Category Archives: Drug News

genetic test for opioid addiction

Genetic Test for Opioid Addiction Could Soon be a Reality

If you could order a genetic test that could tell you whether you were at risk for opioid abuse later in life, would you take it? What factors are considered in this genetic test for opioid addiction? The test would be something like the one available from companies currently offering health predisposition information along with DNA testing. Instead of indicating whether someone has a higher-than-average risk of developing heart disease, the proposed test would tell who is at risk for opioid addiction.

A New Jersey research institute is working with leaders in the medical community, scientists and academics to unravel the genetic code as it pertains to opioid dependency. 
genetic test for opioid addiction

Team Investigates Factors Contributing to Opioid Abuse

The Coriell Institute for Medical Research, Rowan University’s Cooper Medical School and Cooper University Health Care have come together to launch the Camden Opioid Research Initiative (CORI). This team will investigate “genetic and biological factors that contribute to opioid abuse.”

One key part of the study will involve collecting and testing tissue samples from people who have lost their lives from an opioid overdose. The researchers will also be studying people currently in treatment for opioid addiction, along with patients who are receiving prescription opioids for chronic pain treatment but have not become addicted. The findings from the two groups will be compared.

Stefan Zajic, the principal scientist and scientific lead for CORI, explained that the dream for scientists would be to have access to a profile or algorithm that would provide doctors and patients with information about genetic factors that may influence their susceptibility to opioid addiction.

Genetic Test Could Influence Future Prescribing Habits

If a genetic test for opioid addiction were available to indicate to healthcare providers which patients are at higher risk for opioid addiction, a doctor could take that factor into consideration when making decisions about which medications to prescribe. The doctor may choose to prescribe a non-opioid, adjust the dose if he or she decides to prescribe an opioid medication or prescribe a smaller number of pills so that the patient can be monitored more closely for follow-up.

The research team will work with the medical examiner’s office to establish a biobank of the tissue samples (with the respective families’ permission). Zajic believes it will be the first one of its kind in the country. The tissue samples will be made available to researchers in the field of opioid abuse going forward.

Young Adults at Risk for Addiction Show Variation in Key Brain Region

Young Adults at Risk for Addiction Show Variation in Key Brain Region

An international team led by researchers at the University of Cambridge have discovered that young adults who are at risk for addiction show distinct differences in an important region of the brain. The study adds more credence to the idea that a person’s biological makeup is an important factor in determining if they will develop an addiction during their lifetime.

The years during adolescence and young adulthood figure prominently in a person’s development. During these years, someone may start to demonstrate behaviors associated with addiction. These behaviors suggest that people in this age group may be at risk for addiction and substance abuse.

Impulsivity Associated with Addiction Risk

Impulsivity is one of the behaviors associated with the risk of addiction. There are times when a person needs to make decisions quickly, such as when there is a danger and they must take action to avoid an immediate threat. At other times, it’s a better idea to stop and think carefully before taking any action. Impulsivity is acting without considering the consequences of one’s actions.

Most people do act impulsively on occasion, and it’s not uncommon. However, people who are living with disorders such as substance abuse, behavioral addictions, anxiety, depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience higher levels of impulsivity.

99 Young People Participated in Study

In a study recently published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers from Cambridge University’s Department of Psychiatry and Denmark’s Aarhus University found a “strong association” between increased impulsivity in young adults and certain abnormalities in nerve cells located in the putamen. This part of the brain has already been identified as a key region connected with addictive disorders.

Ninety-nine young people between the ages of 16-26 completed a computer-based measure of impulsivity as part of the study. The researchers scanned the participants’ brains with a sequence that can identify myelin content.

Myelin Levels Related to Impulsivity

Myelin is a protein-rich covering that coats a nerve cell. It works in the same manner as the plastic coating that is placed around electric wiring and is needed for rapid nerve conduction between the body and the brain.

The researchers found that people who demonstrated higher levels of impulsivity also had lower levels of myelin in the putamen. This conclusion builds on previous studies conducted with rodents at Cambridge University and at other locations.

Dr. Camilla Nord, of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, the lead author of the study, said that people who show a heightened level of impulsivity are also more likely to experience a number of mental health issues, which include substance abuse, eating disorders, behavioral addictions, and ADHD. Dr. Nord went on to explain that this suggests impulsivity is an endophenotype. This is defined as “ a set of behavioural and brain changes that increases people’s general risk for developing a group of psychiatric and neurological disorders.”

Long-acting Buprenorphine Injections Effective Opioid Addiction Treatment

Long-acting Buprenorphine Injections Effective Opioid Addiction Treatment

A monthly injection of buprenorphine BUP-XR is more effective than a placebo for treating opioid addiction, according to the results of a new study. This formulation is the extended release version.

A daily dose version of buprenorphine was approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) in 2002. It has been an effective treatment for opioid use disorder. Daily doses mean patients must commit to taking it each day; they may start to experience cravings for opioids once they get close to the end of the 24-hour cycle when they can take more medication.

Medication Assisted Therapy and Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Buprenorphine and methadone are both used in MAT (Medication Assisted Therapy) to treat opioid addiction. These medications are used in combination with behavioral counseling as part of a “whole patient” approach. The medications are used to control cravings and clients work with a counselor to develop new ways of thinking and responding to life stresses.

Extended Release Buprenorphine Called Sublocade

The extended-release version of buprenorphine was approved by the FDA in November 2017, which is being marketed under the brand name Sublocade. Approval was based on positive results in a Phase III human subjects study. The study has been published in The Lancet to make it available to the wider scientific community.

Double-Blind Study Conducted

Researchers divided 200 participants in the randomized, double-blind study into three groups. All of them had a mean duration of opioid use of between 11 and 12 years. Two of the groups were given different monthly doses of BUP-XR and one was given a placebo.

Both groups who were given BUP-XR reported “substantial portions of participants” abstaining from opioids. They also experienced relief from opioid withdrawal symptoms and control from cravings for opioids without having to take medication on a daily basis.

breakthrough in measuring pain may help to reduce opioid crisis

Breakthrough in Measuring Pain May Help Reduce Opioid Crisis

Breakthrough in Measuring Pain May Help Reduce Opioid CrisisResearchers at Indiana University’s School of Medicine have developed a blood test that identifies biomarkers in the blood which can help to determine the severity of a patient’s pain. The results could potentially help doctors to accurately measure pain on a scale. Some people believe this breakthrough in measuring pain may help reduce opioid addiction and ultimately the opioid crisis.

Currently, doctors must rely on their patients’ accounts of the amount of pain they are experiencing and suggest a treatment plan accordingly. A more accurate way to measure pain could lead to better treatment options for patients.

Breakthrough in Measuring Pain: Researchers Developed Prototype for Blood Test for Pain

The study was led by Alexander Niculescu, MD, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor, and was published in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry. Hundreds of participants were tracked to find biomarkers in the blood to that can help doctors to objectively determine how much pain a patient is experiencing. This blood test, which is the first of its kind, would also help doctors to understand a patient’s long-term prognosis.

The blood test can objectively tell doctors whether a patient is experiencing pain and how severe the pain is. It’s important to have an objective way to measure this symptom since until now the feeling of pain has been subjective. Physicians have to rely on what patients tell them about their pain or whatever clinical observations they can make to determine their patients’ pain levels. This blood test promises to give doctors a tool to treat and prescribe medications more appropriately for people experiencing pain.

Biomarkers in Blood Help Doctors Assess Pain Levels

The researchers looked at biomarkers in the blood. These biomarkers work in a similar manner to the way glucose is a biomarker to diabetes; they let doctors assess the severity of their patient’s pain and then provide appropriate treatment. It’s hoped this prototype may alleviate the problems that have contributed to the current opioid crisis.

The goal of pain management is to match the patient with the medication that is going to provide the best level of relief with the fewest side effects. Dr. Niculescu points out that through precision health, by having “lots of options geared toward the needs of specific patients, you prevent larger problems, like the opioid epidemic, from occurring.”

The study experts on the team found biomarkers that match with non-addictive drugs for treating pain and can also help to predict when patients may experience pain going forward. They will assist doctors in determining if a patient is experiencing chronic pain which may result in future Emergency Room visits.

Further research will focus on establishing whether there are some markers for specific conditions, such as headaches or fibromyalgia, or for ones that work better for men or women.

Number of Donor Organs Carrying Hepatitis C Rising Due to Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic has triggered a hardship that most people likely haven’t thought of: A higher number of donated organs are infected with the hepatitis C virus.

Dr. Winston Abara, a hepatitis researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explains that as the number of drug overdose deaths and acute hepatitis infections increases, young people are most affected. These are the people who are most likely to be eligible organ donors.

Opioid Users Considered Increased Risk Donors

In the years 2010-2017, the number of organs obtained for transplant obtained from “increased risk” donors (people at risk of hepatitis due to drug abuse) tripled, according to the results of a new study published in the January 25 edition of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In 2010, approximately nine percent of donor organs came from people in this category. By 2017, that number had jumped to over 26 percent, according to Dr. Abara’s team.

The number of organs obtained from people who died as the result of “drug intoxication” tripled as well. They climbed from just over four percent in 2010 to over 13 percent by 2017, according to CDC researchers. Organ donor deaths linked to injected drugs like heroin increased fivefold during the same period.

This is concerning, since tainted needles are a prime source of infection with hepatitis C, which can lead to liver disease, a potentially fatal condition, over time. Due to advances in medical care, donor kidneys, along with livers and other organs can now be used for transplant and may save potentially save the lives of the thousands of people on waiting lists.

Medications Available to Treat Hep C in Transplant Recipients

Powerful new medications exist to rid the body of hepatitis C and render the transplant viable. The transplant recipient would be screened after receiving the donor organ. If a hepatitis C infection is diagnosed, the donor organ recipient is offered antiviral treatment.

Dr. David Bernstein, a liver specialist, stated that understanding whether an organ donor has a history of addiction is essential. He said that when that knowledge is available, organ recipients and their doctors can be notified and screened after transplant surgery.

Xanax, Valium Abuse Increasing, According to US Survey Data

Approximately 20 percent of people who take Xanax, Valium and other benzodiazepines (benzos) are not using them as directed by their doctor, according to the results of a US survey. The results also show that adults are using this potentially-addictive medication more than twice as often as previously reported.

Nearly 13 percent of those surveyed said they had used benzos within the past 12 months.Studies conducted in 2013-14 estimated that four-six percent of adults were taking them.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety and panic attacks, along with insomnia. Drugs in this class commonly produce a sedative effect in patients and can also cause weakness or unsteadiness.

Approximately 25.3 million adults stated they used benzodiazepines as prescribed by their doctor during the past year. The researchers said they were surprised to discover that middle-aged respondents (between ages 50-64) are taking benzodiazepines more often than any other age group. Just over 14 percent reported they had used this class of drugs during the previous year.

Another 5.3 million respondents said they had misused their medications. Misusing a prescription means using it in a way other than directed by a doctor, including taking a higher dose, taking it more often or longer than prescribed.

Benzodiazepine Misuse Common Among Young Adults

Lead researcher Dr. Donovan Maust commented that young adults in the 18-25 age group are most likely to misuse benzodiazepines. He is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Maust said that misuse for this type of drug is “as common as prescription use,” which he described as being disturbing.

Overdose Deaths due to Benzos “Snowballed” in Last 10 Years

These survey results, which were published in the journal Psychiatric Services, are similar to reports released earlier in 2018 which warned that overdose deaths related to benzodiazepines have snowballed over the past decade. The overdose rate coincides with a steady increase in prescription rates for this class of drugs.

Benzodiazepine-related overdoses increased sevenfold in the years 1999-2015, jumping from 1,135 to 8,791 deaths. These figures originally appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine (February 2018).

President Signs Bill to Curb Opioid Crisis

After declaring the US in the midst of a public health emergency in 2017 due to the opioid crisis, The President signed a bill into law that experts believe will help to curb the opioid crisis. The new legislation is called the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.

More Funding for Addiction Treatment

The new law provides funding to federal agencies and states so that they can provide increased access to addiction treatment. It also puts measures in place to help alleviate the crisis, such as:

• Preventing overprescribing
• Training law enforcement agencies to intercept drug shipments at US borders

The bill signing was the culmination of a 12-month effort by the legislative and executive branch to react to the opioid crisis. While lawmakers said the bill was a step in the right direction, although many of them said it didn’t go far enough to deal with the epidemic. Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey cautioned of ramifications of talk of reducing access to publicly-funded treatment programs.

Congress and the White House entered into discussions for making a plan for confronting the epidemic in October 2017. This was before several congressional hearings by the House and the Senate on the same subject.

Public health experts have spoken out in favor of the bill, since it increases access to treatment. They say this is a critical step to controlling the epidemic. One of the measures in the legislation removes an old measure that didn’t allow clients with substance abuse issues get treatment in mental health facilities with more than 16 beds under Medicaid.

Private Companies on Board with New Initiatives

The White House has also pointed to new initiatives from private companies:

• Amazon has programmed its Alexa voice service to answer consumers’ questions about opioids and addiction.
• Blue Cross Blue Shield, the major insurance provider, will establish a national toll-free phone number to help US residents locate drug and alcohol treatment centers.
• Biopharmaceutical company Emergent BioSolutions will offer free Narcan nasal sprayers at over 16,500 public libraries and 2,700 YMCAs. Narcan, when administered to someone experiencing an opioid overdose, can help reverse the condition.

Treatment Still the Main Focus

What this new law and other efforts do is to help continue to focus on the need for treatment at all levels. This current drug crisis won’t subside until there are enough people seeking and receiving quality treatment for their substance use disorders. Desert Cove Recovery is proud to be a leader in rehabilitation for people both in Arizona and from all over the country.

report on substance abuse, alcohol abuse

Report on Substance Use: Alcohol Holds No. 1 Spot

Reports about the opioid crisis and drugs fentanyl, carfentanil and heroin have dominated recent headlines. During the years 200-2016, the number of lives lost to opioids has more than quadrupled. Though opioids have taken up a lot of our collective attention during the first part of the twenty-first century, it would be a mistake to ignore another addictive substances that have had a negative impact on people’s lives: alcohol.

A new report released from the California Health Care Foundation looked at substance use disorders in California. It examined the impact of alcohol, opioid and other substance use over time. Although this particular report was specific to California, the figures are a fair representation for situations in Arizona and nationwide as well.

Key Findings from Substance Abuse Report

The report, entitled “Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment,” has several key findings, including:

  • Alcohol use disorder was the most common type of substance use disorder among California residents. Approximately six percent of Californians met the criteria for alcohol dependence. Three percent of state residents met the criteria for dependence on illicit drugs.
  • Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is likely to start during the adolescent years. By the time they reach Grade 11, over half of students in California have tried alcohol and close to 40 percent have tried marijuana.
  • Young adults (aged 18-25) were most likely to develop substance use disorders, with the likelihood close to twice the state average.
  • The number of Emergency Department visits related to heroin in California has tripled during the years between 2006-2017.
  • Alcohol was responsible for more nonfatal Emergency Department visits in California than all other drug diagnoses combined.

Substance Abuse Disorders Treatable

Substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder, can be treated and managed. Like other chronic illnesses, the risk of relapse is a real and ongoing one. Behavioral therapy helps people with substance use disorders change unhealthy coping mechanisms for new ways of dealing with destructive behaviors. Medications can be used to control cravings for opioids and alcohol and reduce the physical reward a user experiences when they are ingested.

Naltrexone is among the most common medications, which is used in many different forms. Vivitrol is an monthly injectable version of naltrexone that is often used to help fight cravings.

Marijuana Use, Alcohol Abuse Lead to Accelerated Brain Aging

The results of one of the largest brain imaging studies have found the largest drivers of brain aging. Marijuana use and alcohol abuse are among the top things that lead to brain aging. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) round out the top five factors that drive premature brain aging.

Substance Abuse Research Collaborative

brain agingThe study, which was conducted by researchers at Google, Amen Clinics, John’s Hopkins University, and the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco, looked at 62,454 brain scans of more than 30,000 people ranging in age from nine months to 105 years. Researchers examined “regional cerebral flow in the brain” and how it’s reduced when a person experiences different disorders.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a psychiatrist and the study’ lead author, stated that the marijuana abuse result was “especially important,’ since we are looking at it as being a harmless substance. He said that the study results should make people pause to think about that.

Marijuana abuse was found to age the brain by 2.8 years, according to the scientists. Alcohol abuse ages it by 0.6 years, ADHD ages it by 1.4 years and bipolar disorder causes the brain to age by 1.6 years. Schizophrenia makes the brain age by an additional four years.

The researchers looked at 128 regions of the brain to determine a patient’s chronological age. When brain scan age didn’t match the patient’s chronological age, the researchers determined accelerated aging had occurred.

Marijuana Causes Brain Aging

The Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas referred to a similar study that compared marijuana use to brain aging and development. It described how people who started using marijuana at the age of 16 (or younger) had different forms of brain development. When people waited until after the age of 16 to start using marijuana, the scientists found the opposite effect; they experienced accelerated brain aging.

Dr. Francesca Filbey from the Center for Brain Health stated that studies show that when someone starts using marijuana results in very different effects.

Deep Brain Stimulation May Treat Severe Alcohol Addiction in the Future

Despite all the attention that has been paid to the current opioid crisis, alcohol addiction hasn’t gone anywhere. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, rates of alcohol use disorder rose by just over 49 percent in the US population in the years 2001-2013. One in eight adults meets the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Mild Electrical Current Used

Researchers at Stanford University have found that deep brain stimulation (DBS) could be a possible treatment for even the most severe cases of alcoholism. The results of the study, which were published in the journal Neurosurgical Focus, involves sending a mild electrical current through the affected person’s brain.

How Body Responds to Alcohol

When alcohol is consumed, the brain naturally releases dopamine. This is the body’s “feel good” neurotransmitter, which is released during pleasurable activities, like watching a movie, eating a good meal, exercising or having sex. When the brain becomes overstimulated by drinking alcohol, it associates alcohol with pleasurable experiences.

If that person continues drinking regularly and consumes large amounts of alcohol, the brain becomes desensitized to the release of dopamine. Alcohol no longer provides the same level of enjoyment it once did. The person needs to drink more alcohol to feel pleasure from the experience. 

The Slide Toward Addiction

The slope toward addiction starts at the point when the brain compensates for alcohol’s depressant effects by increasing its glutamate function. Glutamates cause cells to increase their level of activity. In the case of someone with AUD, being around alcohol feels exciting and this feeling continues when alcohol is no longer present. He has to continue drinking to feel normal and less excited.

The longer someone has been drinking, the harder it is to stop. Regular, high-level consumption of alcohol rewires the brain and affects the decision-making process that tells an alcoholic not to drink.

Deep Brain Stimulation Technique for AUD

Deep brain stimulation is already being used to treat Parkinson’s Disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Scientists have also noticed that this type of therapy also reduced alcohol cravings in patients.

Dr. Casey Halpern, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University, stated that DBS is a minimally invasive form of brain surgery. When treating Parkinson’s, doctors place deep brain stimulators to restore normal functioning to dysfunctional parts of the brain. Patients improve right away when a small dose of current is applied to these areas. Dr. Halpern went on to say that a similar treatment should possibly be able to treat alcoholism.

This may sound like an extreme method of treating AUD. Researchers point out that DBS is one of the least invasive and safest procedures performed by neurosurgeons.

To date, DBS has not been approved as an AUD treatment by the US Food and Drug Administration. This status may change at a later date as more positive evidence is gathered by researchers.