Category Archives: Drug Abuse

FDA Approves Nerve Stimulator for Opioid Withdrawal

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its approval for a specialized tool that will be used to help US patients addicted to prescription pain medications and get them off opioids.

The newly-approved device delivers electric pulses to the area behind the patient’s ear. This electric pulse triggers a current which travels to the person’s occipital nerves (the ones reaching from the spinal cord to the back of the neck) and cranial nerves. It functions as a PNFS (Percutaneous Nerve Field Stimulator) device system and stimulates the patient’s brain to mask opioid withdrawal symptoms.

This medical device has been named the NSS-2 Bridge (NSS stands for “Neurostimulation System”.) Research shows that when used over a five-day treatment period, the process can be effective. The device is used during the period when an opiate-dependent person is likely to experience the most intense pain, as well as body tremors and sweating, during withdrawal.

Seventy-three patients were involved in the trials to determine the device’s effectiveness. Close to one-third (31 percent) of the participants noticed a reduction in symptoms within half an hour of getting the device. The trial found that 64 of the patients got relief and were ready to move forward to medication-assisted therapy after using the device. This represented a success rate of 88 percent after the five-day trial. However, other applications may include permanent abstinence rather than switching to a maintenance drug.

The FDA has decided to approve the device, even though the results of the study are limited. Further trials will be undertaken to evaluate its effectiveness in various settings.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated in his reasons for approving the new device that there is a need for finding new ways of helping people who are addicted so that they can achieve sobriety with “medically assisted treatment.” He went on to say that while research is continuing to find better medicines to treat opioid use disorder, medicine also needs to look to devices to help as well.

Finding alternative methods of treating opioid dependency is a major topic of discussion regarding dealing the epidemic our nation faces. In addition to helping people get off these drugs, it is imperative to find more ways to reduce or avoid using these highly addictive substances.

Nearly Half of Americans Know Someone Addicted to Drugs

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.

Research Indicates Link Between High Sugar Diet and Opioid Addiction

New research from the laboratory of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Guelph has suggested a possible link between diet and risk of opioid addiction. Specifically, children and adults may be more vulnerable to opioid addiction when high amounts of refined sugars are consumed.

There has been a lot of press recently about the current opioid crisis — and for good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that provisional counts for the number of deaths has increased by 21 percent in the period 2015-2016. Drug overdoses are now claiming lives at double the rate of motor vehicle accidents and firearms combined.

Sugar Activates Reward Centers in Brain

Research studies have revealed that refined sugar activates the reward centers in the brain in the same manner as addictive drugs. Opioid abuse has also been linked to poor diet, including a preference for foods that are high in sugar. Based on this link, researchers had questions about whether there was a connection between a diet with an excessive amount of refined sugar and an increased susceptibility to opioid addiction.

How Research Was Conducted

The research team looked at whether an unlimited level of access to high fructose corn syrup changed laboratory rats’ behavior and responses to oxycodone, a semi-synthetic opioid. High fructose corn syrup, a commonly used food additive in North American processed foods and soft drinks, was selected for this study.

In one study conducted by doctoral student Meenu Minhas, the rats were given unrestricted access to drinking water sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. The sweetened water was removed after about a month. After a few days where the rats didn’t have access to any sweetened water, researchers evaluated the rats’ response to oxycodone.

The researchers found that when the rats consumed high levels of corn syrup, they may experience less rewards from the oxycodone. As a result, the rats may be looking to take higher amounts of the drug.

High Sugar Diet May Contribute to Opioid Addiction

The results indicate that a diet high in sugar may dampen the pleasure that someone may get from taking drugs such as Percocet, Percodan, and OxyContin at lower doses. Since these sedative drugs normally make a user feel more relaxed shortly after being ingested, someone who isn’t getting these results is likely to take a larger dose to get the desired results.

Higher doses of sedatives and painkillers can be dangerous. At high levels, they can interfere with central nervous functioning and slow down breathing, leading to coma or respiratory arrest. When combined with alcohol, their effects multiply since alcohol is also a depressant drug.

This research is another good reason to eat a balanced diet, including lean meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. There is a place for sweets, but in moderation.

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.

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 program accomplishes 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.

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.

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.

Study Confirms Fentanyl’s Role in Opioid Epidemic

fentanyl opioid epidemicThe 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 will need to be evidence of its growth and education about what exactly is fentanyl and how to avoid its use.

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 the drug into the supply in order to create a stronger, more intense high and to increase profits. But, because of this new combination, more and more addicts are suffering from fatal overdoses. Other studies have shown that most opioid users are not even 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.

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.

Methamphetamine Use Rising Again

methamphetamine abuseMethamphetamine addiction was a major concern for law enforcement and health officials several years ago, before the opioid crisis reached epidemic proportions. States in the Western United States were hit especially hard by the abundance of methamphetamine being manufactured, and as a result thousands of people suffered from debilitating addictions to the powerful drug. But, after major attempts to curb methamphetamine production and use, the United States saw a decline in the number of meth users.

Restrictions on purchasing some of the main ingredients for manufacturing the drug and powerful ad campaigns like, Faces of Meth, were attributed to the de-escalation of methamphetamine use. However, recent reports find that while the country experienced a reprieve from the meth problem, more people are using the drug again, and massive quantities of the drug are being smuggled across the border.

“We’re seeing it pour across the border in bigger quantities. It used to be that loads of 20, 30, 40 pounds were big for us. Now we have 200-pound loads,” cautioned Mark Conover, the deputy U.S. Attorney in Southern California.

Methamphetamine originally soared in popularity because addicts could manufacture the drug themselves, using relatively common household ingredients. But, now that many of these ingredients require an ID to purchase and are only available in limited quantities, drug cartels in South America have taken over. As a result, methamphetamine is not being made in small at-home labs, but instead is being produced in giant warehouses where they make it in bulk and then smuggle it into the United States.

This massive influx of methamphetamine has led to some of the biggest numbers that officials have ever seen. States like Ohio, Texas, Montana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin have all seen massive spikes in methamphetamine in the last year. Some reports show that methamphetamine use has jumped by 250% since 2011.

Meth has somewhat silently crept back on the radar. Despite having a different set of problems associated with its use where overdose deaths are less likely compared to opioids, methamphetamine addiction is still a very serious threat to the public health in America.

If you have a loved one who is abusing or addicted to methamphetamine, contact us today to find out how our treatment program can help.