Tag Archives: prescription drug abuse

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

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.

Prescription Drug Abuse Includes More Than Just Painkillers

Prescription Drug Abuse Prescription painkillers have wreaked havoc on the nation for several years. The number of people who abuse pills like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet are still astronomical, and so are the number of people who have died from prescription painkiller overdoses. In fact, with millions of Americans abusing painkillers, it is likely that everyone knows someone who has been affected by it.

It is no wonder that this is the first thing that comes to mind when someone talks about prescription drug abuse. However, there are other types of medications that are being abused as well, and we cannot lose focus on preventing and treating all types of prescription drug problems.

Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse and other drugs that are prescribed to people with ADHD are prescription stimulants that are also commonly abused. These medications have often been dubbed as “study drugs” due to the number of college students who use the drug without having a prescription for it. Although the amphetamine-like qualities may allow them to stay awake longer and concentrate more for a short period of time, the risk is far greater than most young people realize.

Many experts have indicated that prescription stimulants are also popular gateway drugs that lead users on to trying more drugs as well. The abuse potential for drugs like Adderall is very high, and users can also feel cravings, irritability, anxiety and even paranoia.

“The bad side effects of it are that it sometimes makes me less social and sometimes I get easily annoyed if someone interrupts me when I am in the middle of something,” said Lilly, a college student that relies on Adderall and Vyvanse to get through her day.

So, while maintaining a heavy focus on prescription painkillers is important, it is also vital that we include all types of prescription drugs, as there are others beyond stimulants and painkillers that are frequently abused.

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.

Modafinil Being Abused as Study Drug on College Campuses

study drugsAbusing Adderall or Ritalin has become more and more common among college students in the United States. This is because the ADHD drugs are amphetamine-like stimulants and they are often abused as so-called “study drugs,” where students will take them to stay up longer to study before a test.

Some college students have begun taking modafinil, which is a eugeroic and is also known by brand names such as Alertec, Modavigil, and Provigil. This is a drug that is prescribed to people who suffer from narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a disorder where a person struggles to stay awake during the day and often falls asleep during relaxing conditions. Physicians prescribe modafinil to people with narcolepsy because it helps them stay awake, which is likely why more and more college students are trying to get their hands on the drug. Although it is an alternative to an amphetamine, it still has a potential abuse and dependency.

Unfortunately, many young people who take ADHD medications or other prescriptions like modafinil do not consider they are abusing drugs or doing something wrong. There is a strong misconception among college students that it is perfectly fine or even normal to take other people’s prescription drugs in order to get an extra boost. However, some people are pointing at colleges for creating an atmosphere where students have to be drugged in order to perform well enough. The fear is that these college students are falling into a trap that they will not be able to get out of, especially when test demands coincide with limited maturity and a “party” lifestyle. People can quickly find themselves seeking a chemical solution to every problem they have in life.

In addition to immediate and potential long term effects of modafinil, many experts feel it is important to point out that young people who use prescription drugs nonmedically are also much more likely to abuse other substances as well.

Adderall Abuse Still Climbing

jhbsphFor many young adults, college is the first time where they really feel pressure to perform without having the necessary support system in place. Instead, expectations and responsibilities increase while maturity and decision-making skills have yet to meet the demand while the desire to fit in can be more of an influence. The build-up combines to create a perfect storm where things like substance abuse can easily creep in. Increasingly, drugs of choice among these college students include prescription stimulants like Adderall.

A study conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that this activity is continuing to grow, despite concentrated efforts in education and prevention for high school and college students. Researchers were able to conclude that use of amphetamines like Adderall or Ritalin is highest among 15 to 25 year-olds. This portion of the population seems to struggle the most when it comes to staying away from these drugs. The study showed that between 2006 and 2011 the amount of people abusing these pills in this age bracket rose 67%. Additionally, the amount of people that were admitted into the emergency room for complications related to Adderall use rose by 156%.

“Many of these college students think stimulants like Adderall are harmless study aids. But there can be serious health risks and they need to be more aware,” explained Ramin Mojtabai, co-author of the study and professor of mental health at the Bloomberg School.

Some of the health risks associated with Adderall abuse are mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and aggressive behaviors. Additionally, people who abuse these medications are also more likely to suffer from sleep problems, such as not being able to fall asleep and then crashing and sleeping for extended time periods of time.

As with other prescription drug problems, one major change that needs to occur is the overall prescribing habits of doctors who flood the market with these pills. They’re given them out by the handful and it’s too easy for young people to get a hold of them. Of course the most important elements of a successful campaign to reduce prescription stimulant abuse include effective drug prevention and addiction treatment programs.

U.S. Pledges More Than $20 Million to Study Ways to Ease Soldiers’ Pain

The United States Government recently announced that it will launch research efforts focused on finding alternative ways for members of the military to manage their chronic pain. Thirteen projects will explore alternative therapy options for pain-related conditions as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse and sleep problems, to hopefully lessen the use of narcotic painkillers.

In a government news release, Dr. Josephine Briggs, Director of the United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, said that pain is the most common reason for Americans to turn to complementary and integrative health practices. She added, “We believe this research will provide much-needed information that will help our military and their family members, and ultimately anyone suffering from chronic pain and related conditions.”

The 13 research projects will be conducted at the Veterans Affairs medical centers and academic institutions across the country, and will cost close to $22 million over the next five years.

Nearly 100 million adult Americans have chronic pain, and the problem disproportionately affects members of our military, both current and former, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine study. In the June issue of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, a report said the rate of chronic pain is 44 percent among members of the U.S. military after combat deployment, compared with just 26 percent in the general population. The report said the rate of use of powerful and potentially addictive narcotic painkillers is 15 percent among U.S. military members after deployment, compared with only 4 percent in the general population.

National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow said prescription opioids are a key tool in managing pain, but doctors prescribing the narcotics more and the increased availability of the drugs may be contributing to the growing misuse of the drugs. “This body of research will add to the growing arsenal of pain management options to give relief while minimizing the potential for abuse, especially for those bravely serving our nation in the armed forces,” Volkow said.

Thousands of People Dispose of Prescription Drugs in Arizona

dearxtbFor the second time this year, police departments across Arizona participated in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The event allowed people to safely dispose of their medications, rather than hold on to the drugs that may potentially go to feed someone’s addiction.

In just one city, Paradise Valley, over 450 pounds of prescriptions were collected in one day. This amount was 2 ½ times the first amount of pills that was collected by the Paradise Valley Police Department when they performed their first take-back event back in April. Some prescriptions that were disposed of were dangerously expired – by as much as 40 years.

Throughout the country more and more police departments, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities are making themselves available to take back unused prescriptions so as to lessen the potential of other addicts getting a hold of dangerous substances. Research shows that most people who are addicted to narcotic painkillers obtain their drugs from a friend or a relative who has a valid prescription for the drugs.

Paradise Valley and other Phoenix-area towns have seen an increase in prescription drug abuse, mainly among teenagers. Police have reported several incidents of teenagers abusing prescription painkillers at parties. Upon questioning it was apparent that most of these drugs were being obtained from family members’ medicine cabinets.

As the prescription painkiller epidemic sweeps across our country, it is vital that more police departments and other healthcare providers follow in the footsteps of the Paradise Valley Police Department. Holding take-back events more than once a year allows for more people to hear about the opportunity to dispose of unwanted/unused medication. In 2010 the DEA made a concentrated effort to get more states to hold take-back events, so far more than 4.1 million pounds of prescription painkillers have been safely disposed of throughout the country.

In addition to publicized events, the Paradise Valley Police Department is making their drop-off container available anytime someone needs to dispose of unwanted/unused prescriptions. Once the police have the drugs they will safely dispose of them. Thankfully, there are more of these year-round collection sites popping up throughout Arizona and across the country.

Should Doctors Receive Mandatory Education on Painkiller Prescribing Practices?

docsSeveral years ago our culture did not rely as heavily on prescription narcotics to manage chronic pain. In fact, if someone suffered from even moderate pain, many doctors sought other ways to address the problems and only resorted to painkillers if lesser treatments didn’t work.

This all changed when the pharmaceutical companies developed drugs like Oxycontin. Sales representatives visited doctors and assured them that prescribing painkillers was the more humane option to deal with chronic pain issues. Doctors were encouraged to write more prescriptions for opioid narcotics, and soon millions more people were abusing the drugs. According to multiple lawsuits, the threat of addiction was severely downplayed by the pharmaceutical companies.

The more recent trend towards prescribing more narcotic painkillers changed society in that people had access to these drugs like they never had before. These opiates are very similar to heroin, in that they provide the same euphoric feeling, they interact with the brain in the same way heroin does and they have similar withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps physicians would not have been so quick to write so many prescriptions had they known what kind of epidemic would begin. The DEA has set up their own physician training system that some say should be mandatory for all doctors.

Prescription drug abuse continues to invade towns throughout the country. In fact, almost 15,000 people die every year from prescription drug overdoses. In addition to the increased efforts to remove excess prescription drugs from the street through take back efforts, educating physicians on better prescribing practices would be a good idea along with holding pharmaceutical companies responsible for deceptive sales techniques.

While it is important to help those who are suffering from chronic problems and provide them with the best quality of life, there is also a responsibility to the community. Reducing the number of prescription drugs on the street is one way, without of course denying the medications for those who truly need them. Saving lives and preventing addiction are the goals.