Category Archives: Drug News

Monthly Injection Treatment for Opioid Addiction Approved by FDA

The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has approved a monthly treatment for addiction that is the first of its kind. The new option can be used for those struggling with substance abuse issues stemming from an addiction to narcotics such as prescription painkillers or heroin.

Sublocade, from Indivior Plc, is buprenorphine given by injection. The drug reduces the sensations of withdrawal symptoms in addiction patients. Administering the drug monthly could help patients comply to the treatment schedule, compared to other versions currently available such as daily oral doses in the form of pills or dissolving strips.

Effort to Reduce Stigmas Around Drugs

Approving the new drug treatment product is part of the Administration’s plan to reduce stigmas surrounding this class of medications. Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid, and critics have expressed their opposition to medication assisted treatment (MAT). Instead, they favor changing users’ behavior to combat the current opioid crisis.

The FDA and other federal agencies are supporting MAT, which involves administering drugs and providing counseling to those affected. The White House referred to the situation as a “public health emergency” in October.

The FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, released a statement recently that said the FDA is “committed to expanding access to treatments that can help people pursue lives of sobriety.”

New Medication Available Early in 2018

According to reports, Sublocade will be made available to patients early in 2018, according to Indivior. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2016, drug overdoses were responsible for taking the lives of more than 64,000 Americans. This figure includes overdoses caused by prescription drugs, such as fentanyl and OxyContin, and illicit ones like heroin. Clients who receive medication assisted treatment for drug addiction reduce their risk of death from all causes in half, according to the FDA, making this option a valuable one.

Mr Gottlieb stated that the FDA is currently working on guidelines that will get further treatment options for treating opioid addiction into the market more rapidly.

Should Hospitals be Accountable for Post-Surgical Painkiller Addiction?

Patients checking into a hospital for surgery is a very common occurrence. After their procedure, they want and expect to be given enough pain medication to be kept comfortable while they recover.

Often, the pain medication given by the surgeon and other medical providers is an opioid. They are prescribed for severe pain and are considered effective at providing temporary relief. The problem is that a number of doctors are prescribing these powerful painkillers without understanding how quickly patients can develop a dependency and thus start to experience withdrawal symptoms. When patients ask about how to taper off the medication when they are recovered from their surgery, they are often not getting enough information or accurate instructions.

Post-Surgical Opioid Dependency

Some doctors and hospital administrators are now asking the question, If some patients are becoming addicted to opioids starting with a stay in a hospital for surgery or another procedure, should the hospital be held responsible? Is the addiction a medical error in the same category as an infection acquired in hospital?

At least three physician/executives with the Hospital Corporation of America have argued that the answer should be, “Yes.” Drs. Michael Schlosser, Ravi Chari and Jonathan Perlin have stated that since this type of addiction arises during a hospital stay and is a “high-cost and high-volume condition,” and that it can often be avoided by implementing and applying new guidelines for patient care.

The doctors say that although it would be difficult for hospitals to monitor all the patients being given opioid pain medications in the weeks and months after their release, hospitals should have a system in place to try. The issue of long-term opioid use as a hospital-acquired condition opens the door for standards of care to be put in place to help patients manage their pain and protect them from coming to future harm.

Holding Hospitals Responsible May Have Financial Impact

Compensation and bonus structures at many hospitals are tied to patient satisfaction surveys, and that has been cited as one reason for doctors to continue over-prescribing drugs in an effort to keep patients happier. Less painkillers initially may mean that more patients experience some additional discomfort, and even though they may be saving lives from potential addiction, the doctors could wind up getting lower reviews and thus less pay.

Majority of Surgical Patients Have Drugs Left Over

Studies have revealed that the majority of patients (between 67-92 percent) have painkillers left over after surgery. Approximately 10 percent of patients need what is described as “intense pain management,” but it is difficult for physicians to identify which patients need this level of pain relief.

There are no set guidelines for what types of opioids should be prescribed after surgery, the typical dose that should be prescribe or how long patients should take them. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released prescribing guidelines for opioids for chronic pain patients, but they only addressed acute pain briefly.

A new study published in September found that the optimal time for opioid use after surgery is between four and nine days.

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.

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.

Searching for Addiction Treatment Help

Searching for and settling on the right treatment facility can be a daunting task for even the most skilled researchers. There are so many factors that need to be taken into account. How much does the rehab cost? Where is it? Will they accept my insurance? Will they address the other problems in life that may have preceded the drug and/or alcohol use?

Currently there are various ways to look for treatment options, with search engines such as Google being the most prominent, but it is mainly left to the family members or the addicts themselves to try and locate something. This can pose a problem for some families and even prevent addicts from getting the help they need if they are met with barriers such as running into predatory call centers, waiting lists, higher than usual financial obligations and more.

Earlier this month Google made an unprecedented move in this realm by removing paid ads from many addiction treatment related keywords. The problem, though, is that they also are preventing the good places from being able to advertise there as well. The restriction is reportedly being placed on tens of thousands of keywords and may continue to roll out over time.

Aside from going to a search engine, there aren’t many known resources that people can call and get help searching for rehabilitation programs and supporting services. One college professor and her graduate research assistant are seeking to change that, starting with compiling a list of all of their local resources.

The list encompasses all available treatment options for an addict, including hotlines, prevention services, sober living providers, rehab programs, other medical professionals, and more. The hope is that with one master list, someone searching for help can easily access it, as the goal is to streamline the process.

“My hope is that while we’re getting information to learn more about substance abuse and addiction services across [our area], we are also able to capture what the state of mental health resources are and then to provide resources that have been validated and new information,” explained Amitta Parker one of the lead researchers of the project.

However, this is just one local area. In order to provide comprehensive help to all of those in need, a nationwide master list would have to be constructed and maintained. This massive undertaking has been attempted by government entities like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), but it is far from complete. In fact, many treatment facilities are left off the list and it is unclear how often the database is updated or what other resources are available as a clearinghouse.

The continued loss of lives from addiction makes it clear that we must do a better job connecting up those who are looking for help with the people and places that can provide the services they’re looking for. Maybe Google and SAMHSA could start to work together on such a massive project, and learn a thing or two from these local researchers.

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.