Category Archives: Drug News

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.

alcohol consumption in young men

Alcohol Consumption in Young Men Heightens Risk of Liver Disease

The results of a published study confirm that when young men drink alcohol, they are putting themselves at a higher level of risk for severe liver disease over time. This risk factor depends on the number of servings the young men consume and affects them for up to 39 years, researchers have found.

Hannes Hagström, MD, PhD, from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, explained that the precise amount necessary to damage the liver is not clear. Several factors determine alcohol’s influence on an individual’s liver, such as:

• Genetics
• Drinking patterns
• Type of alcohol ingested
• Diet

Multiple Risk Factors for Alcoholism

Dr. Hagström went on to say that the new study suggests that the risks associated with alcohol consumption are already present early in life. It’s likely that the risk increases the longer a man is exposed to alcohol, and that someone with a history of long-term alcohol use is at higher risk for developing severe liver disease.

The researchers looked at data from a 1969-1970 Swedish national population study. All the 49,321 participants (men aged 18-20 years) had been enlisted for conscription, and 43,296 were available to answer follow-up questions in 2009.

The participants filled out questionnaires about their alcohol consumption. The results were as follows:

• 43.2 percent reported 1-5 grams per day
• 4.6 percent reported more than 60 grams per day
• 6.1 percent abstained from consuming alcohol

In the US, a standard alcoholic beverage (5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of liquor) contains 14 grams of alcohol.

Study Participants Followed for Years

During a follow-up conducted over the next 39 years, 2,661 men received a formal alcohol abuse diagnosis. Of these men, 243 were later diagnosed with severe liver disease. The average time from the participants’ conscription to the first diagnosis of severe liver disease was 25.5 years.

Compared to men who didn’t drink alcohol, the risk for an alcohol abuse diagnosis increased moderately for men who reported 1-5 grams per day. It was highly elevated for men who reported a consumption rate of more than 60 grams per day.

The researchers admit that the study has limitations: drinking at a young age is only one part of a person’s lifetime pattern of alcohol use. It didn’t take the effect of binge drinking into account, for example.

This shows that even people who may not be considered addicts, alcoholics or even heavy users are still likely to cause considerable damage to themselves over time.

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.

injection treatment for opioid addiction

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.

post-surgical painkiller addiction

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.

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.

high sugar diet and opioid addiction

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.

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.