Category Archives: Drug Abuse

States Expanding Access to Buprenorphine for Addiction Treatment

There continues to be a high demand for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. To date, however, states like Ohio only haveabout two percent of doctors that have completed the training necessary to prescribe or dispense buprenorphine. This is the main ingredient in the addiction treatment drug Suboxone, and other similar medications.

Plan to Double Healthcare Professionals Providing Buprenorphine

The state is planning to double the number of healthcare professionals certified to provide Suboxone (and other addiction treatment medications) to patients over the next 18 months. The federal government has provided $26 million in grant funding under the 21st Century Cares Act so that more healthcare providers can get training. Under existing law, doctors, as well as nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PAs) can dispense buprenorphine.

Waiver to Treat Patients for Opioid Addiction

Under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (Data 2000), doctors can apply for a waiver allowing them to treat patients with buprenorphine in their office, clinic, a community hospital or “any other setting where they are qualified to practice.” To qualify for a physician waiver, a doctor must be:

• Licensed under state law
• Registered with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) to dispense controlled substances
• Agree to treat a maximum of 30 MAT patients during the first year
• Qualify to treat MAT patients, either by training or by professional certification

A doctor who has completed at least eight hours of classroom training focused on treating and managing patients with opioid use disorders can qualify for a waiver. The new training program for medical professionals is 1.5 days of classroom instruction, and participants are expected to continue their education through online courses and seminars.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Growing in the United States

The National Institutes of Health Studies says that MAT is a very effective method for treating opioid addiction. Studies conducted in 2014 revealed improved long-term recovery rates over traditional treatment methods, though it often takes finding the perfect balance for each individual as to how long they stay on the medication. Ideally, they would work toward being off of it in 2 years or less, and many people seek to use Suboxone for short-term tapering to simply ease withdrawal symptoms.

Opioids for ER Patients

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers as Effective as Opioids for ER Patients

For a number of patients, their first introduction to opioid pain medications occurs when they seek treatment in an Emergency Room (ER). Since doctors have more than one option for treating pain, what would happen if they offered over-the-counter pain medications instead of these strong, potentially addictive drugs instead?

A new study looked at what would happen if doctors took this approach to patients who visited the ER for treatment of sprains and broken bones. The results found that pain relievers sold under brand names as Tylenol and Motrin were as effective as opioids for treating severe pain.

Treating Acute Pain Without Opioids

The study involved 411 adult patients who sought treatment in two Emergency Rooms in New York City. All of them received ibuprofen (the main ingredient in Motrin) and acetaminophen (the main ingredient in Tylenol) or one of three opioid drugs: codeine, oxycodone or hydrocodone. All patients received standard doses, and none were told which medication was being administered.

The patients rated their pain levels on a score of 1-10 before being given their pain medication and again two hours later. The researchers found that for an average patient, the pain levels dropped from a 9/10 to approximately 5/10. There was little difference reported between the two groups.

Dr. Andrew Chang, Professor of Emergency Room Medicine at Albany Medical College in New York State, explained that ibuprofen and acetaminophen affect different pain receptors in the body. He went on to say that using them together may be especially effective.

These results dispute the standard ER practice used for treating acute pain. It could lead to changes that could help prevent new patients from being given opioids, which have such a high potential for abuse.

Although the study didn’t continue to follow the patients after they left the hospital, it is likely that the pain relief continued while taking the OTC remedies.

Study Has Potential to Help Opioid Crisis

Over two million people in the US are addicted to prescription painkillers or heroin. According to experts, changes in how ER doctors prescribe drugs could potentially put a dent in the current opioid crisis and help save lives.

Long-term opioid use often starts after patients are introduced to the drugs in an acute pain treatment situation. Emergency Rooms have given them to patients more often in recent years, although more states have limited the number of pills that can be given out. According to previous studies, approximately one-third of ER patients received an opioid painkiller during their visit. Approximately 20 percent of ER patients leave the hospital with a prescription for an opioid pain medication.

opioid epidemic

Addiction Expert Explains Three Main Groups of Opioid Epidemic

For the average person reading news stories or listening to the situation being discussed on the air, it seems as though the situation is mainly about young people who have moved from a prescription opioid dependency to a heroin addiction and that fentanyl is causing many of the overdose deaths. Popular news stories imply that efforts to stop people from becoming addicted to prescription drugs have not helped, but only made the issue worse.

This is one part of the opioid crisis but it isn’t the full story. As Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management pointed out, there are three opioid epidemics impacting North America.

The Three Opioid Epidemics in North America

1. Longtime Addicts

This, according to Kolodny, is the smallest group. Most of them are between the ages of 50-70 and started using heroin in the 1970s and 1980s. They lost a number of their friends to addiction. Fentanyl is responsible for killing off people in this group, due to the heroin supply being “laced” with this powerful pain reliever.

2. Young Rural and Suburban Users

The second group is the middle one, and is between 20-40 years of age. This is the group that gets most of the press coverage. They are people who are being found dead of an overdose, often with needles still in stuck in their arm.

In many instances, the road to addiction starts out with prescription opioids. The person may have started taking medications prescribed for someone else. They may have originally been prescribed the pain medication, but started using it more often than as directed. When their supply ran out, they turned to buying pills on the street.

At some point the cravings for pills increased. The cost was high and heroin could satisfy the cravings at a cheaper price. Switching from pills to heroin wasn’t anything new, according to Kolodny. Again, when dealers started adding fentanyl to their heroin supply around 2011 because it was a cheap filler, the number of overdose victims skyrocketed.

3. Middle-Aged and Senior Adults

The largest group, which has remained mostly under the popular press’ radar, is made up of people in their mid-40s through to their 80s. Their deaths due to opioid abuse are under-reported.

People in this age group may have been taking pain medications prescribed by their primary care doctors for several years. When they pass away from heart disease or another cause, no one wants to think of their long-term opioid use as being a contributing factor. Families also don’t think to ask whether their loved one may not have been using their opioid medication appropriately, whether there was an interaction with other medications (over the counter or herbal supplements included). They wouldn’t ask whether alcohol use and opioids may have been an issue.

The fact there are three sub-groups among this epidemic is why the number of overdose deaths have continued to rise. This isn’t a typical substance abuse problem, as the number of lives lost have actually reduced the average life expectancy in America.

To solve this problem Kolodny suggests investing money in building a new treatment system at an estimated cost of $60 billion. Although there are a ton of addiction programs doing great things, the system as a whole isn’t slowing the number of deaths, so more must be done.

someone addicted to drugs

Nearly Half of Americans Know Someone Addicted to Drugs

Knowing someone addicted to drugs is becoming more common. The results of a PEW Research Center survey found that 46 percent of American adults stated they knew of either a family member or a close friend who was

• Addicted to drugs; or
• Had been addicted previously.

There are no major differences in the numbers when sorted by race: white (46 percent), black (52 percent), Hispanic (50 percent) or gender (men and women are equally divided at 46 percent).

Substance Use Disorder

Researchers looked at federal government data to compile their findings. In 2016, approximately 7.4 million Americans (2.7 percent of the population) over the age of 12 met the criteria for illicit “drug use disorder” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) doesn’t use terms like substance abuse and substance dependence to describe those who have issues with chemicals. Instead, it uses the term “substance use disorder.” The severity of the disorder is classified as being mild, moderate or severe based on the number of diagnostic criteria that each client meets.

Definition of Substance Use Disorder – A substance use disorder occurs when the repeated use of drugs or alcohol leads to a “significant impairment.” – a health issue, disability or a failure to meet responsibilities at home, work or school. The diagnosis of substance abuse disorder is made based on evidence of issues in a person’s social life, risky use, lack of control, as well as pharmacological criteria.

Substance use disorders include the following:

Alcohol Use Disorder
• Opioid Use Disorder
• Cannabis Use Disorder
• Stimulant Use Disorder
• Hallucinogen Use Disorder
• Tobacco Use Disorder

Substance Use Statistics

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2016), 20.1 million people in the US over the age of 12 had a substance use disorder. Approximately 15.1 million had an alcohol use disorder and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder.

The survey was a self-reporting one for participating households. The true figures may well be much higher. There is also an unmarked void for the tens of millions of Americans who take other kinds of prescription drugs and are dependent on them, whether they are needed or not. The opioid epidemic has shed light on the over-prescribing issue our nation faces, but the problem is by no means limited to painkillers.

Getting Help for a Drug or Alcohol Problem

One of the first things to do in order to help someone recover from a drug or alcohol problem is to locate an effective treatment program. Desert Cove Recovery is here to assist you by helping to answer your questions and learn more about the rehabilitation and recovery process.

Contact us today to speak with a treatment specialist who can help.

diversion program for DUI

How Well Do Diversion Programs Work for DUI Offenders?

Tiger Woods entered a guilty plea in court on Friday to a charge of reckless driving, a less severe offense than Driving Under the Influence (DUI). According to reports, part of his plea agreement includes the golfer entering a diversion program for intoxicated drivers. Many judges, in fact, are turning to diversion programs for DUI offenders. 

DUI diversion programs exist in a number of other states, such as Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Georgia. Rules vary, depending on the program. Some states, such as Florida, allow local officials to decide whether to offer the program.

High Success Rates Observed

In the past four years this program has graduated close to 2,500 first-time offenders in Palm Beach County, FL. According to Deputy State Attorney Richard Clausi, the official who oversees misdemeanor prosecutions, stated recently that less than one percent of diversion program participants have reoffended.

Mr. Clausi went on to say that the key to this high success rate is having the participants take responsibility for their actions. The diversion programs for DUI offenders accomplish this goal without requiring the participants to go to trial. Instead, they must complete the diversion programs.

How the Diversion Program Works

Woods will spend one year on probation. He will also be ordered to pay a $250.00 fine plus court costs. Woods must also meet the following requirements:

• Attend DUI school
• Perform 20 hours of community service
• Attend a workshop where he will learn how victims of impaired drivers’ lives have changed

Woods will also undergo regular drug tests, since prescription drugs and marijuana were found in his system when he was arrested.

Once he completes the program, Woods can request that the court expunge his reckless driving conviction. If he is ever charged again, Woods is not eligible for the diversion program a second time. As a repeat offender, he would be facing stiffer penalties, including a possible jail sentence, a more expensive fine and a license suspension (mandatory).

One of the greatest golfers in history is attempting to make yet another comeback, as he just announced a tournament he’ll play in this November. Hopefully the diversion and rehabilitation program as well as his surgery will help to have him on track to avoid the self-medicating trap of addiction he was stuck in.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, please contact an addiction counselor today at Desert Cove Recovery for help.

Sober Dorms Provide Support for College Students in Recovery

The college years are a time when young people are exploring and finding out who they are, in addition to furthering their education. For many of them, this process includes spending time partying with friends and making decisions about drinking and using drugs.

The results of a 2016 report compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) found that 1.2 million full-time college students consume alcohol. The same report also revealed that more than 700,000 students smoke marijuana on a typical day.

Binge Drinking Common on College Campuses

Binge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks in two hours for men and more drinks in two hours for women) is a common occurrence on college campuses, according to figures released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Students who arrive on campus can expect that there will be a certain level of drinking and drug use going on. For young people with a history of substance abuse or addiction, this level of exposure may not be helpful for them.

Significant Percentage of College Students Have History of Substance Abuse

According to Lisa Laitman, the director of Alcohol & Other Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) at Rutgers University, up to 30 percent of college students have a history of substance use disorders. Research has also shown that substance abuse rates are higher for college students than for peers of the same age who are not enrolled in classes.

More Collegiate Recovery Programs Now Include Sober Dorms

Colleges are responding by offering “collegiate recovery programs” (CRPs) to provide help to students stay sober and stay enrolled in school. These programs include:

Mental health counseling
• Substance abuse counseling
• Peer-to-peer support
• Recovery support group meetings
• Sober social activities and programs

A number of programs include sober dorms where no drugs or alcohol are permitted. These are environments where students support each other’s sobriety.

Transforming Youth Recovery, a non-profit organization, says the number of CRPs has grown from 35 to over 150 over the past five years. Approximately 50 have sober living residences for students.

In the wake of the biggest overdose epidemic in American history, it would be great to see every college and university campus to start creating sober dorms in recognition and support for the students who need ongoing help.

vaccine for cocaine addiction

Research Continues on Cocaine Addiction Vaccine

Dr. Ron Crystal, a researcher at Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College, is working on a vaccine to treat cocaine addiction. The inspiration for the project came to Dr. Crystal in an unusual way: As he was walking by a new stand, he happened to see a copy of the magazine, “Newsweek,” with the words, “addiction vaccine” printed on its cover.

The idea took hold with Dr. Crystal. He started thinking about the possibility of linking an addictive molecule, such as cocaine, to a cold virus or certain parts of a cold virus. If successful, he thought, there was a potential to “trick the immune system” into thinking that the addictive molecule was a cold virus. The body would respond by developing an immunity to the cocaine.

How the Vaccine Works

The vaccine induces antibodies in the body. When someone snorts cocaine, the antibodies bind it up and prevent it from reaching the brain. As a result, the user doesn’t experience the “rush” or sense of euphoria associated with cocaine use.

The vaccine would render cocaine ineffective as a way to get high. Without the physical and psychological rewards associated with cocaine use, it may be easier to stop using the drug.

Cocaine Vaccine Wouldn’t Stop Cravings

The cocaine vaccine wouldn’t stop cravings that an addict experiences. A person would still need to undergo addiction treatment to learn strategies for coping with them.

Human Trial Starting Soon

The cocaine vaccine has already been successful in animal trials. Dr. Crystal commented recently that experimental animals can be given a shot of cocaine “and it doesn’t touch them at all.”

Dr. Crystal and his research team are currently recruiting people for a human clinical trial, which will involve 30 participants. This part of Dr. Crystal’s research is expected to be completed next year. If the first human trial proves successful, it will still be a number of years before a vaccine for cocaine addiction is available on the market.

Is a Vaccination for Cocaine Addiction a Viable Solution?

Without more research, it’s difficult to say whether a vaccination will actually help those with cocaine addiction. In the meantime, those struggling with addiction should reach out for help. If you or a loved one are addicted to cocaine, or another substance, contact a professional at Desert Cove Recovery today.

Opioid Epidemic

Fentanyl’s Role in Opioid Epidemic

Study Confirms Fentanyl’s Role in Opioid Epidemic

The fentanyl epidemic in the United States is growing by the day, but because it is a relatively new additive, there is little research to compare the current situation with history. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at Boonshoft School of Medicine Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR) at Wright State University provides more concrete evidence about the fentanyl problem in this country. This is important because in order to reduce the number of people who ingest this powerful drug, there needs to be evidence of its growth and education about what fentanyl is and how to avoid its use.

What is Fentanyl and Why is it So Dangerous?

Fentanyl is a pharmaceutical drug that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Most commonly, the drug is prescribed to cancer patients, but is also given in hospital settings to combat major pain issues. Regarding abuse, fentanyl has gained popularity with drug dealers because of increased potency when it is combined with heroin. Due to inadequate testing procedures, many experts believe that a greater number of overdose fatalities involved fentanyl than previously reported.

Heroin dealers are now mixing fentanyl into the supply in order to create a stronger, more intense high and to increase profits. But, because of this new combination, more addicts are suffering from fatal overdoses. Other studies have shown that most opioid users are not aware that they are ingesting fentanyl, and actively try to stay away from the drug in an effort to avoid these types of overdoses. This goes against the suggestion that addicts will seek out fentanyl in order to get a stronger high. Further research has shown that many drug dealers are getting their hands on fentanyl not from legitimate hospitals or doctors, but from illegal labs that have mimicked the recipe.

“The findings of our study highlight the urgent need to include testing for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs as a part of standard toxicology panels for biological specimens used by substance abuse treatment centers, criminal justice institutions and medical providers. Communities also need to assure that sufficient supplies of naloxone doses are provided to first responders and distributed through community overdose prevention programs to mitigate the effects of opioid overdoses,” explained lead author of the study, Raminta Daniulaityte.

Long-Term Impact of Fentanyl 

While there are still more long-term studies that need to be conducted on the fentanyl problem, this is a step forward for medical professionals who are looking to educate addicts and the public on the dangers and prevalence of the drug.

Drug Abuse Linked to Financial Problems

Unemployment can be a very unstable, scary time for people. Without the promise of work, many fall into a depression that is difficult to get out of. And now a new study shows that illicit drug use is also more common for people who are unemployed. Despite not having income, drugs are still being purchased and used at higher rates than people who have steady work.

A new study released by researchers in the Netherlands shows that they psychological stress of not having a job is more powerful than reduced or no income, and the stress is what causes people to seek out drugs and alcohol. The researchers focused on 17 different types of reports from several different countries. Ten of the reports were composed of information from the American workforce. After reviewing all the data, the team was surprised that the psychological factors were a more powerful motivator for drug use than lack of money was for deterring a person from using drugs. And in extreme cases where money was an issue, many users simply switched their drug of choice to a cheaper alternative, but still maintained their drug-using lifestyle.

“In our literature review, we were particularly interested in the mechanisms that explain the relationship between unemployment and illegal drug use. We found supportive evidence for one of the mechanisms that we hypothesized. It seems that unemployment increases psychological distress and that distress increases illegal drug use,” explained Dr. Gera Nagelhout, the lead author of the study that was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Nagelhout suggests that more funding and research focus on the psychological effects of unemployment so as to better help those who find themselves without employment. Forging a new path between unemployment and better mental health could be imperative in preventing these people from leading a life of drug use and addiction. As the country continues to struggle with ways to prevent the painkiller and opioid epidemic from claiming more lives, this is one area where more research and understanding is needed.

Immigration Does Not Cause Surge in Drug Abuse or Drug Availability

In light of many heated debates regarding immigration and its impact on the United States, a research group out of University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study to determine what, if any, effect immigrants had on the drug problems in this country. After gathering data from the Center for Migration Studies and Pew Research Center, they were able to determine that immigration does not actually effect drug use and drug availability in the United States.

“This is an area where public and political debates have far outpaced the research. And central to this debate is whether undocumented immigration increases drug and alcohol problems, or crime more generally. There are good theoretical reasons to think it could have increased substance abuse problems in recent decades. But the data just doesn’t show it,” commented Professor Michael Light, lead researcher of the study. The results of his research appeared in the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers were able to come to this conclusion after comparing undocumented immigrants to the four major criteria that is most affected by drug use – drug crimes, driving under the influence arrests, drug overdose deaths and drunken driving fatalities. They found that undocumented immigrants are actually not engaging in these types of activities, and in fact are actually responsible in bringing down the national statistic. When the population is increased by 1% due to undocumented immigrants, there are 22 fewer drug arrests, 42 fewer drunken driving arrests and 0.64 fewer drug overdoses.

One possible explanation for this, it called the “healthy immigrant effect”, where it has been found that undocumented immigrants actually lead healthier lifestyles then people born in the United States.

Regardless of why undocumented immigrants are using less drugs and committing less crimes than Americans, the point of the study was to dispel some of the most common myths surrounding undocumented immigrants and their connection to illegal drugs. In an effort to better understand the drug problem in this country, it is important to focus on actual problems, rather than perceived problems.