Tag Archives: opioids

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.

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 an 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.

impact of addiction on family

The Impact of Addiction on Family

How Addiction Affects a Family

Addiction affects not only the life of the person struggling with addiction but also the lives of everyone he or she cares about. Families can suffer the effects of addiction emotionally, financially and even physically. In some cases, family members may be inadvertently contributing to an individual’s addictive behaviors. By learning to understand how addiction can impact a family, you can be prepared to offer your loved one the support he or she needs while protecting yourself and the others you care about.
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How Drug and Alcohol Abuse Can Damage Family Ties

When a person is struggling with addiction, getting the next fix becomes their top priority. The disease of addiction can lead a person to do things that are otherwise out of character, and these behaviors can put a serious strain on family relationships.

In pursuit of feeding their addictions, addicts may:

  • Lie or fail to keep promises
  • Borrow or even steal money from family to pay for the addictive substance
  • Be unreliable and struggle to meet family commitments
  • Forget about important duties or become distracted
  • Engage in illegal behaviors

Addicts may struggle to maintain employment as a result of their addiction, leading to additional financial strain for themselves and their families. Addicts may also suffer mood swings and other uncharacteristic behavior as a result of a substance’s effects or the effects of withdrawal if they cannot get a regular fix.

All of these issues can quickly compound to create a hostile environment at home.

The Impact of Addiction on Children

Addiction has an especially powerful effect on families when the addict is a parent. Children require care and attention, but the disease of addiction can take away a parent’s time and ability to care for his or her family.

Parents struggling with addiction may forget to take care of their own needs and the needs of their children. This may include missing meals, forgetting to pick kids up from school or failing to keep up with laundry and other chores.

Additionally, it may be unsafe for the children to be around the addicted parent. Mood swings and poor judgment can lead to explosive outbursts, and a parent caught up in the effects of drugs or alcohol may not be alert enough to protect children from dangers around the home. Sadly, there is also the risk that the parent may overdose in the presence of their child, putting their child in serious danger as well.

If only one parent is an addict, the other parent may experience significant stress while trying to deal with family responsibilities alone. This can put stress on the marriage, creating domestic turmoil at home that may affect the children as well.

For these reasons and more, children feel the impact of family addiction very strongly. Kids growing up in these conditions are more likely to face drug and alcohol problems of their own later in life.

Getting Help for Addicted Family Members

Most people who struggle with addiction do not want to hurt their families. However, they may be unable to break the habits and behaviors on their own. Similarly, family members are poorly equipped to handle the realities of addiction on their own.

Love is not enough to overcome the power of addiction, and loving family members run the risk of enabling the addiction further by continuing to provide financial support or shouldering the consequences of an addict’s actions. For this reason, it is important to seek the help of qualified professionals outside of the family.

A professional intervention followed by drug treatment can help your loved one get the help he or she needs without putting further stress and risk upon your family. Together, you can work toward healing and recovering from the addiction and its effects on those you love.

SOURCE:

drugabuse.gov

Study Identifies Three Ways to Reduce Risk of Opioid Overdose in Addition to Treatment

reduce risk of opioid overdoseThere are three new helpful recommendations for doctors to follow in order to reduce deaths associated with prescription painkiller overdoses. While some of it is common sense, other parts are simple measures that can save lives. Researchers at the RAND Corporation have found that not prescribing opioids or anti-anxiety medication to patients with opioid dependence problems, ensuring that patients received psychosocial counseling and keeping up with quarterly doctor visits greatly reduced the chances of opioid-related deaths.

Researchers were able to come to these conclusions after observing the care that over 30,000 Veterans received through the VA health system. This at-risk population often sees a large amount of opioid abuse, and researchers were anxious to see what was effective within this vulnerable group. This is also the first study that has looked at developing quality measures to assure against potential opioid overdose deaths. This was important because another group of researchers have recently released data that shows the number of people dying from opioid overdoses is likely not going to reduce for several years unless some drastic changes are enacted.

These changes would be different from, or in addition to changing other prescribing habits, physician education programs about opioid abuse and prescription drug monitoring programs. It also presents another set of guidelines that can be easily checked.

“This is a very large drop in mortality and we need to conduct more research to see if these findings hold up in other patient care settings. But our initial findings suggest that these quality measures could go a long way toward improving patient outcomes among those who suffer from opioid addiction,” commented Dr. Katherine Watkins, lead author of the study.

These three recommendations have been published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, but researchers are hopeful that the information is more broadly dispensed because of the potential life-saving information to physicians everywhere.

CDC: Number of Opioid Prescriptions Falling

opioid prescriptionsAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioid prescriptions in the United States fell 18% between its peak in 2010 and 2015. However, it is still three times higher than it was in just 1999.

The reduction in prescriptions is partially due to the revised prescribing practices that have been recommended for physicians, as well as the general awareness campaigns brought on by the overdose epidemic. For more than a decade our nation has lost many thousands of lives each year to drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Opana and many others. Unfortunately, those horrible losses are still occurring today.

While there are still some counties around the nation that have shown increased activity in this regard, there are also additional good news reports, such as the number of prescriptions with high doses dropping by 41% since 2010.

It is still unclear what kind of impact this reduction will have on current and future opioid abusers. While there will still be thousands of people who die each year, hopefully that number continues to go down as well.

“We do know that when you start people on prescription opioids, the risk of unintended consequences and illicit use goes up. But our staff has done intensive analyses to see whether changing policies for prescription drugs shifts people into illicit use, and the answer is no,” explained Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of CDC, in response to the suggestion that limiting the number of pills being prescribed will drive abusers to seek out street drugs like heroin.

The painkiller epidemic is one area where it seems that cutting down the supply will have an effect on the demand, eventually. This is encouraging news for the continued efforts to help save lives from prescription drug addiction of all kinds, not just opioids. These and other forms of interventions are often necessary when it comes to

Fentanyl More Prevalent in Drug Supply than Previously Suspected

fentanylRecent news that opioid-related overdose deaths rose again keeps the alarm sounding that more has to be done to help save lives. One of the biggest contributors to these fatalities has been the addition of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that is usually reserved for treating chronic and extreme pain, such as in cancer patients and after major surgeries. However, drug manufacturers and distributors have discovered that they can add it to other drugs to increase potency while making their supply last longer.

“What we see across the country is the drug cartels moving away from heroin and moving toward these opioids they’re going to produce themselves. People think they’re buying one thing and they’re actually buying another. The stuff they’re selling is so powerful. Some of the stuff we’re seeing produced is 50 times more potent than heroin, as if heroin wasn’t bad enough,” said Van Ingram, executive director of Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

What makes fentanyl-laced heroin so dangerous is that users usually have no idea that they are taking such powerful opioids and so they use the same quantity as they normally would. However, instead of getting the same result, they are ingesting a deadly amount and never make it long enough to receive a dose of naloxone to combat the overdose.

Recently, a safe injection facility in Vancouver, Canada implemented a testing procedure so users could test their drugs for the presence of fentanyl. Their report was shocking, as over 1,000 tests they found an extremely high percentage of the drugs contained fentanyl. This included over 80% of the heroin and even 80% of the methamphetamine and 40% of the cocaine.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has also released reports warning of the increasing presence of fentanyl in street drugs. Since users have no way of knowing what is really in the drugs they’re getting nor how potent they are, there really are only a few viable long-term options to fixing this problem. There has to be a stronger effort to get people into effective treatment programs and there has to be more focus on providing better prevention programs for people of all ages to stop addiction before it starts.

Anti-Seizure Medications Linked to Opioid Overdose Deaths

Anti-Seizure Medications Opioid OverdoseNew research indicates that one of the factors in the increase in the opiate-related deaths includes another class of prescription drugs. It was found that a recent rise in the number of prescriptions for the nerve medications pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin) has directly correlated to the rise in opiate overdose deaths in some areas. Further investigation has shown that, in addition to opiates, users are also abusing the anti-seizure medication, causing an increase in accidental overdoses.

Drug users have discovered the calming effects of anti-seizure medication and are incorporating these drugs into their daily use. This particular study focused on parts of England, where the numbers show that there were about a million prescription for the two drugs in 2004, but that number soared in 2015, with a total of 10.5 million prescriptions written for pregabalin and gabapentin.

This discovery, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Addiction, illustrates two things. One is that addicts will continue to seek out drugs that they feel enhance the euphoria brought about by their drugs of choice, and that the medical community needs to evolve with the trends. This means that drugs that previously weren’t considered as having a high potential for abuse now need to be policed more thoroughly, and prescriptions for these types of drugs need to remain checked in order to prevent abuse or misuse.

“Poly-drug use is very common amongst drug users. We need more multi-disciplinary studies like ours which seek to combine evidence from laboratory experiments on how drug act, with accounts of what users experience and information on the pattern of drug use and drug harms – in order to make health care workers and drug users aware of the dangers of combining specific drugs,” asserted Graeme Henderson, Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience of the University of Bristol.

One possible solution to avoiding the combining of opiates and anti-seizure medication is that medical professionals increase their screening for abuse and prescribe non-addictive alternatives to patients that are in need of anti-seizure medication. This could help prevent future abuse and help save the life of someone who might be showing signs of mixing the two drugs.

New Study Shows Power of Prescription Length

quantity of pillsEmergency rooms throughout the country have recently started cutting back on the number of days’ worth of painkillers are prescribed to patients. Instead of the previously standard seven days, most hospitals have now instituted a policy that only allows up to three days of pills.

Policymakers wanted to ensure that patients were following up with their regular doctors, and most hospitals did not want the ER to be a destination for drug seekers or the start of a dependency issue. Now a recent study has provided further support to the argument of prescription opioid reduction, as it confirms that the longer a painkiller is prescribed, the more likely it is for the patient to become addicted.

“The initial prescription a clinician writes has a pretty profound impact on a person’s (likelihood) for being a long-term opioid user,” commented Bradley Martin, coauthor of the study. This means that patients who are given prescriptions for more than a month at a time have a 30% increase in their chances of becoming addicted. Although very few patients are actually given such a large number of painkillers at once, the study shows that patients who are only given enough painkiller for one day still have up to a 6% chance of continuing use throughout the year.

This detailed research illustrates just how addictive painkillers can be for people who are simply seeking relief from their discomfort. As a nation, we have been forced to look at prescribing practices and how they can be better tuned in multiple settings to help reduce the availability of addictive substances as well as protect patients from becoming dependent.

On the front end, new policies can act as both an intervention as well as a preventive measure, but there are still millions of people who have already become addicted and need help. If you have a loved one in need of treatment, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Gateway or Not, Marijuana Use Often Comes First

Marijuana UseWhether or not marijuana is a gateway drug has been debated for years. Advocates of marijuana legalization have argued that marijuana is in no way associated with future use of harder drugs. However, there is yet another study that recently shows this not to be the case, at lease with regard to prescription painkillers.

This information comes at a time when several states are in the process of legalizing marijuana for adults, or considering putting the issue on the ballot. And while no state is looking to make marijuana legal for adolescents, it previous surveys have found that it becomes more prevalent and they have greater access to the drug.

The recent survey was conducted with 11,000 children and teenagers who were asked a series of questions related to their drug and alcohol use. Included in these questions was whether or not they had used prescription opioids in the past 30 days and if they had ever used marijuana. The survey was specifically looking to see if there was a connection between marijuana use and prescription painkiller use. After the data was collected, it was discovered that out of 11,000 participants, 524 had used prescription painkiller in the last month. Of those 524 children and teenagers, 80% had used marijuana prior to using painkillers.

And while this certainly does not mean that if you use marijuana you will definitely use opioids, it does a show a link. Teenagers who use prescription painkillers are more likely to have used marijuana first. This information may provide a guideline for parents and educators for prevention measures.

Additional information synthesized from the study shows that teenagers who drink alcohol and use tobacco products in addition to opioids are much more likely to have started out with just marijuana. Stopping a child when they are smoking marijuana is likely much easier than stopping a child when they are addicted to prescription drugs, where more serious interventions may be needed.

Study Recommends Simple Method to Reduce Painkiller Problem

Reduce Painkiller ProblemAs the prescription painkiller opioid epidemic continues, healthcare officials and top leaders in government are scrambling to find effective solutions. Most states have implemented prescription monitoring tools, more doctors are increasing their education regarding painkillers, and hospitals throughout the country have started screening their patients for potential painkiller addictions. One overlooked population includes the large number of people who are prescribed opiates following outpatient surgery. One researcher has identified this as a way to cut down on the number of pills being given to patients.

According to Richard J. Barth, chief of general surgery at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, doctors often prescribe larger numbers of painkillers after surgery as more of a convenience factor. However, reducing the number of visits or steps for a prescription refill has contributed to the painkiller problem in America.

This single action has the potential to have a significant impact on the volume of drugs being legally prescribed – and the subsequent overflow onto the black market. This theory was tested and proven by Dr. Barth and his group of researchers at five outpatient surgery clinics.

Many outpatient surgeries are invasive and the recovery can be difficult and painful. Sometimes patients are given 50 pills or more as part of their post-op care. But upon further inspection, the patients report that they were only taking about 28% of their prescriptions. This is an important factor because it shows that doctors are overprescribing and that because of the all the leftover pills, there leaves room for other people to use the prescription, especially addicts. Barth indicated that most patients really only need an average of about 15 pills, and that switching to non-narcotic pain relievers earlier was very effective.

While conducting their study, which appears in the Annals of Medicine, the researchers asked a group of outpatient surgeons to limit the number of painkillers they were prescribing for many procedures. They found that the patients who received less painkillers recovered quicker and did not ask for refills. The study shows a positive outcome when doctors limit their prescriptions for narcotics and also illustrates the need for more comprehensive studies into the level of pain associated with many outpatient surgeries.

Opioids and Cocaine Make for a Dangerous Combination

Opioids and CocaineThere was a time when cocaine use was sweeping across the country. The drug took inner cities by storm in the eighties and nineties and claimed many lives in the process. Then, cocaine use generally went down after prescription painkillers and heroin became more popular.

Now experts have noticed that more people are dying from drug overdoses involving cocaine than in subsequent years. In an effort to isolate the reasons why this may be occurring, researchers investigated the most recent string of overdose deaths . They found that it is much more common to mix cocaine with opioids than previously thought. This deadly combination has been identified as the reason for the surging fatalities.

“Opioids, primarily heroin and synthetic opioids, have been driving the recent increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths. This corresponds to the growing supply and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl [a synthetic opioid] in the United States,” explained the researchers.

It was discovered that cocaine and opioid overdoses increased between 2006 and 2015, despite the number of cocaine users declining over that same period of time. This indicates that they are more like additional opioid deaths who also used cocaine, rather than the other way around, as there has also been a long upward trend of poly-drug users. Mixing multiple substances in such a fashion makes overdoses more likely to happen as well.

There have also been reports of cocaine users unknowingly ingesting synthetic opioids that were added to the powder. “In the absence of recent, regular opioid use, someone using cocaine and fentanyl (knowingly or unknowingly) would be highly susceptible to opioid-induced respiratory depression and subsequent overdose,” the authors wrote.

In a day where drug overdose deaths continue to rise, the threat for every single user becomes a very real possibility. There are too many things that can go wrong and synthetic drug additives for any user to really know what they are consuming. If you have a loved one who is addicted to drugs, contact us today to learn more about successful intervention and treatment options.