Tag Archives: addition research

Improving Opiate Prescribing Practices Among Veterans

Successfully treating physical pain while still protecting patients from becoming addicted to the drugs has been something that medical professionals have struggled with for quite some time now. It is often up to the prescriber to assess whether or not the patient is being truthful about their symptoms, and if there are any viable alternatives to opioids. This has proven to be difficult, as there is very little in the way of screening and decisions are often based on what the patient is reporting.

Although addition does not discriminate, and anyone can become dependent on a substance, certain populations tend to be more prone to dependency due to their exposure. Our nation’s veterans tend to be especially at risk of developing a dependence on prescription painkillers. Veterans often present to VA hospitals with physical and emotional trauma, requiring medication for bodily pain while also being at risk of self-medication for PTSD, depression or anxiety. Because of this high risk population, a concerted effort was taken to reduce the number of painkillers prescribed to veterans while still providing them with the care they need.

The Opioid Safety Initiative was a program that started in 2013 with the aim of improving prescribing practices and creating a safer medical environment for veterans. As part of the initiative, a monitoring tool was developed that connects VA physicians and VA clinic heads of departments, allowing people to view the different prescribing practices throughout the country. Viewers can see various alternatives and step-down methods used by VA doctors to help avoid dependency.

According to the research, the tool is effective at helping to change prescribing practices. After the development and implementation of the monitoring tool in 2013, heavy painkiller prescriptions have reduced by 16%. The study appears in the journal Pain and was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and Yale University.

“These results highlight the importance of addressing provider behaviors in our efforts to address the opioid epidemic, and the need for large health systems to develop and implement systematic approaches that are flexible enough to allow clinicians to make individual decisions while still reducing the overall prevalence of potentially risky prescribing,” explained Mark Ilgen, Ph.D. and senior author of the study.

Researchers are also hopeful that this VA experiment can translate into the broader population, further reducing large and heavy doses for prescription painkillers and their subsequent effects.

Award-Winning Student Science Project Examines Stress and Addiction

addictionsciencefairAlthough stressful situations in life have been understood as being triggers for substance use disorders, a recent analysis of adolescents conducted by a student found that even negative attitudes about stress can create vulnerability to addiction. Kashfia Rahman, a 15-year old high school student, conducted the research, which was presented at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. It is the world’s largest science competition for high school students.

Rahman’s study, titled Making the Mind Matter, was awarded the Addition Science Award for 2016. The subtitle for the project was Stress Mindset Effects on Sleep Quality, Stress Response, Emotion and Cognition in the Developing Adolescent Brain and the Role of the Prefrontal-Amygdala Circut. She found that there was a direct correlation between a negative outlook on stress and a physical stress response that negatively impacts sleep quality, emotion and cognition. These symptoms create a situation where the adolescents are then more prone to substance abuse and addiction.

“This novel project shows us how a teen’s approach to handling stress can impact addiction vulnerability, particularly in the developing brain,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “Ms. Rahman’s work may ultimately help scientists develop new and innovative programs to prevent substance use.”

The awards were presented at the Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona, and were coordinated by multiple organizations, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Ms. Rahman was also a third-place winner last year. It is nice to see science fairs cultivating interest and ingenuity and also encouraging research in fields such as addiction. Hopefully the information found in Ms. Rahman’s study can be used to emphasize other social programs in schools to help not just reduce stress, but also to positively impact thoughts about stress so that less young people become susceptible to addiction.