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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Underestimating The Level of Alcohol and Drug Use

There is a common trend among addicts and alcoholics that involves thinking that one’s peers use more than they do. Rationalizing levels of consumption by comparing one’s use to others can be dangerous and often times inaccurate, and can hold you back from seeking help. Researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust found that heavy substance users underestimate their levels of consumption compared to others, ScienceDaily reports.

The Global Drugs Survey (GDS), the world’s largest drug survey, showed that 68 percent of respondents were drinking at dangerous levels, but 83 percent believed they were consuming at low or average levels. The researchers found the same trend among drug users, according to the article.

"Given that drug use carries certain risks, whether this be to health, of getting caught or of damage to reputation, we shouldn't be surprised that some people downplay their levels of use as a way of managing their anxieties about what they're doing," said Dr Michael Shiner, an associate professor in LSE's Department of Social Policy and expert advisor to the Global Drugs Survey. 

The GDS showed that a significant portion of respondents wanted to curb their level of use. The researchers found that thirty-six percent wanted to drink less alcohol and 25 percent wanted to cut back their use of drugs.

"Whether drugs are classified as illegal or not, there is group of people who will continue to use them, so we need ways, other than the law, of changing behaviour,” said Dr Adam Winstock, a Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist at Maudsley Hospital, and creator of the Global Drugs Survey. “With this in mind we've created an app where people can confidentially input their use and it will give them a true picture of how their use compares to others. We hope that for some people this might provide the jolt they need to address their excessive alcohol or drug use. " 

The findings were published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Army Will Address Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Substance abuse is a large problem among members of United States armed forces. Many active service members and veterans use drugs and alcohol to self medicate, for both mental and physical injuries. USA Today recently uncovered that soldiers suffering from addiction received poor treatment which led to a rise in suicides. In response to the investigation, the Army announced that it is placing medical officials in charge of substance abuse treatment for soldiers, USA Today reports.

"They're finally going to bring some reasonable and responsible action to help soldiers," said Dr. Patrick Lillard, a psychiatrist and former clinical director of the Army's largest in-patient substance abuse program at Fort Gordon, Ga.

"It means that the direction of the substance abuse treatment program will be back in the province of medical people rather than command, so that decisions will be made by medical people" said Lillard, a vocal critic of the earlier change in management. "The people in command do not understand the nature of the (substance abuse) disease and the complications that occur." 

The investigation found that half of all army substance use disorder treatment clinics did not meet professional standards, according to the article. Many of the clinics hired unqualified directors and counselors.

Wanda Kuehr, a psychologist and former director of clinical services for the Army substance-abuse program, cautioned that "safeguards must ensure that (treatment) clinicians continue to be licensed, trained and certified in substance abuse rehabilitation. If not, soldiers' treatment is not likely to be optimal. In fact, it may well put the soldiers at risk."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hypodermic Needles, for Kids?

With Halloween around the corner, many people have already started working on their costumes and decorating their homes with frightening objects. The holiday is a time for young people to stock up on candy, and for adults to feel like a kid again. Every year, costumes and accessories are made available that some might deem controversial, such as salacious outfits.

This year, for people in the addiction recovery industry, the controversy is tied to something closer to home. Both addiction experts and parents alike are up in arms about pens being sold as Halloween novelty items, the Associated Press reports. The pens resemble hypodermic needles and are labeled as appropriate for ages 4 and up - they include a plunger and dose measuring lines.

“I think it’s an incredibly bad idea,” said Celeste Clark, Director of the Raymond Coalition for Youth, an organization in New Hampshire that works to reduce substance abuse. “Given today’s epidemic that our state is in, it just seems like a no-brainer that something like that shouldn’t be on the shelves.”

“It’s exposing kids to hypodermic needles when we really should be raising awareness to their danger, especially now when they’re finding them in parks, on walking trails, on biking trails,” Clark said. 

The country is in the grips of prescription opioid and heroin epidemic that has led to thousands of overdoses and the spread of infectious disease. Keeping that in mind, it would seem that companies would have the wherewithal to refrain from selling products that send the wrong message to children.

“I think that it is the most societally outrageous marketing scheme that I’ve seen in a long time,” said Jack Wozmak, New Hampshire’s Senior Director for Substance Misuse and Behavioral Health. “I’m not sure that people will understand that it’s a toy at age 4 and up or whatever the age range is, and I’m not sure they’ll know that the hypodermic needle they find on the playground is not a toy.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

Needle Exchange Programs Reduce Needle Sharing

The State of Indiana has been in the midst of an HIV outbreak, directly linked to the intravenous use of the prescription opioid Opana ®. Historically, the state offered little access to clean syringes which resulted in needle sharing. Responding to the crisis, Governor Mike Pence declared a state of emergency and helped pass a new law allowing needle exchanges in community affected by an epidemic of HIV or hepatitis C.

While many lawmakers across the country are skeptical about needle exchange programs, most health experts argue that these programs reduce disease transmission and provide unique opportunities to talk about addiction treatment with addicts. In fact, a new study has found that needle-sharing was reduced dramatically in Indiana after needle exchange programs came to be, USA Today reports. The research was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers used data from 100 needle exchange program clients between the program’s launch in April through June 6, 2015. The clients visited the program more than twice, with at least seven days between visits, according to the article. The data indicated that needle sharing dropped by 85%.

On top of clean needles, Indiana’s program provides:
As part of a comprehensive strategy needle exchanges work, says Jerome Adams, Indiana’s state health commissioner.

“Emergency (syringe exchange programs) can rapidly reduce risk behaviors capable of transmitting HIV in an outbreak setting," the researchers concluded.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Officials Attend Prescription Opioid/Heroin Summit

The Midwest has been especially affected by the prescription opioid and heroin crisis that has been raging across the United States. Many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have stepped up to address the insidious issue.

This week, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade of Michigan met with attorneys general and law enforcement officials from six neighboring states to discuss heroin and prescription painkiller trafficking, The Detroit News reports. The state of Michigan has become a major trafficking route feeding the Midwestern states.

“We know in Michigan that we’ve seen a huge spike in prescription pill abuse and then we’ve also seen a serious resurgence in heroin as addicts turn to that as a cheaper alternative for their opioid addiction,” McQuade said. “So, that has resulted in some various significant problems in Michigan and we seem to exporting our problems to other states.” 

The summit was part of an initiative by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, according to the article. McQuade met with authorities from Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. She pointed out that organized groups in Michigan and Ohio are selling their drugs as far as West Virginia.

“The epidemic of overdose deaths from heroin and prescription pill abuse is startling and needs to be met with an intense response by law enforcement,” she said. “This summit is intended to strengthen and better coordinate our efforts to disrupt heroin and pill trafficking across the region. We also seek to raise public awareness about addiction, treatment and prevention.”
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