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Friday, June 24, 2016

Prescription Opioid Use Disorder

opioid use disorder
There is a fine line between taking a prescription drug as prescribed and abuse. Many of those who are prescribed narcotic medications may not be aware of how easy it is to cross that invisible line and just how dangerous that transition can be. The process is usually innocent in nature at first. A patient is prescribed a painkiller, and they take the pills as instructed on the side of the bottle. Having little knowledge of tolerance, that is when a resistance is formed to the drug's effects, many patients will justify either taking another pill at the same time or before instructed to do so.

Naturally, doubling up on one’s medication will provide the desired relief—at first. But, the effects are fleeting. Such is the slippery slope of dependence that commonly results in addiction. The prescription drugs in question are opioid painkillers. These are the drugs that the citizens of the United States have become over reliant on when it comes to pain management. If you are prescribed opioid analgesics and are not sure if you meet the criteria for a prescription opioid use disorder, please take a look at the National Institutes of Health symptoms below:
  • Taking the drug in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • The persistent desire to cut down or control use/unsuccessful efforts to do so.
  • Failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home as a result of prescription opioid use.
  • Symptoms of tolerance and/or withdrawal.
As is evident by the opioid epidemic leaving its mark on the country, there is a large number of people who meet the criteria for a prescription opioid use disorder. In many cases, people move from prescription opioids to heroin, finding it more and more difficult to acquire drugs like oxycodone. Both prescription opioids and heroin are extremely dangerous with a high potential for overdose. If you feel that you meet the criteria for an opioid use disorder, we advise you to seek help immediately.

“The increasing misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers poses a myriad of serious public health consequences,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in a news release. “These include increases in opioid use disorders and related fatalities from overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of newborns who experience neonatal abstinence syndrome. In some instances, prescription opioid misuse can progress to intravenous heroin use with consequent increases in risk for HIV, hepatitis C and other infections among individuals sharing needles.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

AMA Against Powdered Alcohol

powdered alcohol
It probably fair to say that dehydrated alcohol that comes in a powder is a slippery slope, one that will likely lead to serious health problems if allowed to be sold in stores. Alcohol in liquid form is insidious enough, providing it in a form that can easily be concealed raises the stakes to say the least—especially when it comes to teenagers.

The product in question is called Palcohol, powdered alcohol that comes in a variety of flavors. One need to only mix the powder with water, and voilĂ , you have yourself a cocktail. The makers of Palcohol, Lipsmark LLC, say that the product is meant for hikes or backpacking trips. However, since the announcement of the product, both lawmakers and health officials have been up in arms about the product, citing concerns of teenage use and abuse due to the products ability to be easily hidden from adults and authorities.

While a number of states have taken measures to preemptively ban Palcohol, the product has been available in other countries for over a decade, Medscape reports. Last week, at the American Medical Association’s (AMA) annual meeting, the House of Delegates voted to support federal and state legislation prohibiting powdered alcohol:
  • Manufacturing
  • Importation
  • Distribution
  • Sales
"The harms that could arise from mixing powdered alcohol with liquid alcohol or even with energy drinks raises the potential for dangerous patterns of use," the council said in a report.

In the United States, 32 states have already banned powdered alcohol, and other states are considering similar legislation, according to the article. The University of Michigan conducted a survey which found that 60 percent of adults favor powdered alcohol bans.

"We believe that powdered alcohol has the potential to cause serious harm to minors," said Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, a member of the AMA board of trustees, in a news release.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Georgia Moratorium on Suboxone Clinics

Drugs like Suboxone and methadone are used to treat those addicted to prescription opioids and heroin. In recent years, there has been a growing demand to provide access to substance use disorder treatment services, which is typically characterized by both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. However, lack of availability in the areas often time the hardest hit by the American opioid epidemic, has resulted in a surge in both Suboxone and/or methadone clinics. The service they offer is known as medication assisted treatment, or MAT.

Despite the fact the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has called for greater access to MAT, there is a lot of controversy surrounding such programs. The most common argument against Suboxone and methadone maintenance clinics is the fact that opioid addicts are swapping one addictive opioid for another—doing little to address the addiction itself. Proponents of such programs contend that MAT drugs are the lesser of two evils. It is a debate which is likely to continue for some time as lawmakers and addiction experts attempt to compromise over the best route to take on the road to ending the epidemic taking a significant number of American lives every day.

In the Southeast, a large number of MAT clinics per capita have opened up that has some lawmakers concerned. Recently, the State of Georgia put a one-year moratorium on issuing licenses to MAT clinics, despite the epidemic, NPR reports. For some reason, Georgia has seen a dramatic rise in the opening of clinics offering Suboxone and methadone, which has left lawmakers in the state scratching their heads. Until they can figure out why their state has far more clinics than the surrounding states, the moratorium will continue.

"If you go to the parking lot of any of these clinics in northwest Georgia," said Senator Jeff Mullis, "you'll see as many Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky tags as you do Georgia tags."

Senator Mullis, who sponsored the moratorium legislation would like to know what makes Georgia unique. The legislation requires the formation of a committee to answer his question, according to the article. For instance, Florida which a population almost double that of Georgia has 65 clinics—Georgia has 67 such clinics.

Other states in the region have much fewer:
  • Alabama has 24
  • Tennessee has only 12
  • Mississippi has one clinic

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Prescription Opioids Cardiovascular Death Risk

prescription opioids
After a decade and a half long opioid epidemic, practically everyone in the United States is acutely aware that prescription opioid painkillers are both addictive and deadly. Those who use and abuse medications like OxyContin (oxycodone) are at risk of experiencing an overdose. Opioid overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 47,055 fatal overdoses in 2014.

The surge in prescription opioid and heroin overdoses has resulted in the lightening of restrictions for acquiring the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone—commonly sold under the name Narcan. Time and time again the medication has proven to be a miracle for thousands of Americans who would have otherwise perished by way of an overdose. In most states, it is now possible to pick up naloxone without a prescription, which gives the friends and family of addicts a vital tool that can save their loved one's life.

It turns out that prescription opioid analgesics can lead to death without the occurrence of an overdose. New research suggests that prescription opioids raise one's risk of death by 64 percent, but the causes of premature death are often cardiovascular in nature, HealthDay reports. The findings are especially important due to the fact that prescription opioids are commonly doled out in spades to seniors, many of which have pre-existing heart conditions.

Prescription opioid narcotics can cause:
  • Breathing Difficulties While Asleep
  • Heart Rhythm Irregularities
  • Various Cardiovascular Complications
"We were not surprised by the increased risk for overdose deaths, which is well known," said study lead author Wayne Ray, at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "However, the large increase in cardiovascular death risk is a novel finding. [And] it suggests being even more cautious with opioids for patients who are at high cardiovascular risk, such as those who have had a heart attack or have diabetes."

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Help Raise Awareness About PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects 3.5 percent of of adults in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Of those cases, 36.6 percent are considered severe. The National Center for PTSD reports that there are four major symptoms of the disorder:
  • Reliving the event, or re-experiencing symptoms (i.e. nightmares, flashbacks, and triggers).
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. (i.e. crowds and/or activities).
  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings (i.e. isolation and general distrust in others).
  • Feeling keyed up, also called hyperarousal (i.e. trouble sleeping or concentrating).
People who work in the field of addiction medicine are no strangers to cases involving PTSD. It is quite common among combat veterans with battle stress or people who have experienced a sexual assault to cope with their PTSD by using mind altering substances, such as drugs and alcohol. It is a method of treatment fraught with peril, often leading to dependence and/or a substance use disorder.

Using drugs and alcohol to manage one’s symptoms may provide some temporary relief for a period time. However, those who engage in self-medication are often unaware that drugs and alcohol make their PTSD, or any other form of mental illness worse in the end. It is quite common for those who self-medicate their PTSD to make a suicide attempt. It is crucial that such realities be conveyed to those suffering from any mental health disorders, lest they make a choice that cannot be taken back.

June is National PTSD Awareness Month. At the end of the month, on June 27th, the National Center for PTSD is asking everyone to have a hand in helping those suffering from PTSD get the help they require. If you have a social media account, such as Facebook or Twitter, please take a moment to spread the word about PTSD by sharing an informative guide.