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recognize opioid overdose

How to Recognize an Opioid Overdose

Recognizing an Overdose Early Can Save a Life

It is a sad but true fact that opiate addiction has been steadily on the rise since the early 2000s. This means that the rates of overdose have also been steadily climbing. In fact, the problem has become so widespread that law enforcement and medical professionals are labeling it an epidemic. Without the proper tools to recognize opioid overdose, a person abusing heroin or prescription pain meds can die or experience irreversible damage.

The World Health Organization estimates that at least 69,000 people across the globe die from opiate overdoses each year. To help curb this number, we believe it is important that everyone is educated about this class of drugs as well as the symptoms and how to help someone who may be experiencing an overdose. Continue reading to find out how opioids affect a person, how to recognize opioid overdose, and what steps to take to help save someone’s life. 

What is an Opioid?

Opioids are a category of painkillers that include well-known drugs such as heroin, morphine, OxyContin, Vicodin, methadone and tramadol. Due to the nature of these drugs, it is easy to become dependent on them if a person is not under careful medical supervision.

Most often, these types of drugs are given to people who have serious surgeries, significant injuries or chronic pain, but substances like heroin are most often introduced on the streets, sometimes when a person is unable to get more of their prescribed opioids.

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recognize opioid overdhose

How Do Opioids Affect a Person?

Opiates bind to certain receptors in the brain that help to block pain signals and make the user feel relaxed. When used in a managed setting, they are excellent tools for people who suffer from intense pain.

Issues arise when people take too much at once or begin to use the drugs as a way to escape from real life.

How to Recognize an Opioid Overdose

There are several telltale signs that a person is experiencing an opioid overdose.

Physical signs include:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Bluish tint around fingernails or lips
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Vomiting or painful constipation
  • Inability to be woken from sleep
  • Slow or irregular heartbeat
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Unusual paleness
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Confusion or drunken behavior

If you encounter someone with these symptoms, it is critical to contact emergency medical services right away because the person’s life is in immediate danger. Opiate overdoses can kill a person quickly, so every moment counts.

How to Help Someone Who Has Overdosed

Though you should immediately call 911 when you recognize an overdose, there are steps you can take to assist the person until help arrives.

If the person is unconscious, roll him or her to one side. This helps prevent people from choking if they vomit while unconscious. If the person is still conscious, do your best to keep the person talking to you and don’t let him or her fall asleep. Because these drugs slow breathing functions, allowing an overdosed person to fall asleep can lead to cessation of breathing.

Don’t leave the person alone if you can help it. A conscious person will be delirious and can easily get into a dangerous situation, and an unconscious person may stop breathing. If left unattended, you won’t be able to administer rescue breathing if necessary.

There is also a treatment for these overdoses called naloxone. This is something that emergency rooms have used for many years to help reverse these types of overdoses, especially heroin-related ones. Due to the dramatic increase in overdose deaths, however, it is now common for emergency medical personnel and even caregivers to carry naloxone with them.

Naloxone comes in nasal spray and injectable forms and can give the overdosed person up to an hour’s respite from overdose symptoms. This does not stop the overdose permanently, so it is still important to call emergency responders to give the person lifesaving medical treatment. In addition, following an overdose, the person will likely require some sort of opioid addiction treatment to ensure that they don’t use heroin or other opioids again once they have recovered from the overdose.

Encountering an opioid overdose can be a frightening experience, but learning how to recognize the signs and give assistance can save lives.

Drug Abuse Linked to Financial Problems

Unemployment can be a very unstable, scary time for people. Without the promise of work, many fall into a depression that is difficult to get out of. And now a new study shows that illicit drug use is also more common for people who are unemployed. Despite not having income, drugs are still being purchased and used at higher rates than people who have steady work.

A new study released by researchers in the Netherlands shows that they psychological stress of not having a job is more powerful than reduced or no income, and the stress is what causes people to seek out drugs and alcohol. The researchers focused on 17 different types of reports from several different countries. Ten of the reports were composed of information from the American workforce. After reviewing all the data, the team was surprised that the psychological factors were a more powerful motivator for drug use than lack of money was for deterring a person from using drugs. And in extreme cases where money was an issue, many users simply switched their drug of choice to a cheaper alternative, but still maintained their drug-using lifestyle.

“In our literature review, we were particularly interested in the mechanisms that explain the relationship between unemployment and illegal drug use. We found supportive evidence for one of the mechanisms that we hypothesized. It seems that unemployment increases psychological distress and that distress increases illegal drug use,” explained Dr. Gera Nagelhout, the lead author of the study that was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Nagelhout suggests that more funding and research focus on the psychological effects of unemployment so as to better help those who find themselves without employment. Forging a new path between unemployment and better mental health could be imperative in preventing these people from leading a life of drug use and addiction. As the country continues to struggle with ways to prevent the painkiller and opioid epidemic from claiming more lives, this is one area where more research and understanding is needed.

Rap Music Least Likely to Contain Drug References Compared to other Genres

rap music drugs

Credit: Addictions.com

A surprising study shows that rap music is actually the least likely of all genres to have lyrics containing references to drugs. This goes against what many had mistakenly assumed about this type of music and also sheds light on the drug reference content in other songs and formats. Researchers have discovered that country music actually contains more references to drugs and drug using than any other type of music.

However, the study shows that the lack of drug references in rap is a new phenomenon. After hitting a peak of drug-laden rhymes near the turn of the century, hip hop artists are now more likely to focus on other aspects of life.

“It’s incredibly telling if you look at music history, the 60s is when drugs started being mentioned more and more in the media. But there’s clearly some surprising new information here. We did this study to raise awareness about how drug references in music may interact with addiction, and to alert people in case they want to avoid hearing about drugs in their everyday music,” explained Logan Freedman, one of the researchers on the study.

In addition to researching the type of music that contains drug references, the researchers also wanted to pinpoint what artists tend to cite drugs in their music. They found that Tyga tops the list when it comes to mentioning ecstasy (72 references). Queens of The Stone Age comes in third, mostly due to their song, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” which has a repeating phrase of “Nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol”.

Marijuana is the most talked about drug in music, followed by cocaine, acid, pills, meth, heroin and ecstasy. What wasn’t studied was the impact that drug use in music can have on overall use. It appears that teenagers would be most susceptible to the influence, as they are in other life situations as well.

Cocaine Use by Fathers at Conception May Cause Learning Disabilities in Children

cocaine useThere has been extensive research regarding drug use by pregnant women and the effects on their children before and after birth. However, very little research has been conducted into possible links between a father’s drug use and the effects on the children. Recently, a research team at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania decided to take on the task of determining if there are any health repercussions for babies who were fathered by someone using cocaine at the time of conception.

It turns out that the researchers did find some interesting data regarding the possibility of negatively effecting the health of their children. Although initial research involved rats, the results implicated similar behavior in humans. The study authors found that male babies whose biological fathers used extensive amounts of cocaine were more likely to develop learning disabilities than those whose biological fathers did not consume drugs. Also, it appears that male babies and not female babies are effected by paternal cocaine use, the researchers are not clear as to why this is the case.

In order to come to these conclusions, the researchers studied baby rats that were born to fathers who had been administered cocaine for a substantial length of time and compared the babies behavior to those born to fathers who were not given cocaine. The scientists observed that babies in the first group had more difficulty locating objects or remembering locations of items. They also discovered that these rats had impaired synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning.

In this case, the researchers have concluded that the excessive cocaine use causes changes to the genes of the father, which he eventually passes to his son. So, even though the sons were never actually exposed to cocaine, they still felt the negative, and long lasting, effects of the drug. This study is telling in multiple ways, as little research has been done as to how genetics are affected from the start by the introduction of foreign substances such as illegal drugs or prescription drugs. In a time where our society is more drugged than ever with pharmaceuticals, we should continue to investigate the long-term effects.

Frequent Marijuana Use Could Damage Eyesight

Researchers in France have released a study that shows a potential link between heavy marijuana use and damaged eyesight. The study was conducted on a small group of regular marijuana users and a small group of people who do not use marijuana. Tests were conducted to gauge how long it took for the subject’s brains to recognize a small light. The results appeared in JAMA Opthalmology.

“Our findings may be important from a public health perspective since they could highlight the neurotoxic effects of cannabis use on the central nervous system as a result of how it affects retinal processing,” explained researchers.

Since the study was small and the first of its kind, there will need to be larger, more extensive research groups in order to find out if there is a real link between marijuana use and poor eyesight. However, the research indicates that there is a strong association that marijuana is somehow negatively impacting retinal ganglion cells within the eye.

Researchers are also unsure of the impact of retinal delays. Some have warned that this could be an indicator of more extreme issues, while others are calling for more research. Regardless of the outcome though, these types of studies provide a different take to marijuana than most people are getting.

There has been a shift in how people view recreational and medical marijuana use that it can be difficult to get all the information. While heroin, cocaine, painkillers and methamphetamine are certainly more harmful than marijuana in so many ways, there are multiple physical and mental side effects caused by cannabis that are continually being documented. Studies like this one show that there is still so much more to learn about the drug, especially as use of it continues to increase.

The impacts of widespread, repeated use seem to be more harmful than many proponents would care to admit. From a treatment perspective alone we see that people do become dependent on the drug, despite the advocates’ claim that it is not addictive.

What are the Economic Effects of Marijuana Use?

clinicalpsyexcelMany researchers throughout the world have continued to investigate the effects of long-term marijuana use. One of the aspects that academics and clinicians are looking into is the economic standing of people who have used marijuana for a sustained periods of time. The results of a recent study indicated that there was a correlation between smoking pot and having inhibited economic conditions.

The details of the study were published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science and compared non-users, short-term users and long-term users of marijuana. Those who engaged in cannabis use more than four times a week for several years were more likely to end up economically worse than their parents. It was more common for these people to have lower paying jobs that require less skill and pay lower wages than people who are not regular users. Additionally, people who abused marijuana frequently were more likely to display behaviors at work like that included stealing or lying to get the job.

When analyzing the data, researchers accounted for varying IQ levels, antisocial behavior and depression in adolescence, higher levels of impulsivity, lower motivation to achieve, criminal conviction of cannabis users, and abuse of alcohol and hard drugs. Despite all these changes, it was still determined that long-term marijuana users were more likely to have a lowered economic status due to their use of the drug.

The study was conducted by an international team of researchers led by Magdalena Cerdá at the University of California, Davis, Health System, and Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt at Duke University.

“Our research does not support arguments for or against cannabis legalization,” commented Cerdá, “But it does show that cannabis was not safe for the long-term users tracked in our study.”

She brings up a relevant point in what has become a heated topic in some states. For drug prevention and treatment advocates, the mere fact that long-term use of marijuana has been found to be harmful in many ways is reason enough to promote abstinence from the drug, whether it becomes legal or not.

New Study Implicates Marijuana as Catalyst for Other Drug Use

Smoking marijuanaA popular debate surrounding marijuana has been whether or not it is a “gateway” drug. A “gateway” drug is a substance can make it more likely that a person will use more drugs afterward, especially those considered to be heavier drugs. Many people have argued that marijuana is one of these gateway drugs and therefore should not become legal in the United States, while proponents of the drug say that such a claim is not true.

Now there is additional information that has been made available indicating that marijuana use does indeed increase the chances for people to wind up using other drugs as well. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute decided to look into this debate to determine if there is any validity to the claims that marijuana is a gateway drug, and their results were published in JAMA Psychiatry.

After studying information gathered from approximately 34,000 adults of a prior survey, they were able to conclude that there appears to be a connection between marijuana use, tobacco, alcohol and other illicit drugs. The study included people from many different age ranges and backgrounds, so it wasn’t just confined to a particular set of people, such as college students, though the effect it has on that population was of interest to some.

“The sample of this study is adults age 18 or above and not necessarily all college students. However, because college students are in an important developmental stage in terms of both physical and intellectual growth, risky use of marijuana and its potential consequence of drug use disorders can have particularly adverse effect on college students,” explained Ziming Xuan, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health.

In addition to this information, the study also pointed out that the use of the drug can result in heavier abuse and dependency. Although this fact has been debated, there definitely are people who become addicted to marijuana and need treatment in order to regain control over their lives.

A Look at Drug & Alcohol Problems on College Campuses

pkuacampColleges and universities that receive federal funding are required to report crimes and illegal behavior on and near their campuses. Researchers at Project Know analyzed these reports, which are available through the Office of Postsecondary Education, and compared the information from 2014 to 2013 while noting any changes.

They compared arrests for alcohol and drug use as well as disciplinary actions taken by the schools. They focused their efforts on a group of about 1,000 schools of medium and larger sizes, which made up about 70% of the overall activity.

The states with the biggest increase in drug-related arrests on campus were Alaska, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Maine, while the biggest decreases were observed in Rhode Island, Vermont, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Hawaii. Those that had the biggest increases in alcohol-related arrests were New York, Nevada, Arkansas, California and Texas. The biggest decreases in alcohol-related arrests were found in Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Vermont, Wisconsin and Colorado.

The states with the highest percentage of arrests for drug use and alcohol use were Montana and Wyoming, respectively. It is noted that lower population areas and schools only need a few arrests to make a significant impact, but it doesn’t change the statistical significance. Overall, there were about 45,000 alcohol- and drug-related arrests on campuses, with an additional 250,000 other disciplinary actions.

Rather than coming away with this with thoughts about particular colleges or states, the bigger picture is that there are serious problems on our nation’s campuses. The secondary education system as a whole has become a foster of substance abuse and related behavior. While some of this can be chalked up to the age group they’re dealing with, a much more concerted effort by colleges to reverse the substance abuse trends is badly needed.

Scientists Discover Method of Detecting Cocaine Use from Fingerprints

analystScientists may have discovered a more effective way to detect cocaine use among people. Currently, the most common methods of drug testing are urine analysis (UA) and blood tests. These measure substances by parts per million and are very sensitive, yet UAs can sometimes be unreliable and blood tests are inconvenient and invasive as well.

There are other ways of conducting drug tests, such as breathalyzers for alcohol and even marijuana use, as well as saliva and hair testing. The discovery that drug use, specifically cocaine, can be determined by analyzing the fingerprint may allow for quicker results and a less invasive approach to testing.

“The beauty of this method is that, not only is it non-invasive and more hygienic than testing blood or saliva, it can’t be faked. By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself,” explained Dr. Melanie Bailey, a chemistry professor who worked on the project.

The cocaine fingerprint test works by spraying the individual’s fingerprint with a chemical that reacts with benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine, both are secreted after a person has ingested cocaine. Scientists were able to determine if a person had cocaine in their system because the spray would indicate the presence of the metabolized residue that is secreted. The results of their work were published in the journal Analyst.

There is a definite need for tests that can measure illicit drug use that are portable, accurate and easy to use. The applications include law enforcement use during traffic stops to schools, work, at home and at drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs as well.

Research Discovers Ways To Decrease Drug Use Among Pregnant Teen Populations

jhbsphDrug use among women who are pregnant is a problem that most health experts would agree needs to be solved immediately. To help end this crisis, researchers looked into effective ways to prevent teenage mothers from abusing drugs while they were pregnant. They found that mothers-to-be that were visited in their home and given health education were less likely to abuse drugs while they were pregnant.

Perhaps just as important, the researchers also noted that mothers who received this sort of education had babies who reached their developmental milestones at an appropriate time, where mothers who were not getting this education had babies that missed or had a delay in the development markers. The research took place at Johns Hopkins University and focused on Native American populations. However, the researchers made sure to note that the information could be useful in low income settings across the country.

“Now the burden is in multi-generational behavioral health problem, the substance abuse, depression and domestic violence that are transferred from parents to children. This intervention can help us break that cycle of despair,” explained Allison Barlow, the lead author on the study. Researchers like Barlow hope that this information will ensure that more at-risk mothers receive the education they need in the setting that is most appropriate, which according to the study is at their own home.

In order to perform the study, researchers split 322 pregnant teenagers into two groups. One group was to receive standard care. This means that they were bussed to pre-natal visits, given pamphlets that discussed proper care of a baby and the importance of a healthy pregnancy and given referrals to other doctors as needed. The other group was given the same standard care plus over sixty home visits to educate the mothers on the correct way to care for their child as well as their own health. Prior to the study more than 84% of the mothers were engaging in drug use. The study showed that the group that was given in-home visits was far less likely to abuse drugs again.

The study also revealed that children who were not born to mothers who were abusing drugs were happier, easier to soothe and healthier. This increase in care can help prevent the same previous cycles from happening again, creating a cultural shift that continues to reduce substance abuse for future generations.