Tag Archives: opioid overdose

insurance coverage for addiction treatment

Increase Insurance Coverage for Addiction to Lower Risk of Opioid Deaths

Increase Insurance Coverage for Addiction to Lower Risk of Opioid Deaths

Patients who are living with an opioid addiction and want to get help shouldn’t be denied access to treatment by their health insurance providers. This statement was one of the new policy recommendations co-authored by Professor Claudio Nigg, from the Office of Public Health Studies, University of Hawaii at Mānoa.

Lack of Full Coverage for Addiction Treatment a Barrier

The most likely reason people who want, but don’t get, addiction treatment is that government and private insurance policies don’t cover the cost of getting help, according to a statement posted June 27, 2018, on the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s website.

Professor Nigg explained, “To fight the opioid addiction epidemic that is ravaging the US today, policymakers need to increase Medicaid funding for addiction treatment and declare the opioid epidemic to be a national emergency, and not just a public health emergency.”

On a typical day in the United States, 3,900 people start taking a prescription opioid medication for non-medical reasons. Dozens of people die each day from an opioid overdose. In 2016, 77 people died from an opioid overdose in Hawaii, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Medication-Based Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Research has shown that medication-based treatment (MAT) is one approach for clients living with opioid addiction. It includes two components.

First, clients take medication to decrease cravings for drugs (such as oxycodone, morphine and heroin). They also attend behavioral modification therapy (“talk therapy”), which helps them change their thinking and actions.

Funding for Counseling Needed Along with Medications

Professor Nigg points out that while many insurance programs will pay for the medication, getting funding for counseling is much more difficult. He points out that people need the talk therapy, not just the medications to be treated properly for their addiction.

Nigg is an expert in the behavioral health science field. He has studied theories of behavioral change throughout his career and has conducted research on the motivations for people to take part in healthier living strategies.

For more information on opioid addiction treatment, and to find out if you have insurance coverage for addiction treatment, give us a call today.

opioid epidemic

Addiction Expert Explains Three Main Groups of Opioid Epidemic

For the average person reading news stories or listening to the situation being discussed on the air, it seems as though the situation is mainly about young people who have moved from a prescription opioid dependency to a heroin addiction and that fentanyl is causing many of the overdose deaths. Popular news stories imply that efforts to stop people from becoming addicted to prescription drugs have not helped, but only made the issue worse.

This is one part of the opioid crisis but it isn’t the full story. As Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management pointed out, there are three opioid epidemics impacting North America.

The Three Opioid Epidemics in North America

1. Longtime Addicts

This, according to Kolodny, is the smallest group. Most of them are between the ages of 50-70 and started using heroin in the 1970s and 1980s. They lost a number of their friends to addiction. Fentanyl is responsible for killing off people in this group, due to the heroin supply being “laced” with this powerful pain reliever.

2. Young Rural and Suburban Users

The second group is the middle one, and is between 20-40 years of age. This is the group that gets most of the press coverage. They are people who are being found dead of an overdose, often with needles still in stuck in their arm.

In many instances, the road to addiction starts out with prescription opioids. The person may have started taking medications prescribed for someone else. They may have originally been prescribed the pain medication, but started using it more often than as directed. When their supply ran out, they turned to buying pills on the street.

At some point the cravings for pills increased. The cost was high and heroin could satisfy the cravings at a cheaper price. Switching from pills to heroin wasn’t anything new, according to Kolodny. Again, when dealers started adding fentanyl to their heroin supply around 2011 because it was a cheap filler, the number of overdose victims skyrocketed.

3. Middle-Aged and Senior Adults

The largest group, which has remained mostly under the popular press’ radar, is made up of people in their mid-40s through to their 80s. Their deaths due to opioid abuse are under-reported.

People in this age group may have been taking pain medications prescribed by their primary care doctors for several years. When they pass away from heart disease or another cause, no one wants to think of their long-term opioid use as being a contributing factor. Families also don’t think to ask whether their loved one may not have been using their opioid medication appropriately, whether there was an interaction with other medications (over the counter or herbal supplements included). They wouldn’t ask whether alcohol use and opioids may have been an issue.

The fact there are three sub-groups among this epidemic is why the number of overdose deaths have continued to rise. This isn’t a typical substance abuse problem, as the number of lives lost have actually reduced the average life expectancy in America.

To solve this problem Kolodny suggests investing money in building a new treatment system at an estimated cost of $60 billion. Although there are a ton of addiction programs doing great things, the system as a whole isn’t slowing the number of deaths, so more must be done.

opioid overdoses in arizona

Opioid Overdoses in Arizona

100 Deaths from Opioid Overdoses Each Month in Arizona

Opioid overdoses in Arizona are at their highest rate in a decade. As the opioid crisis escalates across the country, Arizona has been hit especially hard. It currently sits at second in the nation for drug-related death, coming in just behind Nevada. Worse, the numbers have been steadily rising over the last few years.

In 2016, there were 790 overdose-related deaths, representing a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Of these deaths, 482 were caused by prescription drugs; the other 308 were attributed to heroin. This year, the numbers have been even higher, with some estimates placing overdose-related deaths at around 100 per month.

These numbers reflect only a small part of the growing opioid problem in the state. Overdose deaths may be under-reported. These numbers also do not account for all of the non-lethal overdoses that are treated each month nor for the other physical, psychological and economical impacts of the drug crisis.

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opioid overdoses in arizona

The Opioid Epidemic is a Complex Issue

Many of those who develop opioid addiction are individuals who originally obtained their drugs legally through a doctor’s prescription. They may have obtained these drugs for a specific surgery or injury, or they may suffer from a chronic pain condition.

However, thanks to the highly addictive nature of opioids and their difficult withdrawal symptoms, going off of prescription drugs can prove challenging for many people. Additional factors, such as life stress and interpersonal relationship trouble, can contribute to the likelihood of developing an addiction. Once legal access to painkillers is ceased, some addicts may turn to buying their drugs off the street or switching to the comparatively cheaper illcit drug, heroin.

Since the 1990s, America has led the world in opioid prescriptions, and doctors have been known to write extensive prescriptions beyond what is actually necessary to deal with pain. For example, a patient might go to a dentist for a wisdom tooth removal and leave with a weeks-long supply of Vicodin, even though a milder painkiller would likely be just as effective after the first day or two. Having so many extra drugs left over creates opportunities for drug misuse and abuse.

Additionally, despite the real dangers posed by these drugs, prescription painkillers are often viewed by users as being safer than other kinds of drugs. There is less social stigma against taking prescription opioids, and people may not seek help for their dependency until the problem gets out of hand.

Opioids are also notoriously easy to overdose on. Drugs available on the street may not be as pure as what a user is accustomed to. They may be laced with stronger opioids, such as Fentanyl, or they may be in a higher concentration than the user is expecting. A person who has become habituated to a specific dose may also be extremely sensitive to that same dosage after a period without any drugs; when tolerance wanes, a previously safe dose can cause a deadly overdose.

A Holistic Look at Opioid Addiction

Because so many people get hooked on prescription drugs, one suggested solution to controlling the epidemic is to limit the amount of opioid drugs in circulation. That has been the suggestion of Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona’s head health official. Dr. Christ suggests heavy restrictions placed on opioid prescriptions, preventing doctors from prescribing more than are absolutely necessary.

Other solutions, such as the growing availability of the overdose-reversing drug NARCAN®, can help to reduce the amount of opioid-related deaths. However, these measures do not strike at the root of the problem. Being revived does not put an addict into recovery; without further treatment, the user may end up overdosing again in the future.

The reality is that drug addiction is complex, and no single solution will help to solve Arizona’s opioid crisis. While issues are being discussed and implemented on a policy level, it’s important for individuals to obtain the care and intervention that they need.

At Desert Cove Recovery we recognize that addiction is deeply personal and affects each person differently. We offer treatment programs that help people to get sober and stay that way by addressing the underlying causes and contributing factors to their addiction. For more information about our program, contact us today.

Pain Relief Without Fear of Addiction

Compound May Offer Pain Relief Without Fear of Addiction

New research from Indiana University-Bloomington may give doctors and their patients living with pain a non-opioid option for treating severe pain.

Researchers conducted a pre-clinical study involving mice. They discovered that compounds known as PAMs (Positive Allosteric Modulators) heighten the effect of natural pain relievers the body produces internally when injured or exposed to stress. PAMs were first discussed with attendees at the 2016 Conference for the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego, California.

About PAM

The researchers chose a PAM that would intensify endocannabinoids. These two brain compounds (anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol) specifically act on the CB1 receptor that responds to the presence of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The PAM used in the study was GAT211, a molecule that coauthor Ganesh Thakur at Northeastern University created that had effects that concentrated on the brain.

The PAM increased the effects of the endocannabinoids without creating the undesired side effects associated with marijuana use. These include lowering of body temperature and clumsiness.

The pain relief achieved from PAM was more effective and lasted longer than when drugs were used that work by breaking down then metabolizing the brain’s cannabis-type compounds. Using PAM on its own means natural painkillers target the correct part of the brain as needed. The alternative is take drugs that bind to receptor sites throughout the body.

Increases the Body’s Natural Ability to Relieve Pain

Study leader Andrea G. Hohmann, a professor and chair of neuroscience at the University’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences, stated that the study revealed a PAM increases the body’s pain relieving ability without decreasing effectiveness over time. This is a key component of addiction; a person finds that they need to consume more of their drug of choice to experience the desired effect.

Professor Hohmann went on to say that she sees the research her team is doing as “an important step forward” in the goal to find new, non-addictive pain relievers.

The results of the study were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Non-Addictive Painkillers Help Save Lives from Opioid Overdose

Continuing to find ways of providing pain relief for patients that don’t involve drugs with a high potential for abuse is of utmost importance in the battle against opioid addiction. Tens of thousands of lives are now lost each year due to overdoses and millions of people are abusing these drugs.

If you have a loved one who needs treatment help for a substance abuse problem, contact Desert Cove today for more information about our program.

heroin overdose deaths

Fentanyl Leads Surge in Heroin Overdose Deaths

Although there has been a lot of coverage about the opioid epidemic and the record number of overdoses, until recently there hasn’t been a more detailed look at exactly which substances are tied to the most fatalities. With updated information from the National Center for Health Statistics, it is clear that heroin and fentanyl are the biggest overdose threats currently.

Information from 2010 to 2014 showed a sharp increase in the number of heroin-related deaths, while those resulting from prescription painkillers remained relatively the same over that time period. In 2010, the most overdose deaths were from oxycodone, which amounted to 5,200 that year, while there were about 3,000 from heroin. Just four years later heroin led the way with over 11,000 deaths. It accounted for nearly a quarter of all overdose fatalities.

Researchers were also interested in the fact that many of the “heroin overdose deaths” involved more than one drug. Nearly half of all overdoses included multiple drugs being taken. One of the deadliest additives has been fentanyl, as it is incredibly potent and highly dangerous. Another important aspect of the multiple substance issue is that there are many accidental deaths caused by mixing prescription drugs, such as a painkiller and sedative while drinking alcohol.

While current drug policies are changing to focus more on treatment and rehabilitation, it is likely that more still needs to be done in order to reverse the upward trend of heroin overdose deaths in this country. The nation has been making much more of an effort over the past year, and we will have to wait to see statistics on whether that has been working. Either way, much more can and should be done to help save lives.

If you have a loved one struggling with an addiction to heroin or any other combination of drugs, contact Desert Cove today to find out more about successful treatment options.