new report points out that this tactic is not effective in treating addiction. People who show signs of other mental health problems on top of addiction are sometimes given drugs typically used for anti-psychosis and in some cases they have proven to be useful in evening out one's brain chemistry. When anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications do not appear to work doctors will often turn to anti-psychotics.

The most common drugs prescribed are:
  • Risperdal
  • Abilify
  • Zyprexa
  • Seroquel
Data was combined from 162 studies of atypical antipsychotics prescribed for “off label” uses by researchers from RAND Health in Santa Monica, California. Their conclusion from the studies was that the drugs did not have an effect in patients with drug and alcohol abuse, or with eating disorders. Antipsychotics showed side-effects such as:
  • tremors
  • stroke
  • weight gain
  • fatigue

People entering drug and alcohol treatment should be informed about the drugs they are being prescribed. People need to take an active part in their recovery and should be informed about the medications that are given to them.

The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicago Area Addicts: Whites, Suburban, Upper Middle Class

The City of Chicago has long been under siege by street drugs, not too dissimilar than most major cities in America with high poverty. However, as prescription drugs become more acceptable for many people to take because of the misconception that they are somehow safer than street drugs; many upper class suburban Americans have began abusing prescription drugs - especially in the Chicago area. People who are hooked on prescription medicines, like oxycodone and Xanax, will often substitute heroin if they run out of their prescription early; Chicago is an epicenter for the heroin trade in America, but, as more people move to the suburbs street drugs like heroin will and have followed.

Experts say that drug addicts who are white, suburban, and upper-middle class are becoming more and more common. The number of older adults looking for pain relief as well as teens who just want to get high is growing, the Chicago Tribune reports. What's more, you don't have to go to a doctor to acquire prescription drugs anymore since street gangs are being supplied by drug cartels with such drugs, according to Jack Riley of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago Division; there is an incentive for cartels who deal with prescription drugs considering that prescription drugs are typically sold for more than street drugs making them a more lucrative venture.

Jake Epperly, the owner of a recovery center in the Chicago area, made a valid point about peoples' ability to transition from so-called "safe" prescription medicines to heroin. He points out that people no longer have to inject heroin, they can smoke or snort the drug because of an influx of Mexican black tar heroin, a gummy substance not to dissimilar from hashish. In the past Chicago heroin was typically in white powder form, known as China White, a form of the drug that is most commonly injected.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spike in Young Adult Overdose Hospitalizations

Just after a report was released showing that prescription drugs kill more people every year than auto accidents, a new report has shown a spike in overdoses amongst 18 - 24 year olds according to government researchers. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is quite common among those in this age bracket; however, the numbers uncovered by the report are staggering. The researchers, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, regarding that age bracket found that between 1999 and 2008, hospitalizations rose by:

  • 25 percent for alcohol overdoses
  • 56 percent for drug overdoses
  • 76 percent for overdoses caused by a combination of drugs and alcohol

The report showed that in 2008, one out of every three overdoses that required hospitalization in that age group involved heavy alcohol consumption. Their findings also showed that hospitalizations for drugs severely outweighed those for alcohol:

  • 29,000 alcohol overdoses among young adults reached in 2008
  • 29,000 combined drug and alcohol overdoses
  • 114,000 overdoses involving drugs alone

You may be wondering why there were so many more drug overdoses than anything else? The answer to that question is prescription drugs and how many of them are out there in just about every household in America.
Researchers saw a 122 percent jump in the rate of poisonings from prescription opioids and related narcotics among young adults. Prescription drugs can be extremely dangerous if used improperly or if mixed with alcohol, causing a potentially fatal combination. Many people have the opinion that because a drug is prescribed by a doctor that it is safe and somehow less addictive than prescription drug cousins - illegal drugs. “The combination of alcohol with narcotic pain medications is particularly dangerous, because they both suppress activity in brain areas that regulate breathing and other vital functions,” researcher Aaron M. White, PhD, said in a news release.

The study is published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Prescription Drugs Kill More Than Auto Accidents

An analysis conducted by the LA Times has concluded with startling facts related to causes of death. It's is the first time in current history, since the government started tracking drug related deaths in 1979, that more people died from drug related deaths than traffic accidents. The rise in overdoses caused by prescription narcotics is testament to the fact that more people than ever are being prescribed prescription drugs. With little oversight in how patients take their prescriptions, it is not all that surprising that prescription drugs have become one of the top causes of accidental deaths. According to the article, the number of annual drug related deaths have doubled, with an estimated 37,485 Americans who died from drug-related causes in 2009.

We could combine the number of deaths caused by heroin and cocaine and it would still be less than number of deaths related to prescription drugs. It seems strange, with so much money being invested in stopping the flow of illegal drugs in America, that prescription drugs would be the biggest killer. It shows how much more needs to be done to curb the rising prescription drug abuse trends. Most prescription drug overdoses are tied to the use of pain killers and anti-anxiety medication like Xanax and Valium. Annual auto accident related deaths have decreased by more than one-third since the early 1970s, to 36,284 in 2009; the decrease has been attributed to advancements in auto safety.

“Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn’t have the same stigma as using street narcotics,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sergeant Steve Opferman, the heads a county task force on prescription drug-related crimes. Between 2000 and 2008, drug related deaths:
  • More than doubled among teenagers and young adults.
  • More than tripled among people ages 50 to 69.
  • The number of drug-related deaths was greatest among people in their 40s

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taconic Parkway Crash Husband Sues NY

It's been over two years since Diane Schuler drove the wrong way on to the Taconic Parkway killing her and five children and another three gentlemen in an oncoming vehicle. Despite the fact that authorities found a broken bottle of vodka on the scene, as well as vodka and marijuana in Diane's blood, her husband maintains that Diane was a perfect mother and did not have a substance abuse problem. Since the accident, there have been independent investigations that support the initial findings, yet Daniel Schuler continues to fight for his wife's innocence. Now, Daniel Schuler is suing the state of New York and the father of three nieces who were killed, claiming that there was inadequate signage and the vehicle that Diane was driving, a trailblazer owned by the father of the three nieces, was faulty.

"It's a terrible tragedy," Tom Ruskin, who was hired by the Schulers to investigate the accident, told the Post. "His wife was drunk and high at the time of the accident that killed seven innocent people. You don't keep suing people...If she was alive today, Diane would likely be in jail."

Last month, HBO did a special on the story called "There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane", which points out Schuler's obsessive perfectionism and how it may have been a factor in the crash. Diane's family and friends explained to filmmaker Liz Garbus, Diane Schuler strived to be the best in every way. By all accounts, Diane Schuler was a "super mom", a control freak tormented by a tumultuous past; apparently Diane's mother abandoned her when she was 9.

It is sad that Daniel Schuler will not let this case rest; it must be extremely hard on the other families who lost so much on that fateful day. The fact is, science doesn't lie, toxicology reports at the time showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, equivalent to 10 drinks, as well as high levels of THC from marijuana. Without a doubt Schuler needed help, she was clearly suffering; no stable person would make the choices she made that day.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Parents Influence Kids Driving Intoxicated

In many ways children are blank slates, extremely impressionable and can pick up behaviors with ease, even bad habits. Parents act as guides for their children, helping them navigate their way through a world that has a lot of snares and traps that can bring them to places they shouldn’t go. In many ways you can bet that a parent’s behavior will, 9 times out of 10, be adopted by their children. Kids who witness their parents drinking and drugging will without a doubt become curious and it is only a matter of time before they adopt the habits of their parents.

A new report points out that teens whose parents drink are more likely to drive under the influence (DUI) when they are adults than children with non-drinking parents. What’s interesting is that the study found that it did not matter how much one’s parents drink, even children whose parents drink moderately are at risk for problems.

Almost 10,000 teens and their parents were surveyed, and then surveyed again seven years later. The report showed that friends also had a role to play in drunk driving, but, parents had the bigger role. Teens are at highest risk when they have both friends and parents who drink alcohol: 11 percent of these teens said they drove under the influence when they were in their 20s.

“The main idea is that parents’ alcohol use has an effect on their kids’ behavior,” study lead author, Mildred Maldonado-Molina of the University of Florida College of Medicine, said in a university news release. “It’s important for parents to know that their behavior has an effect not only at that developmental age when their kids are adolescents, but also on their future behavior as young adults.”

The findings showed that 6 percent of teenagers whose parents drank, even occasionally, said they drove under the influence when they were 21, compared with 2 percent of those whose parents did not drink, Health Day News reports.

The results are published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How Alcohol Affects Choices

It has long been known that alcohol lowers one's inhibitions causing them to make decisions that they would not normally consider. Countless people who drink regularly have had experiences that they regretted upon sobering up. It is not a coincidence when people get multiple DUI citations throughout their drinking careers, it isn't that they do not know what they are doing is wrong. It is just that alcohol makes them careless about their actions causing them to make decisions counter to reason. New research may have shown how alcohol affects self-control by dulling the brain signal that informs someone they are making a mistake.

Researchers from the University of Missouri measured brain activity in 67 participants while they were performing a challenging computer task, according to Science Daily. The participants’ mood was observed by researchers, as well as their accuracy in completing the task and how accurate the participants thought they were.
  • One-third of participants were given alcoholic drinks
  • one third had a placebo drink
  • one-third did not have any drink

The brain’s “alarm signal” when responding to a mistake was significantly reduced in the alcohol group compared with the other two groups. Although, participants who drank alcohol were no less likely to realize they had made a mistake, but, they were less likely than those in the non-alcohol groups to slow down and be more careful after making a mistake.

“In tasks like the one we used, although we encourage people to try to respond as quickly as possible, it is very common for people to respond more slowly following an error, as a way of trying to regain self-control. That’s what we saw in our placebo group. The alcohol group participants didn’t do this,” lead researcher Bruce Bartholow said.

The study is published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

European Mental Health Problem

As the world moves forward into the 21st century, mental health has fast become the world’s largest health problem. A gap in mental health treatment continues to grow wider, not just in America but in Europe as well. People suffering from mental illnesses rarely receive the treatment that they so desperately need, testament to the fact that society still does not understand the social impact that not treating mental illness can have. A large part of the people that we pass every day who are living on the streets are suffering from a mental disability in one form or another.

According to a new study conducted in Europe, there are almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population who deal each year with a brain disorder such as: depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia. Sadly, only about a third of the suffering receive any treatment like therapy or medication and those who do receive it typically are given sub-par treatment - a far cry from the state of the art medical techniques available.

"Mental disorders have become Europe's largest health challenge of the 21st century," the study's authors said.

Unfortunately, as more and more people become afflicted by mental illness, drug companies are pulling back their investments in brain research and how it affects behavior. This puts the load on top of governments and charitable organizations to fund most of the research while drug companies get rich off the drugs doctors prescribe.

“The immense treatment gap ... for mental disorders has to be closed," said Hans Ulrich Wittchen, director of the institute of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Germany's Dresden University and the lead investigator on the European study.

Wittchen led a three-year study covering 30 European countries, including the 27 European Union member states plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway  - a population of 514 million people. “Those few receiving treatment do so with considerable delays of an average of several years and rarely with the appropriate, state-of-the-art therapies."

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