The Rising Societal Costs of the Heroin Epidemic

Some may think that drug abuse is a problem with only one victim – the user. However, their family members also suffer as well and society feels the effects in the form of dollars. According to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE, taxpayers shelled out more than $51 billion in 2015 to go towards the fall out of the heroin problem.

Incarcerations due to heroin abuse and the sale of the drug, treatment costs, treatment of infectious diseases caused by heroin use, cost of treating infants born addicted to heroin, loss of productivity at work and heroin deaths were all variables used to calculate the astronomical number. This record-breaking amount is like pouring salt in the wound of already having the highest number of overdose deaths.

The researchers went even further and determined how much each heroin user costs society. According to the data, a single heroin user can cost taxpayers as much as $50,799 a year. This is due to the above variables as well as the fact that heroin users are more likely to be unproductive, and have large blocks of time where they are not working or contributing to the economy.

Interestingly, patients with different chronic problems cost society much less. For instance, a person who is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease costs society about $2,567 a year. And a person who has diabetes generally costs about $11,148 a year.

“The downstream effects of heroin use, such as the spread of infectious diseases and increased incarceration due to actions associated with heroin use, compounded by their associated costs, would continue to increase the societal burden of heroin use disorder,” explained Dr. Simon Pickard, one of the lead authors of the study from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Of course the research is not only to illustrate the burden heroin addiction has on society, it also indicates that effective treatment and prevention efforts are perhaps the only way to get this incredibly high number down. By getting more people the help they need, not only are we saving billions of dollars, but most importantly, we’re saving lives.

Alcohol Mixed with Marijuana Proves to be Deadlier Behind the Wheel

alcohol and marijuanaDespite pro-marijuana advocates claiming the drug isn’t harmful, new research from Columbia University proves otherwise with statistics on traffic fatalities involving marijuana and alcohol. Of the thousands of two-car accidents they gathered data from, it is very clear that driving under the influence of either substances poses a serious danger.

“The risk of crash initiation from concurrent use of alcohol and marijuana among drivers increases by more than fivefold when compared with drivers who used neither of the substances,” explained Dr. Guohua Li, co-author of the study and professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The statistics also showed that fatalities increase by 62% when the driver is under the influence of marijuana alone, and 437% for alcohol. This information highlights the need for better regulation of marijuana-impaired drivers, as someone could be under the legal blood alcohol level but have also smoked weed and be highly dangerous on the road.

The statistics were gathered from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which identified that males between the ages of 25 and 44 were the largest group of offenders. Although this isn’t surprising, it does bring up questions about the latest trend in “bro culture” that fosters irresponsible behavior such as frequent substance abuse.

As marijuana use has grown in popularity given its legalization in a few states, better testing and prevention measures for drivers must be implemented. It wasn’t too long ago that pot smokers thought they could get away with it by chewing some gum and using eye drops to reduce redness, but today there are more ways of testing, such as breathalyzers and saliva strips.

The bottom line is that it’s not worth it, and that we should be working to help people in need of substance abuse treatment. It is imperative to save lives though continued vigilance. If you have a friend or family member who has addiction-related problems, contact us today to find out more about what you can do to help and about successful treatment options.

Study Examines the High Rate of Alcohol Use and Binge Drinking

Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have released a study that shows that adults in the United States are consuming far more alcohol than is considered safe. In fact, the study states that almost 32 million people over the age of 18 consume more alcohol than the already dangerous limits of binge drinking. Binge drinking occurs when a male consumes more than five drinks, and a female consumes more than four drinks. New data shows that millions of people are drinking twice these numbers and it is having an impact on their bodies and society.

“Drinking at such high levels can suppress areas of the brain that control basic life-support functions such as breathing and heart rate, thereby increasing one’s risk of death. The risk increases further is other sedative drugs, particularly opioids or benzodiazepines are added to the mix,” said Aaron White, one of the authors of the study. Additionally, people who binge drink are more likely to engage in risky decision-making, violence and even suicide. The side was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

And this amount of drinking is not only affecting people’s personally, but society as well. In fact, the toll that alcohol-related deaths, accidents, crime, and sickness take on the community can be in the billions.

Despite these dangers, many people are still turning to excessive amounts of alcohol. The study showed that 7 percent of participants reported consuming 15 or more drinks in one sitting. Further investigation showed that the amount of people consuming this much alcohol has risen since the last study, which was conducted in 2002. So, researchers can see that more adults are participating in dangerous levels of alcohol consumption, but it is unclear why this is occurring.

In addition to more education and prevention efforts, we must provide more successful alcohol treatment programs to assist those in need. If you have a loved one battling an alcohol problem such as binge drinking or daily dependency, contact us today to find out more about our rehab center.

Fentanyl More Prevalent in Drug Supply than Previously Suspected

Recent news that opioid-related overdose deaths rose again keeps the alarm sounding that more has to be done to help save lives. One of the biggest contributors to these fatalities has been the addition of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that is usually reserved for treating chronic and extreme pain, such as in cancer patients and after major surgeries. However, drug manufacturers and distributors have discovered that they can add it to other drugs to increase potency while making their supply last longer.

“What we see across the country is the drug cartels moving away from heroin and moving toward these opioids they’re going to produce themselves. People think they’re buying one thing and they’re actually buying another. The stuff they’re selling is so powerful. Some of the stuff we’re seeing produced is 50 times more potent than heroin, as if heroin wasn’t bad enough,” said Van Ingram, executive director of Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

What makes fentanyl-laced heroin so dangerous is that users usually have no idea that they are taking such powerful opioids and so they use the same quantity as they normally would. However, instead of getting the same result, they are ingesting a deadly amount and never make it long enough to receive a dose of naloxone to combat the overdose.

Recently, a safe injection facility in Vancouver, Canada implemented a testing procedure so users could test their drugs for the presence of fentanyl. Their report was shocking, as over 1,000 tests they found an extremely high percentage of the drugs contained fentanyl. This included over 80% of the heroin and even 80% of the methamphetamine and 40% of the cocaine.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has also released reports warning of the increasing presence of fentanyl in street drugs. Since users have no way of knowing what is really in the drugs they’re getting nor how potent they are, there really are only a few viable long-term options to fixing this problem. There has to be a stronger effort to get people into effective treatment programs and there has to be more focus on providing better prevention programs for people of all ages to stop addiction before it starts.

Anti-Seizure Medications Linked to Opioid Overdose Deaths

New research indicates that one of the factors in the increase in the opiate-related deaths includes another class of prescription drugs. It was found that a recent rise in the number of prescriptions for the nerve medications pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin) has directly correlated to the rise in opiate overdose deaths in some areas. Further investigation has shown that, in addition to opiates, users are also abusing the anti-seizure medication, causing an increase in accidental overdoses.

Drug users have discovered the calming effects of anti-seizure medication and are incorporating these drugs into their daily use. This particular study focused on parts of England, where the numbers show that there were about a million prescription for the two drugs in 2004, but that number soared in 2015, with a total of 10.5 million prescriptions written for pregabalin and gabapentin.

This discovery, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Addiction, illustrates two things. One is that addicts will continue to seek out drugs that they feel enhance the euphoria brought about by their drugs of choice, and that the medical community needs to evolve with the trends. This means that drugs that previously weren’t considered as having a high potential for abuse now need to be policed more thoroughly, and prescriptions for these types of drugs need to remain checked in order to prevent abuse or misuse.

“Poly-drug use is very common amongst drug users. We need more multi-disciplinary studies like ours which seek to combine evidence from laboratory experiments on how drug act, with accounts of what users experience and information on the pattern of drug use and drug harms – in order to make health care workers and drug users aware of the dangers of combining specific drugs,” asserted Graeme Henderson, Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience of the University of Bristol.

One possible solution to avoiding the combining of opiates and anti-seizure medication is that medical professionals increase their screening for abuse and prescribe non-addictive alternatives to patients that are in need of anti-seizure medication. This could help prevent future abuse and help save the life of someone who might be showing signs of mixing the two drugs.

Workforce Drug Tests Show Highest Drug Use in Over a Decade

A recent report released by Quest Diagnostics shows that the number of employees using illicit drugs has increased since last year, as indicated by a 5% jump in positive drug tests. The biggest increases by drug included cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine.

One potentially positive note is that the number of positive tests for heroin and other opiates appears to have leveled off. Hopefully this means that people are finally starting to heed the warnings and stay away from these drugs and that the use begins to sharply decline.

These types of reports are important tracking tools regarding drug use and how drug use is effecting businesses and workplaces throughout the country. Oftentimes employers will require their employees to submit to a drug test upon starting at their position and then may also request random drug tests, or drug tests in the event of a workplace accident. These tests are often facilitated by Quest Diagnostics, which also maintains a record of the results for tracking trends and data analysis.

“This year’s findings are remarkable because they show increased rates of drug positivity for the most common illicit drugs across virtually all drug test specimen types and in all testing populations” said Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions.

The recap of positive and negative drug tests does more than just show that drug use is increasing among America’s workforce. It also highlights the need for further education regarding drug use and how it can affect one’s career. Substance abuse in the workplace accounts for billions of dollars in costs due to accidents, poor performance and absence.

Each employer has their own policies regarding failed drug tests, but it is common for employees that have failed drug tests to be let go from their positions. Many larger companies work with their employees to help them find treatment through their human resources department or Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This helps to build loyalty and long-term employment as well as helps improve the overall health of society.

Rap Music Least Likely to Contain Drug References Compared to other Genres

Credit: Addictions.com

A surprising study shows that rap music is actually the least likely of all genres to have lyrics containing references to drugs. This goes against what many had mistakenly assumed about this type of music and also sheds light on the drug reference content in other songs and formats. Researchers have discovered that country music actually contains more references to drugs and drug using than any other type of music.

However, the study shows that the lack of drug references in rap is a new phenomenon. After hitting a peak of drug-laden rhymes near the turn of the century, hip hop artists are now more likely to focus on other aspects of life.

“It’s incredibly telling if you look at music history, the 60s is when drugs started being mentioned more and more in the media. But there’s clearly some surprising new information here. We did this study to raise awareness about how drug references in music may interact with addiction, and to alert people in case they want to avoid hearing about drugs in their everyday music,” explained Logan Freedman, one of the researchers on the study.

In addition to researching the type of music that contains drug references, the researchers also wanted to pinpoint what artists tend to cite drugs in their music. They found that Tyga tops the list when it comes to mentioning ecstasy (72 references). Queens of The Stone Age comes in third, mostly due to their song, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” which has a repeating phrase of “Nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol”.

Marijuana is the most talked about drug in music, followed by cocaine, acid, pills, meth, heroin and ecstasy. What wasn’t studied was the impact that drug use in music can have on overall use. It appears that teenagers would be most susceptible to the influence, as they are in other life situations as well.

Simple Resource from NIDA Helping Criminal Offenders Avoid Relapse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has developed a new, low-tech tool to help prevent relapse for at-risk offenders leaving prison. The Drugs and the Brain Wallet Card (DBWC) is a resource for former drug users who were incarcerated and are now returning to society. It can also be used by those in early recovery in a number of other settings as well. Clients who have participated in a residential treatment program are at risk of relapse when they return home as well, and the threat of overdose upon relapse is very high.

Card Serves as a Resource Guide

The DBWC is a 2-inch x 3.5-inch trifold card. It’s small enough to be kept in a pocket, purse, wallet or a cell phone case. Someone who is in the process of transitioning into society after being incarcerated or after being treated in a residential program can carry it with them.

One of the panels of the card has a space where the addict or their counselor can fill in individual triggers leading to temptations to use or drink. These may include specific places where the person used to go to drink or use drugs. Other triggers may include certain sights or sounds, such as the neon lights from a bar or glasses clinking and people or situations that are not good for them.

The space on the card can also be used to fill in local resources that can be accessed if the person feels they need help. These resources may include a counselor, a sponsor or a helpline. They would include any person or agency that a person who feels they are at risk of a relapse could reach out to for help quickly.

Community Re-entry Means Increased Risk for Relapse

Anyone who is re-entering the community is at a higher risk for relapse. They don’t have the structure of residential treatment program or the correctional institution in this early phase of their recovery, and it takes time to adjust.

The DBWC is meant to be used in tandem with ongoing addiction treatment. More than 90,000 cards have been distributed since it was introduced last December. In addition to the drug information and resources on the card, for many people having a physical reminder with them of their commitment to sobriety can be much more effective than an app on their phone or another similar tool.

More College Students Use Marijuana than Other Young Adults

For many, college is the first time where students experience a new kind of freedom. They are away from parents, high school and even friends they have been around most of their lives. This new sense of independence can be exciting and at the same time a little scary for some. College has traditionally been a time where students take on more responsibilities and learn how to set and attain goals. Unfortunately, college is also a time where all of these pressures and influences combine and include a higher level of drug experimentation and substance abuse overall. One of the biggest culprits is marijuana, joining alcohol as something that is abused by a higher percentage of young adults in college compared to those who are not.

As marijuana becomes more mainstream with legalization for adults over the age of 21 in a few states, more and more college students are using the drug. According to a recent study, 18% to 21% of college freshman began using marijuana upon arriving at college. This is a slight increase from years before where about 17% of college freshman started experimenting with the drug. Scientists compared these numbers to those of graduating seniors that who chose not to attend secondary education and found that only about 9% of these young adults started using marijuana after high school.

So, the question many ask is why does college increase the chances young adults will start using marijuana? One expert had this to say, “We surveyed incoming first-year college students on why they tried or use marijuana…For some, experimentation was a motivator. Young adults might just want to try it and see what it is about. For others, they might use marijuana for reasons such as for social bonding, relaxation, boredom, to fit in, or to enjoy the feeling,” commented Christine Lee, director of the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Many people feel that there are bigger picture implications here. With higher substance abuse rates in college than before, and an increasing number of people using marijuana and other drugs, our next generation of leaders doesn’t sound to be quite as responsible as most of us would like them to be. Time will tell whether they are able to mature out of this behavior, as has been done in the past, or if we will continue to foster the drug culture and all the problems inherent in it.

Prescription Drug Abuse Includes More Than Just Painkillers

Prescription painkillers have wreaked havoc on the nation for several years. The number of people who abuse pills like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet are still astronomical, and so are the number of people who have died from prescription painkiller overdoses. In fact, with millions of Americans abusing painkillers, it is likely that everyone knows someone who has been affected by it.

It is no wonder that this is the first thing that comes to mind when someone talks about prescription drug abuse. However, there are other types of medications that are being abused as well, and we cannot lose focus on preventing and treating all types of prescription drug problems.

Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse and other drugs that are prescribed to people with ADHD are prescription stimulants that are also commonly abused. These medications have often been dubbed as “study drugs” due to the number of college students who use the drug without having a prescription for it. Although the amphetamine-like qualities may allow them to stay awake longer and concentrate more for a short period of time, the risk is far greater than most young people realize.

Many experts have indicated that prescription stimulants are also popular gateway drugs that lead users on to trying more drugs as well. The abuse potential for drugs like Adderall is very high, and users can also feel cravings, irritability, anxiety and even paranoia.

“The bad side effects of it are that it sometimes makes me less social and sometimes I get easily annoyed if someone interrupts me when I am in the middle of something,” said Lilly, a college student that relies on Adderall and Vyvanse to get through her day.

So, while maintaining a heavy focus on prescription painkillers is important, it is also vital that we include all types of prescription drugs, as there are others beyond stimulants and painkillers that are frequently abused.