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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Free Nicotine Patches Help Smokers Quit

We now know that e-cigarettes are not effective for smoking cessation, and actually lead to a diminished likelihood of quitting. This may come as a surprise as it would appear that many people have exchanged their “cancer sticks” for a “healthier” alternative. Over the last few years there has been boom in the e-cigarettes market, and practically every major tobacco company now offers digital products that vaporize liquids containing nicotine. While some people have managed to give up traditional tobacco products with the use of an e-cig, research shows that adult smokers who used e-cigs were 28 percent less likely to quit regular cigarettes. The research was published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

For those who are working a program of recovery, it is likely that you have seen people in your recovery circle who are using e-cigarettes - or maybe you have used them yourself. Many experts will argue that the devices are the healthier alternative, and they may be right. However, if you are looking to be free from nicotine, then it is important that you take a different course of action. It is worth pointing out that nicotine can increase the risk of a relapse, so the sooner smoking cessation is accomplished - the better. Using nicotine replacement therapies, such as gum or the patch, are the over the counter methods accepted for smoking cessation.

A new study has found that mailing free nicotine patches to smokers who have a desire to quit can help some tobacco users quit, HealthDay reports. The results are especially surprising because none of the smokers involved in the study were receiving counseling or any other type of support. The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study participants who received the patches self-reported 30-day abstinence after six months was more than twice as high as the participants who did not receive the free nicotine patches. While the success rates were quite low, the results were promising. Of the smokers who received the patches - 2.8 percent had abstained from smoking for six months, compared to 1 percent who didn't get the patches, according to the article.

"Both groups in this study, whether they received patches or not, were interested in quitting," said Dr. Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. "Perhaps the receipt of the free patches was the added incentive needed to actually make the attempt and succeed. The patches may have tipped the scales in favor of trying to quit at a time of great readiness for these smokers."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Impact of Marijuana on College Students

Most young adults who have smoked marijuana, or have used a cannabis product, are probably aware of the short term effects that the drug causes on top of the euphoria. Most typically: increased appetite, dry mouth, red eyes and sleepiness. After several hours such side effects will subside, and by the following day everything is back to normal. While the aforementioned symptoms of marijuana use may be relatively benign, cannabis use can have an impact on one’s life and the results are usually not for the better.

New research indicates that college students who use marijuana are more likely to experience adverse effects on the ability to perform well in school, HealthDay reports. The findings indicated that college students who smoke pot are more likely to skip class, get poorer marks and graduate later. The study was published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

There is no question that the majority of Americans feel that marijuana is a safer drug, one that has only a minor impact on one’s life. This can be seen clearly by the trend that has been sweeping across the country for two decades, with more and more states voting in favor of both medical marijuana and recreational use. But, just because a drug is now “legal,” does not mean that it won’t have a negative impact on your life.

The findings come from following more than 1,100 college students, over the course of eight years, according to the article. Those who smoke marijuana more frequently were found to be more likely to skip class, in turn leading to unsatisfactory grades and late graduation. Conversely, if students decreased their pot consumption, it was associated with increasing grade-point average (GPA).

Lead researcher Amelia Arria, an associate professor of behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, says that colleges should be aware of the link between marijuana and decreased academic performance, the article reports. College faculty should ask students about their alcohol and drug use, doing so may cause students to reflect on their decisions.

"Students often see marijuana as benign," Arria noted. "But if you ask them questions like, 'How often are you smoking marijuana, drinking, partying?' -- that alone may help them be more self-reflective and make better choices."

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Every U.S. County Increased Opioid Overdose Deaths

Prescription opioids are highly effective painkillers which, when used as prescribed for short periods of time, can be relatively safe. Unfortunately, such drugs are highly addictive and it is quite easy for people to transition from use to abuse. Once that metamorphosis occurs, it can be extremely difficult to stop using prescription opioids, and there is a heightened risk of experiencing an overdose which can be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 44 people die from a prescription opioid overdose every day in the United States.

If you have been following the news regarding the rise of opioid overdose deaths throughout the country in the wake of the epidemic the United States has been facing for over a decade, then you probably wouldn’t be all that surprised to learn that practically every U.S. county has been affected, The New York Times reports. Opioid drugs were present in more than 61 percent of all overdose deaths in 2014, when 125 people were perishing every day.

What’s more, the demographics that appear to be affected the most live in some of the most rural parts of the country, which has made opioid addiction a priority campaign issue, according to the article. In New Hampshire, 326 people died from an opioid overdose in 2014.

“No group is immune to it — it is happening in our inner cities, rural and affluent communities,” said Timothy R. Rourke, the chairman of the New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. 

Part of the reason for heightened overdose deaths rates in rural counties and states, is the fact that access to addiction treatment programs is extremely limited, the article reports. Addicts can wait as long as a month for a bed at addiction recovery centers in certain areas. Time is of the essence when it comes to receiving treatment, not just because with each day that passes the risk of overdose is greater, but because addicts who decide to go to treatment often change their mind about if they have to wait.

“Chances of getting treatment in West Virginia is ridiculously small,” said Dr. Carl R. Sullivan III, the director of addiction services at the West Virginia University School of Medicine. “We’ve had this uptick in overdose deaths despite enormous public interest in this whole issue.” 

If you are addicted to prescription opioids and/or heroin, please contact Hope By The Sea. We can assist you in breaking the cycle of addiction and begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Changing The Legal Drinking Age?

The United States has one the highest legal drinking age when compared to other western countries. The legal age for consumption is 21 in the U.S., and there are many who would argue that raising the age to 21 in 1984 has saved thousands of lives by reducing drunk driving rates and has prevented other alcohol related health problems. Nevertheless, there are representatives in several states that would like to lower the legal age back to 18. As of right now, lawmakers attempting to lower the age of consumption include representatives from:
  • California
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
A proposed ballot initiative decreasing the legal drinking age from 21 to 18 has been approved to begin gathering signatures, and if enough people sign, it could mean that Californians will vote on it this November, KTLA5 reports. The measure was proposed by Terrance Lynn, a tech-company chief financial officer. Lynn has until April 2016 to collect 365,880 signatures.

“This is about equal rights,” said Lynn. “18 year olds have nearly every burden and privilege of adults … except the right to drink alcohol. This is a misguided aberration from 1984 that should be corrected.” 

Naturally, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has a few things to say about the proposal, as they were the primary organization which lobbied for increasing the legal age of drinking to 21. The organization contends that more than 25,000 lives have been saved since the legal age was raised, according to the article.

“When states had lower legal drinking ages in the U.S., the underage drinking problem was worse. For example, before the 21 minimum legal drinking age was implemented by all states, underage drunk drivers were involved in over twice as many fatal traffic crashes as today,” stated MADD

If the California were to revert to 18 from 21 years old, it would present a huge fiscal impact on the state, the article reports. The catalyst for all 50 states to approve raising the legal age of drinking to 21 was that the Federal government threatened to withhold highway funding to any state that failed to get on board. Changing the legal age in California would result in $200 million loss in federal highway funds, according to a fiscal impact on state and local governments from the Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance.

We would love to hear your thoughts on changing the legal age back to 18.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Probuphine - FDA Considers Buprenorphine Implant

The drug buprenorphine has been used for many years in substance use disorder treatment facilities to help ease prescription opioid and heroin addicts' withdrawal symptoms. The most common formulations are prescribed under the brand names Suboxone or Subutex. Anyone who has experienced the symptoms of opioid withdrawal will tell you that buprenorphine is a life saver, dramatically reducing their cravings.

As the nation continues to grapple with the opioid crisis, both in prevention and treatment techniques, there has been a call for greater access to medication assisted treatment (MAT). Using medications for detoxification is one aspect of MAT; there are some experts who feel that opioid addicts should remain on buprenorphine after treatment - what is known as maintenance. Part of the problem with this drug is that while it does wonders for withdrawal symptoms, the drug itself can cause euphoric effects, which can be habit forming.

Another problem is that a number of addicts prescribed buprenorphine will sell their medications to pay for the opioids that really desire, such as oxycodone or heroin. In order to combat that problem, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel is calling upon the agency to approve an implant formulation of the buprenorphine, USA Today reports. Probuphine is implanted under the skin, it is about the size of a matchstick; the implant provides a steady dose of the medicine and can’t be diverted to other addicts.

What’s nice about the probuphine implant is that it releases the medication for up to 6 months, according to the article. Those prescribed will never forget to take their medication, which will probably aid in preventing relapse and in effect save lives. Many people experience overdoses when they relapse because they do not know how to properly gauge their dosage, forgetting to account for a diminished tolerance.

However, there are some addiction experts who have concerns about probuphine, according to the article. Tracy Rupp, a pharmacist and the director of public health policy initiatives at the National Center for Health Research, was against approving probuphine, citing concerns about holes in the limited research available which was the catalyst for the advisory panel's support. She points out that the study had several flaws, and that we still don’t know how to safely transition patients from buprenorphine pills or film to the implant.

"It is disappointing that the advisory committee set such a low bar for safety and effectiveness," said Rupp. "Is probuphine effective? We still don't know because the study was poorly designed and missing data." 

While the FDA does not have to follow the suggestions of their advisory panels, they usually do - for better or for worse. It will be interesting to see which way the agency goes with probuphine. We will follow this story closely.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Wolves and Veterans Heal from PTSD Together

Sadly, many of our service men and women come back from foreign wars with not only physical problems, but also mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). War is not a pretty business; soldiers see, hear and experience traumatic things that can be extremely hard to forget. People who suffer from PTSD often require intensive treatments so that the illness does not get out of hand, such as self-medicating with drugs or alcohol and/or attempting suicide.

Veterans of foreign wars who do not receive the therapy they require, often turn to mind altering substances to ease the pain of what they experienced, a trend that has lead to a rise in addiction. Whenever co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD, accompany addiction, treatment becomes significantly more complicated; successful recovery rests on treating both illnesses concurrently.

Unfortunately, a number of people with PTSD do not respond to traditional therapeutic techniques; when that happens sometimes therapists need to think outside the box to help treat the problem. In Frazier Park, CA the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC) introduces veterans with PTSD to wolf therapy, The San Francisco Globe reports. A number of veterans who have worked with the wolves have been able to overcome the illness.

Working with the wolves has helped several veterans overcome their PTSD. When veterans with PTSD seek help from LARC, they are paired with their own personal therapy wolf, according to the article. Interestingly, the wolves themselves have experienced some kind of trauma; the pair is able to work together to feel calm and safe, overcoming their issues as a team.

"They kind of teach you how to be calm and confident," said veteran Jim Minick "It's got some deeper meaning when they accept you ... into part of the pack." 

Please watch a short video on the therapy:

If you are having trouble viewing the video, please click here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Synthetic Marijuana Becomes A Street Drug

While synthetic marijuana shares a common nomenclature with cannabis, they are two vastly different drugs; the former having a host of unpredictable, terrible side effects, some of which are potentially life threatening. As the nation becomes more tolerant of cannabis use, health experts and law enforcement officials have become intolerant towards synthetic marijuana.

Historically, synthetic marijuana was purchased over the internet or in convenience stores, but government crackdowns have forced the insidious drugs into the shadows and it becoming a street drug, PBS NewsHour reports. What’s more, the drug is being predominately used by the most vulnerable communities, such as the:
  • poor
  • urban
  • homeless
“We originally felt that [synthetic marijuana] was being marketed for younger people, for teenagers,” said Lt. Andrew Struhar, acting lieutenant of the Narcotics Unit of the Washington DC Police. “But it has definitely drilled down to the street, and unfortunately a great deal to the homeless population.” 

The move from shop windows and online stores to the streets makes it much more difficult for law enforcement to police, according to the article. It is no longer a game of fining shop owners and shutting down websites; street busts will now be required which is exceedingly more difficult.

“The progression of the drug from when we started, being advertised in windows of gas stations and convenience stores to street sales, has definitely been a bad case scenario. Because street sales are much more difficult to find, to locate and prosecute.” 

In Washington D.C. hospital emergency rooms treat four to five synthetic marijuana overdoses every night, Dr. Kama Tillman told PBS. What’s more, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that at least 15 people lost their lives from synthetic drug use in the first five months of last year. Please take a moment to watch a short video about the subject below:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

L-dopa and Anti-inflammatory May Restore Nucleus Accumbens

Chronic pain affects millions of American across the country, and unfortunately the most effective form of treatment is also addictive. People suffering from chronic pain are typically prescribed opioid narcotics, such as Vicodin (hydrocodone) or OxyContin (oxycodone). While the aforementioned drugs, as well as others in the opioid family, work very well, such drugs have led to an epidemic resulting on an increase in opioid addiction. The scourge of opioid abuse in the United States has driven researchers to search tirelessly for alternatives, giving doctors options so they do not have to always rely on opioids.

Researchers at Northwestern Medicine report that chronic pain alters the nucleus accumbens, the area of our brains that plays a part in addiction, and dictates whether or not we feel happy or sad, ScienceDaily reports. The use of a Parkinson's drug, L-dopa, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in conjunction, may restore the nucleus accumbens and reduce pain symptoms.

"It was surprising to us that chronic pain actually rewires the part of the brain controlling whether you feel happy or sad," said corresponding author D. James Surmeier, chair of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "By understanding what was causing these changes, we were able to design a corrective therapy that worked remarkably well in the models. The question now is whether it will work in humans." 

In animal tests researchers observed that the combination of the two drugs reversed the changes to the nucleus accumbens and their pain symptoms ceased, according to the article. The majority of addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity, Parkinson’s medications raise dopamine levels as well.

"It is remarkable that by changing the activity of a single cell type in an emotional area of the brain, we can prevent the pain behavior," said corresponding author, Marco Martina, associate professor of physiology at Feinberg. 

Human studies are required to determine if combining the two medications will have the same results as the rat tests. The findings were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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