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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Missouri Needs Prescription Drug Monitoring

The need is real and the time is now. Or, at least, that is how we should all be looking at prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in the United States. All the evidence points to prescription opioids as being the tap root of the American opioid epidemic. Soaring opioid addiction rates, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and staggering overdose deaths numbers can all be tied to a national prescription drug crisis. And, as efforts on both the state and federal level to make it harder to acquire and abuse prescription painkillers move forward, many addicts have turned to a cheaper, stronger and easier to find alternative.

Over the course of several years, all but one state has put some form of PDMP into effect, an online network that allows doctors, nurses and pharmacists identify doctor-shoppers and those who show signs of an opioid use disorder. If utilized, such systems can save lives by preventing overdose and help doctors determine which patients they should refer to addiction treatment services. Unfortunately, research tells us that PDMPs are extremely underutilized across the board by those working in the field of medicine.

It could easily be argued that rural America has been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic, including states like Missouri. So you may be surprised to learn that Missouri is the only state to not pass PDMP legislation, CNBC reports. The lack of a PDMP in Missouri has not been for lack of trying, in fact, one member of the Missouri House of Representatives has been fighting for years to convince Missouri's government to create one.

Rep. Holly Rehder of Missouri, knows first-hand the havoc that prescription opioid abuse can cause. Her own daughter became an addict after receiving a prescription for opioid painkillers, according to the article. Rehder’s daughter would go on to give birth to a son who was found to have the deadly narcotics in his system.

"We've had 13 years of ups and downs. ... This is not what you would think, a middle-class suburban teen going to church, with both parents working. ... That's not who you think about when you think about addiction," said Rehder. "All it took was that first prescription. After that, she started buying at work. ... There's a plethora of these pills on the street."

Rehder’s experience is not unique, and highlights the importance of prescription drug monitoring programs. If doctors are better equipped at preventing doctor shopping, the fewer powerful painkillers will be diverted for illegal sale.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cannabis Use Tripled Since 1990s

Both medical marijuana and recreational use legalization in many states has created a lot of concern. Much of the worry that people have is over fears that relaxed cannabis legislation will prompt more people to try or use the drug, especially young people. While it is true that the drug is much more accessible in a number of states, it does not necessarily follow that more Americans will begin to use the controversial drug.

Before we go any further, we would be remiss if it wasn't mention that while marijuana may be more benign in comparison to other mind altering substances, it does mean that use of the drug is safe. It is well documented that cannabis use, specifically heavy use, can lead to a number of problems, such as problems with memory, focus and damage to the lungs if smoked. What’s more, the drug has also been found to wreak havoc on the developing brains of teenagers. Just because use of the drug has gained more acceptance in recent years, does not mean that it is safe.

As was mentioned before, many opponents of lightening up on cannabis have expressed fears that more people will use the drug. Up to now, there has been little research conducted on how new cannabis legislation would affect pre-existing users of the drug, those who used the drug before medical marijuana or recreational use was legalized. However, a new study has found that use of the drug among daily marijuana users has risen dramatically, VICE News reports. What’s more, the researchers found that near-daily cannabis use has tripled since the 1990’s. The findings were published in the Journal of Drug Issues.

The study, "Evolution of the United States Marijuana Market in the Decade of Liberalization Before Full Legalization," showed that two-thirds of marijuana is used by those who are every day smokers, according to the article. Perhaps even more concerning is that the research indicates that 15 percent of all marijuana is used by those who are poverty stricken, spending as much as a quarter of their yearly earnings on the drug.

If your marijuana use has impacted your life negatively, please contact Whiteside Manor.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Preventing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

The American opioid epidemic is nothing short of a catastrophe with as many as 78 people losing their lives everyday due to overdose. While the death rate is staggering and calls for immediate action to curb both prescription opioid and heroin abuse, there are in fact other statistics relevant to the opioid epidemic that may be even more troubling.

The vast majority of adults understand that if pregnant women drink alcohol they put their baby at severe risks, i.e. fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Anything a mother puts into her body during the pregnancy, finds its way to the fetus. Keeping that in mind, with the exponential increase of opioid narcotic use, it stands to reason that more babies than ever are being exposed to prescription painkillers and/or heroin.

When a mother uses opioids during the pregnancy, they risk their baby being born with what is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). This occurs when the baby no longer has access to their mother's supply of opioids that the fetus was accustomed to, in turn causing withdrawal symptoms to ensue. If any of you have experienced opioid withdrawal, you are fully aware of just how painful the symptoms can be.

Babies born with NAS face a series of complications that require extensive medical supervision to ensure that the baby can recover as painlessly as possible. Nevertheless, even after recovery is achieved there is no way of knowing what other problems may develop down the road. Unfortunately, a large percentage of pregnant women will use opioids throughout the course of their pregnancy. It is paramount that women who are addicted to opioids let their doctor know that they have a problem upon learning that they are with child—the risks are too high to stay mute.

Just to give you an idea of the severity of the problem, new research suggests that between 1999 and 2013, babies being born with NAS quadrupled in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 1999, there were 1.5 NAS cases per 1,000 hospital births, but by 2013 there were 6 NAS cases per 1,000 births. In order to reduce the number of NAS cases each year, the CDC released the Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, which urges doctors to:

  1. Consider nonopioid pharmacologic therapy for chronic pain management.
  2. Discuss family planning and how long-term opioid use might affect future pregnancies before initiating opioid therapy in reproductive-aged women.
  3. Prescribe the lowest effective dose when opioids are started.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Quitting Cigarettes May Reduce Drinking

While restrictions on where people can smoke cigarettes in the United States have become much tighter in recent years, it is still safe to say that wherever people are drinking alcohol—cigarettes will be around as well. It wasn’t that long ago that people could smoke cigarettes in bars across the country. And while people are smoking less now than in decades past, people at bars still crowd into designated smoking areas outside taverns. Some could even argue that smoking and drinking go hand and hand. A number of people who don't even smoke cigarettes, will find themselves smoking when imbibing.

Many people who are addicted to cigarettes often find it hard to be around alcohol when trying to quit—for fear that alcohol will make them want to smoke. However, new research suggests that people who quit smoking may actually reduce their alcohol intake, Medical News Today reports. The findings were published in BMC Public Health.

The study involved 31,878 individuals from England aged 16 and older, between March 2014 and September 2015. Of the pool, 6,278 reported smoking, 144 of which had attempted to quit in the week prior to filling out the survey, according to the article. When compared to the respondents who did not try to quit smoking, those who had attempted smoking cessation reported lower overall alcohol intake and lower levels of binge drinking.

"We can't yet determine the direction of causality. Further research is needed to disentangle whether attempts to quit smoking precede attempts to restrict alcohol consumption or vice versa," said study lead author Jamie Brown, of University College London in the United Kingdom. "We'd also need to rule out other factors which make both more likely. Such as the diagnosis of a health problem causing attempts to cut down on both drinking and smoking."

The findings are important to the field of addiction medicine because past research has shown that people in recovery who quit smoking are less likely to relapse on the substance of choice, compared to people in recovery who have not quit. If you are in treatment or going to be in the near future, it is always advised to give smoking cessation a shot, as it may greatly improve your ability to abstain from other mind altering substances.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Illegal Drug Sales On Cryptomarkets

It has been a few years since the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down the online illegal drug marketplace Silk Road in 2013. If you have not heard of the Silk Road, it can be easily explained in just a few sentences.

It is possible to conduct business transactions online that are next to impossible to trace through the use of internet service provider anonymity software and the use of Bitcoins—a form digital currency that is hard to trace. People looking to buy illegal drugs online would use such tools to access the Silk Road marketplace which operated in what is known as the dark web. Over the course of years, billions of dollars in bitcoins were exchanged for illegal goods, such as heroin or cocaine.

When the FBI managed to arrest the Silk Roads creator and shut down the site, it was hailed as a bittersweet victory, because what came afterwards was arguably much worse. As opposed to having one major dark web marketplace, scores more arose in place of the Silk Road. The FBI now is charged with looking at dozens of these illegal marketplaces, many of which were founded by people overseas. And it may be fair to say that shutting down the new drug dealing websites is much more difficult and in the meantime millions of dollars in illegal drugs are being sold online.

In fact, RAND Europe, a policy research institute, conducted a study on what are now being referred to as cryptomarkets around the world, The Wall Street Journal reports. The organization identified 50 such marketplaces which are primarily run by drug sellers in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. Their research indicates that transactions have tripled and revenue has doubled since 2013 at the closing of the Silk Road. The most popular new cryptomarkets are raking in between $12 million and $21.1 million per month.

These types of sites are particularly concerning because practically any adolescent with a computer and internet access can buy illegal drugs online anonymously. After purchase, the drugs are then mailed to one’s house in benign packaging that may not look suspicious to parcel services and parents. As it seems evident that the dark web is not going anywhere, and these types of cryptomarkets operate with impunity, parents should be vigilant when it comes to what their children are up to on the web.