Tag Archives: opioid abuse

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.

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.

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.

source of prescription drug abuse dental

Unused Painkillers from Dental Surgery a Source of Prescription Drug Abuse

One of the most common dental procedures in the United States is the removal of wisdom teeth. Left over from a time when we needed an extra set of molars to chew a diet of leaves, roots and nuts, the removal of these teeth is now causing thousands of people to become addicted to painkillers.

Most people get their wisdom teeth removed when there is too much crowding, or they are not coming in correctly. It is common to get this procedure done between the ages of 17 and 25. As this procedure requires surgery on the mouth, a prescription of Vicodin or Percocet is usually given to help with recovery. However, according to a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, more than half of these pills go unused. And instead of disposing of these unused pills, many people keep them, and this is where the danger comes in.

Storing and forgetting about bottles of prescription painkillers often leads to abuse by other family members or friends of the family who stumble onto the drugs. Because the pills are not currently being taken, the theft often goes unnoticed. And while the study uncovered this potential for abuse, it also uncovered a way to cut back on the problem. By providing patients with information on how to safely dispose of their unused medications and the risks associated with keeping unused pills, people were more likely to get rid of the pills rather than hang on to them after the pain healed from surgery. Another way is for dentists to begin to prescribe a smaller number of pills.

This type of information is important because many healthcare professionals balk at the thought of not sending home a prescription for painkillers after a patient has undergone any type of surgery, but it is important to prevent addiction and save lives.

“We’re going to keep prescribing these drugs because people will need them. We have a long way to go. There’s a lot of health illiteracy. We need to give people information at a level they can understand,” explained Terri Voepel-Lewis of the University of Michigan Health System.

Studies like this one who the importance of educating patients and providing them with information on the proper way of handling a potentially dangerous narcotic. In the midst of the worst drug overdose epidemic in history, these types of life-saving measures should be taken very seriously.

Why Employers Should Care About Prescription Opioid Abuse

painkillers and opioid abuseAdditional information emerged last week regarding the impact of prescription opioids in the workplace. More specifically, the study focused on the abuse of the drugs, who was most likely to abuse them and how much it cost employers.

The research was conducted and presented by Castlight Health, an employer benefits manager. They found, among other things, that nearly one-third of prescription opoids subsidized by health benefits are abused. The impact of this finding is significant and parallels the statistics surrounding the rise prescription drug addictions and overdose deaths.

“The personal impact that opioid painkiller abuse takes on individuals, their friends, and family is absolutely tragic. This crisis is also having a significant impact on the nation’s employers, both in the form of direct and indirect costs. From higher spending on healthcare, to lost productivity, to the dangers associated with employees abusing medications in the workplace: these are aspects of the crisis that are too often overlooked in the current discussion,” said Kristin Torres Mowat, senior vice president of health plan and strategic data operations at Castlight Health.

The report indicates that opioid abusers cost employers nearly twice as much as non-users, which translates into billions of dollars per year. They also revealed that lower-income populations are more likely to abuse prescription painkillers, as are baby boomers and people who live in Southern states.

There is no place that drug abuse and addiction doesn’t have a negative impact. Its effects seep into every facet of society and requires efforts from many angles to help reverse the current trends. Hopefully this recent information will get more employers to implement better strategies to help their workers avoid opioid dependency. In addition to offering alternative forms of treatment for mild to moderate pain, the prescribing practices of doctors must also be changed.

If you know of someone struggling with an addiction to painkillers or any other substance, contact Desert Cove Recovery today to see how we can help.