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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Overdose Deaths Plague West Virginia

A new report, conducted by the nonprofit groups Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the U.S., the Associated Press reports. From 2011 through 2013 there were 34 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 in West Virginia - far surpassing New Mexico, which has the second highest rate. The rate of drug overdose deaths in West Virginia is more than double the national average.

In recent years, the Appalachian region has struggled with the opioid drug epidemic. The heightened use has led to a dramatic increase in infectious disease transmission, such as Hepatitis C. Currently, West Virginia has zero operating needle exchange programs, but plans to open some in the future.

"It's more than disappointing. It's devastating," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in Charleston. "Can I say that I'm shocked? I'm not, because I know the depth of this problem."

The reasons for the crisis in West Virginia are problems that are symptomatic for the region. The state’s health officer, Dr. Rahul Gupta, stated that while the causes are varied, they are intertwined, according to the article. Gupta cites:
  • Poor Education
  • Isolated Communities
  • Limited Treatment Options
  • Available Services are Hard to Reach
"Whether it's drug use, whether it's mental health, it's physical health, a number of those things are going hand-in-hand," Gupta said.

What’s happening in West Virginia is not an isolated event; the surrounding states have been hit hard as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there has been a 364 percent increase in Hepatitis C infections in:
  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
There is a clear and present need for increased access to clean needles, as well as more treatment options. Without help, more and more people will continue to suffer throughout the region.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Flavoring Additive May Boost The Addictive Power of Nicotine

The growing popularity of e-cigarette products has a number of people concerned that while such products may appear healthier, they may be just as bad as traditional cigarettes. There has been little research conducted on the efficacy of e-cigarettes with regard to smoking cessation. What’s more, the flavoring used may actually reinforce the addictive qualities of nicotine.

New research suggest that a flavoring additive known as pyrazine may boost the addictive properties of nicotine, BMJ reports. Pyrazines were originally developed by tobacco companies to enhance the flavor of the new low tar cigarettes (i.e. lights).

While pyrazines were intended to make light cigarettes taste as good as their full bodied counterparts, research indicates that the chemicals act on sensory receptors. Researchers do not believe that nicotine alone is responsible for the intense addictive properties of tobacco smoking and the high relapse rate - pyrazines may be the answer.

"The sensory inputs of pyrazine flavour additives might also provide cues for reward-related learned behaviours and could play a critical role in the development, maintenance, and relapse of tobacco dependence," write the researchers. "They could increase the attractiveness of smoking, particularly among youth."

Now that big tobacco companies have moved into the electronic cigarette business, pyrazines will surely be a part of the flavor that vapers are tasting. It will be interesting to compare Phillip Morris e-cigarette flavor to independent e-juice companies, research may indicate that one is more addictive than the other.

The findings were published online in the journal Tobacco Control.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cocaine is No Longer the King of Florida

When most people think of Florida, sunshine and white sand beaches often come to mind; but when it comes to drug use, the first thought is usually cocaine. Historically, the state of Florida was the most logical place for cocaine trafficking boats to unload their cargo coming from the ports of South America. Many who are old enough to remember the 80’s are familiar with the cocaine epidemic that swept through the state; addiction rates soared and so did the murder rate. It seemed that cocaine would always be king in Florida.

Today, people who are looking to get high in Florida are less interested in cocaine - their sights are focused on synthetic drugs. In recent months Florida officials have been battling a synthetic drug craze sweeping through South Florida. All the latest cases involving the drug alpha-PVP, better known as “flakka” or “gravel,” a cheap and powerful drug being shipped in the mail from China, Reuters reports.

Flakka is quite similar to its cousin compound MDPV, commonly referred to as bath salts. Both alpha-PVP and MDPV cause unpredictable side effects, and the use of these types of synthetic drugs have resulted in fatalities in a number of states. Until last year no one had even heard of flakka, but by early May of this year Florida officials had recorded more than 275 incidents, according to the article. A few other major cities across the country have had limited incidents of flakka use, but nothing compared to what's happening in South Florida.

“Cocaine was king, until this year,” said Detective William Schwartz, a narcotics officer with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Broward County alone recorded 190 incidents involving the alpha-PVP last year. Flakka can be purchased for $5 a vial and is reported to be highly addictive.

Symptoms of flakka use can include:
  • Bizarre Behavior
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions of Superhuman Strength

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sober Support At Summer Music Festivals

Summer is upon us, and with it comes a flurry of music festivals. All across the country young adults gather in masses to attend festivals, such as Bonnaroo and Burning Man. While these types of events are supposed to be about music and community, they are widely known as hotbeds of illicit drug use. Without fail, every year people’s lives are cut short from drug overdoses and deaths related to health complications linked to drug use.

The widespread drug use may deter a number of people in recovery from attending these types of events - sound judgement if you are in early recovery. However, there are thousands of people in recovery who travel to music festivals and manage to maintain their sobriety. At more than a dozen music festivals this summer, volunteer sober groups will be present, flying yellow balloons (the symbol of sober groups) to alert those in recovery that a safe place is near, The New York Times reports.

This summer onsite sobriety support systems can be found at several of the most popular events, including:
  • Lollapalooza in Chicago
  • Outside Lands in San Francisco
  • Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas
  • Nocturnal Wonderland in San Bernardino, California
“You can see the growth,” said Patrick Whelan, who organizes volunteers for the events using Facebook. “We couldn’t have imagined it 10 years ago. We’ve gone from one or two festivals to 10 or 12 — and social media has driven that.”

It is nearly impossible to stop the flow of drugs into summer music festivals, but it is possible to stay sober and have fun at the same time. Event promoters provide sober groups space, equipment and marketing. If you are planning to attend such an event this summer and you are in recovery, keep your eyes posted for the yellow balloons.
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