Tag Archives: overdose deaths

stages of opiate withdrawal

Stages of Opiate Withdrawal

Stages of Opiate Withdrawal

Opiates are addictive in part because they activate parts of the brain associated with pleasure. However, that is only part of the story. A person who takes painkillers or other opioids will find themselves chemically dependent on the drugs. Once this happens, overcoming addiction can be extremely difficult. The physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms pose a tremendous challenge to individuals looking for recovery.

How Opioids Work in the Brain

Your body naturally produces opioids, which attach to special receptors in the brain. These neurotransmitters help the body naturally regulate pain and stress.

Chemical opioids attach to the same receptors in the brain and have a similar effect of producing euphoria. However, they are significantly stronger than anything the body can produce on its own. These fake neurotransmitters flood the system and eventually prevent the body from producing opioids of its own. Part of what causes drug withdrawal symptoms is this lack of dopamine and related chemicals in the brain as the body adjusts to the absence of opioids.

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Stages of Opiate Withdrawal: A Timeline

Drug withdrawal presents a set of physical and emotional symptoms that can be extremely difficult to endure. However, it’s important to remember that withdrawal is temporary.

If you or a loved one is facing detoxification and rehab, know that the worst of the symptoms will last just a few days. Knowing what to expect and having a timeline of events in mind can help to ease some of the psychological pressure when facing withdrawal and recovery.

Withdrawal symptoms for short-acting opiates will begin within 12 hours of the last dose. For long-acting opiates, symptoms may start within 30 hours. Over the next two days, symptoms will continue to worsen, peaking around the 72 hour mark. By the end of the third day, most physical symptoms will have resolved. Psychological symptoms and cravings may continue for a week or more.

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stages of opioid withdrawal

Early withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Drug cravings
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Sweats and fever
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Sleep disruption

These initial symptoms may cause restlessness and mood swings.

The later stage of withdrawal produces flu-like symptoms:

  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Goosebumps and shivering
  • Stomach cramps and pain

Depression and intense drug cravings may accompany this stage. These symptoms will generally peak within 72 hours and resolve within five days. From a physical standpoint, recovery is well underway. Physical symptoms of withdrawal may disappear quickly after the third day of detox. However, psychological symptoms may linger, and drug cravings may persist or come and go in the weeks and months that follow.

What About Drug Replacement?

In some cases, an alternative substance like Suboxone may be provided to help mitigate the effects of chemical dependence. This drug is classified as a “partial opioid agonist,” which means that it is a weaker type of opioid that cannot be abused. Other replacement drugs, like methadone, may also sometimes be used.

Addiction clinics and rehab facilities offer these medications as a stepping stone to help reduce the severity of drug withdrawal symptoms. However, users will still undergo withdrawal when weaning off of the replacement drug, and recovery will take longer when these medical aids are offered. There is also the risk of finding a way to abuse these medications.

The Importance of Support During Withdrawal

Drug detox and addiction recovery services are crucial to helping people recover safely throughout the stages of opiate withdrawal and stay away from drugs long-term.

One important but often overlooked symptom of withdrawal is suicidal ideation. Not everyone who undergoes withdrawal feels suicidal, but the feelings of depression can be overwhelming. People in the grip of withdrawal may experience mood swings and dark thoughts that seem to have no end point. The feeling that life may never be better than it is in that dark moment or that the addict can never be happy again without drugs can be overwhelming. For this reason, a strong support system is essential to the safety of people overcoming addiction. Recovering addicts need to know that their symptoms are temporary. They also need to be protected from opportunities for self-harm and relapse.

Protecting recovering addicts from relapse is especially important because many deadly overdoses occur during relapse. Because the user’s body is no longer accustomed to the drug, it will be more sensitive. What would have been a normal dose for the user before withdrawal can become a deadly overdose in the weeks that follow.

The best drug rehabilitation programs provide a strong support network for recovering addicts throughout all stages of recovery, including the difficult weeks that follow acute drug withdrawal. By continuing to offer support after the initial symptoms have faded, the rehab program can provide the best environment for successful and permanent drug cessation.

is vivitrol safe for addiction treatment

Is Vivitrol® Safe for Addiction Treatment?

Is Vivitrol® Safe Addiction Treatment?

Did you know that the Center for Disease Control reports that 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose?

Would you believe that opioids like heroin, fentanyl and prescription narcotics killed over 33,000 people in 2015 alone?

The CDC states that over 60 percent of overdose deaths are due to opioids, whether they’re prescription pills or street drugs. Opioid addiction is quickly reaching crisis levels in the United States, but addiction treatments are not keeping up with this alarming trend.

The Food and Drug Administration has recently approved the use of Vivitrol®, an injectable form of the well-known addiction treatment drug naltrexone.

What is Vivitrol®?

Vivitrol® is the injectable form of the pill naltrexone. Until recently, naltrexone was an oral medication that doctors would prescribe for both alcohol and drug addictions. The person would be required to take a pill every day in order to curb cravings for opioids or alcohol.

The potential problem with naltrexone pills is the accountability aspect of the treatment. It can be easy for addicts to find themselves in compromising situations and “forget” to take their pill, which undermines their sobriety treatment.

By switching to a single monthly shot administered by a doctor, this can eliminate the temptation of those potentially dangerous situations.

How Does Injectable Naltrexone Work?

At its core, naltrexone is what is known as an antagonist, or blocking, medication. The medication works by binding itself to the same receptors in the brain that an opioid molecule would typically bind to. The difference is that naltrexone does not provide the dopamine release, or “high,” that comes when an opioid binds to the receptor instead.

This means that the medication creates a barrier to block opioid molecules from binding to those receptors, which takes away all of the reward an addict would typically get from using his or her drug of choice. This helps to retrain the brain’s craving signals and prevent relapse while the person is in recovery.

It’s important to note that Vivitrol®, or any naltrexone can only be taken after a full detoxification has been completed. Attempting to take this type of medication before fully detoxing is dangerous.

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is vivitrol safe

Is Vivitrol® an Effective Treatment for Addiction?

While no treatment yet has a perfect success rate, Vivitrol® can be immensely helpful for some people. The accountability and single dose both help to make the treatment process as successful as possible.

What About Potential Side Effects of Vivitrol®?

As with any medication, there are potential side effects to using Vivitrol®. This is especially true for people who have been regularly using opioids prior to beginning treatment.

Some people experience symptoms like nausea, tiredness, anxiety, restlessness, joint pain and abdominal cramping, which are all mild signs of withdrawal. This is only cause for concern if the symptoms persist over an extended period of time.

Other, more serious side effects of Vivitrol like mood changes, vomiting, confusion or hallucinations can occur, but they are rare. Typically, if a doctor has prescribed Vivitrol® for treatment, it is because he or she believes that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. Few people experience any serious problems while taking Vivitrol®.

Are There Any Other Concerns?

– Is Vivitrol® Safe?

One of the most common questions people ask is, “Is Vivitrol® safe?” The answer to this question is yes, as long as the person follows the full treatment plan and is medically supervised.

Because naltrexone blocks a person’s ability to feel an opioid high, some people will try to overcome this by taking large quantities of drugs, which is extremely dangerous. This is a concern for some, but doctors and recovery centers have become more diligent about educating patients about this.

– Does Vivitrol® Really Help Achieve Abstinence?

While every person is different, overall the studies have shown that the injections are effective for helping patients stay sober. One study found that 36 percent of patients who were receiving Vivitrol® injections stayed completely sober compared to only 23 percent who received no medication.

In addition, Vivitrol® users reported up to 99 percent opioid-free days during a 25-week evaluation. Non-users only reported 60 percent opioid-free days.

Contact Us For Addiction Help

If you or a loved one are struggling with an opioid addiction, know you’re not alone. There are so many options available to you, and we want to help. Addiction is a disease that can be treated, but you can’t do it by yourself.

Don’t become one of the CDC’s tragic statistics. Contact Desert Cove Recovery today, and let us know that you want to get started on your journey to recovery so that we can help you with your next steps.

controversy around kratom for withdrawal

The Controversy Around Using Kratom for Withdrawal

The Controversy Around Using Kratom for Withdrawal

In the war on drugs, there’s a war on a plant-based herbal supplement called kratom.

Advocates swear by it as a pain reliever, a mild stimulant or an aid in beating opioid addiction. Many proponents say that they’ve used kratom for withdrawal with great success.

Detractors point to its mind-altering and addictive properties. Federal authorities have attempted to classify kratom, which is legal and widely available, as a Schedule I drug in the same class as heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs are considered dangerous for their high potential for abuse and lack of known medical benefits.

Everyone agrees that solid scientific evidence about kratom is sorely lacking.

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kratom for withdrawal

What Is Kratom?

Kratom is derived from an evergreen plant in the coffee family. It is native to South Asia, but Malaysia and Thailand are now two of the 16 countries that tightly control the use of kratom or ban it altogether.

In the U.S., kratom leaves are typically ground into powder and brewed as tea. In doses of a few grams, kratom acts as a mild stimulant for alertness and sociability. At doses of 10 to 25 grams, it acts as a sedative. The user may feel calm and euphoric.

Kratom is mostly used to manage chronic pain, aid digestion or lift mood, but its popularity as a drug for weaning addicts from opioids has generated a storm of controversy.

What’s All the Fuss About?

Kratom isn’t an opioid, but it contains almost as many alkaloids as opium or hallucinogenic mushrooms. The U.S. government gets alarmed, understandably, when kratom powder is touted as a safe, legal, cheap high. Herbal supplements aren’t regulated, so there’s no way of knowing what’s actually in them.

According to a study conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kratom-related calls to regional U.S. poison control centers increased tenfold between 2010 and 2016. The CDC warns of an emerging health threat, especially when kratom is combined with alcohol or other drugs.

In a recent statement, Scott Gottlieb of the Food and Drug Administration implied that kratom was no safer than the 340 million packages of illegal opioids that stream into the U.S. every year. Gottlieb also cited 36 deaths linked to kratom.

One of raw kratom’s chief alkaloids is mitragynine, which is thought to activate natural opioid receptors without depressing the respiratory system. That’s why so many proponents of kratom are excited about its potential as a safer pain medication. Between 1999 and 2016, more than 200,000 Americans died from prescription opioid overdose.

A woman named Susan Ash recovered from Lyme disease only to wind up addicted to pain pills. After detox and addiction treatment, she stumbled across kratom and has used it every day since. Indeed, she attributes her recovery to it. Ash and thousands of other users regularly lobby against state bills that would ban the sale of kratom. Six states have made kratom illegal.

Others aren’t so sure about kratom for withdrawal and insist that Ash and other recovering addicts are anything but clean.

Dariya Pankova was battling a heroin addiction when she tried kratom. She became hooked on it and eventually returned to the more potent heroin. A South Florida man who was trying to quit several substances had a similar experience. He developed tolerance to kratom and returned to rehab many times before he beat his addiction to it.

Respondents to a recent survey of 6,150 regular users told a different story:

  • More than 98 percent denied that kratom is dangerous.
  • Around 75 percent said that it’s impossible to get high on kratom.
  • Almost 67 percent considered themselves more likely to get hooked or overdose on other substances if kratom is banned.
  • Almost a fourth said they would break the law to use kratom after a ban.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, kratom’s negative effects may include the following:

  • Sensitivity to sunburn
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Increased urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Psychotic symptoms

Researchers at NIDA believe that kratom is habit-forming. Reported side effects during withdrawal include the following:

  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Runny nose
  • Jerky movements

It’s important to note that behavioral therapies have not been tested for treatment of kratom addiction alone.

Is Kratom Right for You?

It’s hard to make a good decision about kratom until far more research is done. Many recovering addicts see it as a godsend during opioid withdrawal, but many others flatly insist that using kratom is the equivalent of relapsing.

One thing’s for sure: Where opioid addiction is concerned, kratom is no substitute for the professional help of experienced caregivers.

Call Desert Cove Recovery today. We’re committed to helping you heal and reclaim your life.

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.

opiates and alcohol

Why Opiates and Alcohol are Such a Deadly Combination for Arizona Drug Users

Overdosing From Combining Opiates and Alcohol Is a Real Risk 

Media reports frequently focus on cases of opiate use, with Governor Doug Ducey even declaring a state of emergency due to the sharp rise in opioid overdose among Arizona drug users. However, little attention was given to the dangers of mixing opiates and alcohol until news reports emerged that Cory Monteith’s death was caused by combined drug intoxication from champagne and heroin which shed light on the deadly drug combination of opiates and alcohol. Although under-reported, over 70 percent of opiate-related deaths involve the use of another substance, and alcohol is present in more than 50 percent of opiate fatalities. 

Alcohol Is a Depressant 

Alcohol‘s ability to pass the blood-brain barrier allows it direct access to the GABA receptors and neurotransmitters of the central nervous system. These neurotransmitters are responsible for sending messages from the brain to every part of the body, including the limbs, muscles and organs. Alcohol blocks the nerve receptors’ messages, slowing down the central nervous system. As a result, bodily functions are altered. Changes in the body from alcohol consumption are felt and observed through a number of signs and symptoms:

  • Altered speech
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dulled senses
  • Illegible handwriting
  • Impaired hearing
  • Mental confusion
  • Memory lapses
  • Poor coordination
  • Slow reaction times

Drugs That Are Classified As Opiates

Derived from the opium of poppy plants, opiates are a Schedule II substance that is prescribed to physical pain. When used as intended, opiates bind to the body’s opioid receptors, blocking pain signals. Opiates and opioids are two terms that are often used interchangeably. Opioid was a term that once was only used to describe synthetic opioids. However, the term opioid is now used to describe all four categories of opiates, which are the endogenous opioids made by the human body, opium alkaloids like codeine and morphine, semi-synthetic opioids such as oxycodone and heroin and fully synthetic opioids like methadone. 

Opiates Are Also a Depressant 

The human body contains naturally occurring opioid-like neurotransmitters and opioid receptors. While these organic substances send signals that block pain, the body does not make enough of its own opioids to stop severe pain or overdose itself. When someone takes opiate drugs, they easily bind to these receptors because they are similar in chemical structure to the body’s natural opioid neurotransmitters. However, opiate drugs do not act the same way as opioid neurotransmitters, which causes the transmission of abnormal messages throughout the body. Heroin’s impact on the body is dependent on a whole host of factors. These factors include the user’s current state of health, their weight, whether they are male or female. How the person takes opiates, how much opiates he or she takes, how long they have engaged in opiate use, the simultaneous consumption of other drugs or alcohol and their mental health also play a role on how heroin will affect the body. In terms of how opiate drugs interfere with these signals produces a variety of effects: 

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Poor decision making
  • Sedation
  • Shallow breathing

The Effects of Combining Opiates and Alcohol

Since opiates and alcohol are both considered to be depressants, they can be a deadly drug combination when taken together. When someone takes an opiate and drinks alcohol, the opiate will increase the body’s absorption rate of the alcohol, increasing the likelihood of alcohol poisoning. Additionally, this mixture slows down brain functioning and subsequently, the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems. Signs and symptoms of an opiate-alcohol overdose include drowsiness, dizziness and slowed heart rate and breathing rate. Their heart can even stop beating. The longer someone engages in this type of polydrug use, they increase their chances of a fatal overdose

Why Arizona Drug Users Are Taking Opiate-Alcohol Cocktails

With such a high risk of death from consuming opiates and alcohol, it is surprising that the number of fatalities is so high. Often, people turn to this type of substance use to relax as opiates’ ability to cause the feeling of euphoria lasts longer when this drug is combined with alcohol. Other people choose to take both of these substances at the same time as an escape because the combo either makes them fall asleep for a long period of time or gives them a more intense high than taking opiates alone. 

This Dangerous Trend Is Running Rampant Among Youth

The results of 2012 study by McCabe and other researchers indicate that a significant portion of young people are mixing opiates with other substances, including other opiates. Approximately 1 of 8 teenagers in high school have used opiates with for recreational purposes, and 70 percent of these teens are combining opiates with one or more substances. Although they are using opiates in conjunction with amphetamines, tranquilizers, marijuana and cocaine, 52.1 percent of teenagers from this study are also combining opiates with alcohol. 

More People Are Turning to Heroin 

Due to the alarming rate of prescription opioid abuse, authorities in Arizona and the rest of the country are taking a hardline approach to curbing the distribution of these medications. Therefore, people who are dependent or addicted to opiates are using heroin. Estimates by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that almost 700,000 people in America are using heroin. Approximately 170,000 people tried heroin for the first time in 2012. Looking at the rates from the 1960s to the 1970s when heroin reached its height of popularity, current heroin-use rates are on reaching the same level. Heroin users state that street heroin is easier to access that legitimate prescriptions and cheaper to buy than illicit prescription painkillers. 

immigration drug abuse

Immigration Does Not Cause Surge in Drug Abuse or Drug Availability

In light of many heated debates regarding immigration and its impact on the United States, a research group out of University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study to determine what, if any, effect immigrants had on the drug problems in this country. After gathering data from the Center for Migration Studies and Pew Research Center, they were able to determine that immigration does not actually effect drug use and drug availability in the United States.

“This is an area where public and political debates have far outpaced the research. And central to this debate is whether undocumented immigration increases drug and alcohol problems, or crime more generally. There are good theoretical reasons to think it could have increased substance abuse problems in recent decades. But the data just doesn’t show it,” commented Professor Michael Light, lead researcher of the study. The results of his research appeared in the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers were able to come to this conclusion after comparing undocumented immigrants to the four major criteria that is most affected by drug use – drug crimes, driving under the influence arrests, drug overdose deaths and drunken driving fatalities. They found that undocumented immigrants are actually not engaging in these types of activities, and in fact are actually responsible in bringing down the national statistic. When the population is increased by 1% due to undocumented immigrants, there are 22 fewer drug arrests, 42 fewer drunken driving arrests and 0.64 fewer drug overdoses.

One possible explanation for this, it called the “healthy immigrant effect”, where it has been found that undocumented immigrants actually lead healthier lifestyles then people born in the United States.

Regardless of why undocumented immigrants are using less drugs and committing less crimes than Americans, the point of the study was to dispel some of the most common myths surrounding undocumented immigrants and their connection to illegal drugs. In an effort to better understand the drug problem in this country, it is important to focus on actual problems, rather than perceived problems.

Reduce Risk of Opioid Overdose

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.

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.

Benzodiazepine Overdoses Also on the Rise

prescription drug overdoseThe main focus of lawmakers, medical professionals and educators regarding substance abuse has been on the opiate epidemic in the United States lately. For good reason too, because every day 44 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers, and the rising number of heroin-related deaths is equally as alarming.

However, because all the attention has been on preventing these from occurring, people have ignored another silent killer. Benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin have been killing people at a rate increase that is beginning to surpass even prescription painkillers, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“We found that the death rate from overdoses involving benzodiazepines, also known as ‘benzos’, has increased more than four-fold since 1996 – a public health problem that has gone under the radar,” commented Dr. Marcus Bachhuber of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Dr. Bachhuber led a team of researchers in investigating the rising amount of benzodiazepine overdoses by compiling several large surveys that were conducted on prescription trends and overdose fatalities. They quickly found that the amount of benzos that were being prescribed had increased significantly over the years. This was an important discovery because it shows that doctors are relying on the drugs to handle their patients’ symptoms despite the very real possibility of addiction and subsequent overdose.

Typically, benzodiazepines are prescribed to address anxiety disorders and other serious problems. However, the pills are extremely addictive and can cause an even more intense level of anxiety or bring on seizures if the person has a sudden cessation of use. These dangerous symptoms often cause people to continue using more and more of the pills, and a growing number are experiencing benzodiazepine overdoses. Their level of danger increases when combined with one or more additional substances, such as alcohol or other prescription drugs.

Physicians are being pressed to review their prescribing practices given the number of prescription drug problems in the country, and it would be extremely helpful if the U.S. followed suit of other modern nations and disallowed drug companies to market prescriptions directly to consumers. Understanding the trends of abuse and overdoses is vital when it comes to saving lives and preventing undo harm to patients and their families.