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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act

As 2015 comes to a close, lawmakers across the country are already planning how they will deal with the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic that continues to take people's lives every day. New England has quickly become the epicenter of the heroin scourge in America, which has led many politicians to call for greater access to evidence based addiction treatments. Governors throughout the region are calling for Congressional leaders to amend federal law, allowing for medication assisted treatment (MAT) to be more widely available, The Bulletin reports.

The Drug Abuse Treatment Act of 2000 prohibits nurse practitioners from prescribing medications, such as Suboxone (buprenorphine), a drug which helps opioid addicts detox and prevent relapse.

The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act would give nurse practitioners and physician assistants the ability to treat up to 100 patients per year with buprenorphine. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, with the support of local health and addiction professionals, drafted the letter which called for the changes, according to the article.

The letter was signed by:
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont
  • Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts
  • Gov. Paul LePage of Maine
  • Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire
  • Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island
“Nationally, 53 percent of primary care physicians work with nurse practitioners or physician assistants. By ignoring this important and successful partnership in the treatment of addiction, we significantly limit access to MAT,” Malloy states in the letter. “Building on this strong partnership between physician and nonphysician providers is vital in expanding access to effective treatment. The need has never been greater, as the number of people seeking treatment is continuing to grow.” 

If you are struggling with opioid addiction, it is paramount that you seek help, with everyday of continued use there is a greater likelihood of an overdose. Recovery is possible with hard work and dedication, and the assistance of professionals trained to teach you how to live a life free from all mind altering substances. If your New Year’s resolution is to break the cycle of addiction, at Hope by The Sea we can help you make that goal become a reality.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Overdose Survivors Are Still Prescribed Opioids

In the late 1990s doctors began prescribing opioid painkillers at an unprecedented rate, which was the result of policy changes regarding the treatment of chronic pain. While many people's pain was being adequately managed, the upsurge in prescribing brought addiction and overdoses in its wake. You may think that when a patient overdoses on the prescription opioids and survives that their doctor would attempt to manage their pain differently - it would seem logical. But you would be incorrect with that line of thinking.

In fact, new research suggests that over ninety percent of patients hospitalized for an overdose, continue to be written prescriptions for opioids after the event, CBS News reports. The findings come from an analysis of a large commercial insurance claims database, which includes information on 50 million people. The researchers looked at 12-year period.

"I was surprised. I thought we'd see a number that was shocking but this is more than we thought," said lead author Dr. Marc LaRochelle, an attending physician in the department of General Internal Medicine at Boston Medical Center, and assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. 

The researchers found that seventy percent of patients who survived an opioid overdose continued to be written prescriptions from the same physician who prescribed the opioids they overdosed on, according to the article. It could be easy to hold doctors at fault for continuing to prescribe; however, most overdose cases are not reported to the doctor who prescribed the drug. The burden falls on the health care system and lack of communication.

"We need to do something at a policy level and a system level to make sure information is being communicated and better tools are developed to identify and intervene on patients who have risky use and are at high risk for having problems,” said LaRochelle. 

The findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Maintaining Your Recovery On Christmas Day

With Christmas less than two days away, and everyone rushing to get the last of their gifts, stress may be building. Christmas is, for many, the most important day of the year, but despite that it can also be one of the most stressful days. While everyone wants to spend time with their loved ones, eat food and be merry, for a number of people being around their family can be difficult - especially for those in recovery. Christmas, like any major holiday, typically involves an admixture of family and too much alcohol, so it makes sense that people in recovery find it a challenge to navigate on the road of recovery during the special day.

It cannot be overemphasized how important staying close to one’s sponsor, either in person or by phone, is for maintaining a program of recovery during the holiday. It is quite common for people who are new to recovery to find themselves in sticky situations during Christmas, environments that could compromise one’s program. Talking to your sponsor or recovery peers about your plans for the day will help you determine if you are putting yourself at risk. Everyone wants to be with their family on Christmas, but for some it may not safe and finding a healthy alternative is of the utmost importance.

It may not be healthy to be around one’s family for lengthy periods of time - especially when alcohol is likely to be present. Fortunately, you can open presents and have a bite to eat, and then explain to your family that it is important that you focus on your recovery for the rest of the day. 12-step meetings will be taking place throughout the holiday and everyone in recovery should make a concerted effort to attend a meeting - or several meetings for that matter. It is quite common for people in early recovery to attend multiple meetings on Christmas day, if you find yourself struggling - meetings can make all the difference.

While your recovery peers are not your capital “F” family, they are a collective of people working together towards the same ends which makes them a family. Being around a group of people with the common goal of living free from drugs and alcohol can be of comfort during the holidays, and can be the catalyst for creating new holiday rituals and traditions that do not involve getting drunk or high. One of the beautiful aspects of addiction recovery is that you are able to form new and meaningful bonds that can last a lifetime. 

Hope By The Sea would like to wish everyone a safe and sober Christmas. We understand that the holidays can be a difficult time, but it is possible to make it through the day without drinking or using. If you find yourself struggling, do not hesitate to reach out for help.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Letting Teenagers Drink Leads to More Drinking

In the United States, we view the use of alcohol by teenagers different than they do in Europe. Our approach is that it is against the law for people under the age of 21 to consume alcohol, whereas in Europe the legal drinking age is 18, but minors can legally drink alcohol with parents or friends as long as it is provided free of charge. The European modality is based on the idea that teens can learn to drink responsibly through parental guidance, and that making less of deal about alcohol will deter use by de-mystifying the substance. However, while that mode of thinking may work for some, it turns out that in many cases the European mindset can have the opposite effect.

New research suggests that middle-class parents who allow their children to use alcohol are not protecting them from becoming problem drinkers, The Guardian reports. What’s more, teenagers who come from more affluent families were twice as likely to regularly consume alcohol, compared to teenagers from poorer backgrounds. The findings are important because regular alcohol use during the teenage years increases the risk of problematic use in adulthood - potentially leading to a substance use disorder.

The findings come from a study of 120,000 teens published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The researchers found that around 70% of 15-year-olds from affluent backgrounds had tried alcohol, according to the article. The findings showed that approximately half of 15-year olds from deprived backgrounds had tried alcohol. Teenagers from wealthy families were more likely to continue drinking after first trying alcohol.

Teenage use of alcohol can have lasting effects on the brain, and limit one’s potential in life. The brains of teenagers are still developing, and parents should not underestimate the potential damage alcohol can cause, says Dr Sarah Jarvis, medical adviser to the alcohol education charity, Drinkaware.

“Alcohol can harm young people while they are still developing, which is why the UK chief medical officers say an alcohol-free childhood is the best option,” said Jarvis. “Young people’s brains are still developing, and they may be more vulnerable to long-term effects on brain and educational achievement than adults, even if they drink within government-recommended upper limits for adults.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Marijuana Use and Employment

There is no question as to whether Americans are becoming more tolerant of marijuana use, despite the fact that the drug is still illegal on the federal level. The District of Columbia and 23 states now have medical marijuana programs in place, and four of those states have legalized the drug for recreational use among adults. While there is still a lot of we do not know about the drug with regard to both short/long term side effects, as well as the drug's propensity for addiction, research has shown some promise with regard to the treatment of health problems.

However, a number of people fail to understand that while the drug is more accepted than ever, it can still have a negative effect on one’s life, leading to dependence and/or addiction. Just because marijuana is now legal in several places, with more states expected to follow, does not mean it is safe; alcohol and tobacco are legal for adults, but use and misuse can lead to addiction and life threatening health disorders.

People who use marijuana should also be aware that, unlike alcohol and tobacco, an employer has grounds to fire you for both medical and recreational marijuana use. In fact, data indicates that many employers in states where marijuana is legal will not hire people who use marijuana on their own time, Bloomberg Business reports. The findings come from a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).

“There is what I consider to be a significant number of employers that are saying they wouldn’t hire an employee that uses marijuana,” said Evren Esen, Director of Survey Programs at SHRM.

The survey, which involved 623 human resources managers in states where marijuana is legal, showed that:
  • Nearly half of the employers have, or plan to implement policies, which restrict employing marijuana users.
  • 38 percent will not hire people who use medical marijuana.
  • Only six percent have a policy which only excludes recreational users.
Employers are able to refuse to hire or fire existing employees for marijuana use because the drug is still illegal under federal law, according to the article. Marijuana users should beware of the consequences that can accompany use of the drug.

If your marijuana use is interfering with your life, please contact Hope by The Sea.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2014 Overdose Death Rates

Well, the numbers are in for 2014 and they are far from promising. Nearly 50,000 Americans lost their lives due to overdoses in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The rate of overdoses rose seven percent from the year before. Prescription opioids and heroin accounted for the bulk of deaths.

The findings should be a call to action for lawmakers who are still unsure about providing greater access to the life saving drug naloxone, which was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration in nasal spray kit. Naloxone has the power to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, provided the drug is administered in time.

Close to 19,000 of the more than 47,000 deaths last year were the result of prescription opioid overdoses, a 16 percent rise from 2013, the Associated Press reports. Heroin overdoses rose 28 percent, to about 10,500. The nation's drug overdose problem "is not getting better," says CDC Director Tom Frieden. He added that the agency is looking over the data in an attempt to establish a cause for the dramatic increase.

A possible cause for some of the increase of overdose deaths could be illegally made fentanyl, a relatively easy to make synthetic opioid about 100 times stronger than morphine, and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin. Mexican cartels have been synthesizing the powerful narcotic in clandestine labs, of late, and the drug is often mixed into heroin batches to increase potency. Heroin users who are unaware of the mixture are at great risk of overdose; across the country many have succumb to the lethal combination.

Opioids are highly addictive, and difficult to break free from without help. Without medically supervised detoxification, many addicts quickly relapse finding the pain of detox too hard to bear. Overdoses often occur after someone has been clean for several days and returns to using. Failing to adjust one’s dosage after being drug free briefly, is a sure way to overdose.

At Hope by The Sea, we offer a residential detoxification program that aids in cleansing a person's mind, body, and spirit. Once free from the withdrawal symptoms, addicts are able to begin learning how to live a life of recovery. If you or a loved one would like to begin the journey of recovery, please contact our treatment facility.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Prescribing Stimulants To Children

Children being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is fairly common in the United States, and usually involves the prescribing of stimulant medications such as Adderall or Ritalin. Historically, boys have been diagnosed with the condition more than girls, and whites more than Hispanics, but the reasons for this are not clear as of now. However, new research indicates that the trend may be reversing.

Researchers from George Washington University have found that children diagnosed with ADHD is on the rise among girls and Hispanic children, HealthDay reports. The research indicated that the rate of ADHD among all children ages 5 to 17 increased 43 percent from 2003 to 2011.

"But what struck us the most were the increases among girls and Hispanic children," said senior researcher Sean Cleary, an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at George Washington University. 

Girls being diagnosed with ADHD increased by 55 percent over the course of the research period. At the conclusion of the study, more than 7 percent of girls had ever been diagnosed with the condition. The increase among Hispanic was even more pronounced, with ADHD diagnoses rising 83 percent, compared with 46 percent among white children.

The researchers are currently unsure as to the causes for the shift among girls and Hispanic adolescents, according to the article. Cleary is not sure if the results indicate an actual rise in ADHD incidences, or indicates a tendency to over-diagnose the disorder. He points out that boys symptoms are typically more overt, which could have led to an underdiagnosis among girls. The rise among Hispanics may be linked to the demographic having greater access to mental health resources in Spanish. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

It is vital that researchers determine the reason for the rise in ADHD diagnoses. While stimulant medications have proven effective in treating the condition, the drugs used are narcotics and have the potential for abuse and/or addiction. Parents whose children have been diagnosed should move forward with caution. Prescription stimulants have a tendency of being diverted; people who are not prescribed such medications use them to gain an edge in school or for prolonged partying energy during the weekends.

If you or a loved one are abusing prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, please contact Hope By The Sea. We offer an affordable drug rehab program in California's coastal Orange County area to help amphetamine addicts begin the recovery process.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Facebook Connections and College Alcohol Use

Social media can give researchers data that on scale no before thought possible. Over the last year, addiction researchers have turned to internet applications like Instagram and Facebook to gather data. If you think about it, social media acts like a window into the lives of young people; multiple times throughout the day, teenagers and young adults post their activities to such sites. Analyzing posts can help researchers establish patterns of drug and alcohol use.

At the University of Georgia, researchers have established ties between certain patterns of connections among Facebook friends and substance use among college-aged females, ScienceDaily reports. Assaf Oshri, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor in the human development and family science department within UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, researched the connection between childhood experiences and the development of risky behaviors in adolescents and young adults. The research team looked at the Facebook accounts of 318 female students enrolled at UGA.

"Leveraging social media to understand risk for addiction is a new, emerging frontier," said James MacKillop, study co-author and director of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. "Platforms like Facebook provide us with new ways to characterize social networks' influences on healthy and unhealthy behavior." 

The researchers found that the “severity of child physical abuse” was associated with how central one is in their social network, and could increase the risk for alcohol abuse, according the article. The study showed that:
  • Childhood physical abuse was associated with having more densely interconnected groups of Facebook friends, a trend linked to a higher risk for alcohol use and problems.
  • Childhood sexual abuse was linked to more loosely interconnected groups of Facebook friends, dominated by a few friends, a trend linked to a decrease in alcohol use and problems.
  • The more a Facebook user's friends are also friends with one another, the greater the chance that she would misuse alcohol.
  • Students found to be “less important or less connected” with their networks peers were more likely to use alcohol.
"If you try to describe the relationship between early child abuse to risk behavior such as substance abuse, it's interesting to know that online social networks play a role in this mechanism," Oshri said. "It's important to note that this is a correlational study, not experimental, so any causal association should not be made out of this data." 

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

If you or a loved one is a college age female who has suffered from childhood abuse and is misusing drugs or alcohol, please contact Hope By The Sea. Childhood abuse can result in post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), when coupled with substance abuse, treatment requires addressing both co-occurring disorders. Our addiction treatment team is equipped to assess and treat both issues, developing customized treatment programs that target a client’s particular needs.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bad Batch of Synthetic Marijuana in Southern California

People continue to use controversial synthetic drugs, such as bath salts and Spice (synthetic marijuana), despite the persistent onslaught of reports in the news about the dangers their use. Synthetic drugs are manufactured with little oversight, and even less testing to determine the effects the drugs might have on humans. Naturally, without checks and balances the chemicals used to make the drugs are likely to produce unpredictable side effects - often requiring hospitalization.

In California, the sale of synthetic marijuana like Spice or K2 is illegal, yet people still find ways to get their hands on the dangerous products. In the last 2 weeks of November, over 24 people needed medical attention in the San Diego area after using a bad batch of Spice, Fox5 reports. The synthetic cannabinoid, according to police officials, came in a black package with blue dragons on the side.

The most recent incident involved 12 juveniles and adults who required medical attention after they experienced a number of adverse symptoms. San Diego Police Department Sgt. Ray Battrick said the side effects users experienced included unconsciousness, headaches, and violent vomiting. Some of the patients were in critical condition after overdosing on the bad batch.

Several arrests have been made in connection with the incidents, according to the article. The San Diego Police Department is asking that anyone with information on the drug or its makers come forward. Call 619-531-2000 - all reports can be made anonymously.

You can watch a short video on the incident below:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Synthetic drugs are hardly safe, in any form, and many users are of the opinion that the drugs are legal. Synthetic drug manufacturers are constantly altering the formula of the chemicals, in order to stay ahead of government bans. This means that users have no way of knowing what kind of side effects to expect. What’s more, synthetic drugs can be addictive, requiring treatment to recover. If you, or a loved one, are using synthetic drugs, please contact Hope by The Sea for help.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Addiction Research: There’s an App for That

Ten years ago, none of us could've imagined the role that cellular phones would have in our lives, short of making phone calls. At an exponential rate, smartphones have found their way into practically all aspects of day to day life. We turn to our phones to get the time and weather, we rely on them for breaking news reports and to check the stock market; exercise enthusiasts monitor their calorie intake and how many steps they take from one day to the next. We no longer need to be given directions, our phones will not only route our trip - they even tells when to turn.

The possibilities for smartphones seem endless, with new apps being developed and released every day. While the devices certainly make our lives easier, they may be able to do so much more - providing researchers real time insight at a fraction of the cost of traditional data gathering methods. Earlier this year, Apple released its ResearchKit platform allowing researchers to conduct clinical studies on a massive scale. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) will award funds to researchers who use the ResearchKit to build apps for addiction research, Fortune reports. Research teams that are able to provide working apps by April 2016 will be awarded $100,000.

Historically, researchers conducting studies had to recruit volunteers at colleges and through advertisements. Such methods limits the reach a particular study can have, because they require people to check in periodically in person. Using apps on smartphones and smart watches will exponentially increase the reach studies can have, allowing many more people to participate. What’s more, such devices can read biometric data from the participants, allowing researchers to augment survey answers, according to the article.

The NIDA challenge “Addiction Research: There’s an App for that” is a clear sign that the National Institute of Health (NIH) sees the potential of mobile health data. The NIH is not alone in their desire to use Apple’s ResearchKit framework, a number of hospitals and medical institutions have expressed interest, including Johns Hopkins and Stanford Medicine.

The federal register notice states:

“NIDA is seeking to engage communities to envision and to create an app which will help advance scientific research in areas of nicotine, opioids, cannabinoids (including marijuana), methamphetamines, and prescription drug use.”

At Hope By The Sea, we offer several different types of treatment programs, allowing us to serve and customize treatment for more people than other treatment facilities. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact us to begin the journey of recovery.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Staying Sober Over Thanksgiving

Maintaining a program of recovery can be challenging during the holiday season. Juggling one’s program with family gatherings and work parties can prove difficult, but it is possible to accomplish. With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, it is vitally important to have a plan for your day. Having a schedule in place will reduce the possibility of running into obstacles that could jeopardize your recovery.

When attending family and/or work gatherings, it is safe to say that alcohol will be present. Most people in recovery would like to maintain their anonymity. Not having a drink in one’s hand could raise flags, requiring you to explain why you are not drinking. While family members tend to be understanding about your recovery, it’s typically not ideal to have to explain to a boss or work peer that you have a history with substance abuse. Fortunately, it is OK to tell your coworkers that you do not drink without divulging your life story, such as saying:
  • I don’t drink.
  • I’m driving tonight.
  • Alcohol affects me negatively.
If you are in early recovery, it is best to attend events, which might involve alcohol, with a friend in recovery. Your sponsor may be willing to accompany you. If not, perhaps you have made friends with people who have substantial periods of recovery under their belt. It is usually a sound practice to leave parties early, as time goes by people can become intoxicated, which can be unsafe and little fun to be around.

Be sure to attend your home group on Thanksgiving. If you cannot make it because of a prior obligation, no worries, there are meetings happening all day long during Thanksgiving. It is not uncommon for people in recovery to attend multiple meetings during a holiday. Being around your recovery peers throughout the day is a sure way to maintain your sobriety. If you happen to be traveling, you can find local meetings at:
Hope by the Sea would like to wish everyone in recovery a safe and sober Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Over 9 Million Americans With Drug Use Disorders

Drug addiction affects millions of Americans; it’s probably fair to say that our government has not always had the most appropriate response to dealing with the problem. Addiction is an illness, a disease of the mind that has been treated as a crime for nearly a century or more. In the United States, government officials have begun viewing addiction differently in the wake of the opioid epidemic; calling for treatment over jail is a huge move towards acknowledging that addiction is not a moral failing. Nevertheless, the stigma of addiction remains a hard nut to crack, and many addicts fail to seek help for their problem.

New research suggests that over nine million Americans had a 12-month drug use disorder (DUD) diagnosis, and 9.1% had a lifetime diagnosis, under the currently accepted diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5), Medical News Today reports. What’s more, less than a quarter (24.6 percent) of people with lifetime DUDs received any kind of treatment.

Using data from the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (NESARC-III), Bridget F. Grant, PhD, and her team of researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), looked at the prevalence and treatment of DUDs. The drugs the researchers focused on included:
  • Amphetamines
  • Cannabis
  • Club Drug
  • Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens
  • Heroin
  • Nonheroin Opioids
  • Sedative/Tranquilizers
  • Solvent/Inhalants
The researchers found that there are many factors that play into drug use disorder rates, and some demographics were more likely to abuse drugs than others, according to the article. People most affected by DUDs included:
  • Men
  • White and Native American individuals.
  • Young, divorced or never married adults.
  • People with lower incomes and education.
  • People living in the Western U.S.
The researchers point out that their findings are probably conservative, considering that the data did not include people with DUDs that were incarcerated.

"Findings also indicate an urgent need to destigmatize DUD and educate the public, clinicians, and policymakers about its treatment to encourage affected individuals to obtain help," said the researchers. 

The research was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Who Gets A New Liver?

Should a person’s past and/or current behavior dictate whether or not they can receive an organ transplant? If you are thinking that that is a complex question, you are right! A large percentage of people who are in need of a transplant have done things in their life that damaged their organs, such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Since organs are limited and extremely valuable, it may be easy for some to argue that people who have willingly harmed their health, may be less deserving of a transplant than people who have lived health conscious lifestyles. What’s more, many people who are in need of an organ are still using harmful substances.

In the United States, transplant centers have different policies when it comes to potential liver recipients - how their use of cigarettes, drugs or alcohol affects their chances of getting a transplant. The question of liver transplantation in patients with a history of addictive disorders was covered by panelists at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) annual Liver Meeting, MD Magazine reports. The panelists consisted of transplant experts.

“You don’t want to waste a liver, but you don’t want to deny a patient a life-saving therapy either, just because he’s a smoker,” said David Riech of Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. “A lot of people who need liver transplants are smokers.” 

Panelist Michael Lucey, MD, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison, WI surveyed 134 transplant centers in the United States, according to the article. Lucey received responses from 42 of them, and they account for about half of all the livers transplanted in the US

Dr. Lucey found that very few centers require patients to be in a smoking cessation program. 27 centers required a six-month period of abstinence from opiates. The majority of centers were found to have no policy regarding marijuana use, which the experts agreed that marijuana’s effect on the liver was understudied, the article reports.

When it comes to alcohol, he found that:
  • 24 centers require a set period of abstinence from alcohol.
  • 15 centers said “it depends.”
  • Only one center said “no.”
Naturally, providing a new liver to someone with a history of alcohol abuse raises some questions. There is always a chance that the patient will relapse, potentially harming the new liver. Although, there is no way to quantify a person’s risk of relapsing, the article writes.

There is not enough information on the impact of various addictions on transplants, according to the panel.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A New Cure for Hepatitis C

Intravenous drug use is extremely dangerous, a behavior that can easily result in an overdose. Over the last several years, people in the United States have witnessed a dramatic rise in overdoses related to illicit opioid use, an epidemic that has been steadily getting worse. On top of the exponential rise of overdoses, there has also been a surge in infectious disease transmissions, such as HIV and hepatitis C.

While the aforementioned viruses are not a new problem, new cases were fairly minimal for a number of years. The American opioid epidemic, in conjunction with limited access to clean needles, has resulted in a number of new cases. In Indiana, Governor Mike Pence issued a state of emergency due to an outbreak of HIV tied IV Opana use, a prescription opioid. As a result, IV drug users can now acquire clean needles in the affected areas. Providing greater access to clean needles reduces the potential of infectious disease transmission. Needle exchanges give substance use disorder counselors an opportunity to discuss treatment options with addicts - which is great.

But, what about those who have already been infected? 

Unfortunately, a cure for HIV/AIDS has not been developed, but the medicines available today allow many of those infected to live longer lives. On the other hand, hepatitis C patients have options available now that can cure the disease at a high rate of success. An experimental drug, made by Merck & Co., cured 95 percent of 301 IV drug using patients living with hep C, Bloomberg Business reports.

Merck stated that 67 percent to 84 percent of IV drug users that are being treated with addiction medicine have been infected with hepatitis C, according to a Merck news release.

“Injection drug use is a major factor fueling the global hepatitis C crisis, yet people with chronic hepatitis C virus infection who inject drugs often remain overlooked and underserved,” said Dr. Ronald Nahass, president, ID CARE, New Jersey. “Patients in this study with chronic hepatitis C virus infection on opioid agonist therapy, including many who continued to use drugs during the trial, were able to complete treatment with elbasvir/grazoprevir and achieve high virologic cure rates.” 

The study findings were presented at The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases Annual Meeting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Issues Resulting From Ignoring Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause a number of preventable problems, the worst of which being Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Exposing fetuses to alcohol can result in a number of other disorders, many of which are hidden in the surface affecting the brain. Such problems fall under the fetal alcohol “umbrella” known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

In the United States, products containing alcohol have labels which caution women who may be pregnant that consuming alcohol may result in birth defects. What’s more, bars are required to post signage which reads the same. Nevertheless, a significant number of pregnant women choose to consume alcohol and many babies are born with preventable disorders.

The use of alcohol in Europe is a little bit different than the United States. In many countries people can begin legally using alcohol at younger ages than America’s age requirement of 21. Alcohol is viewed differently than it is viewed here, so it is not surprising that European governments handle alcohol in very different ways. A new assessment suggests that in the United Kingdom, there is an dire need for better prenatal alcohol exposure diagnoses, Science Daily reports. As well as better pathways for diagnosis, assessment and support.

The report found that FAS cases (babies born with both mental and physical alterations) are extremely prevalent, about one in every 100 babies in England and Wales. Those cases make up more than the combined of babies born with:
  • Down's Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Spina Bifida
Dr Mary Mather, a retired Community Paediatric Consultant and a Trustee of the FASD Trust, points out that UK has conducted very little research on FASD, and the UK is hesitant to accept the views of the rest of the world on the subject, according to the article.

"A recent search for the term 'fetal alcohol' in an archive of worldwide medical publications produced more than 14,500 articles. Virtually none of them emanated from the UK and to highlight what is happening here has not been an easy task. This lack of research and definitive guidance in the UK has led to unconsidered and diverse opinions about alcohol, where every professional has a different view and pregnant women are left confused and uncertain." 

Mather adds:

"The UK is the binge drinking capital of Europe and 50% of pregnancies are unplanned; every day that alcohol is ignored or downplayed, more damaged babies are being born. There is an urgent need for action and research. [...] Clear national guidelines about totally avoiding alcohol during pregnancy are essential. [...] Many more diagnostic clinics are needed with doctors with the expertise to run them. Training for midwives, social workers, doctors, foster carers and others in preventing and managing FASD is essential." 

The assessment was published in the SAGE journal Adoption & Fostering.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How Do States Rank With Tobacco Control?

Tobacco use in the United States, while significantly less in recent years, is still a major concern - especially among teenagers and young adults. People who smoke are at an increased risk of developing life threatening illnesses, and tobacco related illnesses are one of the leading causes of preventable death in this country. A number of states and municipalities have taken drastic measures to reduce the toll of tobacco use, such as raising prices and age limits and educating young people about the dangers associated with use.

However, in several states where tobacco use has caused the most damage, little is done to combat the problem. A new analysis conducted by USA Today found that states hit the hardest by tobacco use often have the least aggressive approach to mitigating the problem. It probably comes as little surprise to learn that the states in question are those known for tobacco cultivation. Despite Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee having the poorest and sickest residents, they only spend a minor fraction of the federal government’s recommended minimum for tobacco education and enforcement.

States found to be doing the worst with regard to tobacco control and have the highest impact of use include:
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Missouri
  • West Virginia
  • Mississippi
The analysis found that states which scored high on aggressiveness and low on tobacco impact included Hawaii, New York and Utah, according to the article. It’s probably worth noting that Hawaii recently became the first state to raise the minimum age for tobacco use to 21. A number of other states are considering similar legislation.

The researchers used government smoking data to create two scores for grading states, an “impact score” and an “aggressiveness score.” The impact score was arrived at by combining smoking rates and the public perception about the dangers of use, the article reports. The aggressiveness score combined:
  • Taxes
  • Bans
  • State Spending
  • Advertising Restrictions
  • Severity of Fines for Selling to Minors
On top of being deadly, tobacco use is highly addictive. There have been studies that indicate that people in recovery for addiction should be weary of tobacco use. Recent findings indicate that tobacco use can significantly increase one’s risk of relapse.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Rise In Mortality Among Middle Aged Whites

In advanced nations, such as the United States, people typically live longer than ever before - the direct result of advances in medicine and more health conscientious attitudes, especially towards tobacco use. However, in the U.S., statistics are painting a picture than should not be expected for a major western nation. A recent review of statistics shows that since 1999, many white middle-aged Americans are dying at a higher rate, The Washington Post reports.

Interestingly, 1999 was the year arguably considered to be the beginning of the opioid epidemic in America. The rise in mortality for any large demographic in a major country is practically unprecedented, according to the article. The only other time something like this has been seen in modern times was in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Causes for the increase of white middle aged men and women living shorter lives between 1999 and 2013, according to researchers, include:
  • Legal and Illegal Drug Use
  • Alcohol Use
  • Suicide
“Drugs and alcohol, and suicide. . .are clearly the proximate cause,” said Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics, who co-authored the paper with his wife, Anne Case. “Half a million people are dead who should not be dead,” he added. “About 40 times the Ebola stats. You’re getting up there with HIV-AIDS.” 

David Weir, the director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, points out that while African Americans in the same age group still have a higher death rate than whites, the findings are startling considering that white Americans typically have more advantages. Weir points out that there are a number of factors at work (on top of the one’s pointed out by the authors) with the rise in middle aged white mortality rates, the article reports. The factors include:
  • Economic Insecurity
  • Community Decay
  • The Breakdown of Families
  • The National Opioid Epidemic
The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Doctor Convicted of Murder for Overdose Deaths

The overprescribing of opioids by doctors in many states has led to a dramatic rise in overdose deaths in recent years. There are many who feel, and perhaps rightly so, that doctors should be held culpable for such deaths under certain circumstances. The toll that overprescribing has taken on families and society is staggering; addiction treatment centers are treating opioid addicts at unprecedented rates, the numbers of overdose death rates every year are through the roof, and the country is seeing new infectious disease outbreaks that have been directly linked to prescription opioid misuse.

Last week, for the first time in U.S. history, a doctor was found guilty of murder for overprescribing drugs, CNN reports. California doctor, Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng, was found guilty of 23 counts. Tseng’s attorney plans appeal the decision.

Among the charges Tseng was convicted, 19 were for unlawful controlled substance prescriptions. On Friday, Tseng was convicted of second-degree murder for three individuals who died of overdoses between March and December of 2009. The victims included:
  • Vu Nguyen, 28, of Lake Forest, CA
  • Steven Ogle, 24, of Palm Desert, CA
  • Joseph Rovero, 21, of San Ramon, CA
"This verdict sends a strong message to individuals in the medical community who put patients at risk for their own financial gain," District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. "In this case, the doctor stole the lives of three young people in her misguided effort to get rich quick." 

Once doctors realize that they can lose their freedom for overprescribing drugs, they will be more apt to refrain from doing so. Prescription opioids are extremely dangerous, and without careful prescribing practices - people lose their lives. Physicians are fully aware of the risks that prescription opioids carry with them; doctors have a moral responsibility to prescribe them with the utmost discretion.

Please take a moment to watch a short video below:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Cost of Heavy Drinking

It is no secret that heavy alcohol use can have detrimental effects on a person’s mind and/or body - having a serious impact on one’s life. Heavy consumption can lead to addiction, causing people’s lives to spin out of control; not just impacting loved one’s but also society. New research indicates that heavy alcohol use costs the American economy billions of dollars every year, PsychCentral reports. The findings come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers attribute the cost to:
  • Reduced Workplace Productivity
  • Crime
  • Treating Health Problems
CDC researchers found that excessive drinking cost the U.S. $249 billion in 2010 ($2.05 per drink), according to the article. When you compare that figure to what heavy alcohol use cost the economy in 2006 ($223.5 billion or $1.90 per drink), you can see a significant increase.

The data indicates that binge drinking was responsible for 77 percent of the costs. In 2010, states each paid a median of $3.5 billion in alcohol-related costs, the article reports. Some states paid a lot more than others, with North Dakota paying $488 million to California paying $35 billion.

“The increase in the costs of excessive drinking from 2006 to 2010 is concerning, particularly given the severe economic recession that occurred during these years,” said Robert Brewer, M.D., M.S.P.H., head of CDC’s Alcohol Program and one of the study’s authors.

“Effective prevention strategies can reduce excessive drinking and related costs in states and communities, but they are under used.” 

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Many Teens Accept Rides From Drivers Who Had Been Drinking

Driving under the influence of alcohol is never a good idea, and while most teenagers are aware of the dangers - they drive anyway. New research suggests that many teens are willing to be accompanied by a driver that has been drinking. A new survey has found that 30 percent of teenagers have accepted a ride in the last year from a driver they knew had been drinking, HealthDay reports. The survey was sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and State Farm Insurance.

"Everyone would agree that riding with a drinking driver is not a good idea, but teens are making this choice to do so," said Dave Phillips, a State Farm spokesman. "This study shows that teens don't plan to ride with a drinking driver, but they are willing to do so if the situation comes up." 

The findings come from 600 teenagers who participated in an online poll. The data indicates that one in four would be willing to ride with a driver that has been consuming alcohol, according to the article. On the hand, the survey showed that more than 90 percent of teenagers report being willing to speak with their friends about the risks of riding with drunk drivers, and 70 percent do not believe that speaking against riding with drunk drivers would damage their friendships.

Robert Turrisi, a professor of biobehavioral health with Penn State's Prevention Research Center, says that parents need to talk with their teenagers about handling situations involving drunk driving. He points out that teens process decisions differently than adults.

"Young people are not just small versions of adults," said Turrisi. "They really think fundamentally different. They make their decisions more based upon emotions than well-thought-out plans, most of the time."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Treating Back Pain With NSAIDs

Finding alternative forms of pain management is crucial in the fight to end the prescription opioid epidemic in America. All too often doctors prescribe opioids for minor ailments that could be treated with non narcotic analgesics. New research suggests that over the counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) provide as much relief for lower back pain as opioids or a muscle relaxants, HealthDay reports. Researchers compared both prescription naproxen (Naprosyn) and OTC naproxen to Percocet (oxycodone with acetaminophen).

“Acute low back pain is a frustrating condition,” said lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Friedman, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “Adding the narcotics or muscle relaxants to naproxen therapy didn’t help pain or function any more than naproxen alone. Nearly 50 percent of patients were still suffering one week later and nearly 25 percent of the patients were still suffering three months later.” 

Dr. Friedman points out that there are currently no good treatments for acute lower back pain, according to the article. The findings show that prescription opioids are not always needed for treating back pain; many patients would be served better by taking NSAIDs, such as Aleve or Advil.

“This is another study to add to the pile that says narcotics are not appropriate to treat back pain,” said Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management in the department of anesthesiology-pain at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “Although fewer doctors are prescribing narcotic painkillers for back pain, many still do.” 

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Some Doctors Prescribe Opioids Twice As Often

The overprescribing of prescription narcotics has left tragedy in its wake. The high rate of opioid overdose deaths has all the major health related agencies scrambling to find ways to curb the ever growing epidemic. New research indicates that a small number of doctors are responsible for the majority of narcotic prescriptions written, HealthDay reports. The findings come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis of drug-monitoring programs in eight states - representing about one-quarter of the population of the United States.

"Every day, 44 people die in American communities from an overdose of prescription opioids and many more become addicted," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in an agency news release."States are on the frontline of witnessing these overdose deaths. This research can help inform their prescription overdose prevention efforts and save lives." 

The analyzed states include:
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia
The analysis showed that prescribing practices vary from state to state, but in some states doctors were found to be prescribing around twice as many prescription opioids and sedatives as doctors in other states, according to the article. The researchers found that in some states prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, were being prescribed four times more often than in other states. What’s more, all eight states were found to prescribe prescription opioids twice as often as stimulants or sedatives.

"A more comprehensive approach is needed to address the prescription opioid overdose epidemic, including guidance to providers on the risks and benefits of these medications," said the director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Dr. Debra Houry, in the news release. 

The findings were published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Family Structure Influences Teenage Relationships With Alcohol

It goes without saying that every parent goes about raising their children in different ways. While variations may seem like minor details, how alcohol is viewed and treated in the household by parents could influence whether problems may arise down the road. New research suggests that a teenager's family structure could influence whether or not allowing them to drink at home will result in alcohol problems, The Boston Globe reports.

Some parents believe that allowing their teens to consume alcohol at home will teach them safe drinking practices, while other parents preach abstinence until adulthood. The new study found that allowing teens to drink at home did not predict later alcohol use, according to the article. The researchers found that family structure played major role in how relationships with alcohol developed.

The research involved interviews with 772 children ages 12 to 17, and their parents, starting in 1989. The participants were re-interviewed up to four times over the next 15 years. This is the first study to deal with the relationship between drinking at home and family structure, the article reports.

“An intact family structure with two parents might serve as a proxy for factors like better communication with both parents and clearer expectations of behavior — what’s allowed and what’s not,” said lead author Ash Levitt of the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions. “When there are two parents, it’s also easier to set rules and monitor how they’re being followed.” 

Certainly, the nature of one’s family will have an impact on a teenagers' development of relationship skills. Although, even when a family is intact (2 parents), it can still be risky to allow teens to consume alcohol at home.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Recovery High School

For many in recovery, addiction began in their teens and it is usually not addressed until adulthood. Many teenagers who are dealing with addiction manage to have their problem go undetected throughout their high school years. Those whose parents or peers discover the problem, usually through overdose or arrest, are commonly sent to treatment. After treatment, such teenagers usually resume their schooling, but some do not return to their old high school.

In certain parts of the country, teenagers who have struggled with addiction may be eligible to attend what’s being called “Recovery High.” In the State of Massachusetts, a number of such schools have opened, offering schoolwork and recovery support for teenagers living sober, WBUR reports. There are now five high schools in the state that provide a community for recovering addicts.

One school, William J. Ostiguy Recovery High School, is housed in a Boston office building. The school is open year round and offers small classes, usually no more than 15 students at a time, according to the article. A licensed substance abuse counselor develops individual recovery plans for the students, and each student must submit to random weekly drug tests. If a student happens to relapse, they are required to leave school for treatment for an indefinite period.

“All too often people in recovery in general, not just kids, will convince themselves that once a relapse happens they might as well go all out because they’ve already quote-unquote screwed up,” says John McCarthy, Ostiguy’s recovery counselor. “And it’s really unfortunate, because a relapse does not have to be like that. It can be, you know, a positive learning opportunity.” 

Recovery high schools offer a unique opportunity for young people in recovery. They can receive a good education, and they can do it amongst peers who are also learning to live a life free from addiction.

“The young people identify as being in addiction,” said Roger Oser, Ostiguy’s principal. “So they look to the left and they look to the right and they see someone who is going through the same struggle as them, which they don’t get in their communities and their home schools.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Naloxone Saves Dozens of Lives in Chicago

Across the country the surfacing of the deadly mixture of heroin and fentanyl seems to be becoming more and more common. Fentanyl is reported to be 100 times more potent than morphine and can be manufactured with relative ease. Heroin is being mixed with fentanyl to increase the drug's potency, often resulting in deadly outcomes. In many cases, addicts are unaware of the presence of fentanyl, ignorance which can quickly lead to an overdose and potential death.

The rise in heroin use in the United States, in the wake of more than a decade long prescription opioid epidemic, has led many lawmakers to the realization that access to the life saving overdose reversal drug naloxone is critical. In a number of rural and urban areas of the country first responders have been equipped with naloxone kits, sold under the brand name Narcan ®. What’s more, lawmakers have begun allowing the miracle drug to be acquired without a prescription, allowing the family members of addicts' access to the medicine - saving even more lives. Unfortunately, in some of the areas hardest hit by the epidemic, naloxone access is still limited.

Naloxone made the news last week, when more than 80 people overdosed on heroin that was likely laced with fentanyl, the Chicago Tribune reports. Dozens of lives were saved thanks to naloxone; however, despite Chicago leading the nation in emergency room visits linked to heroin, Chicago police officers do not carry naloxone kits.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that Chicago is a heroin distribution hub, according to the article. One in five people arrested in Cook County, Illinois test positive for heroin. A new state law is in the works that would allow people in Illinois to get naloxone without a prescription, following a model in place in 14 other states.

"This is what the world would look like if it were well-protected by naloxone: Overdoses would still happen, but there would be a lack of fatalities," said Dan Bigg, whose Chicago Recovery Alliance outreach organization has given out naloxone to drug users for 18 years. "What we're seeing now is really a potentially amazing thing."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The UNITE to Face Addiction Rally

Over the weekend thousands of people came together in Washington D.C. to bring attention to the disease of addiction with the hope of breaking the stigma of a problem that affects millions of Americans, The Washington Post reports. The rally, which took place in the National Mall, hosted government officials and celebrities.

The keynote speakers and performers included:
  • Michael Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Vivek H. Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General
  • Mehmet Oz. Performer, talk-show host and surgeon
  • Sheryl Crow
  • The Fray
  • Steven Tyler
  • Aloe Blacc
The organizers of the event hope to change the conversation about addiction, a disease that affects one in three households, according to the article. 85 million people nationwide are affected by addiction, being the most urgent health issue facing the country.

"That’s why we’re in Washington, D.C., because it is a national health-care crisis,” said Donald McFarland, Communications Director for the group that organized the rally, Facing Addiction. “The truth of the matter is, ‘just say no’ didn’t work and the war on drugs failed.”

Breaking the stigma of addiction is crucial if the nation is ever to bring the crisis under control. A former heroin addict who attended the rally said he has struggled to talk about addiction because of the stigma that accompanies the disease.

“Something people need to understand is you have morals, you know that it’s wrong — so to speak — and you’re helpless,” said Nico Doorn. “The approach of putting people in jail and showing celebrities who have thrown away their lives isn’t working.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lowering Legal Drinking Age - More High School Dropouts

There was a time in the United States when you could legally drink alcohol at the age of 18. In 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed which made it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to purchase alcohol and states that failed to comply would see reductions in annual federal highway funding. Now 31 years later, people are still debating the appropriate legal age.

Since 1984, there has been a lot of research conducted that focused on the effects of alcohol on the developing brain of adolescents. Studies have, time and time again, shown that alcohol can cause serious harm leading to problems that can last through adulthood - including behavioral health issues. Alcohol can impact teenagers socially as well, affecting school, friendships and on the home front. New research suggests that lowering the legal drinking age back to 18 could increase the high school dropout rate, TIME reports.

Dropout rates prior to 1984 were examined by researchers. The findings indicated that 17-year-olds were adversely affected by their older peers.

“We saw a 3 percent increase in dropout rates in the whole sample,” said lead author Andrew Plunk, assistant professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “In already at-risk groups [of dropping out of high school] like blacks and Hispanics, we saw a 4 percent increase.” 

If you consider that 3.3 million students are expected to graduate this year, lowering the minimum to 18 would result 99,000 additional dropouts, according to the article.

"I think this study gives us some idea of what could happen if we lower the legal drinking age," Plunk said,” said Plunk in news release. "It suggests to me that we'd see this same dropout phenomenon again." 

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

8 of 10 in Addiction Treatment Smoke Cigarettes

Smoking cigarettes is a common occurrence among those in addiction recovery. Before and after recovery meetings, people can be seen smoking; making it fair to say that tobacco is often times the last vice to be given up. If a person with a substance use disorder checks into a recovery center, it is likely that a patient’s tobacco use will be addressed and options will be made available to assist them with smoking cessation. However, giving up cigarettes is rarely a requirement for a number of reasons.

A review of studies has shown that 8 out of 10 people in addiction treatment smoke cigarettes, according to U.S. News & World Report. The findings come from a review of 54 tobacco studies comprised of more than 37,000 people in addiction treatment in 20 countries. The review did not include data from the United States.

"When people come into treatment for drugs and alcohol, we are not treating another addiction that has a significant chance of eventually killing them, which is tobacco use," said study leader Joseph Guydish, a professor of medicine and health policy at UCSF, in a university news release. 

While the current review of studies did not include U.S. data, Guydish’s earlier research indicated that 76 percent of patients in American treatment facilities smoked compared to 84 percent internationally, according to the article. Among the general public, less than 18 percent in the U.S. and 31 percent internationally smoke.

"Every person who enters substance abuse treatment ought to have their tobacco use evaluated and treated," Guydish said. "If they don't want to be treated and quit right away, they should have some education to help them think more about quitting." 

The findings were published in the journal Addiction.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Are E-Cigarettes Safe and Effective for Smoking Cessation?

Are e-cigarettes effective smoking cessation devices? According to a panel of experts from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, there is not enough evidence to indicate whether e-cigarettes are safe or effective for smoking cessation, Reuters reports. Insurance companies typically use U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations to determine if they will compensate for screenings and treatments.

E-cigarettes are still in their infancy, which means that the amount of research currently available is limited. Experts have mixed opinions about e-cigarettes. While many will argue that electronic nicotine devices are safer than traditional nicotine products, there is not much evidence indicating that e-cigarettes are effective for smoking cessation.

“There is not enough evidence to evaluate the effectiveness, safety or benefits and harms of using e-cigarettes to help people quit smoking,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, a task force member and researcher at the University of Arizona. 

At the moment, experts believe that current smoking cessation products when used in conjunction with behavioral therapy, has shown the most promise when it comes to quitting, according to the article. Nicotine replacement therapy (i.e. patches, gums, and lozenges) and the medications Chantix ® (varenicline) and Zyban ® (bupropion SR) are the currently FDA approved smoking cessation products.

“The task force recommends that clinicians direct patients who smoke tobacco to other cessation interventions with established effectiveness and safety,” Garcia said by email. “Many studies show that combinations of behavioral interventions or pharmacotherapies can help the most.” 

The task force recommendations are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bipartisan Bill Aimed At Synthetic Drug Use

The uphill battle against synthetic drugs continues, forcing lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to work together. A bipartisan bill has been introduced by U.S. representatives aimed at the use of synthetic drugs, according to Roll Call. The American College of Emergency Physicians supports the bill.

“Unapproved synthetic drugs are destroying lives every day in the USA,” said Dr. Alex Rosenau, Immediate Past President of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in a news release. “With a wink and a nod, they are sold over the counter, claim to give users a good time, then destroy their lives, flood emergency rooms with critically sick kids, and tie up EMS and law enforcement resources.” 

Synthetic drugs, such as bath salts and fake marijuana, continue to make headlines due to a surge in emergency room cases involving the caustic substances. If passed, the bill would add more than 200 compounds used to make synthetic drugs to the Schedule I list, according to the article. Synthetic drugs have proved difficult to combat, manufacturers are constantly changing the formula to elude authorities. The bill would also aid prosecutors in synthetic drug cases.

The Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2015, was introduced by Representative Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania). The measure was co-sponsored by Representatives Jim Himes (D-Connecticut), David Jolly of (R-Florida), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

“These drugs are, in my judgment, more serious than the drugs that are on the Controlled Substance Act, more dangerous,” said Norton. “These are right out in the open. They’re disguised in colored wrapping with snappy names to appeal to young people and children in particular. They are cheap. Much cheaper than the dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin. They’re sold everywhere. And drugs that are sold everywhere are presumed to be safe. They are openly marketed as an alternative to dangerous drugs and they have bizarre effects.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

FDA Granted Authority to Destroy Fake Drugs

The United States is the biggest pharmaceutical and supplements market in the world. Countries all over the world ship drugs to America, even if the drugs do not meet U.S. regulations. In the past, if fake or low quality medications were shipped to the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would ship the drugs back to the country of origin. Overseas counterfeit manufacturers would repackage the drugs and reship.

Now, the FDA has the authority to destroy poor-quality or fake drugs that are refused admission into the United States, the Washington Examiner reports. The new rule stems from a surge of counterfeit Herceptin shipments, a drug used to treat cancer. The FDA was already able to destroy counterfeit or poor-quality food or medical devices, but now they can destroy drugs that do not meet the country's standards that are valued at $2,500 or less.

The 2012 Food Drug and Safety Innovation Act (FDASIA) grants the FDA its newfound authority to destroy fake or adulterated pharmaceuticals, according to the article. The FDASIA was signed into law on July 9, 2012, it gives the FDA increased authority and strengthens the agency's ability to safeguard and advance public health.

“With nearly 40 percent of finished drugs being imported, and nearly 80 percent of active ingredients coming from overseas sources, protecting the global drug supply chain and making sure that patients have access to the drugs they need is a priority for FDA,” said the agency on their website

Counterfeit drugs coming from other countries are not subject to rigorous testing standards. An unsuspecting user has no way of knowing what they are consuming, potentially resulting in serious side effects or worse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Indiana Leads the Nation In Pharmacy Robberies

When the nation finally came to terms with the fact that it was facing a prescription drug epidemic, certain steps were taken to reign in the problem; unfortunately, few could have predicted that efforts to combat the issue would only create new problems. Practically every state now has a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) in one form or another, designed to track abusers, end overprescribing and deter doctor shopping (people who go to multiple doctors in a month for them same medications).

PDMPs have proven to be effective, but such programs do not address addiction - the driving force of the epidemic. Addicts who find it too difficult to acquire opioid medications will seek other means of attaining a high. In recent years the rate of heroin use has risen dramatically, as addicts switch from pills to dope, resulting in more overdose deaths. Another likely unintended consequence was a rise in pharmacy robberies. Since the beginning of 2015, more than 130 Indiana pharmacies have reported robberies, USA Today reports.

In fact Indiana, which has been in the news a lot lately due to an outbreak of HIV linked to the opioid narcotic Opana, leads the nation in pharmacy robberies. Ted Cotterill, the director at the Indiana Board of Pharmacy, said there has been a total of 151 robberies this year, the earlier figure did not account for attempted robberies.

“This puts us at number one in the country at the moment, which is not the kind of number one that Indiana wants to be in any category,” said Cotterill. 

While Indiana officials can’t be sure why they lead the nation in pharmacy robberies, it is likely that the crimes are directly linked to crack downs on prescription drug abuse, according to the article.

“While we have tightened the grip on prescribing and dispensing, we may have just driven that traffic elsewhere,” said Todd Meyer, prosecuting attorney for Boone County, Indiana.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Meth Lab Injuries On The Rise

'Where there is a will, there is a way' - or so the saying goes. This adage can be applied quite well to the production of methamphetamine. A number of government crackdowns made it more difficult for meth cooks to get their hands on large quantities of pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient of Sudafed ® that is essential to meth production. This resulted in meth production moving south of the border; where Mexican cartels developed “super labs” in order to feed the huge demand for the drug here in the United States. In fact, the majority of all the methamphetamine used in America now originates in Mexico.

While government efforts made it harder to produce meth here in America, there are a number of cooks who have found a way to circumvent the laws which has led to a rise in meth lab related injuries, HealthDay reports. Between 2001 and 2012, 162 people were injured in meth lab accidents. The findings come from a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of five states.

The states include:
  • Louisiana
  • Oregon
  • New York
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
Limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine that could be purchased at one time and making the drug only available at the pharmacy requiring buyers to give their name, resulted in a reduction of meth lab related injuries - for a time, according to the article. In 2008, meth cooks found a way around such deterrents by purchasing small amounts of the drug at multiple locations and using fake names. The rise in injuries can also be linked to the dangerous “shake and bake” method of producing the drug.

"This method involves shaking smaller amounts of precursor chemicals in a two-liter [half-gallon] plastic bottle, which frequently bursts, causing burns and environmental contamination," reported CDC lead investigator Dr. Natalia Melnikova. 

The researchers write in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Many Dentists Screen for Substance Abuse

If you have been to your doctor for a physical anytime in the last couple years, you were probably asked if you smoke or use drugs and alcohol. Physician screenings have become quite common in the wake of the prescription opioid crisis, determining if there is a problem helps doctors decide if a prescription should be written. If it appears that someone is struggling with substance abuse, it is a perfect opportunity to talk with the patient and recommend counseling or treatment.

While answering questions from doctors about substance use may not be that surprising, you may be confused when you dentist asks you about drug use. New research suggests that more than 3 out of 4 dentists ask their patients about illicit drug use, HealthDay reports. It’s well understood that illegal drugs can do serious damage to one’s teeth, but many dentists are asking such questions because they often prescribe prescription opioids.

In fact, dentists are the second-largest group of prescribers for opioids. That being the case, it makes sense that dentists have a responsibility to screen for substance use disorders; however, only more than half of the dentists surveyed believe that it should be their responsibility. The findings come from a survey of more than 1,200 dentists nationwide which was conducted by researchers at Columbia University, according to the article.

"Because dental care routinely involves treating pain and emergencies, dentists may encounter substance-seeking patients who complain of pain more severe than anticipated based on the nature of their dental condition, who report lost prescriptions for opioid pain medications, or who only seek dental treatment sporadically," lead author Carrigan Parish, an associate research scientist from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, said in a university news release. He adds: "There are a sizeable number of people whose visit to a dentist represents their sole interaction with the health care system, highlighting the significance of the dental visit as a key opportunity to identify substance use disorders.”

The findings were published in Addiction.

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