FDA Approves Non-Opioid Drug to Treat Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Lucemyra (lofexidine hydrochloride) to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms in adults. This drug may lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms; however, it may not prevent them.

Lucemyra is only approved for a treatment period of up to 14 days. The medication is not meant to be used as a treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). It’s one part of a long-term treatment plan for patients with OUD.

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone has been taking opioids over a period of time, he will develop a physical dependence on the drugs. This is to be expected, and doesn’t necessarily mean that a patient has become addicted to the medication. Withdrawal symptoms can occur in patients who have been using opioid pain medications as directed by their doctor and people with OUD.

These withdrawal symptoms include the following:

• Anxiety
• Cravings
• Diarrhea
• Difficulty sleeping
• Muscle aches
• Nausea
• Runny nose
• Sweating
• Vomiting

How Opioid Withdrawal is Typically Managed

For patients taking opioid pain medications as directed by a doctor, opioid withdrawal is typically managed by slowly tapering off the drug. This strategy is used to lessen the effects of withdrawal symptoms. Some patients are able to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms entirely.

In a patient with OUD, withdrawal is typically treated by substituting another opioid medication. In time, the dose is gradually reduced or the patient is switched to a maintenance therapy program. These medication-assisted therapy (MAT) treatments may use drugs like methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone. Medications may be prescribed to treat specific symptoms, such as aches and pains or stomach upsets.

About Lucemyra

Lucemyra is taken orally and works by reducing the release of the brain chemical norepinephrine. Its actions are believed to play a role in several opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Number of Addiction Recovery Programs Increasing on College Campuses

For many young people, experimenting with drugs and alcohol starts during their teen years. By the time some of them get to college, they have already developed an addiction and been to treatment. Some college campuses are responding to this need by offering specific programs for students in recovery, including sober housing.

A college education is considered part of finding one’s self as a young adult and a necessary step to prepare for certain career paths. For some students, it’s their first taste of freedom in an atmosphere where there are multiple opportunities to party and no one to stop them.

Alcohol Use and Binge Drinking Among College Students

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that approximately 60 percent of college students in the 18-22 age group had consumed alcohol in the previous month. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed had engaged in binge drinking during the same time.

Students living with an addiction or those who are currently in recovery may be reluctant to seek help from their school, even though college counseling centers do offer services for substance abuse. This topic is not one that is usually highlighted in information provided to prospective students and their parents.

Time to Provide Help for Students with Substance Abuse Problems

Recovery professionals feel that it’s time to move past the stigma against people living with addiction, along with the perception that hard partying is simply part of going away to college. Providing help for the students who need it can make a difference between moving on to living well and having life cut tragically short.

College recovery programs vary in philosophy, size and staffing levels. Many of them have specific requirements for how long a student must be clean before enrolling; some of them will make exceptions for students who stay clean once enrolled.

Rutgers University, Penn State and Slippery Rock University are among the schools offering recovery housing to students. The University of Pittsburgh and Temple University are considering implementing the idea.

DEA Suspends Louisiana Pharmacy Distributor Over Suspicious Orders

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it has issued and served a Suspension Order on Morris & Dickson Company. The wholesale pharmaceutical distributor is situated in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The DEA alleges that the distributor failed to identify “large suspicious orders for controlled substances.” These substances were sold to independent pharmacies that the DEA says had questionable need for the drugs.

Hydrocodone and Oxycodone Purchases

The investigation centered on purchases of hydrocodone and oxycodone. It revealed that in some instances, the pharmacies were allowed to buy six times as much as a normal order. Regulations are in place requiring distributors to identify orders which are out of the norm; the DEA is alleging that Morris & Dickson Company failed to identify these large orders. As a result, millions of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were distributed, in violation of existing law.

DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson stated that pharmaceutical distributors have an obligation to make sure that all controlled substances being ordered are for legitimate purposes. Distributors have a duty to “identify, recognize and report” any suspicious orders to the DEA.

Company Failed to File Suspicious Order Reports

The DEA became aware of the high-volume orders involved in this investigation in October, 2017. The Agency’s records revealed that the company hadn’t filed any suspicious order reports on any of the pharmacies placing the large orders. On review, the purchases made weren’t in line with the pharmaceutical market:

• Independent retail pharmacies were buying more of the drugs than the largest chain pharmacies in the state.
• The pharmacies were buying more narcotics than several of the largest pharmacies in a single zip code.

The DEA states that more than four million people in the US are addicted to prescription pain medications. This figure includes 250,000 adolescents. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing deaths from motor vehicles accidents or deaths due to firearms.

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medically supervised detox

The Importance of Medically Supervised Detox

The Importance of Medically Supervised Detox

When an addiction sufferer realizes they have a drug or alcohol problem, the decision to stop using is a tremendous first step. However, for a number of reasons sufferers may choose to attempt the detoxification process by themselves.

Drug or alcohol addicts may be ashamed of their use, afraid to share their addiction, or simply may not know where to turn. Unfortunately going through detoxification alone may be more detrimental to the long-term health of the sufferer than not coming clean in the first place.

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importance medically supervised detox

Physical Withdrawal from Drugs or Alcohol

The sickness and physical pain caused by withdrawal symptoms often get the better of those attempting to self-detox. The body has become accustomed to functioning with the addictive substance. Organs and the brain have figured out ways to accommodate and flush toxic chemicals from the body.

But, once the addictive substance has been removed, the body doesn’t adjust as quickly. This results in unpleasant physical side effects including:

  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Stomach Pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheaded

In the most severe cases, seizures, heart palpitations, and other life-threatening conditions can occur. The possibility of withdrawal resulting in permanent health issues or even death should be reason enough to see medically supervised detox.

With medical supervision and intervention, physicians may be able to introduce medications which can assist in reducing physical symptoms. Fear of replacing one drug with another should be eased. Medically supervised detox can require daily or even weekly supervision. Thus reducing the unlikely development of a secondary addiction.

Mental Obstacles in Detox from Drugs

Patients seeking to detox should not only seek out medical solutions but, mental and therapeutic support. While the physical discomfort of withdrawal can be severe, in some instances the mental anguish associated with withdrawal can become too much to bear for some individuals.

During the detox process, suffers can experience mental symptoms including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Sleeplessness
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Intense desire to use again

Detoxifying can be a psychologically taking ordeal. Having access to the proper level of both medical and mental therapeutic support significantly increase the chances for success.

The Benefits of Medically Supervised Detox

The detox process is similar to other medical treatments. First, the addiction is identified and evaluated. Once understood, the proper treatment plan can be put in place. Finally, and perhaps most important, follow up treatment and assessments help ensure a successful recovery.

Medically supervised detox provides the same benefits as other treatments, such as physical therapy or surgery including:

  • Professional medical and therapeutic staff
  • Clean, safe, and supportive environments
  • Expert symptom relief

Physicians and nurses specially trained in addiction-related treatments can alleviate withdrawal symptoms. They also know when to intervene in an emergency or when to change course if outcomes are not meeting expectations.

Rehabilitation and recovery centers provide a safe environment for sufferers. Surrounded by knowledgeable staff at all levels, comfort and privacy are provided for even the most vulnerable moments of the detox process.

What to Expect During Detox

One of the first questions asked is how long an average detox program can last. There are several factors which determine how long addiction sufferers may spend in a program:

  • Frequency of use
  • Underlying medical conditions
  • Use of single or multiple substances
  • How long drugs or alcohol have been abused

Typical stays last from a few days to a couple weeks. Keep in mind this is only the inpatient treatment portion of the program. Participants will be expected to make regular physician visits and are encouraged to commit to therapy sessions or support groups.

During the time at the rehabilitation center, expect to be surrounded by around the clock care from doctors, nurses, and therapists. Upon entering the center, physicians will establish a medical baseline of health and uncover any medical conditions you may have.

With around the clock monitoring, vitals are checked on a regular basis. As much rest as needed is provided. Each day medications are adjusted appropriately to assist in the detox process. Ultimately the goal is to get addicted suffers back to being themselves as soon as possible.

After Detox

In most instances, it is recommended clients seek continued monitoring. In addition to returning home with the support of friends and family, after detox treatment programs greatly reduce the chance of relapse.

As supportive as friends and family may be, trained professionals can help with unique physical and mental after-effects addiction sufferers may experience. The support in treatment programs provides a source of comfort while adjusting to sober living.

The importance of medical supervision during the detox process cannot be stressed enough. Medically supervised detox is the safest and best step anyone can take to rescue their life from addiction.  If you or someone you know requires detox, there are many organizations including Desert Cove Recovery who can provide the best possible detox options.

Special Recovery Schools Help Teens Stay Clean

Young people often seem to be at a disadvantage when trying to get off drugs. Less than half of addiction treatment centers in the US will accept teens, and not all of those actually offer programs specifically geared toward clients in this age group.

After a teen completes a course of treatment, there is typically little in the way of structured support. When they return to school, they are faced with offers to start using again from their friends.

When Students Hold Each Other Accountable

Recovery schools, like Hope Academy in Indianapolis, are places where all learners have something in common. These tuition-free schools create an environment where the students hold each other accountable.

The opioid epidemic has affected adults in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s for the most part, but teens haven’t been immune, thoug. Every day, 1,100 young people in this age group start misusing pain medications. Additionally, overdose rates continue rising for teens as well.

Researchers still have work do to get the full story about the effects of opioids on young brains. However, it is known that starting at an early age is one of the risk factors for addiction, as the majority of adults in treatment for a substance abuse problem say they were teens the first time they started using.

The research does show that adolescents in recovery do better in special schools that rely on peer communities to support students’ sobriety. Currently, there are about 36 schools of this type in the US. Interest in them is growing among educators and health officials due to the opioid crisis.

Drug Tests and Recovery Coaches Part of the Plan

Random drug tests are conducted on students at recovery schools. If they test positive for a substance, they attend a meeting with a recovery coach. During the session, the recovery coach uses tools such as motivational interviewing to ask open-ended questions and reflective listening to discuss the situation and get the students to think for themselves. These young people are not used to having someone say to them, “What do you think you should do next?”

There are times where residential treatment centers simply aren’t appropriate for teens who are abusin drugs, but they still need a change of environment. Resources like recovery schools help provide necessary interventions while being able to keep progressing socially in a supportive educational environment.

reinventing yourself after rehab

Reinventing Yourself After Rehab

A New You: Reinventing Yourself After Rehab

Rehab is only the first step in recovering from drug addiction. Once you get back to your regular routine, you must dodge triggers, learn to cope with stress in a healthy way and continue to avoid falling back into your old habits. One of the best ways to achieve this is to recreate your life. Reinventing yourself after rehab can be a daunting task. Using small steps to change your mindset and behaviors is the key to a sustained recovery.

Why Reinventing Yourself After Rehab Is Important

To understand the importance of reinventing yourself after rehab, it’s vital to understand how the nervous system helps you process experiences. Every time you do something new, your body has to develop the neural pathways to process the information. This is comparable to establishing a new hiking trail in the woods.

The first time you carve out the trail, it feels hard. You have to knock down branches and cut through shrubbery. When you do something new, it can feel challenging as your body creates a pathway for the experience.

reinvention after rehab

As you continue to walk down the hiking trail, the journey becomes easier. The path becomes more defined, and traveling along it keeps new growth from forming on the same route.

Your behaviors and activities in life are like this too. When you perform a certain routine often, the neural pathways that are used to process that task develop more layers of insulation. This helps the signals travel more quickly and smoothly within your body and brain.

Eventually, the new actions feel like habit. Getting there may not be easy, but your new life will feel more streamlined with practice.

When you enter rehab, your substance abuse behaviors feel like the norm. Although they’re not beneficial or healthy, they feel comfortable. It takes some effort to cut those pathways and establish new ones when you return to your regular life.

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A Different Mindset

Don’t underestimate the power of the mind for long-term sobriety. Most people engage in some level of negative self-talk, which can prevent them from doing what they know is best for them.

Awareness is the first step in recreating your mindset. Noticing thoughts that are detrimental to your recovery allows you to change them. Perhaps you tell yourself that you don’t deserve to heal or you’re too weak to stay sober.

Those beliefs are not true. Once you recognize them, you can develop positive mantras to repeat to yourself every time you fall back into your destructive thought processes.

Meditation or prayer can help you become more present and allow harmful beliefs to dissipate instead of making you feel emotional. Establishing a mindfulness routine allows you to live a healthy life without having impulsive reactions to stress.

Establishing New Behaviors

When you’re in rehab, you eliminate harmful substances from your life. You might also remove the stressors of maintaining a household and holding down a job. You may even disengage from your social group. Cutting these things out of your life can help you get away from the patterns that led to your addiction.

When you leave, you must replace the toxic aspects of your life with constructive ones. This may involve finding a new job, creating a new social circle or moving to a new place. These are major life changes that can be challenging.

A high-quality rehab sets you up to establish a new lifestyle. Your peers at a rehabilitation facility understand what you’re going through. Making connections there can help you surround yourself with positive people when you leave.

A transitional living program gives you a chance to test the waters before moving away from rehab completely. You might try going about your regular activities, like attending school or running errands, while returning to a safe harbor at the end of the day.

Ongoing support groups can also keep you focused on reinvention. Regularly appearing at meetings helps you feel like you’re not alone and provides resources for instituting new patterns in your life.

Reinventing yourself after rehab is a creative process that never ends. It is part of the journey of life and contributes to continual growth. If you don’t replace your old, negative habits with positive action, you may end up feeling unfulfilled and resentful.

When your lifestyle used to be pervaded by drugs, your reinvented existence must be characterized by purpose. Getting professional help can empower you to develop a strategy for the future, explore your passions and cultivate new rituals that bring meaning to your life.

 

 

length of opioid prescription

Length of Opioid Prescriptions and Opioid Addiction

Length of Opioid Prescriptions and Opioid Addiction

Every day, people who were only seeking a little pain relief unwittingly become addicted to opioids.

Most get prescriptions from their doctors following surgery or an injury. Many seek relief for ongoing back pain. Some borrow pills from friends just to take the edge off after a stressful day at work. None ever plan on getting hooked.

In 2016, 66% of all fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. involved an opioid. What was only an area of concern in the late ‘90s is now a full-blown crisis.

If you’re worried about your opioid habit, you may have reached out to us just in time. Keep reading to find out how your lawmakers and the professional caregivers at Desert Cove Recovery can help you.

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Limiting the Length of Opioid Prescription

In an effort to stop this epidemic, mental health experts and politicians want to limit the number of doses that patients can get at one time. Several states have passed laws on prescription lengths. The CVS pharmacy chain recently announced that it will only dispense seven days’ worth of opioids at a time.

The idea behind shorter prescriptions is to take unnecessary pills out of circulation. Limiting doses will result in less potential for abuse. Even people who use painkillers responsibly fail to properly dispose of the extras; stockpiles in home medicine cabinets are tempting.

Finding the magic number is no easy task. In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the recommended length of opioid prescription is three to seven days. Some experts challenge those numbers, pointing out that they are far too conservative for major surgeries like hysterectomies. They also argue that unreasonably short prescriptions will only prompt patients to get refills.

There’s no easy fix, but the opioid addiction crisis has everyone’s attention. That’s a good thing.

Understanding Opioid Addiction

Prescription opioids are closely related to morphine, codeine and heroin. Commonly used opioids include methadone, hydrocodone and fentanyl. One of the most frequently prescribed remedies, oxycodone, is twice as powerful as morphine.

Synthetic opioids attach to receptors in the brain so that your perception of pain is altered. If you have a legitimate need for them on a short-term basis, they’re a godsend. However, they have great potential for becoming addictive. 

Synthetic Opioids are Addictive

Dopamine is a natural feel-good chemical that gives you a warm sense of pleasure and reward when you’re enjoying yourself. In mentally healthy people, it’s always at just the right dose.

In addition to relieving pain, opioids signal your brain to increase production of dopamine. The excess might result in a rush of intense euphoria. There’s a severe letdown when the sensation wears off.

People become addicted to opioids when they try to duplicate that initial high by increasing the dose or combining pills with other drugs like alcohol. The body quickly builds tolerance, and the vicious cycle of addiction begins.

That’s why lawmakers are so concerned about doctors over-prescribing painkillers. The practice results in millions of loose pills being abused or falling into the wrong hands.

Are You Addicted?

You may have an opioid addiction if you’ve experienced even one of these symptoms:

  • Taking opioids after your pain has subsided
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Taking opioids that aren’t prescribed to you
  • Trying without success to stop
  • Using opioids recreationally
  • Combining opioids with other substances
  • Craving opioids when you’re not using them
  • Lying about opioid use
  • Becoming defensive when friends or family members express concern
  • Sleeping during waking hours
  • Experiencing irritability, mood swings or depression

Your chances of becoming addicted are significantly higher if you have a mental problem such as depression, anxiety or eating disorder. You’re also at greater risk if anyone in your family struggles with substance abuse. Traumatic events in your past, like divorce, domestic violence or rape, will also make you more susceptible to opioid addiction.

Getting Help for Addiction

Substance abuse can start with one bad decision, but after that, the painkillers take over. Like other drugs, they teach your brain to crave them.

Drug addiction is a chronic disease with no cure, but it can be managed just like asthma or diabetes can. Just as people become addicted every day, people start to recover every day.

Choosing Desert Cove Recovery for Help With Opioid Addiction

Our caregivers at Desert Cove Recovery have years of experience with people just like you. Our comprehensive treatment plans utilize time-tested approaches that help recovering addicts stay clean for good:

  • The 12-step model
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Group meetings
  • Holistic approaches such as prayer, meditation, yoga, art, music or massage
  • Exercise classes and outdoor activities
  • Nutritional instruction

With professional help, you can break free from the grip of opiate addiction. Call Desert Cove Recovery today to speak with a caring counselor. We’ll tailor a unique treatment plan that’s just right for you.

 

 

myths of opioid addiction

Myths of Opioid Addiction 

Myths of Opioid Addiction 

The news is bleak and the numbers are staggering. Opioid use in the United States has been on a sharp incline over the past two decades. The number of fatalities, however, how increased at an exponential rate since the late 1990’s. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of overdose fatalities has:

  • Increased five-fold since 1999
  • Doubled since 2010
  • Soared by 25% since last year

And there seems to be no end in sight. The deaths from opioid use have reached and remain at record levels throughout much of the nation.

These are devastating blows to communities where addiction has reached epidemic levels. Closer to home, addiction can be shattering to both the individual and their family. Although the causes of the increased use to opioids are many, myths of opioid addiction can exasperate efforts to make progress on the issue. Here are just three myths and rumors not only causing hysteria, but barriers to real solutions. 

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3 myths of opioid addiction

Myth #1: Opioid Addicts Can Detox On Their Own

Detox, short for detoxification, is the process of a drug user or alcoholic allowing the body to naturally cleanse itself. On the surface, this method may appear to be a leading solution for an opioid addict. However, “detox” is only part of the process of breaking an opioid addiction.

Similar to other addictions, supplementing the natural detoxification process with FDA-approved medications, medical assistance, and counseling dramatically increase success rates. One key component is implementing behavioral health management.

Breaking addictions is a two-pronged process. On one side, the body must be prepared and properly nourished for the physical toll which accompanies detoxification. On the other, mental fortitude is necessary to endure psychological effects individuals will experience. For both, self-detoxification not only can be ineffective, it may put an addict into a worse state than before.

Myth #2: Opioids Are the Most Effective Chronic Pain Drug

This may be perhaps one of the most common myths of opioid addiction. With the sheer number of opioid prescriptions written each year, one would believe this is indeed true. But it’s not. There have been studies which have shown opioids perhaps could be the worst drugs available for chronic pain.

Working as well as other drugs, opioids have a unique quality. They can actually increase an individual’s tolerance to pain over time. As the pain tolerance rises, so too are the potential negative effects of opioid use including addiction, cardiac arrest, and other threatening outcomes.

There are many less expensive but just as effective non-opioid medications on the market today. From ibuprofen and acetaminophen to lidocaine and capsaicin, patients should have discussions with their physician about alternatives. 

And beyond pills, chronic pain sufferers should explore other options, with the guidance of licensed providers. For example, simple steps such as increased exercise and a healthy diet can go a long way to reducing pain symptoms. Alternative treatments may also be effective. Spinal manipulation, acupuncture, and electric stimulation therapy are methods gaining attention in not only managing but reducing chronic pain.

Myth #3: Some is Good, More is Better

We’ve all heard the saying “less is more.” Debates go on as to how true this statement may be in our daily lives. But when it comes to opioid use, more almost never is better.

Physicians are still learning how the human body regulates pain. There are a number of receptors involved and only a few of them react to opiates. When a low to moderate dose of opioid is effective, higher doses will likely provide no further improvement. This is because as the opioid dosage increases, the body’s ability to use them doesn’t change. The result is the body is left with an overage of the drug which the body must work overtime to flush out while increasing the body’s resistance.

Often it is a better course of action to supplement the effective low to moderate opioid dose with a different type of medication. Two together may work better than either one alone, without the negative side effects. Of course, always discuss with your doctor or pharmacist about taking more than one medication at one time. This includes seemingly innocuous medicines such as cough syrups and common over the counter medications. 

Understand the Signs of Opioid Addiction

As a close family member, it would be easy to believe you would know if a loved one was addicted to opioids. But for a handful of reasons this often is not the case.

Opioid addicts will attempt to hide their addiction from family and friends. Unlike other addictions, opioid users do not have as many telltale signs of addictions. Usually only in the most severe cases will physical and behavioral changes become apparent.

However, one area which may raise a red flag are changes in social behavior. When abusing drugs, users will cut themselves off from social media, avoid phone calls, and not respond to texts. Small talk may become almost non-existent. And interest in others can disappear.

If you suspect someone you care about may have a problem, let them know not only their friends and family are there for them, but specially trained experts. The community supporting those breaking opioid addiction is growing. By eliminating the myths of opioid addiction and showing the way to recovery, we can help to reduce the effects of the opioid crisis.

 

 

Med Conference: Buprenorphine Effective for Addiction Treatment

Attendees at a presentation during Hospital Medicine 2018 learned that the drug buprenorphine is appropriate to prescribe for hospitalized patients with opioid use disorders. The same medication is also effective for treating the acute pain experienced by patients being treated using buprenorphine.

Significant Increase in Drug Overdose Deaths

Dr. Anika Alvanzo, from John Hopkins Medicine, made a presentation at the conference. She referred to the significant increase in drug overdose deaths over the past 20 years. The number of fatalities jumped from three percent per year between 2006-2014 and 18 percent per year in the years 2014-2016. Dr. Alvanzo said that a large number of these deaths can be linked to increased use of synthetic opioids.

Types of Prescription Pain Medications

While some people refer to opioids to describe all types of prescription pain medications, they differ in the way they are made.

• Opiates are natural pain medications that are derived from opium. The opium is extracted from the opium poppy and is used to make medications such as morphine and codeine.
• Synthetic opioids are manufactured by humans and include methadone and fentanyl.
• Semi-synthetic opioids are a hybrid made from making chemical modifications to opiates. Drugs in this category include oxycodone, hydromorphone and buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine Availability a Bridge to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders

Dr. Alvanzo stated during her presentation that there are currently three medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opioid use disorder: buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone. She went on to say that when buprenorphine is prescribed to patients on discharge from hospital, it “significantly increases” the likelihood that the patient will seek professional treatment. Approximately 75 percent of patients were in treatment one month after discharge.

The doctor urged her colleagues attending Hospital Medicine 2018 to consider getting their buprenorphine certification so that they can order the drug within the hospital and at discharge for patients. She referred to buprenorphine availability as a “bridge to treatment” for opioid use disorders patients.

Bacterial Infection Hidden Epidemic, Taking Lives in Opioid Crisis

The current opioid crisis is responsible for producing a new epidemic among teens and young adults. It’s a potentially-fatal bacterial heart infection called endocarditis.

This condition is most commonly seen in older adults. Now doctors are seeing it in much younger patients more often due to opioid drug use.

What is Endocarditis and How is is Related to Opioid Abuse?

Endocarditis is a bacterial infection of the inner lining of the heart chamber and its valves. The condition occurs when bacteria are enter the body, then are spread through the bloodstream until they attach themselves to damaged parts of the heart. It is spreading through the use of shared needles by IV drug drug users.

The clump of bacteria grows over time, and the infection can be life-threatening if it isn’t treated, according to Dr. Sarah Wakeman, the Medical Director of the Substance Use Disorder Initiative and the Addiction Consult Team at Massachusetts General Hospital.

How Infection is Spread

In a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital setting, a health care worker will swab a patient’s skin with a disinfectant to kill bacteria before administering an injection. The purpose of this step is to avoid pushing bacteria from the skin into the body with the needle. Opioid drug users who are using needles may not be taking this step, which has led to the increase in endocarditis cases.

Endocarditis Treatment Not Enough for Opioid Use Disorder Patients

Endocarditis can be treated using intravenous antibiotics over a long time. If the damage to the heart valves is severe, surgery may be recommended to replace them.

If the patient is also injecting opioids, such as heroin, treating the infection is only treating half of the problem. The opioid use disorder is still present, and the patient will go right back to using once if he doesn’t get appropriate help for the addiction.

According to a 2016 Tufts University study, hospital admissions for endocarditis due to injectable drug use increased from 3,578 in 2000 to 8,530 in 2013. The study also found that a large number of these cases involved young people aged 15-24.