The opioid epidemic has triggered a hardship that most people likely haven’t thought of: A higher number of donated organs are infected with the hepatitis C virus.
Dr. Winston Abara, a hepatitis researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explains that as the number of drug overdose deaths and acute hepatitis infections increases, young people are most affected. These are the people who are most likely to be eligible organ donors.
Opioid Users Considered Increased Risk Donors
In the years 2010-2017, the number of organs obtained for transplant obtained from “increased risk” donors (people at risk of hepatitis due to drug abuse) tripled, according to the results of a new study published in the January 25 edition of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In 2010, approximately nine percent of donor organs came from people in this category. By 2017, that number had jumped to over 26 percent, according to Dr. Abara’s team.
The number of organs obtained from people who died as the result of “drug intoxication” tripled as well. They climbed from just over four percent in 2010 to over 13 percent by 2017, according to CDC researchers. Organ donor deaths linked to injected drugs like heroin increased fivefold during the same period.
This is concerning, since tainted needles are a prime source of infection with hepatitis C, which can lead to liver disease, a potentially fatal condition, over time. Due to advances in medical care, donor kidneys, along with livers and other organs can now be used for transplant and may save potentially save the lives of the thousands of people on waiting lists.
Medications Available to Treat Hep C in Transplant Recipients
Powerful new medications exist to rid the body of hepatitis C and render the transplant viable. The transplant recipient would be screened after receiving the donor organ. If a hepatitis C infection is diagnosed, the donor organ recipient is offered antiviral treatment.
Dr. David Bernstein, a liver specialist, stated that understanding whether an organ donor has a history of addiction is essential. He said that when that knowledge is available, organ recipients and their doctors can be notified and screened after transplant surgery.
Approximately 20 percent of people who take Xanax, Valium and other benzodiazepines (benzos) are not using them as directed by their doctor, according to the results of a US survey. The results also show that adults are using this potentially-addictive medication more than twice as often as previously reported.
Nearly 13 percent of those surveyed said they had used benzos within the past 12 months.Studies conducted in 2013-14 estimated that four-six percent of adults were taking them.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety and panic attacks, along with insomnia. Drugs in this class commonly produce a sedative effect in patients and can also cause weakness or unsteadiness.
Approximately 25.3 million adults stated they used benzodiazepines as prescribed by their doctor during the past year. The researchers said they were surprised to discover that middle-aged respondents (between ages 50-64) are taking benzodiazepines more often than any other age group. Just over 14 percent reported they had used this class of drugs during the previous year.
Another 5.3 million respondents said they had misused their medications. Misusing a prescription means using it in a way other than directed by a doctor, including taking a higher dose, taking it more often or longer than prescribed.
Benzodiazepine Misuse Common Among Young Adults
Lead researcher Dr. Donovan Maust commented that young adults in the 18-25 age group are most likely to misuse benzodiazepines. He is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Maust said that misuse for this type of drug is “as common as prescription use,” which he described as being disturbing.
Overdose Deaths due to Benzos “Snowballed” in Last 10 Years
These survey results, which were published in the journal Psychiatric Services, are similar to reports released earlier in 2018 which warned that overdose deaths related to benzodiazepines have snowballed over the past decade. The overdose rate coincides with a steady increase in prescription rates for this class of drugs.
Benzodiazepine-related overdoses increased sevenfold in the years 1999-2015, jumping from 1,135 to 8,791 deaths. These figures originally appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine (February 2018).
Fentanyl in Other Drugs Leading to an Increase in Fentanyl Overdoses
If you’ve read any articles lately or turned on the news, chances are you’ve heard much discussion about fentanyl and fentanyl overdoses. Fentanyl overdoses becoming more and more of an issue. People are discovering fentanyl in other drugs, much to the surprise of the user, leading to tragic consequences. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of fentanyl-related deaths reached 30,000, the sharpest increase of all drug-related overdoses.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is described as a powerful synthetic drug that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin or cocaine. Fentanyl and its analogs are part of a class of drugs known as rapid-acting synthetic opioids. They can be used to treat severe pain or to help manage pain after surgery. Opioids create euphoria through the brain which is why fentanyl can become very addictive. Even those who are prescribed the drug for pain management can easily become dependent if they’re not careful.
In no way should fentanyl and any other opioids be used for anything else, but the truth is that people are getting their hands on the drug and adding it to other illegal substances with deadly consequences.
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How Fentanyl is Appearing in Other Drugs
Fentanyl can be manufactured into a white powder that is virtually impossible to distinguish between drugs like cocaine and heroin which is why many users can not even detect it. While heroin comes from the opium poppy plant, making the plant necessary to make the drug, fentanyl can be made in a lab, which may be a major reason why its use is becoming more and more rampant. Fentanyl can be lethal in doses as small as two milligrams.
Because of the way synthesized fentanyl can be made, it is becoming easier for drug cartels to produce and it and is why users are finding fentanyl in other drugs. This is leading to many people overdosing on fentanyl without even realizing they took it. Fentanyl can be diluted and also re-cut, allowing drug dealers to mix it with other drugs like heroin and cocaine. A user will not realize it until it may be too late. These facts are what are contributing to what is now being referred to as an opioid crisis in the United States.
The New York City Health Department notes that someone dies of a drug overdose every seven hours in the city. In 2017, opioids were involved in 80 percent of those deaths. While opioid and fentanyl overdoses have been seen in the past, they have never been seen in this type or quantity. This disturbing trend is what is contributing to the epidemic.
Fighting Fentanyl Overdoses
Fentanyl overdoses and the opioid crisis were recognized by the White House in 2017 as a Public Health Emergency. This directs federal agencies to provide more grant money to fight the epidemic.
Many first responders have also been armed with Narcan (brand name for the drug Naloxone) to help treat those who are experiencing an opioid overdose. The drug works quickly by binding to opioid receptors to reverse the effects of the drug. Typically its effects can be felt within five minutes of administering the drug. While naloxone can be given as an inhalant, it is usually given as an injectable by emergency responders. The goal is to get the patient breathing normally once again.
While naloxone can provide a quick fix and can help save the life of someone overdosing, in order to prevent future fentanyl overdoses and overcome addiction, rehab is needed. Drug addiction is often caused by deep-rooted problems that need to be addressed at their core.
In order for someone to fight their addiction, many times a detox program is first needed so that the patient can begin the rehab process. This is best done under the supervision of a trained medical team. At Desert Cove Recovery, patients are evaluated to see if detox is needed. If so, recommendations are made for detox with one of Desert Cove’s partners.
Other forms of rehab can include a 12-step process that lets each patient go through individual and group therapy to get them on the road to sobriety. Patients learn the skills they need to live a happy and healthy life without the use of drugs. Holistic treatment, outdoor therapy, and extended care are also provided at Desert Cove Recovery. Once you make the decision to get the help you need, the staff will recommend the best treatments for your addiction.
If you’re ready to get started on your journey to sobriety, contact Desert Cove Recovery today and speak to a highly trained member of our staff or fill out an online form. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round.
The results of a survey conducted by The Hartford, a leading property and casualty insurance company, have found the current opioid epidemic is having a “tangible and growing impact” on employers across the US. The survey also found that a majority of Human Resources (HR) professionals and workers feel they don’t have the knowledge or resources necessary to deal with addiction.
Companies of All Sizes Participated in Opioid Survey
Two thousand workers and 500 HR leaders participated in the national survey, which collected responses from companies of all sizes.
• Two-thirds of HR professionals (67 percent) said their company is being impacted by opioid use today, or will be in the future. • Just under two-thirds of the HR professionals (65 percent) revealed that opioid addiction is impacting their company financially.
Employees, HR Staff Feel Unprepared for Substance Use Problems
The Hartford survey is an opportunity for employers to provide addiction education materials to workers, as well as develop and implement consistent policies and procedures regarding drug misuse.
• Many employees (76 percent), as well as HR professionals (64 percent), don’t feel they are well trained when it comes to helping co-workers who have an opioid addiction issue. • When asked if they could spot the signs of an opioid addiction, 24 percent of HR professionals and 18 percent of employees felt extremely or very confident they could. • Nineteen percent of HR professionals and employees feel they are extremely or very knowledgeable about how to reduce the risk of opioid addiction.
The Opioids in the Workplace survey was conducted with an online research panel on August 9-15, 2018. A representative sample of 2,500 US adults from across the nation was divided into two groups. Two thousand full and part-time workers and 500 participants with an HR role answered questions.
The margin of error for the first group is +/-2.2 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. For the second group, the margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
Reports about the opioid crisis and drugs fentanyl, carfentanil and heroin have dominated recent headlines. During the years 200-2016, the number of lives lost to opioids has more than quadrupled. Though opioids have taken up a lot of our collective attention during the first part of the twenty-first century, it would be a mistake to ignore another addictive substances that have had a negative impact on people’s lives: alcohol.
A new report released from the California Health Care Foundation looked at substance use disorders in California. It examined the impact of alcohol, opioid and other substance use over time. Although this particular report was specific to California, the figures are a fair representation for situations in Arizona and nationwide as well.
Key Findings from Substance Abuse Report
The report, entitled “Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment,” has several key findings, including:
Alcohol use disorder was the most common type of substance use disorder among California residents. Approximately six percent of Californians met the criteria for alcohol dependence. Three percent of state residents met the criteria for dependence on illicit drugs.
Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is likely to start during the adolescent years. By the time they reach Grade 11, over half of students in California have tried alcohol and close to 40 percent have tried marijuana.
Young adults (aged 18-25) were most likely to develop substance use disorders, with the likelihood close to twice the state average.
The number of Emergency Department visits related to heroin in California has tripled during the years between 2006-2017.
Alcohol was responsible for more nonfatal Emergency Department visits in California than all other drug diagnoses combined.
Substance Abuse Disorders Treatable
Substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder, can be treated and managed. Like other chronic illnesses, the risk of relapse is a real and ongoing one. Behavioral therapy helps people with substance use disorders change unhealthy coping mechanisms for new ways of dealing with destructive behaviors. Medications can be used to control cravings for opioids and alcohol and reduce the physical reward a user experiences when they are ingested.
Naltrexone is among the most common medications, which is used in many different forms. Vivitrol is an monthly injectable version of naltrexone that is often used to help fight cravings.
The results of one of the largest brain imaging studies have found the largest drivers of brain aging. Marijuana use and alcohol abuse are among the top things that lead to brain aging. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) round out the top five factors that drive premature brain aging.
Substance Abuse Research Collaborative
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Google, Amen Clinics, John’s Hopkins University, and the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco, looked at 62,454 brain scans of more than 30,000 people ranging in age from nine months to 105 years. Researchers examined “regional cerebral flow in the brain” and how it’s reduced when a person experiences different disorders.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a psychiatrist and the study’ lead author, stated that the marijuana abuse result was “especially important,’ since we are looking at it as being a harmless substance. He said that the study results should make people pause to think about that.
Marijuana abuse was found to age the brain by 2.8 years, according to the scientists. Alcohol abuse ages it by 0.6 years, ADHD ages it by 1.4 years and bipolar disorder causes the brain to age by 1.6 years. Schizophrenia makes the brain age by an additional four years.
The researchers looked at 128 regions of the brain to determine a patient’s chronological age. When brain scan age didn’t match the patient’s chronological age, the researchers determined accelerated aging had occurred.
Marijuana Causes Brain Aging
The Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas referred to a similar study that compared marijuana use to brain aging and development. It described how people who started using marijuana at the age of 16 (or younger) had different forms of brain development. When people waited until after the age of 16 to start using marijuana, the scientists found the opposite effect; they experienced accelerated brain aging.
Dr. Francesca Filbey from the Center for Brain Health stated that studies show that when someone starts using marijuana results in very different effects.
The results from a new report released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shed light on the continued effects of the opioid epidemic on a specific portion of the population: pregnant women. The researchers found that the number of women living with opioid use disorder at the time they went into labor and delivered their babies “more than quadrupled” during the 15-year period between 1999-2014.
Opioid use at addiction levels during pregnancy has been linked to several negative health consequences for mothers and babies. The drug use can lead to preterm birth, stillbirth and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a term describing a group of conditions caused when a fetus goes through withdrawal from certain drugs before birth.
National Database Analyzed
Researchers analyzed a national database collected on women from 28 states and discovered the rate of opioid use disorder jumped from 1.5/1000 delivery hospitalizations in 1999 to 6.5/1000 delivery hospitalizations in 2014. The rate increased by 0.39 cases per 1,000 during each year of the study.
Some geographical differences were noted during the study. The average annual increases were highest in West Virginia, Vermont, New Mexico and Maine. They were lowest in Hawaii and California.
Wanda Barfield, MD, Rear Admiral, US Public Health Service (USPHS), and the Director of the Division of Reproductive Health, explained that even in states with the smallest increases year over year, more pregnant women with opioid use disorder are being seen in labor and delivery.
Strategies for Dealing with Opioid Addiction in Pregnancy
The report included strategies for states to take on the issue of opioid addiction in pregnancy.
Ensure opioid prescribing is in line with the CDC’s current guidelines
Intensify prescription drug monitoring programs.
Institute a policy of substance use screening at the first prenatal visit.
Make certain that pregnant women with opioid use disorder have access to MAT (medication assisted therapy) and other addiction treatment services.
Provide mothers with opioid use disorder with postpartum care that includes substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, relapse prevention and family planning services.
With all eyes on the opioid problem in America, many people are missing the fact that millions of people are also abusing other prescriptions, such as Xanax. These anti-anxiety drugs have a very high potential for abuse and addiction and there is evidence that it is becoming even more prevalent.
Xanax Seen as Safer than Other Drugs
Addiction specialists are expecting a continued increase in the number of teens and young adults addicted to Xanax and other sedatives belonging to a class of anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines (“benzos”). A number of young people feel that Xanax is safer and more readily available than other drugs, but it is certainly just as dangerous. The drug is abused by itself and also commonly taken with other substances, such as painkillers or alcohol.
Like most other substances, people can develop a tolerance over time, requiring more of it to achieve the same effect. This can lead people who have legitimate prescriptions for the drug to eventually become dependent and sometimes even farther down the path toward addiction.
Often, teens are finding the pills in their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets, not realizing they can be just as dangerous as opioids or illicit drugs. The risk to health and life increases when Xanax is taken with other drugs and/or alcohol.
Risk of Addiction Higher with Younger Start
When Xanax use starts early in life, the risk of addiction increases. A recent US Surgeon General’s report on drugs and indicated that close to 70 percent of young people who experiment with an illicit drug before the age of 13 will become addicted within the next seven years. Waiting to try illicit drugs until after the age of 17 lowers the risk of addiction to 27 percent.
Addiction professionals are seeing a significant increase in the number of teens and young adults who are addicted to Xanax. Many of them are taking high doses of the drug on a daily basis, sometimes in combination with opioids and alcohol.
Sharon Levy, the director of adolescent addiction treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital, explained that hospitals see trends first. She stated that benzo use among adolescents has “skyrocketed” and that more young people are being admitted to hospitals for withdrawals due to the possibility of dangerous seizures. At the same time, fewer teens are seeking help for prescription opioid addiction.
The opioid epidemic continues to rage through North America, and experts in East Tennessee are looking into the source of the problem. Many of them have determined that it can start with a trip to the dentist’s office.
Dr. Turner Emery, an oral surgeon on Knoxville, explained that doctors have been blamed for a lot of patients getting started on opioids. However, dentists also prescribe this class of medications to their patients, who are also put at risk for addiction.
Exparel Given at Time of Surgery
Dr. Emery is using a medication in his practice called Exparel to reduce risk of opioid addiction. It numbs the area around teeth that have been extracted for up to four days after oral surgery has been performed. When Exparel is used, a dental surgery patient may not need prescription pain medication at all.
The peak time for a dental patient to experience pain following wisdom teeth removal is on the second and third day following surgery, Dr. Emery explains. He has had a couple of patients who have had to take one or two doses of a narcotic, but most patients have been able to relieve their pain wth over the counter (OTC) medicines.
The medication is given by injection in each molar. Patients report that it reduces the need for narcotic pain medication and doesn’t make them feel drowsy during the first few days following their procedure.
First Exposure to Narcotics After Dental Surgery
A number of adolescents are first exposed to opioids following dental surgery. They may also be prescribed these strong pain medications following a sport injury. If a young person is prescribed more medicine than they need for the initial health condition, there is a concern that the opioid pain reliever may end up in someone else’s hands. The young person may continue taking the narcotic after the initial need for the strong pain medication has ended.
Medication Effective for Pain Relief
Exparel isn’t covered by all health insurance companies. The medication costs approximately $200.00, which can be a prohibitive factor for some patients and their families. Dr. Emery states that the medication works “really, really well” and that he has had good results with it.
The opioid epidemic is characterized by an increase in the number of people who misuse narcotics, including prescription painkillers and heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 115 people experience a fatal overdose from these substances every day in the U.S. Many who survive are facing a new challenge: hepatitis C infection. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, hepatitis C and opioid use are linked.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a disease that damages the liver. It’s spread through the blood and can cause liver failure or cancer. Doctors believed they were on their way to eradicating the disease through the use of certain medications, however, the rise of the opioid epidemic changed those expectations. The number of people with hepatitis C tripled from 2010 to 2015, according to CNN. Currently, approximately 3.5 million Americans have hepatitis C.
The decade from 2004 to 2014 saw a 400 percent increase in acute hepatitis C as well as an 817 percent increase in admissions of people ages 18 through 29 who injected prescription opioids. Most people who had hepatitis C before the 1990s were part of the baby-boomer generation. People born between 1945 and 1965 were more likely to have contracted the disease from unsafe medical procedures or blood transfusions. The increase of hepatitis C in the younger generation points to a link between the disease and opioid injections.
Hepatitis C is Spreading Through Injected Drug Use
Twenty-eight percent of people who inject drugs are infected with hepatitis C every year. Reusing the equipment that’s used to administer opioids intravenously can quickly cause an outbreak.
Jon E. Zibbell PhD was in charge of the study that looked at the connection between hepatitis C and the opioid epidemic from 2004 to 2014. He found statistically significant increases in the rates of hepatitis C among opioid users who injected the drugs.
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Many people start taking prescription painkillers orally. Over time, they transition to injecting heroin because it is cheaper and delivers a quicker high. New infections occur most often among these opioid users, many of whom are younger than 40.
In some states, the number of people infected with hepatitis C is double the natural average. Once many people within a community are infected, the disease spreads more rapidly because they share equipment.
Women in rural counties are three times more likely to have hepatitis C than women in urban counties, according to a CDC study. The study did not intend to compare opioid abuse rates with hepatitis C rates, however, Dr. Stephen W. Patrick, the study’s author, said that 5 times more infants were born with opioid withdrawal symptoms in rural areas than urban ones. One concern that experts have is that babies born with hepatitis C may not be treated because their mothers are unaware that they’re infected.
Catching Hepatitis C Before It’s Spread Further
Because many people don’t have symptoms or seek treatment, the actual number of people who inject drugs and have the disease is probably much higher than researchers have found.
It takes time for symptoms of hepatitis C to show up, therefore, many people don’t know that they’re infected until it’s too late. Plus, most people with drug abuse disorders don’t seek treatment for their addiction. Oftentimes, many people don’t know that they have hepatitis C until they receive a blood screening for a blood donation or routine exam.
By that time, liver damage may have set in. People who do have symptoms right away are more likely to get treatment that prevents the disease from progressing.
The FDA has approved several treatment regimens that can cure the disease. The problem is that many people who suffer from hepatitis C and opioid abuse disorder don’t get help. People who suffer from addiction may be compelled to take part in risky behaviors, such as sharing needles, even though they know about the dangers.
Jonathan Mermin of the CDC says that testing people who are at risk of developing the disease, which includes anyone who has injected opioids intravenously, can increase the effectiveness of treatment for those who test positive.
Free needle exchange programs have cut down on the number of people who use dirty needles. However, the stigma of drug addiction prevents many people from taking advantage of these programs or going further to attend rehab. Access to treatment is another obstacle that people with hepatitis C face.
Treating Hepatitis C in Addiction Treatment AZ Setting
Many rehab centers are staffed by medical professionals who can provide treatment for hepatitis C alongside therapy for addiction. At rehab, patients can be monitored to make sure that they administer their hepatitis C medication correctly, which is crucial for curing the disease. Because some hepatitis C treatments cause side effects such as depression, getting help at a comprehensive rehab center, such as our addiction treatment AZ, is important for managing psychological and emotional issues as well as physical ailments.
If you have hepatitis C and suffer from opioid addiction, call our addiction treatment AZ to learn how we can help you manage your substance abuse disorder as well as other physical and medical conditions. Treating the mind, body and spirit can help you succeed on your path to recovery.