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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Obstacles of Getting Treatment

Recovery from addiction is extremely challenging, but it is possible. While it may seem that substance use disorder treatment is available to everyone, many who seek treatment often face obstacles, USA Today reports.

With the rapid rise in opioid overdose deaths throughout the country, experts are calling for increased access to treatment. In 2013, 44,000 people lost their lives to opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Currently, many addicts seeking treatment find long waiting lists and a number of treatment centers are unaffordable. Despite the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act, many insurers are unwilling to cover the costs of treatment. What’s more, insurance companies often limit the number of doses of buprenorphine that patients can receive, according to the article.

There 22.7 million Americans who were in need of drug or alcohol treatment in 2013, but only 11 percent actually received treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). At least 316,000 who needed treatment that year tried and failed to get it.

"We know addiction treatment saves lives, reduces drug use, reduces criminal activity and improves employment," says Paul Samuels, president and director of the Legal Action Center, which advocates on behalf of people with HIV or addiction. "The data is there, the evidence is in, but our public policy has not caught up with the science."

Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said that enough opioid prescriptions (259 million) were written in 2011 to give a bottle of pills to every adult in the USA. More than 2 million Americans abuse prescription opiates and about 669,000 use heroin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Recovering addict Mike McCrorken speaks about his experience getting treatment:


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Emergency Rooms and Prescription Drug Overdoses

New research indicates that how often a person visits an emergency room in a year can increase the risk of premature death. In fact, visiting the emergency room at least four times in one year increases the risk of dying from a prescription drug overdose, HealthDay reports.

"Emergency department visits may serve as an important window of opportunity for identifying patients at heightened risk of prescription drug overdose and for implementing evidence-based intervention programs," study senior author Dr. Guohua Li, a professor of epidemiology, said in the news release. These actions include providing patients and their families with take-home naloxone (Narcan), a drug used to treat overdose, and drug treatment referral, he said.

In the state of New York, researchers analyzed data from more than 5,400 patients who went to ERs throughout the state between 2006 and 2010. The data indicated that patients with four or more ER visits in the past year were 48 times more likely to die from a prescription drug overdose. People who went three times in one year were 17 times more likely to die from a prescription drug overdose than those who visited once or not at all.

The research showed that people with highest risk were those with substance use disorders or other psychiatric disorders, according to the article. The researchers found others with the highest risk of dying from a prescription drug overdose included men, whites, and those ages 35 to 54.

“While ‘doctor-shopping’—the practice of visiting multiple health care providers to obtain controlled substances—has been shown to be associated with prescription drug overdose in many studies, our investigation demonstrates that the frequency of emergency department visits in the past year is a strong predictor of subsequent death from prescription drug overdose,” researcher Joanne Brady of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health said in a news release.

The findings were published in the Annals of Epidemiology.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marijuana Edibles Crossing State Lines

With more and more states adopting a more lenient stance towards marijuana, between medical marijuana and limited recreational legalization, it comes as little surprise that states without such policies are seeing an influx of marijuana products crossing their borders. A number of states have complained that cannabis products from states like Colorado and Washington are being illegally transported across state lines for increased return.

Historically, marijuana that moved across the country was always in plant form. Today, however, officials in marijuana unfriendly states need to be on the lookout for edibles, The New York Times reports. Cannabis edibles have become quite popular, products like lollipops and marshmallows provide users a high without the smoke. Many of these products come in packaging that looks like it was purchased in a grocery store or corner market.

In Tennessee, officers recently stopped a Chevy Blazer driven by a couple with three children in back, according to the article. A search of the vehicle produced 24 pounds of cannabis cookies, small gingerbread men hard candies, and marijuana butter. A meat injector for lacing the products with the butter was also discovered.

“This is the first time that we have ever seen marijuana butter or any of this candy containing marijuana in the county,” said Jim Jeffries, the police chief in LaFollette, Tenn. “We hope it’s the last time.”

Concerns about the consumption of marijuana edibles has been mounting for some time, many have called for increased regulation of such products. In states where marijuana is still illegal through-and-through, there has been little, if any, public education on cannabis edibles.

“Citizens in nonlegalization states are far less likely to be receiving those messages, so their risks are probably greater,” said Robert J. MacCoun, a professor of law at Stanford who recently co-wrote an editorial that called for stronger regulation of cannabis edibles in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Overall Drinking Down - Binge Drinking On The Rise

Harmful drinking practices are a major concern in the United States, particularly binge drinking among teenagers and young adults. Binge drinking is often defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages (male), or four or more drinks (female), over a 2-hour period. While overall drinking in developed countries is on the decline, new research indicates that hazardous drinking is on the rise, the Associated Press reports.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is comprised of 34 nations, found that in the past two decades overall alcohol consumption has declined. However, young people engaging in binge drinking is a “major public health and social concern,” the OECD stated in the new report.

Some of the developed nations which are part of the OECD include:
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Spain
  • Sweden
The report found that the proportion of boys, aged 15 and younger, who have been drunk rose to 43 percent from 30 percent during the 2000s, according to the article. With girls, the proportion rose to 41 percent from 26 percent during the same time period.

“The cost to society and the economy of excessive alcohol consumption around the world is massive, especially in OECD countries,” OECD Secretary-General Angel GurrĂ­a said in a news release. “This report provides clear evidence that even expensive alcohol abuse prevention policies are cost-effective in the long run and underlines the need for urgent action by governments.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hepatitis C Linked to Prescription Drug Abuse

Southern and Appalachian states have been hit especially hard by the prescription drug epidemic plaguing the United States. With prescription drug abuse often comes addiction, and relying on more effective methods for getting the powerful narcotics into one’s system - such as IV drug use. New research suggests that the rise in IV drug use has led to a surge of new hepatitis C cases, USA Today reports.

A new report released conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in rural areas of four Appalachian states, hepatitis C cases more than tripled from 2006 to 2012. The figures are particularly alarming for the fact that hepatitis C is responsible for more loss in life than AIDS.

"We're in the midst of a national epidemic of hepatitis C," said John Ward, director of viral hepatitis prevention at the CDC. Ward adds that nationwide, more than 20,000 Americans die from hepatitis C each year, which is more than the number who die from AIDS. "The CDC views hepatitis C as an urgent public health problem."

Among people age 30 and younger, new hepatitis C cases a rose from 1.25 per 100,000 in 2006 people to 4 per 100,000 in 2012 in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The rise in hepatitis C cases is a clear indicator that states need to heavily invest in needle exchange programs. Such programs will not only prevent the spread of deadly infections, they will also give outreach substance abuse counselors a forum to talk to addicts about their addiction.

The state of Indiana has been faced with an increase of HIV cases directly tied to the injection of the prescription opioid Opana. As a result, Governor Mike Pence declared a public health emergency, authorizing a short-term needle exchange program in one county, according to the article.

"It is critically important that needle exchange programs like the temporary one in Indiana be replicated across the country, and be permanent," said Paul Samuels, president and director of the Legal Action Center, which advocates on behalf of people with HIV or substance abuse disorders.

"Studies have repeatedly proven that needle exchange programs reduce HIV, hepatitis and other infections among people who use intravenous drugs without increasing intravenous drug use, and indeed they are a bridge to treatment for some participants. Substance abuse prevention and treatment, including treatment with medications, and harm reduction — including needle exchange — are all necessary components of a comprehensive strategy for combating the opioid epidemic and addressing the many ways it can harm people with addictions."