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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Law Allows Authorities to Detain Pregnant Women

Across the country there are many women dealing with the disease of addiction while they are pregnant. Despite boatloads of research that proves that using any form of mind altering substance while pregnant can be harmful to the fetus, many women are unable to stop using without help. In a number of states there are programs available to assist expectant mothers with their addiction, although in most cases it is up to the mother to decide if she wants help.

In Wisconsin, there exists a controversial law which allows authorities to detain pregnant women suspected of drug and alcohol abuse, and force treatment upon them, reports the fix. The 16-year old Wisconsin “fetal protection” law came into being because of the nationwide scare over so-called “crack babies” and “cocaine moms.”

The law which was passed with overwhelming support in the State Assembly and Senate, allows authorities to detain a pregnant women if, as the law states, there is a “substantial risk” to the fetus because the mother “habitually lacks self-control” with substance use, according to the article. Mothers can be forced into treatment for being honest with their doctor about past drug use.

One such mother, Tammy Loertscher, was detained because she refused to go to treatment and was found in contempt of the court. Loertscher is challenging the law and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women is filing a lawsuit over the law’s constitutionality. In July, Loertscher told a physician at Eau Claire’s Mayo Clinic Hospital that she had used marijuana and methamphetamine in the past, but had stopped when she learned of her pregnancy.

“This law allows police, courts and child welfare authorities to seize control of pregnant women who are using or even admit to past use of alcohol or controlled substances,” said Sara Ainsworth, director of legal advocacy for NAPW. “This law authorizes a vast array of coercive, punitive actions against pregnant women who are not actually using any substances at all but have simply been honest with their doctors about past drug use.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Safe and Sober Holiday

We at Hope by the Sea would like to wish everyone a safe and sober holiday. It goes without saying that the holidays are difficult for those in recovery. During this time of year it is crucial that you remember where you came from and how important your sobriety is, stay close to your support network.

Before everything else, your sobriety must come first! Listed below are some reminders that you may find useful:

Support Network:

If you are working a program of recovery, then you know how important it is to stay connected to the people in your support network. Never hesitate to pick up the phone and call someone, even if things are OK. You never know, maybe your phone call will help someone. We cannot do this alone!


Right now there is a 12-step meeting taking place, and there will be one every hour until the day is over. The same goes for New Years Eve. If you need to talk to someone in person then get yourself to a meeting. Even if you have nothing to say, it is always helpful to hear what others are going through.

Give Thanks:

It is important to keep in mind those who have helped you throughout the year. Without others you would not have gotten to where you are today. Let them know how important they are to you and your sobriety, it may be the greatest gift you give this year. Be grateful for the blessings you have.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Monitoring the Future Study Shows Promising Findings

The University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study tracks trends in substance use among students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Every year, the study surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in about 400 secondary schools in the United States. The use of alcohol, cigarettes, and a number of illicit drugs has declined among U.S. teens, according to a University of Michigan news release.


The study found that the use of alcohol has been dropping over the years, hitting an all time low in 2014. What researchers call a statistically significant change, the combination of all three grades dropped from 43 percent to 41 percent in 2014. In 1997, researchers found that 22 percent of teens reported engaging in binge drinking, in 2014 only 12 percent of the three grades combined said they had binged in the last year.

"Since the recent peak rate of 61 percent in 1997, there has been a fairly steady downward march in alcohol use among adolescents," said Lloyd Johnston, the study's principal investigator. "The proportion of teens reporting any alcohol use in the prior year has fallen by about a third."


The use of cigarettes amongst adolescents hit an all time low in 2014, researchers found that only 8 percent of teens reported smoking. In 1997, the rate of teens smoking was found to be 28 percent.

"The importance of this major decline in smoking for the health and longevity of this generation of young people cannot be overstated," Johnston said.

  • The use of synthetic marijuana was down by nearly half.
  • The use of bath salts is down to 1 percent.
  • The use of Marijuana is down to 24 percent.
  • The use of Ecstasy (MDMA) is down to 2.2 percent.
  • The use of Salvia is down to 2 percent.
  • Prescription drug use is down to 14 percent.
  • Cough and cold medicine use is down to 3.2 percent.
  • The use of LSD and Psilocybin continues to drop, due to availability.
Unfortunately, the use of drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, as well as other illicit drugs remains relatively unchanged.

"In sum, there is a lot of good news in this year's results, but the problems of teen substance use and abuse are still far from going away," Johnston said. "We see a cyclical pattern in the 40 years of observations made with this study. When things are much improved is when the country is most likely to take its eye off the ball, as happened in the early 1990s, and fail to deter the incoming generation of young people from using drugs, including new drugs that inevitably come along."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Measure Ends Medical Marijuana Prohibition

The medical marijuana movement in America, arguably, began when California citizens passed Proposition 215, making it legal to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Since that time, 32 other states and Washington D.C. passed similar legislation despite the drug's continued illegal classification and the federal government's stance that the drug holds no medical value. While the drug is, under state law, considered legal for medical purposes, federal agencies over the years have raided countless dispensaries and marijuana farms, essentially overruling state laws.

Today, with four states legalizing marijuana and more to follow in the coming years, the federal government is relaxing its stance on the drug. Over the weekend, a federal spending measure was passed that will end the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana in states where it is legal, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Within the 1,603-page spending bill, there is a provision which strictly prohibits federal drug agents from raiding retail marijuana operations, and President Obama plans to sign the bill this week, according to the article.

The provision had bipartisan backing, with six Republican and six Democratic co-signers, according to a press release from the office of co-author California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

“This is a victory for so many, including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy, and MS,” Rohrabacher said.

With the fight for states' rights on medical marijuana coming to an end, efforts will begin to shift towards nationwide legalization of the drug.

"The war on medical marijuana is over," said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, who called the move historic. "Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana," he said. "This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted. ... Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Senators Join Forces Against Prescription Drug Epidemic

The fight against prescription drug abuse in America continues, as leaders of the bipartisan Senate health committee aim their sights at the national “epidemic” of prescription drug overdoses, The Hill reports. This week, a number of senators drafted letters to government officials and health groups, promoting a stronger response against drug overdoses in America. 

The senators pointed out that prescription drug overdose death rates have more than tripled in the United States since 1990. 


 “With our shared goal of preventing and reducing prescription drug abuse in this country — a crisis that demands continued action, we expect that your activities in this area will continue, and we stand ready to assist you,” the senators wrote.

While there are steps that addicts and their families can take to reverse the effect of an overdose, many are uneducated about drugs like naloxone, a drug that can save lives. Naloxone is becoming more widely available and can even be obtained in some states without a prescription. In many cities, law enforcement has begun carrying the overdose antidote in their squad cars. If naloxone is administered fast enough, the effects of an overdose can be reversed.

The senators would like to see increased public education, as well as training of law enforcement officials. 


In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell, the senators encouraged her agency to continue evaluating prescription drug monitoring programs, which they called “an important tool in preventing and detecting abuse.” Letters were also sent to state leaders from the National Governors Association and the National Association of City and County Health Officials, among other health advocacy groups.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

E-cigarettes Less Addictive than Regular Cigarettes

Over the last few years e-cigarettes have become quite prevalent, with stores selling the devices in practically every city across the country. While manufacturers have contended that the devices are safer than regular cigarettes, the truth is that not much is known about e-cigarettes. New research suggests that e-cigarettes may be less addictive than regular cigarettes for former smokers, a finding which could help researchers better understand how various nicotine delivery devices lead to dependence.

"We found that e-cigarettes appear to be less addictive than tobacco cigarettes in a large sample of long-term users," said Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences and psychiatry, Penn State College of Medicine.

Researchers at Penn State developed an online survey, with questions formulated to assess previous dependence on cigarettes and to assess current dependence on e-cigarettes. More than 3,500 participants who were current users of e-cigarettes and were ex-cigarette smokers completed the Penn State Cigarette Dependence Index and the Penn State Electronic Cigarette Dependence Index. Consumers who had used e-cigarettes longer appeared to be more addicted.

"However, people with all the characteristics of a more dependent e-cig user (e.g. longer use of an advanced e-cig with a high nicotine concentration in the liquid) in our study still had a lower e-cig dependence score than their cigarette dependence score," Foulds said. "We think this is because they're getting less nicotine from the e-cigs than they were getting from cigarettes."

While many e-cigarettes users are trying to quit smoking, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the devices as a smoking cessation product.

"This is a new class of products that's not yet regulated," Foulds said. "It has the potential to do good and help a lot of people quit, but it also has the potential to do harm. Continuing to smoke and use e-cigarettes may not reduce health risks. Kids who have never smoked might begin nicotine addiction with e-cigs. There's a need for a better understanding of these products."

There are more than 400 brands of e-cigarettes currently available, which work by users inhaling vapor containing nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin and flavorings. While the long-term effects on health and nicotine dependence are unknown, the researchers found e-cigarettes contained far fewer cancer-causing and other toxic substances than regular cigarettes.

Based on materials from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Physicians Less Likely to Prescribe Narcotic Painkillers

Prescription narcotics are responsible for a large percentage of drug overdose deaths that occur every year in the United States. Despite a number of efforts to curb the problem, the rate of opioid dependence in this country is nothing short of a crisis.

After years of over-prescribing opioid painkillers, a new survey of primary care physicians nationwide showed that almost half say they are less likely to prescribe narcotic painkillers compared with a year ago. Nine out of 10 primary care doctors are concerned about prescription drug abuse in their communities, according to HealthDay.

“Our findings suggest that primary care providers have become aware of the scope of the prescription opioid crisis and are responding in ways that are important, including reducing their over-reliance on these medicines,” study leader Dr. G. Caleb Alexander of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a news release. “The health care community has long been part of the problem, and now they appear to be part of the solution to this complex epidemic.” 

Dr. Alexander hopes that more doctors and patients consider alternatives to opioid painkillers, including other types of pain relievers, and non-drug treatments such as massage, physical therapy and acupuncture. 

The survey involving 580 family doctors, internists and general practitioners nationwide, showed that 85 percent believe narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, are overused, the article reports. About half of the doctors surveyed said they were "very concerned" about risks such as addiction, death and traffic crashes associated with narcotic painkiller overuse. A number of doctors reported they believe that adverse effects, like tolerance (62 percent) and physical dependence (56 percent) occur often, even when patients use the medications as directed.

It is worth pointing out that while doctors’ have a high level of concern about opioid painkillers, 88 percent reported confidence in their own ability to prescribe opioid drugs appropriately.

The researchers report in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nursing Home Addresses Elderly Addiction

In the United States, one of the fastest growing populations of addicts and alcoholics is the elderly. In 2009, the journal Addiction published a report which indicated that the number of Americans over 50 with substance abuse problems was expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020, double the 2006 figure, according to the Associated Press.

The reasons behind elderly substance abuse are varied, from problems with pain leading to opioid addiction, to alcohol problems resulting from idle time and loneliness. The loss of a spouse or close friends, coupled with retirement, leaves people alone and without purpose; seniors often turn to the bottle to find comfort and solace.

Pain is an unavoidable side-effect of getting older as our bodies begin to deteriorate; it is no secret that America is guilty of over-prescribing prescription narcotics. It can be difficult for doctors to deny elderly patients painkillers, even if they are showing signs of dependence.

Addressing the needs of the elderly often falls upon assisted living programs, such as nursing homes and retirement communities; places often unequipped to deal with addiction and dependence, especially on a large scale. Unfortunately, seniors rarely reach out for help regarding addiction and even in medical settings the elderly are not often screened for substance abuse.

Which is why, a nursing home in the Bronx has set out to address the problem, the AP reports. After a stay in the hospital, all patients 60 and older who come in for rehab at the Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL) nursing home are screened for addiction and offered a chance at recovery.

The JHL expects to get 480 patients a year and has set aside eight beds for patients that need assistance with addiction problems. Associate Administrator Gregory Poole-Dayan believes it's the first nursing home to integrate addiction recovery into medical rehabilitation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Natural ‘High’ Could Avoid Chronic Marijuana Use

Marijuana is used more in America than any other drug. While the reasons for marijuana use are vast, many report using marijuana chronically as a means of treating depression and anxiety. New research conducted at Vanderbilt University suggests that replenishing the supply of a molecule that normally activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain could relieve mood and anxiety disorders, enabling some people to quit using marijuana, Science Daily reports.

Cannabinoid receptors are normally activated by compounds in the brain called endocannabinoids, the most abundant of which is 2-AG. They also are “turned on” by the active ingredient in marijuana.

Study leader, Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues genetically modified mice to have impaired ability to produce 2-AG in the brain. The researchers observed that the mice showed anxiety-like behaviors, and female mice also displayed behaviors resembling depression. Researchers then blocked the enzyme that normally breaks down 2-AG and restored the supply of the endocannabinoid to normal levels. After doing this the researchers observed that the symptoms of anxiety and depression were reversed.

While there is no 2-AG research that has been conducted on humans to date, the researchers concluded that if further findings confirm that some people who are anxious and depressed have low levels of 2-AG, "normalizing 2-AG deficiency could represent a viable ... therapeutic strategy for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders."

Paradoxically, the researchers point out that chronic use of marijuana down-regulates cannabinoid receptors, increasing anxiety and marijuana use. This is a "vicious cycle" that can lead to addiction. Many people use drugs to cope with moods disorders, they are often unaware that the drug that they use to treat the problem is actually making the problem worse. Without realizing it, people use more and more of the drug when they should actually be using less. The perceived cure is only amplifying the problem.

 The research was reported in the journal Cell Reports.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

The holidays can be a difficult time for those in recovery, especially in new recovery; many feelings may arise that can be trying. The stress of the holidays is often times a catalyst for relapse; so it is important to stay connected with your support network even if you are out of you local area for the holidays. There are resources available to help you stay linked to the 12-step community. In many cases there are meeting houses that are holding a meeting every hour throughout the day.

Whether you are traveling or staying in your area, we have listed below some resources that may be helpful, if you find yourself struggling or feel the need to reach out to others who might be having a hard time and you want to help.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous

On Thanksgiving 2014, there are hundreds of meeting happening in the Orange County area, you can find information on meetings here, and if you need help you can call the 24 Hour Hotline: (714) 556-4555

At Hope by the Sea we wish everyone a safe and sober holiday. If you find yourself in trouble please do not hesitate to call for help, you are not alone.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quitting Cigarettes Harder for Heavy Drinkers

It is often the case that alcohol and cigarettes go hand in hand, there isn’t a bar in the United States that doesn’t have a smoking area near one of the establishment's exits. In many cases, when people are asked if they smoke, a common response heard is, ‘only when I drink.’ In fact, new research suggests that smokers who drink heavily have a tougher time quitting cigarettes than smokers who drink moderately or not at all.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Yale Cancer Center and Yale School of Medicine, found that using tobacco-oriented telephone counseling to help people with hazardous drinking habits quit, can also help smokers. The researchers defined hazardous drinking as a weekly consumption of at least 14 drinks for men and seven drinks for women at least once in the past year.

The researchers point out the need for telephonic counseling quitline programs, research indicates that hazardous-drinking smokers are at a greater risk of developing several types of cancer and other serious health problems, than smokers who drink less. The researchers determined that 20% of all tobacco quitline callers drink at hazardous levels, said the study’s principal investigator, Benjamin A. Toll, associate professor of psychiatry and program director of the Smoking Cessation Service at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale in New Haven.

“This was the first quitline study to offer alcohol intervention counseling to hazardous drinking smokers, and we found that the quitline coaches can be trained to counsel that group effectively to improve smoking cessation and limit alcohol use,” Toll said. “If quitlines across the country use this method, we could reach millions of people seeking help.”

The research was supported by the:
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • New York State Department of Health
  • Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Yale News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Opioid Dependent Pregnant Women

While the overall rate of opioid dependent pregnant women is low, 0.39 percent, new research suggests that the percentage of opioid dependent pregnant women more than doubled from 1998 to 2011, HealthDay reports.

The rise in opioid dependent mothers is the direct result of prescription opioid epidemic in America. Over prescribing of drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, has trickled into every corner of life, even babies are at risk of being born dependent on those powerful narcotics.

The study looked at the use of prescription painkillers, as well as illegal opioids, by mothers, such as:
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Heroin
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed data on almost 57 million deliveries between 1998 and 2011. The findings showed that women dependent on opioids were more likely to deliver by cesarean section and have extended hospital stays. Opioid dependent mothers were almost five times as likely to die during hospitalization, according to the article. Babies born to opioid dependent mothers were twice as likely to be stillborn, premature and have poor growth. Mothers were three times as likely to experience placental abruption, a condition where the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus prematurely.

“This increase in opioid abuse and dependence in the pregnant population is happening along with that in the general population,” Lead researcher Dr. Lisa Leffert said. “These women were more likely to deliver by cesarean and have extended hospital stays.”

The findings are published in the journal Anesthesiology.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Researchers Work to Develop CBD Drugs

Researchers are working to develop prescription drugs that act like marijuana, but do not get the patient high, according to The Boston Globe. A number of medical cases have shown that isolating an active ingredient in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD), has great promise for treating a number of medical conditions without the euphoric effects of THC, another active ingredient in the plant.

Two Massachusetts researchers have received federal grants to work on developing a process for manufacturing pharmaceutical-quality CBD, and to create a synthetic compound that will be medically beneficial without getting patients high, the article reports. It is believed that by harnessing CBD’s, such drugs will have the potential to treat conditions including:
  • Seizures
  • Psychiatric Disorders
  • Glaucoma
  • Inflammation
  • Chronic Pain
GW Pharmaceuticals has developed a drug which contains a CBD extract that has shown promise in reducing seizures in some children and young adults. Patients taking the experimental drug have had a reduction in seizures by at least half.

While there is a lot of interest into groundbreaking drugs containing CBD’s, marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, which makes it difficult to conduct studies on a national level. However, Aphios Corporation, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, has been granted access to the government’s research-grade marijuana to conduct studies. The company will work on developing CBD drugs for researchers to use for study purposes.

“There is a lot of interest from the medical marijuana marketplace, and that is pushing institutions to try and investigate why these things are working and how well are they working,” said Trevor Castor, Chief Executive at Aphios.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

ACLU Decriminalizing Drug Possession

Decriminalizing drug possession is one sure way of reducing the stigma of addiction. In the United States our jails and prisons have become overcrowded due to draconian drug laws, which systematically created career criminals out of suffering people. Earlier this year, following U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony in favor of reducing drug sentences, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to reduce the base offense for drug offenders caught with various amounts of drugs.

Taking the move one step further, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLUS) plans to refocus its efforts away from marijuana legalization to decriminalizing drug possession, according to U.S. News & World Report.

There are now four states that allow recreational marijuana use, which has prompted the ACLU to change its position. “What the marijuana legalization votes tell us is the door is open to reconsidering all of our drug laws,” said Alison Holcomb, National Director of the ACLU’s new nationwide campaign against “mass incarceration.”

The ACLU movement will be funded by a $50 million grant from billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. 

 Last week, California voters approved Proposition 47 by 58 percent. Prop. 47 lowers penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes. It also allows the reclassification of felony drug convictions to misdemeanors and calls for sentencing reductions for current inmates.

“When it comes to criminal justice and drug policy, Americans are thinking differently about these issues,” says Lenore Anderson, a co-author of Proposition 47. “The main message for policymakers is some of the old ways of thinking around prison-first policies and using the criminal justice system to deal with something like drug addiction is something the public doesn’t think is wise anymore.”

The ACLU plans to repeat the success of Prop. 47 in other states. 

“Hopefully we will be able to find states where we can go further and say, ‘Let’s decriminalize the possession of drugs and let’s talk about what we can do to address drug use and abuse,’” Holcomb said.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Moderate Alcohol Consumption and Coronary Heart Disease

In the past, some researchers have argued that consuming low amounts of alcohol was good for the heart, despite the dangers that are usually associated with consuming alcohol. While new research confirms that moderate alcohol consumption can protect against coronary heart disease, research indicates that alcohol only protects about 15% of the population that have a particular genotype, according to Science Daily.

The study was conducted at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, where researchers observed 618 Swedes with coronary heart disease and a control group of 3,000 healthy subjects. The participants were separated into different groups based on their alcohol consumption. They were then tested for a particular genotype (CETP TaqIB) that had been identified in previous studies as being linked to the health benefits of alcohol consumption. The researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption protected against coronary heart disease only when the CETP TaqIB genotype was present.

"In other words, moderate drinking has a protective effect among only 15% of the general population," says Professor Dag Thelle, Professor Emeritus at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

Researchers believe that alcohol may somehow affect the CETP in a way that benefits cardio-protective HDL cholesterol. An alternative hypothesis is that alcohol contains healthy, protective antioxidants.

"Our study represents a step in the right direction," Professor Thelle says, "but a lot more research is needed. Assuming that we are able to describe these mechanisms, it may be a simple matter one day to perform genetic testing and determine whether someone belongs to the lucky 15%. That would be useful to know when offering advice on healthy alcohol consumption. But the most important thing is to identify new means of using the body's resources to prevent coronary heart disease."

Researchers conclude that advising people that moderate alcohol consumption is good for you is far too sweeping, the article reports.

The results were published in Alcohol.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Early Recovery Insomnia May Lead to Relapse

Early recovery can be especially trying, a time where the risk of relapse is especially high. Treating the disease of addiction requires that both the mind and the body be closely monitored. A new report has found that insomnia, a common occurrence in early recovery, may lead to a heightened risk of relapse.

Problems with sleep may persist for months or even years after becoming sober, MedicalXpress reports. The prevalence of insomnia in early recovery may be five times higher than in the general population, according to researchers.

“Treating sleep disturbance in early recovery may have considerable impact on maintenance of sobriety and quality of life,” study co-author Dr. Nicholas Rosenlicht of the University of San Francisco said in a news release.

Many alcoholics have used alcohol to help them sleep, despite the fact that alcohol actually can disrupt one’s sleep patterns. What’s more, previous research suggests that people who struggle to sleep are more likely to be at risk of developing addiction in the first place, the article notes.

The researchers point out that whether treating insomnia can reduce a person’s risk of relapse is unclear. Many doctors frown upon prescribing insomnia medications to recovering patients. Drugs like Lunesta and Ambien can easily be abused, which can aid in restarting the cycle of addiction.

Doctors can encourage their patients to keep track of their sleep patterns with a daily sleep diary, as well as identify and work to correct thinking and beliefs that may contribute to insomnia. They can teach their patients ways to promote good sleep, through explaining the benefits of exercise, eating healthy, and discouraging napping.

"Treatment of insomnia after abstinence represents an important treatment target and an integral part of any recovery plan," Dr Rosenlicht and coauthors conclude.

The findings appear in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

19 Percent of Americans Suffer from Chronic Pain

A new study, which surveyed about 35,000 American households, found that 19 percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain, HealthDay reports. Participants were asked if they suffer from chronic pain, defined as constant or frequent pain that lasts for at least three months.

While, opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine can be helpful in treating chronic pain, they should only be used on a short-term basis, says Jae Kennedy of Washington State University in Spokane and study author. “We are clearly overusing opioids [narcotics],” Kennedy said.

“The U.S. consumes about 80 percent of the world’s opioid supply, and 99 percent of the hydrocodone supply. These medications are effective in the short term, [such as] for managing postoperative pain, but long-term use often leads to dependency or addiction.”

The findings showed that a good portion of those surveyed who reported having arthritis or back and joint pain, said they did not have constant and persistent pain. More than two-thirds of participants who reported chronic pain said their pain was constant, and more than half claimed that their pain levels could be unbearable and excruciating at times. Researchers concluded that women and the elderly are most likely to have constant pain.

“If you’re dealing with pain constantly for a long period of time, that’s going to affect your work life, your family life, your social life. It also puts you at higher risk for things like mental illness and addiction,” Kennedy said in a news release.

It is worth pointing out that narcotic opioids are not always helpful for many people with chronic pain, according to Bob Twillman, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the American Academy of Pain Management. “Those medications are wonderful when they work, but on average, they only relieve about a third or less of the chronic pain people experience, and may be completely ineffective in treating some kinds of chronic pain,” Twillman said.

 The study appears in the Journal of Pain.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

DEA Proposes Rescheduling Naloxegol

There have been several changes made to drug policy this year; perhaps the most important being the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) reclassification of hydrocodone combination products, such as Vicodin, to Schedule II. Reclassifying such drugs will hopefully reduce prescription drug abuse, by only allowing patients to receive the drugs for up to 90 days without receiving a new prescription.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, many of Schedule II drugs, both legal and illegal, can be derived from opium alkaloids; drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and heroin are the most commonly abused. Powerful illegal narcotics like methamphetamine, as well as legal Adderall and Ritalin, are also considered Schedule II drugs. People caught illegally dealing or possessing Schedule II drugs face criminal penalties.

However, some believe that there are drugs that have been misclassified as Schedule II, such as the opiate-based painkiller naloxegol, according to The Hill. The Obama administration is proposing that naloxegol be removed from the federal drug schedule, citing research finding the medication “does not possess abuse or dependence potential.”

This fall, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved naloxegol (Movantik) for treatment of opioid-induced constipation in adults with chronic non-cancer pain. Naloxegol’s manufacturer, AstraZeneca, submitted a petition seeking its removal from the Schedule II classification on grounds that the drug, prescribed for non-cancer chronic pain, is not prone to abuse. The DEA agreed with AstraZeneca’s findings that the drug does not meet Schedule II classification requirements.

A recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services, and the DEA’s own analysis, the agency is now proposing to delist the drug.

“The DEA finds that these facts and all relevant data demonstrate that naloxegol does not possess abuse or dependence potential,” the DEA said. “Accordingly, the DEA finds that naloxegol does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule, and should be removed from control under the CSA.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Social Hosting Laws Curb Underage Drinking

A new study has found that in areas where strict social hosting laws exist, teenagers are less likely to consume alcohol at parties. Social hosting laws are measures taken in communities to curb underage drinking by holding adults responsible if teens drink on their property. Parents can be held responsible for teenage drinking even if they claim they were unaware the drinking was occurring, reports Business Standard.

Researchers from the Prevention Research Center in Oakland, California examined 50 communities in California, half of which had social hosting laws. The findings showed that teens in communities that had strict social hosting laws were less likely to say they drank at parties.

“It does look like there is less-frequent drinking among teenagers in cities with stringent social host laws, even when other city and youth characteristics that are related to underage drinking are controlled for,” said lead researcher Mallie Paschall in a news release. “So these laws might be an effective strategy for reducing hazardous drinking.” Paschall points out that, “Most kids get alcohol from social sources, not commercial ones.”

Adults can incur stiff civil penalties for providing alcohol to teens or by giving teenagers a safe haven to consume alcohol, according to the report. The penalties usually come in the form of large fines, which are quickly administered, Paschall said. In some communities, however, police are unwilling to enforce social hosting laws, either from lack of support from the public or from the local prosecutor’s office.

In the future, the researchers will look at the rates of teen drinking before and after social hosting laws are passed. They will also look at the effect social hosting laws have on teenage drunk driving.

The findings are published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Supplements Containing Banned Drugs Still for Sale

Dietary supplements that have been recalled as the result of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans on the drugs they contain, often continue to be sold, sometimes for years after the recall, according to doctors at Harvard Medical School. More than 400 supplement brands containing banned pharmaceutical drugs have been identified by the FDA and recalls have been issued for 70 percent of them, according to Reuters.

The Harvard Medical School study looked at 27 supplements for sports enhancement, weight loss and sexual enhancement that were recalled between 2009 and 2012. The supplements were purchased from the manufacturers' websites at least eight months and up to four years after they were recalled.

The researchers found 18 of the 27 supplements still contained the banned pharmaceutical ingredient that got the drug recalled in the first place. Two-thirds of the supplements looked at in the study were manufactured in the United States, the article notes.

“There’s no question that these supplements that contain pharmaceuticals are not allowed to be sold, there are clear-cut laws,” lead author Dr. Pieter A. Cohen told Reuters.

A supplement containing the weight loss drug sibutramine has been linked to heart attack and stroke. Another contained the laxative phenolphthalein which has been tied to cancer.

"Dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors are legally responsible for marketing a safe product that is not adulterated, and that complies with FDA’s good manufacturing practice regulations for dietary supplements," the FDA told Reuters.

However, the FDA warns, "The supply chain for these products is extremely fragmented; one product manufactured by an unknown company overseas may be sold by dozens of different distributors in the United States. The individuals and businesses selling these products generally are difficult to locate, operate out of residential homes, and distribute via internet, small stores, and mail. Products are shipped through the international mail facilities and are often misdeclared as unrelated goods to avoid detection. Even after recall and enforcement action against one major distributor, the product may continue to be widely sold."

The findings appear in JAMA.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Buprenorphine Maintenance Over Detox

Buprenorphine has become the standard in treating opioid addiction. Whether it is used for detoxification or for maintenance, many in the field of addiction believe that formulations of buprenorphine, drugs like Subutex and Suboxone, are more effective than methadone.

There are two schools of thought regarding buprenorphine treatment with regards to detoxification and maintenance. Some addiction professionals hold that the sooner a patient gets off all opioid related substances, the better. While some believe that there is a greater chance of long term abstinence if the transition is more gradual.

New research from Yale University indicates that buprenorphine maintenance therapy is more effective than detoxification when treating prescription opioid dependence, Health Canal reports. The researchers followed 113 patients with prescription opioid dependence over the course of 14-weeks.

The participants were separated into two groups, a maintenance group and a detox group. In both groups, patients received drug counseling and were attended to by doctors and nurses. The maintenance group received ongoing buprenorphine therapy over the 14-week period. The detox group received six weeks of stable doses of buprenorphine followed by three weeks of tapering doses.

Over the 14-week period the detox group tested positive for illicit opioid use more often than those in the maintenance group, lead researcher Dr. David Fiellin reported in JAMA Internal Medicine. The research showed that detox group patients were less likely to stay in treatment or abstain from using opioids after they stopped taking buprenorphine.

“For prescription opioid dependence, buprenorphine detoxification is less effective than ongoing maintenance treatment, and increases the risk of overdose and other adverse events,” Fiellin said in a news release. “It is very common for patients seeking treatment to request detoxification.”

“They want to be off of everything as soon as possible as opposed to considering long-term treatment, but unfortunately there’s no quick fix for the disease. The majority of patients will do better if they receive ongoing maintenance treatment.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Study: Stimulants for School - Not Summer

Schools continue to be more demanding, even at the elementary level, students at some schools are required to learn multiple languages and take more advanced math courses than ever before. While a higher caliber of schooling may lead to greater success later in life, unfortunately, some students cannot handle the load and doctors end up prescribing stimulant medications to mitigate the issue. In many cases, students are not taking drugs like Adderall and Ritalin for a deficit, but rather as an aid to keep up with the increasing academic demands.

Children ages 4 to 17, who take ADHD medication, increased from 4.8 percent in 2007 to 6.1 percent in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In fact, a new study indicates that children are 30 percent more likely to take drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) during the school year than in the summer, USA Today reports. Findings that would imply that ADHD drugs, in many cases, are not taken to treat a disorder.

The study’s findings come from researchers at Yale, New York University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to the article.

The study showed that children from wealthier families who live in states with stricter academic standards are more likely to use ADHD drugs only for school. Whereas the children from lower-income families in states with less strict school standards were more likely to take the drugs year-round.

Higher-income families are more likely to follow their own judgment about medication decisions, filling prescriptions when they believed the medication was warranted. Lower-income families follow their doctors' recommendations and fill prescriptions for the medication all year long, according to the article.

“As schools become more academic, as a consequence we’re seeing an increase in school-based stimulant use,” said researcher Marissa King of the Yale School of Management. “Kids are actually just trying to manage a much broader shift in the way the school day is structured.”

“Kids are having more pressure on them to have more sustained attention,” she said.

It is worth pointing out that the research showed that even when children from either end of the socioeconomic spectrum were treated by the same doctor, children with wealthier parents were more likely to use ADHD drugs only during the school year.

The findings appear in the American Sociological Review.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Prescription Opioid Abuse Hindered by Marijuana Legalization

The fight against prescription opioid abuse in America can be hindered by the marijuana legalization movement, according to Michael Botticelli, the Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. While marijuana activists continue to argue that pot is harmless, Botticelli says one in nine people who use marijuana will become addicted to the drug, the Associated Press reports.

The use of marijuana at an early age increases the risk of developing dependency on other drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, Botticelli points out.

“It’s hard to say at one level that we want to think about prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse without looking at how to prevent kids from starting to use other substances from an early age,” he said at a town hall forum on opioid abuse in Maine.

Unlike previous U.S. Drug Czars, Botticelli's story is different in light of the fact that he is in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder, with more than 25 years of sobriety. “My personal story is very illustrative of what we see with people who go on to significant addiction later in life,” he told the AP.

Maine, not unlike many other states, has been hit hard by the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic that continues to ravage the lives of American citizens. What’s more, Maine is also a state that leans toward marijuana legalization, a trend which could lead to young Americans starting the cycle of addiction early on - possibly leading to opioid abuse.

Prescription drug abuse has been a problem in Maine for years, which has led to a surge of heroin abuse, according to the article. In 2012 and 2013, dozens of pharmacies were robbed for the stock of prescription opioids.

Over the next five years, 19 Maine communities will receive $7.5 million to fight drug abuse, Botticelli said at the forum.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

FDA Officials Defend Zohydro Approval

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials are responding to the activist group FedUP!, a coalition of doctors, addiction professionals, and loved ones of the victims of the prescription opioid epidemic, who called for the FDA Commissioner’s resignation last week. FedUp! lashed out at FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg over her decision to defend the FDA’s approval of the pure hydrocodone drug Zohydro ER. The agency approved Zohydro despite their own panel of experts voting against the drug's approval -  citing high potential for addiction.

Three FDA officials say the drug’s approval was warranted and that it is misguided to advocate for restricting the use of one opioid, instead of confronting the widespread issue of abuse and inappropriate prescribing, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), FDA officials wrote, “The problem of opioid overdose demands well-informed policies. The actions taken by FDA may help to reverse the epidemic…Policies that focus on a single drug can divert focus from broader, further-reaching interventions… The concerns over Zohydro ER should be seen in the greater context of the opioid epidemic. Singling out one drug for restrictions is not likely to be successful.”

FedUp! is not the first or the only group who is against the FDA’s approval of Zohydro. Governors from five New England states, members of Congress and the Senate, and attorneys general from 28 states, have urged the FDA to amend its decision. Despite the outcry from multiple sectors, including highly informed experts in the fields of addiction and medicine, the FDA continues to stick to their guns.

In an attempt to show that the agency is making efforts to curb the epidemic, the FDA officials say the agency is addressing the need for painkillers with tamper-resistant features. Pointing out that “although this is an appealing policy solution, the science of abuse deterrence is uncertain and evolving… No marketed opioid with purported abuse-deterrence technologies has been shown to deter oral abuse – the most common route – or to reduce addiction or death.”

Whether approval of the drug Zohydro was the right decision, or not is irrelevant. Certainly, no one can argue that approving the drug has helped the prescription drug epidemic. While the FDA and officials fight over what to do, people continue to lose their lives. The list of addictive medications is too extensive, the incentives for doctors to over prescribe are staggering, and the options for patients who become dependent on these drugs are minimal.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

CDC Study: Heroin Overdose Deaths Double

The federal government’s crackdown on prescription drug abuse can hardly be considered a success. While use of prescription opioids like Vicodin (hydrocodone) and OxyContin (oxycodone) has decreased, owing mainly to the shutting down of “pill mills” and it being harder to “doctor shop;” unfortunately, the aforementioned efforts has led to a higher demand for heroin, a drug that is cheaper and in many cases stronger than prescription painkillers.

As one might expect, the increase in heroin use has led to higher death rates associated with the drug. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that heroin overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2012, according to Reuters. The CDC stated that the increase in heroin overdoses is the direct result of years of over-prescribing prescription painkillers.

After the year 2000, the study showed that 75 percent of heroin users in treatment programs said they abused prescription opioids before switching to heroin. In the 1960’s more than 80 percent of heroin users said they hadn’t abused another drug before heroin. The link between prescription opioids and heroin use could not be more apparent after looking at those figures.

The study found that deaths from heroin rose from 1 to 2.1 deaths per 100,000 people between 2010 and 2012; while deaths from prescription opioid declined from 6 to 5.6 deaths per 100,000.

“The rapid rise in heroin overdose deaths follows nearly two decades of increasing drug overdose deaths in the United States, primarily driven by (prescription painkiller) drug overdoses,” the CDC researchers wrote.

The CDC believes that increasing access to medication-assisted treatment and the use of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone is needed to help curb the growing problem.

“Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing remains a crucial public health strategy to address both prescription opioid and heroin overdoses,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Teenage Traumatic Brain Injuries Lead to Harmful Behaviors

Traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are quite common amongst teenagers, especially those who play sports. A TBI is defined as a blow to the head that causes one to be knocked out for at least five minutes, or spending at least one night in the hospital due to symptoms associated with such an injury. New research indicates that teenagers who have had a TBI are at increased risk of using marijuana, drinking alcohol and smoking, HealthDay reports.

The researchers studied data from more than 9,000 teenagers from middle-school to grade 12. The findings varied between males and females who experienced TBI’s.

Girls were:
  • Three times more likely to smoke than girls without a brain injury.
  • More likely to endure bullying.
  • More likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.
  • More likely to think about suicide.
“This is a wake-up call. Concussions are brain injuries, and we need parents and physicians to become more vigilant,” said lead author Gabriela Ilie of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “Our brains define who we are, and a lot of our behaviors and thoughts and emotions depend on our brain circuitry operating properly.”

Boys were:
  • Twice as likely to smoke daily in their late teens.
  • More likely to engage in harmful activities.
“Both boys and girls were more likely to engage in a variety of harmful behaviors if they reported a history of TBI, but girls engaged in all 13 harmful behaviors we looked for, whereas boys were at higher risk of engaging in only nine,” Ilie said in a news release. “Sex matters when it comes to traumatic brain injuries.”

The findings clearly showed that TBI’s affected girls more than boys, but both were affected more as they aged.


The findings appear in the journal PLOS ONE.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

E-Cigarette Warning Labels Questioned by Critics

Not much is known about e-cigarettes and the dangers which accompany the devices. Many argue that they are healthier than traditional tobacco products, but there is still a high risk of nicotine addiction. The federal government has not mandated that e-cigarettes have warning labels, yet big tobacco companies which own their own e-cigarette products have begun placing warning labels on the devices.

Critics of the tobacco industry are questioning the motives of big tobacco companies who have issued strong voluntary warning labels on their e-cigarettes, according to The New York Times. In many cases the e-cigarette warnings are stronger than the warnings they place on their traditional tobacco products.

The makers of Marlboro, Altria, which also makes the e-cigarette MarkTen, has placed a label on the devices which reads, “nicotine is addictive and habit forming, and is very toxic by inhalation, in contact with the skin or if swallowed.” The makers of Vuse e-cigarettes, Reynolds American, have created a warning label that states the devices are not intended for persons “who have an unstable heart condition, high blood pressure, or diabetes; or persons who are at risk for heart disease or are taking medicine for depression or asthma.”

William Phelps, a spokesman for Altria, said its MarkTen warnings reflect “a goal to openly and honestly communicate about health effects.”

“Is this part of a noble effort for the betterment of public health, or a cynical business strategy? I suspect the latter,” said Dr. Robert K. Jackler, a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine who studies cigarette and e-cigarette advertising.

It is interesting that the warnings on the back of Marlboro's packs fail to mention the addictive nature of cigarettes, or that the use of cigarettes can lead to fatal health problems like heart disease and cancer.

“Why wouldn’t you warn about ‘very toxic’ nicotine in your cigarettes when you do so on e-cigarettes?” said Dr. Jackler.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

FedUp! Calls for FDA Head Resignation

Food and Drug Administration logo
The prescription opioid addiction epidemic and the consequent rise of overdose death rates in the United States have led to public outrage. The brunt of criticism has been directed towards the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to its lack of or late response to the problem. What’s more, the FDA continues to approve new opioid medications, like Zohydro ER (pure hydrocodone), despite warnings from doctors that such drugs would only add to the problem.

A coalition of doctors, addiction specialists, and family members who have lost loved ones have joined forces; the group is demanding that the head of the FDA, Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, resign from her position, The Washington Post reports.

The group of activists, known as FedUp!, states that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has hindered more than helped the opioid overdose epidemic. FedUp! is planning a rally on Sunday, September 28th in Washington, D.C. with the hope of making more people aware of what they call “a slow and tragically ineffective federal response” to the “worst drug addiction epidemic in our nation’s history.”

“We have come to believe that without new leadership at FDA the opioid crisis will continue unabated,” the group wrote this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “We are especially frustrated by the [FDA’s] continued approval of new, dangerous, high-dose opioid analgesics that are fueling high rates of addiction and overdose deaths.”

In a statement, the FDA stated that Hamburg has been a “tireless public health advocate” for more than two decades and “is committed to continuing to champion the rights of patients.” The FDA claims that ensuring pain sufferers have access to appropriate medications and preventing opioid abuse are “both top public health priorities for the FDA.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Testing the Drug Substitution Hypothesis

Recovering from a substance use disorder is no small feat. While the rewards of recovery are great, it is often the case that addicts who give up one addiction will substitute one problem for another or relapse into old behavior. In order to stop the cyclical nature of addiction it requires eternal vigilance and a continued program of spiritual maintenance.

Researchers at Columbia University have found that people who overcome a substance use disorder actually reduce the risk of developing a new addiction by half - when compared to people who have not overcome an addiction. The new findings fly in the face of the traditional beliefs and stereotypes of addiction.

“The results are surprising, they cut against conventional clinical lore, which holds that people who stop one addiction are at increased risk of picking up a new one,” Senior Author Dr. Mark Olfson told Reuters. “The results challenge the old stereotype that people switch or substitute addictions, but never truly overcome them.”

Data from surveys taken in 2001 and 2004, including 35,000 adults, was analyzed by researchers. The survey participants were asked about their use of:

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Sedatives
  • Tranquilizers
  • Painkillers

The researchers at Columbia looked at the occurrence of a new substance use disorder among adults who already had a disorder. About 20 percent of those who had a substance use disorder in 2001 had one by 2004. Only 13 percent of people in recovery from their original dependence had developed an addiction to something else.

“While it would be foolish to assume that people who quit one drug have no risk of becoming addicted to another drug, the new results should give encouragement to people who succeed in overcoming an addiction,” Olfson said. “I hope that these results contribute to lessening the stigma and discrimination that many adults and young people with a history of substance abuse face when they seek employment.”

The findings appear in JAMA Psychiatry.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Colleges Combat Binge Drinking

The consumption of alcohol on college campuses continues to be a major concern among faculties and staffs across the country. Especially, the common practice of “binge drinking,” that is having four or more drinks; many students are unaware that binge drinking can lead to a host of medical and/or social problems.

In an attempt to combat campus sexual assaults, colleges are looking for new ways to reduce binge drinking, NPR reports.

Many colleges around the country have their own police force, separate from the local authorities. Campus police typically do not have the ability or the authority to police off campus. Conversely, many local police forces do not have the time, money, or manpower to target underage drinking, one of the leading causes of sexual assault. Naturally, the aforementioned scenario allows for a lapse of coverage concerning college drinking and everything that comes along with it.

However, Maryland’s Frostburg State University and city police agreed in 2012 to joint jurisdiction, allowing campus police to patrol off campus in search of house parties - the goal is to help prevent bad behavior before it starts. “We know there’s going to be underage drinking,” said Frostburg State University police officer Derrick Pirolozzi. “We can’t card everybody. But we want to make sure everybody does it the right way and safe way.”

The university has agreed to pay overtime costs for state, county, city and campus police near the school.

“The thing that’s so striking to me is that many universities perceive [binge drinking] as an intractable problem and that there’s nothing they can do,” Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State University, told NPR.

Gibralter stated that heavy drinking at Frostburg has led to:
  • Poor Grades
  • Injuries
  • Mental Health Problems
  • Campus Sexual Assaults
  • Deaths
Many parents and alumni have told Gibralter that they drank in college and don’t see it as a big problem. “When I tell parents that 1,800-plus college students drink themselves to death every year, they are stunned,” he said. “They have no idea.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CDC Reports Slower Rise In Prescription Drug Deaths

After years of sharp elevation in prescription drug related deaths, deaths from prescription narcotic painkillers appear to be leveling out, or rising at a slower pace than in previous years, reports the CDC. Any death related to prescription drugs is a sad occurrence and while the number of deaths every year is still on the rise, it is nice to read a report that indicates a decrease in the rise.

The report showed that from 1999 to 2006 prescription painkiller overdose deaths rose by 18 percent each year, but from 2007 to 2011 the number of deaths only rose by 3 percent each year, according to USA Today. In 1999, prescription opioids were involved in 2,749 overdose deaths, in 2011 opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone were involved in 11,963 overdose deaths, according to the CDC report.

Benzodiazepines, drugs like Xanax or Valium, are commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications that can be extremely dangerous if mixed with other prescription drugs like opioids. The report showed that Benzodiazepines were involved in a growing number of opioid-related deaths; in fact such drugs were involved in 31 percent of opioid-related deaths in 2011, up from 13 percent in 1999.

What’s more, there has been in increase in the number of drug-poisoning deaths involving methadone, a controversial pain medication that has been used for treating opiate dependent people for decades. In 1999, methadone was involved in 784 deaths, a number which rose to 5,518 by 2007, and then declined to 4,418 deaths in 2011.

It remains clear that prescription drug abuse is still a major concern in America and there is still cause for great concern despite the efforts from a number of government agencies to make the abuse of certain medication more difficult. The DEA has announced that it will reclassify hydrocodone from a Schedule III to a Schedule II narcotic, which will decrease peoples' ability to abuse the medication; patients will be able to receive the drug for up to 90 days without receiving a new prescription.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Teenage Chronic Marijuana Use Leads to Dropouts

English: Leaf of Cannabis עברית: עלה של קנביס
The use of marijuana at some point during the high school years is quite common; in fact it is difficult to attend a high school party without being exposed to the drug in one form or another. A number of kids are able to stay away from marijuana altogether, some try it a few times at certain social gatherings, and then there are those teenagers who engage in chronic marijuana use.

Chronic use of marijuana affects everyone differently; many teenagers find ways to function under the influence of the drug, still managing to get through high school and even go on to college. Sadly, not everyone has that experience and end up dropping out of high school.

New research indicates that teens under the age of 17, who use marijuana chronically every day, are 60 percent less likely to graduate from high school, according to CNN.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales analyzed data from three previous studies that included almost 4,000 participants. Their findings showed that teen cannabis users are 18 times more likely to become dependent, seven times more likely to attempt suicide, and eight times more likely to use other illicit drugs later in life.

“The results provide very strong evidence for a more direct relationship between adolescence cannabis use and later harm,” said lead author Edmund Silins with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, Australia. “The findings are particularly timely given the growing movement to decriminalize or legalize cannabis because this has raised the possibility the drug might become more accessible to young people.”

“Our results provide strong evidence that the prevention or delay of cannabis use is likely to have broad health and social benefits,” Silins noted in a news release. “Efforts to reform cannabis legislation should be carefully assessed to ensure they reduce adolescent cannabis use and prevent potentially adverse effects on adolescent development.”

The findings were published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pharmacies Can Now Collect Unused Prescription Drugs

The effectiveness of prescription drug “take back” days, which happen twice a year in the United States, has prompted officials to allow pharmacies to receive unused prescription narcotics. Until now, pharmacies were not allowed to accept unused opioid painkillers, according to The New York Times.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) new regulations are designed to give people more options in the fight to curb the prescription drug epidemic. “These new regulations will expand the public’s options to safely and responsibly dispose of unused or unwanted medications,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said in a news release. “The new rules will allow for around-the-clock, simple solutions to this ongoing problem. Now everyone can easily play a part in reducing the availability of these potentially dangerous drugs.”

People with unused prescription narcotics will be allowed to mail unused prescription medications to authorized collectors, using packages that will be available at pharmacies and locations including senior centers and libraries, The New York Times reports.

In the last four years, prescription drug “take-back” collected 4.1 million pounds of prescription drugs, according to the DEA. The agency pointed out that during that time period; about 3.9 billion prescriptions were filled. “They only removed an infinitesimal fraction of the reservoir of unused drugs that are out there,” said Dr. Nathaniel Katz of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, who studies opioid abuse. “It’s like trying to eliminate malaria in Africa by killing a dozen mosquitoes.”

The Controlled Substances Act required patients to dispose of their unused drugs themselves or give them to law enforcement officials at national “take-back” events. The new ruling will surely aid in the fight to keep unused drugs out of the wrong hands.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Doctor Shopping Common Amongst Surgery Patients

Despite the fact that many states around the country have implemented prescription drug monitoring systems, many are still finding ways to get pain medications from multiple doctors - “doctor shopping.” In fact, a new study has found that one-fifth of patients who have surgery for orthopedic trauma, visit multiple doctors for painkiller prescriptions, according to HealthDay.
The medical and pharmacy records of 130 patients treated for orthopedic trauma at Vanderbilt University Medical Center were looked at by researchers.

Going to multiple doctors can be extremely dangerous, often times leading to addiction and, or overdoses. The new research implies that doctors are not sharing information amongst each other regarding the needs of their patients, says lead author Dr. Brent Morris. “There needs to be coordination if additional pain medications are needed,” said Morris. “Patients should not be receiving multiple narcotic pain medication prescriptions from multiple providers without coordinating with their treating surgeon.”

Researchers found that patients with a high school degree or less were 3.2 times more likely to doctor shop, compared to patients with more education. Patients who used prescription opioids in the past were 4.5 times more likely to doctor-shop, the researchers report.

The findings showed that most of the doctor shoppers used narcotic painkillers for about 3.5 months after surgery, obtaining a median of seven narcotics. Those who did not doctor shop typically used painkillers for one month after surgery, using a median of two narcotic painkillers.

“Our study highlights the importance of counseling patients in the postoperative period, and that it is important to work together to establish reasonable expectations for pain control as part of treatment plan discussions and follow-up visits,” Dr. Morris said in a news release.

The findings can be found in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Alcohol and Marijuana Comparison Study

There has been an ongoing debate as to whether or not alcohol is worse than marijuana; especially since more states have become tolerant of marijuana, the seemingly benign drug. Even President Obama has stated that he is not convinced that marijuana is more harmful than alcohol. It is no secret that both alcohol and marijuana are a part of teenage life, many high school students experiment with both substances just about every weekend and in some cases more often than just on the weekends.

In an attempt to gather more data, researchers at NYU conducted a comparison study of alcohol and marijuana. The study was titled "Adverse Psychosocial Outcomes Associated with Drug Use among US High School Seniors: A Comparison of Alcohol and Marijuana,” according to Newswise.

On September 1, 2014, researchers affiliated with New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) published their findings in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, (on-line ahead of print). Researchers gathered data to analyze from a nationally representative sample of high school seniors in the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study. Data from 7,437 students (modal age: 18) from 2007 through 2011 who reported using alcohol or marijuana in their lifetime was looked at in the study.

"The paucity of research is of particular public health concern as alcohol and marijuana are the two most commonly used psychoactive substances among adolescents," said Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC). "Nearly half of high school seniors have used marijuana in their lifetime and over two-thirds have used alcohol, but few studies have compared adverse psychosocial outcomes of alcohol and marijuana directly resulting from use."

“The most alarming finding was that alcohol use was highly associated with unsafe driving, especially among frequent drinkers," said Dr. Palamar. "Compared to non-drinkers, frequent drinkers were over 13 times more likely to report that their alcohol use has led to unsafe driving. Marijuana users, compared to non-users, were three times more likely to report unsafe driving as a direct result of use."

Researchers found that alcohol use was more commonly reported to compromise relationships with friends and significant others. Alcohol use also led to more regret, particularly among females. On the other side, marijuana use was more commonly reported to:
  • Compromise Relationships With Teachers or Supervisors
  • Lower School Performance
  • Result in Less Energy or Interest
  • Lower Job Performance

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alcohol Dependence Gene Linked to GABA Neurotransmitter

Understanding addiction is challenging and there are many, some quite convincing, arguments as to why some people end up becoming dependent on drugs and alcohol while others do not. Science has come a long way regarding addiction, a disease that was once viewed as a moral shortcoming and a lack of willpower, is now looked at in a whole different light. No matter what road one takes down the path to addiction, scientists in the medical community have deemed addiction an incurable disease that can be kept in remission with daily maintenance.

Ever since the mapping of the human genome, scientists have painstaking sought to find the genetic marker of addiction. A new study conducted at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) seems to have found some answers to the genetic connection with addiction. Research indicates that variations in the human version of the Nf1 gene are linked to alcohol-dependence risk and severity in patients. The Nf1 gene regulates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that lowers anxiety and increases relaxation feelings.

"This novel and seminal study provides insights into the cellular mechanisms of alcohol dependence," said TSRI Associate Professor Marisa Roberto, a co-author of the paper. "Importantly, the study also offers a correlation between rodent and human data."

The TSRI research team views the new findings as "pieces to the puzzle." The mysteries of addiction are slowly becoming understandable to scientists who have been working on this problem for decades.

"Despite a significant genetic contribution to alcohol dependence, few risk genes have been identified to date, and their mechanisms of action are generally poorly understood," said TSRI Staff Scientist Vez Repunte-Canonigo, co-first author of the paper with TSRI Research Associate Melissa Herman.

The Nf1 gene is considered to be a rare risk gene, but researchers weren't sure exactly how Nf1 affected the brain. "As GABA release in the central amygdala has been shown to be critical in the transition from recreational drinking to alcohol dependence, we thought that Nf1 regulation of GABA release might be relevant to alcohol consumption," said Herman.

The study was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Source: Science Daily

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