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Friday, October 21, 2016

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

prescription opioids
Even if you are not in recovery, or work in the field of addiction medicine, you can play a role in helping to end the American opioid epidemic. Every year, millions of prescription opioids are handed out by doctors to American patients. The United States accounts for about 5 percent of the planet’s population, yet we prescribe and consume the vast majority of all opioid narcotics.

Naturally, not everyone who is prescribed a painkiller is going to abuse them, or become dependent on the drugs. In many cases, people prescribed opioids for pain will only use the drug until the pain eases up. They often have leftover drugs that will just sit in the medicine cabinet collecting dust. While it may not seem like a big deal to just forget about one’s unwanted or unneeded medications, in actuality, many peoples' initiation into the world of prescription opioids is made possible by a friend or family member's prescription.

In fact, many Americans have no problem diverting some of their Vicodin or OxyContin to someone in need, even though the act is illegal. They will often do this despite having the knowledge that we are in the grips of an epidemic, believed to be caused by prescription opioids. It is crucial that unwanted medications are disposed of safely, so they do not end up in the wrong hands or lead to another person developing an opioid use disorder.

On October 22nd, Americans across the country can take part in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The event, which is organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), could help keep millions of unwanted opioids out of the wrong hands. With more than 5,000 collection sites nationwide, there will be ample opportunity to dispose of your drugs. You can find a location close to you by clicking here.

Additionally, the White House points out that major pharmacies are doing their part to help with the cause:
  • Walgreens Pharmacy has installed more than 500 drug disposal kiosks at pharmacies in 35 states and Washington, D.C.
  • CVS Pharmacy has donated more than 600 disposal units to law enforcement and is holding more than 125 events across the country for Take-Back Day.
If you have unwanted medication, please keep in mind that safely disposing of those drugs could save lives.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Slowing Mental Illness Progression

mental illness
Mental health organizations and addiction medicine professionals observed Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW) during the first week of October. Sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the aim of MIAW was to shine a light on disorders that will affect 1 in 5 Americans in any given year. By doing so, hopefully we can chip away at the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness face every day, which could result in more people seeking help.

There are currently a number of scientifically accepted treatments and therapies for mental health disorders, such as addiction, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The use of medication in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, can result in people, with a form of mental illness, leading a relatively normal life.

There is a still much that is not understood about the causes of mental illness. This is why researchers continue to probe to find answers, which could result in the development of preventative measures and new, more effective treatments. Interestingly, the causes of mental illness may be answered by studying the brain of fruit flies.

A team of researchers from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University, may have shed some light on the causes of mental health disorders, ScienceDaily reports. The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

The fruit fly, known scientifically as Drosophila, shares a number of genetic similarities with humans, with 70 percent of the genes expressed in our brains matching the fruit fly’s brain, according to the article. The human brain has a RNA processing protein known as SRSF5, which is important to the synthesis of acetylcholine, a molecule which acts as a messenger between neurons. Previous research has shown imbalances in SRSF5 and acetylcholine production in the brains of patients with bipolar disease. The fruit fly’s brain has an equivalent protein known as B52, which could lead to drugs being developed to mitigate or slow the progression of mental health disorders.

"Our findings are exciting and have the potential to form the basis of drug therapies to address mental diseases in humans,” said study leader, Dr Torsten Bossing, Senior Research Fellow in Neurobiology at the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Young Adults Abusing Prescription Opioids

Everyone in America has been touched by the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Even if you do not have a problem with opioids yourself, there is a good chance you know somebody who does, or has struggled with opioids in the past. In no other time in our history, have we seen a substance abuse problem affect people from so many different walks of life, which reinforces the idea that addiction does not discriminate.

Prescription opioid abuse often starts with a patient complaining about pain to their primary care physician. Patients with no history of drug or alcohol abuse start by taking their painkillers as prescribed, but as time goes on what started as intended use, can quickly turn into unintended use and abuse. One of the reasons the problem in America has gotten so bad, is that doctors often fail to explain the dangers of prescription opioid use. What’s more, doctors typically prescribe more pills than a patient requires. When the pain subsides, the leftover pills often sit collecting dust or end up in the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, sometimes those wrong hands belong to young adults. In fact, new research suggests that young adults are at a greater risk of forming an addiction to prescription opioids than they were in years past, HealthDay reports. They were also more likely to use heroin, which is often stronger, cheaper and easier to come by than prescription opioids. The findings were published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City found that opioid use disorder more than doubled among 26- to 34-year-olds, rising from 11 percent to 24 percent, between 2002 and 2014, according to the article. Opioid use disorder increased 37 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds.

"Our analyses present the evidence to raise awareness and urgency to address these rising and problematic trends among young adults," said study first author Dr. Silvia Martins, an associate professor of epidemiology. "The potential development of prescription opioid use disorder among youth and young adults represents an important and growing public health concern."

Saturday, October 1, 2016

National Bullying Prevention Month

While it would be nice if teenagers could treat each other with equal respect, unfortunately a number of adolescents are subjected to ridicule and abuse from their peers. Some would argue that pain and discomfort is a part of growing up, that in the end it may make the victim of such treatment a stronger person. The reality is more times than not quite the opposite.

High school can be real challenge, making friends with the “right” clique or striving for popularity in a sea of awkward teenage growing pains. Some students manage to sail through their high school years without any problems, whereas others are the punchline of people's jokes. There are times when such criticisms become a constant problem, and can even elevate to physical abuse at times. Yet, as bad as that is, bullying continues to go unchecked among teenagers and young adults. As you might imagine this can cause serious mental health problems for victims down the road, but you may not have thought that bullies are susceptible to problems of their own.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that:

“Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, and even death. Victimized youth are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment. Youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood. Compared to youth who only bully, or who are only victims, bully-victims suffer the most serious consequences and are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems.” 

The aforementioned point highlights just how important it is to curb bullying, as neither the victim nor the bully wins in the end. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. The anti-bullying campaign known as STOMP Out Bullying™ is calling upon schools and organizations to help them “encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages.”

The CDC points out that in a 2015 nationwide survey, 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey. This is a nationwide problem worthy of concern.

Throughout the month there will be events held with the aim of opening up the conversation about bullying. The hope is that when people see others being bullied they will intervene, and that victims will find the strength to come forward for help. This coming Monday, STOMP Out Bullying™ is asking that as many people as possible where a blue t-shirt to show support for National Bullying Prevention Month and to help end bullying and cyberbullying.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

2016 Naloxone App Competition

The use of smartphones is pervasive in America. In the past, cellphones were a tool that people used for making calls when away from a landline; but today, the typical American adult has little need for a home phone, being all but replaced by iPhones and the like. In many ways we have become dependent upon smartphones, as is evident by sitting in an airport and looking around—practically everyone is staring down an LCD or LED screens of various size.

We use our phone for so many things. We no longer need to ask for directions or pull out our credit card to make purchases. All the information we need to access in our day to day life can be found in the microchips of our smartphones. It is often said that if you can think of something, then there is probably an app for that—and in many cases that is the truth.

While some people's reliance on cellphones can result in unhealthy behaviors, such as staring at Facebook or playing Candy Crush for hours every day, it is possible that in some cases a smartphone could actually save lives. Especially when it comes to addiction. There are a number of apps that have been developed to assist people in recovery when they may be having a rough day. And in some cases recovery apps may be the difference between someone picking up a drink or getting to a 12-Step meeting.

In response to the American opioid epidemic, a crisis stealing 78 lives in this country every day due to overdose, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling on app developers to create a naloxone application for smartphones, CNN. This week, the agency announced a competition to see who could develop the best app; the 2016 Naloxone App Competition began yesterday and will conclude on November 7.

In case you are not familiar with naloxone, a drug sold under the brand name Narcan, it is a drug that can reverse the potentially deadly effects of an opioid overdose. In recent years, naloxone has proven to be invaluable—saving lives every day of the week. Across the country, first responders carry the drug so that it can be administered as quickly as possible—in the event of an overdose, time is of the essence. In many states, you no longer need a prescription from a doctor to acquire the life-saving overdose antidote; which means that addicts, their friends and family can have the drug on hand in case of an emergency.

The FDA is looking for an app that will inform people in need of a naloxone kit, where they can find it in their proximity, according to the article. The app would also alert people who are carrying naloxone that someone nearby is experiencing an overdose.

"With a dramatic increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths in the US, there's a vital need to harness the power of new technologies to quickly and effectively link individuals experiencing an overdose ... with someone who carries and can administer the life-saving medication," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf.

Everyone is welcome to submit an app to the FDA.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bipolar Disorder Increases Substance Use Disorder Risk

It is well understood that it is of the utmost importance to treat the whole patient in the field of addiction medicine. A significant number of people seeking help for a substance use disorder, also have other mental health issues to contend with; it is common occurrence which can complicate one’s ability to work a program of recovery. Many people will actually develop a problem with drugs and alcohol as a result of using the substance to help cope with untreated mental illness; if substance abuse counselors fail to address a client's co-occurring disorder while in treatment, then there is an increased risk of relapse down the road.

Over the years there has been a plethora of research conducted which indicates that people with a mental illness, such as depression, are at an increased risk of addiction. It might even be fair to say that a mental illness begets mental illness, in some cases. Studies also point out that a person with a co-occurring disorder, otherwise known as dual diagnosis, has a much better chance of long term recovery, if they are treated for the addiction and co-occurring disorder at the same time.

The most common co-occurring mental health disorders that addiction patients have, include:
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
As was mentioned earlier, people with mental illness are often far more likely to have addiction problems, compared to the general public. This was the results of a new study conducted recently that found that adolescents with bipolar disorder are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and develop a substance use disorder later in life, HealthDay reports. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The study involved 105 adolescents (average age 14) with bipolar disorder and 98 teens without the disorder, according to the article. Of which, 34 percent of the teens that were bipolar also had substance use disorder, compared to only 4 percent in the control group. The researchers followed up five years later with 68 of the participants with bipolar patients and 81 of the control group. The findings revealed that half a decade later, nearly half of those who were bipolar also had substance use disorder, compared to 26 percent of the control group.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Opioid Addicts Welcome At Fire Stations

It is ever apparent that we cannot treat the opioid epidemic the same way that the country did with other drug scourges in the past. Law enforcement in the United States cannot simply round up the over 2 million Americans with an opioid use disorder and ship them off to our already overcrowded jails and prisons. More than half of American inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses.

The research is conclusive; incarceration has little effect on addiction rates. On the other hand, access to effective addiction treatment services is the best weapon against the opioid scourge that has now been plaguing the nation for nearly twenty-years. Addiction is a difficult malady to recover from as an individual, without effective science-based treatment modalities.

Treatment centers are, for the most part, in abundance throughout areas of the country that are highly populated. Prescription opioid and heroin addicts can look for help at municipal resource centers and nonprofit facilities. But, in rural America, where per capita the problem is significant, it is much more difficult to find addiction support. Meaning people will either continue to use, get arrested or overdose. The New England area has been devastated by prescription opioid and heroin abuse, seeing a steady rise in opioid overdose deaths in recent years.

In an effort to provide addicts with support and recovery resources, fire houses in Manchester, New Hampshire, have opened their doors to opioid addicts, The Wall St. Journal reports. Since May of 2016, the “Safe Station” has welcomed 370 people with opioid addiction problems. Of those who have sought assistance, the fire department EMS officer who created the program says that at least 70 percent have gone into treatment.

Upon seeking help from the Safe Station program, individuals are checked for any medical problems that may require hospitalization, according to the article. After which, the opioid addicts are then referred to a nonprofit which can find them either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program to begin the journey of recovery. Safe Station is similar to a program launched by the police chief in Gloucester, MA, where addicts could go to a police station to surrender their drugs and be referred to a treatment facility. While the program in MA has been deemed to be a success, now being modeled across the country, many addicts may fear that they are being duped into getting arrested. Which is why the Manchester program involves firemen rather than police.
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