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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Treating Depression and Anxiety With Marijuana

When looking for a silver lining in the American electorate's ever changing stance on marijuana, two things often come to mind. 1) Medical marijuana and legalized recreational use will keep countless Americans out of jail or prison. 2) The loosening of the legislative grip on marijuana allows for some long awaited (previously impossible) research to be conducted. The findings of which will hopefully lead to more informed decisions regarding the use of cannabis.

Marijuana, like alcohol, is often used as a stress reliever at the end of a long day of work. While the stereotypical “pot” smokers are teenagers and young adults with Bob Marley shirts and healthy appetites, your average pot smoker is often the farthest thing from that picture. In fact, with the lightening of policies related to marijuana, we can now see a more accurate picture of cannabis users, free from what is portrayed in Hollywood. And what is being seen is college freshmen to businessmen partaking in marijuana use.

More American adults than ever can now easily access marijuana, so it is vital that they know the risks. When people think about the risks associated with cannabis use, cognitive and memory problems often come to mind. But, past research has found connections between heavy cannabis use and mental illness, especially among teenagers and young adults. Users beware!

There are also many pot smokers who use marijuana to self-medicate anxiety and depression. However, it has long been uncertain how effective marijuana is for treating mental illness, and it is likely that the drug may actually worsen one’s symptoms. Researchers at Colorado State University conducted a questionnaire-based analysis of 178 college-aged, legal users of cannabis to shed some light on how the drug affects emotional processing, KDVR reports. The findings were published in PeerJ.

The researchers found that people who use cannabis to treat their depressive symptoms, had less anxiety but were more depressed, according to the article. Those who used the drug to lessen anxiety symptoms had fewer symptoms of depression, but were more anxious.

The findings are important, and hopefully will influence some people’s choice to use the drug for alleviating symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Reversing Overdose Has A Heavy Price

In a perfect world, opioid addicts would have free-access to the lifesaving drug naloxone. The drug can reverse the deadly effects of an opioid overdose, and one could argue that doctors should co-prescribe naloxone when they write an opioid prescription and community outreach programs should handout naloxone free to heroin addicts who cannot afford to buy it from a pharmacy. Sadly, that is not the world we live in, but some lawmakers in the United States have been fighting to expand access to the miracle drug, which has proved difficult because of price.

If one were looking to buy naloxone, they can expect to pay upwards of $150 for two doses. Certainly, you cannot put a price tag on life, but if you can’t afford the naloxone kit you may lose yours. Lawmakers have received a lot of pressure from addiction experts to reign in the ever-increasing price of the lifesaving drug. This week, experts called on the government to act in The New England Journal of Medicine, according to HealthDay. The experts write:

“Naloxone’s price increase is part of an overall trend of increasing prescription-drug prices for both new brand-name drugs and old, off-patent generics. Public frustration with rising drug prices has led to a number of recent policy proposals, including Vermont’s new legislation requiring companies to justify price increases, California’s attempt to constrain drug payments, and the recently proposed and bipartisan-supported Fair Accountability and Innovative Research Drug Pricing Act. None of the federal or state initiatives expanding naloxone’s availability, however, address the drug’s rising cost.” 

Part of the issue is that there are limited options. An increase in demand for the drug has the expected effect of drug makers seeing an opportunity to increase profit, regardless of the deadly consequence of people being unable to afford the drug. Here are the numbers:
  • Hospira (a Pfizer Inc. company) charges $142 for a 10-pack of naloxone —a 129 percent increase since 2012.
  • Amphastar's 1 milligram version of naloxone costs around $40—a 95 percent increase since September 2014.
  • A two-dose package of Evzio (naloxone) costs $4,500, a more than 500 percent increase over two years.
“The challenge is as the price goes up for naloxone, it becomes less accessible for patients,” said study lead author, Ravi Gupta, a fourth-year Yale medical student. "Taking action now is essential to ensuring that this lifesaving drug is available to patients and communities."

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Naloxone Yo-Yo Effect

It could easily be argued that naloxone, the lifesaving overdose reversal drug sold under the brand name Narcan, is one of the most important drugs ever produced. If it's administered in a timely manner, the life of an opioid addict can be spared from what would have otherwise resulted in an overdose death.

In the United States, practically every first-responder has been trained to administer the drug, in response to the staggering overdose death rates linked to the epidemic plaguing America. Additionally, a number of states have taken certain actions, making it much easier for addicts and their families to acquire the ever important drug—in many cases a prescription is not required for obtaining the miracle drug.

While the United States has the highest overdose death rates in the world, after decades of over prescribing painkillers and a burgeoning heroin market, our neighbors from the North have hardly been spared. In fact, between November 17-23, there were nearly 500 overdoses that required paramedics in the greater British Columbia (B.C.) area, CTV reports. Situations that would usually be considered routine, involving naloxone treatment. However, it turns out that addicts have begun mixing naloxone with their heroin in an attempt to protect oneself from an overdose.

Obviously, the method is far from the right course of action. The act of using an opioid, followed by naloxone, is being called “yo-yoing” or the “yo-yo” effect, according to the article. Heroin causes feelings of euphoria; naloxone reverses those effects by essentially starting a process of drug withdrawal—a real up and down experience. One that is far from pain-free.

In B.C. paramedics are arriving at the scene of overdoses and seeing empty vials of the overdose reversal drug, the article reports. Addicts are getting a false sense of safety from yo-yoing, but Paramedic Sophia Parkinson says that a person who uses naloxone needs to be followed up with by medical personnel, as the effects of the antidote can be fleeting.

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the Yo-Yo Effect:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

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, August 19, 2016

Treating Cocaine Addiction

Despite the fact that the main focus regarding addiction these days is centered upon opioid use disorder, a form of addiction involving prescription painkillers and heroin, many Americans continue to regularly abuse cocaine. It is often the case that both opioids and cocaine are used in conjunction, as addicts attempt to maintain a delicate balance between the downing effects of opioids and the upper effects of cocaine. A practice commonly referred to as “speedballing.” You may be aware of the fact that a number of notable celebrities have lost their lives due to speedballs, such as John Belushi.

When cocaine is used on its own, the chances of an overdose are significantly less than that of opioids. Drugs in the opioid family cause severe respiratory depression which can easily lead to death. Part the reason that opioid addiction has garnered the attention of mainstream media to the degree that it has is the result of how deadly that form of drug can be. But rest assured, cocaine addiction can severely impact the course of one’s life, and without treatment it can be extremely difficult to find recovery.

Unlike opioid addiction, there are currently no accepted drugs to help people get off, and stay off, of cocaine. There isn’t a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug to treat cocaine addiction. However, new research suggests that blocking certain brain-cell receptors, specifically a receptor referred to as the TrkB, could reverse signs of cocaine dependency, ScienceDaily reports. The findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"I think this study could help revive the idea of targeting TrkB signaling to treat addiction," said The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) biologist Candice Contet, senior author of the study. 

While blocking the TrkB has not been tested on humans, the technique showed great promise in rat models, according to the article. The researchers found that rats that learned to self-administer cocaine infusions, reduced their use of cocaine markedly when the TrkB blocker was given to them—exhibiting decreased signs of dependence. The findings are extremely important, especially when you consider that over 2 million Americans abuse cocaine.

People struggling with addiction may not be able to admit their need for help. If your cocaine problem is affecting your marriage, parenting, employment, friendships, finances, and spirituality, it’s time to call Celebrate Hope’s Christian addiction treatment center.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Genetic Underpinnings of Alcoholism

Addiction is a complex disease that few understand, and one that no one may ever understand completely. What is well understood is what can happen if the disease of addiction is left untreated—jails, institutions and death. Alcohol continues to be the most commonly abused mind altering substance, and is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

People often muse over why do some people become addicted to alcohol, while others do not? Naturally, the answer to that question involves a number of different factors, from genetics, brain chemistry and environment.

The science behind addiction is complicated, but research teams around the globe continue to shed light on the disease—a disorder which affects tens of millions of people. In fact, researchers at Purdue and Indiana University have identified 930 genes associated with alcoholism, as well as neurological pathways which could potentially serve as targets for treating the disorder, according to a Purdue University press release. The findings of the study were published in PLOS: Genetics.

The research teams compared the genomes of rats, that exhibited compulsive drinking behavior, to rats that abstained from alcohol use, according to the report. The researchers point out that it took decades to breed rats to consume alcohol. Scientifically, it was important to do so when you consider that rats are mammals that humans share a majority of genes. While the research is promising, the scope of factors at play may make it hard for pharmaceutical treatments to be created.

"It's not one gene, one problem," said William Muir, a professor of genetics. "This trait is controlled by vast numbers of genes and networks. This probably dashes water on the idea of treating alcoholism with a single pill."

Research will continue and at Celebrate Hope our Christian alcohol rehab program continues to be  offered in conjunction with advanced medical treatments from Hope by the Sea. This allows clients to have access to fellowship, physical fitness, and faith-building activities. Each program empowers addicts to reconcile with God and loved ones. In treating alcohol abuse, our counselors recognize that every addict’s struggle is unique.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Pain of Opioid Withdrawal

prescription opioids
It is easy to blame the American opioid epidemic on doctors, pharmaceutical companies and our over reliance on prescription drugs. While all of those played a huge role in the issue becoming a full blown national crisis, the fact remains that opioid narcotics are extremely difficult to stop using for many people—especially those who experience legitimate chronic pain. Those of you in recovery for an opioid use disorder, whether prescription painkillers or heroin, know all too well just how difficult it was to break the cycle of opioid addiction.

It often takes people suffering from opioid addiction a number of attempts at abstinence to finally succeed. And those who do manage to find recovery from such drugs typically need assistance via medical detox, inpatient treatment and regular attendance at 12-Step recovery meetings.

Those who have known alcoholics who managed to sober up using Alcoholics Anonymous, may find themselves asking why opioid addicts are unable to do the same? The answer to that question usually lies in the nature of opioid withdrawal. The early days of abstinence from opioids is by all accounts an extremely painful, uncomfortable experience. Typically characterized by:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Restlessness
While it is true that opioid withdrawal is painful, those who actually have a chronic pain condition which led to the use of opioids in the first place, are met with even more pain as the drugs leave their system. What’s more, it can take some time for the brain to start producing painkilling endorphins after being idle for extended periods of time. Those who cannot tolerate the pain experienced during that interim period are at great risk of relapse, HealthDay reports. Kelly Dunn, an addiction specialist who researches opioids at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, points out that:

"When you stop taking opioids it takes time for your body to regenerate its own 'painkiller' system," she explained. "Generally, four to five days. The severity varies per patient, and it's not predictable who will react how -- but withdrawal is real." 

It for the reasons mentioned above that many prescription opioid addicts require inpatient treatment. Being in a monitored environment, closed off from the medicine cabinet at home and aided by addiction withdrawal medicines are vital to the success of recovery.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Prescription Opioid Diversion

prescription opioids
When most people are given a prescription for an opioid painkiller, they take the medication until the pain dissipates. It is quite common for there to be leftover tablets sitting in the medicine cabinet. Patients usually forget the pills are even there and continue living their life.

The prescription opioid epidemic that has been raging since 1999 has prompted a number of actions that were previously deemed unnecessary. Leftover opioid painkillers pose a serious threat, and often end up in the wrong hands. That is why prescription drug take-back programs have become more and more common in recent years. Opioid addicts will scavenge other people's medicine cabinets for drugs like oxycodone and Percocet. More importantly, teens will also raid their parents' medication bottles as well.

Such drugs are highly addictive and carry a large risk of overdose. It is vital that those with leftover medication dispose of them properly. Many pharmacies will actually take back unused medications. Another common trend of concern is medication diversion. People with a prescription for opioids giving the drugs away to friends, family or peers. A new study sought to find out how often painkiller sharing occurs.

A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, found that 50 percent of patients with prescribed opioids have leftover tablets and 20 percent share the drugs, MNT reports. The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"The fact that people are sharing their leftover prescription painkillers at such high rates is a big concern,” said Prof. Colleen L. Barry, Ph.D., senior study author. “It's fine to give a friend a Tylenol if they're having pain, but it's not fine to give your OxyContin to someone without a prescription." 

There were some other findings of note, including:
  • 14 percent of respondents said they would share with family.
  • 8 percent said they would share the pills with a friend.
  • Less than 50 percent were not given safe storage or proper disposal information.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fentanyl Salesmen Arrested for Kickback to Doctors

An aspect of the prescription opioid epidemic that is often ignored is the role of pharmaceutical salesmen. These are people who are employed by pharmaceutical companies to travel around the country enticing doctors to prescribe their medical product. Now, it stands to reason that a physician's willingness to prescribe a drug should be based off of the drug's effectiveness at treating a specific condition—and in a perfect world that may be the case. However, doctors are often times given huge incentives to prescribe one medication over another, a practice which surely had a hand in the rampant over prescribing of drugs like OxyContin (oxycodone).

In the wake of the beloved pop star Prince’s death, attention has been redirected back to the powerful opioid analgesic fentanyl. Many Americans may have never heard of fentanyl as the drug is not commonly used outside of hospital settings. Those who had heard of the drug before may have been unaware that fentanyl is 100 time more potent than morphine. Fentanyl, while fast acting and highly effective, can cause severe respiratory depression that can be fatal; this is why it should be scarcely used except under the close supervision of doctors and nurses.

In an attempt to stem the tide of irresponsible prescribing practices, law enforcement has begun to set their sights on pharmaceutical salesmen. Recently, two former pharmaceutical salesmen were arrested from charges stemming from paying doctors to prescribe a form of fentanyl, USA Today reports. The two salesmen, who worked for Insys Therapeutics, allegedly paid two doctors in the New York-area $259,000 in kickbacks to prescribe Subsys.

Most fentanyl prescribed for take home use comes in the form a transdermal patch. The patches are adhered to one’s skin—slowly releasing the drug throughout the course of the day. Subsys, on the other hand, is sprayed under the tongue, according to the article. The spray version of fentanyl works quickly, relieving pain in just five minutes.

"You have this hyper-powerful drug marketed intensely, aggressively and shamelessly without any sense of the addictive and lethal power of what is being sold," said Arthur Caplan, the director of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

We will continue to follow the fentanyl story. Stay tuned. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Naloxone Without a Prescription

In the United States, we face a grave and serious situation with regard to both prescription opioids and heroin use. For far too long an unprecedented number of Americans have been able to access prescription opioids, even in situations where an alternative treatment could be utilized. In the wake of widespread over prescribing, an old drug reemerged on the scene—heroin.

Historically, heroin was thought to be a drug found only in heavily populated urban environments—used primarily among the poor and those of ethnic descent. While there may have been some truth to that idea in the past, it is far from reality today; Americans affected the most by illicit heroin and prescription opioid abuse reside in rural parts of the country—the Appalachian region strongly considered to be the epicenter of the American opioid epidemic.

If you have been following the media reports on this subject, it is likely that you have read about the efforts being made to mitigate the crisis. Efforts include:
  • Expanding Access to Addiction Treatment
  • Offering Treatment Instead of Jail Time
  • Utilizing Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
  • Making It Easier to Acquire Naloxone
By and large, there has been widespread support on both sides of the political spectrum for expanding access to the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone—sold under the brand name Narcan. Thousands of American lives have been saved by the miracle drug, prompting lawmakers, health experts and those who work in the field of addiction to call for legislation which would make it easier for the friends and families of addicts to acquire naloxone.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Time is of the utmost importance when it comes to an opioid overdose. Friends and family are, more often than not, the ones who are present—having naloxone on hand can better ensure a positive outcome. The good news is that states are jumping on board, and now practically every state has some form of legislation allowing people to buy naloxone without a prescription, Fox News reports.

"This saves lives, doesn't seem to have any negative impact that we can identify, therefore it should be available," said Dr. Corey Waller of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Coroner's Report: Fentanyl Caused the Death of Prince

This past April, millions of people around the United States and across the globe were shocked to learn that Prince Rogers Nelson, more widely known as Prince, died at the relatively young age of 57. While it was unclear as to the cause of the pop singer's death, many were convinced that the superstar passed away from drug related issues. It probably comes as little surprise that Prince suffered from pain after decades of high energy performances, and it was widely known that he endured a hip injury that required pain medication.

Prince had been known to lead a clean life, refraining from mind altering substances over the years, which made it hard for many to believe that his death could be the result of a drug overdose. Now, two months later, the coroner's report has come out, and the cause of his death was an overdose of the powerful opioid analgesic fentanyl, CNN reports. It is likely that you have heard news reports about the drug in recent years, as fentanyl is commonly mixed with heroin to increase potency—resulting in a wave of overdoses across the united states.

Just to put the drug into perspective, fentanyl is around 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and roughly 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade (100% pure) heroin. The drug is known to cause severe respiratory depression even in small doses—rife for the potential of overdose. Heroin users, more often than not, have no idea that the “dope” they are about to snort or inject is laced with fentanyl; being unaware of the presence of the powerful analgesic, users will dose themselves out as they normally would—ignorance that can prove deadly.

Authorities are still trying to determine where Prince acquired the fentanyl that led to his death, according to the article. To be sure, it could have come from only one of two places. Either a physician wrote him a prescription for fentanyl to treat his pain, or he acquired the drug through illegal channels. Fentanyl is being produced in clandestine labs, typically overseas in countries such as China where it is easy for chemists to acquire the requisite precursors. The drug is then shipped out of China, finding its way to Mexico where it is then moved north of the border.

Without a doubt it is important authorities find Prince’s source; however, where the drug came from will not bring the beloved artist back—as is the case with the thousands of Americans who lose their life in this country from prescription opioid and heroin overdoses. What’s more, Prince’s death, much like Michael Jackson's and a number of other stars' deaths in recent years, drives home the point that everyone is eligible for addiction—and all who use opioids are at risk of overdose. Every day in the United States alone, over 70 people succumb to opioid overdose deaths.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Is W-18 Too Powerful for Naloxone?

Over the last few years there have been a number of deadly cases of heroin laced with fentanyl overdoses. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid analgesic, typically used in a hospital setting for either surgery or the most severe pain. The drug is roughly 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and around 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With potency like this, it is easy to see that mixing fentanyl and heroin together is a sure recipe for disaster.

Fentanyl is now being produced in clandestine labs in China, shipped to Mexico and mixed with inferior grades of heroin to increase potency. Heroin users in the United States are often times unaware of the deadly admixture when they use, so they do not adjust their dosage accordingly—overdose often ensues. You might find yourself wondering if there could be a more deadly amalgamation. The answer to that question, unfortunately, is yes.

A drug that could be as many as 10,000 times more potent than morphine is possibly being mixed with heroin in the Philadelphia area, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The drug, known as W-18, may be too powerful for the opioid overdose drug naloxone to reverse. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has released a bulletin warning of the dangers associated with mixing W-18 with other drugs, such as heroin. The agency pointed out that a microscopic dose of W-18 could be fatal.

Recently, anesthesiologist Anita Gupta, who works as a pharmacist and pain specialist at Drexel University College of Medicine, began seeing cases of overdose where patients didn’t have the typical response when naloxone was administered. Gupta’s suspicion for the atypical response was the presence of W-18.

“The symptoms were worse than we were used to seeing,” said Gupta. “We were getting patients with symptoms of near-death, and often required multiple doses of the antidote naloxone.”

Friday, May 6, 2016

Two Types of Alcoholics

Drugs and alcohol take their toll on the human brain, which can be measured through a number of scanning techniques. When compared to the brains of people who have not had a substance use disorder, clear differences can be seen. That being said, the brain of one alcohol user may look different than another, and new research may have found that there are two types of alcoholics. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland found that while all alcoholics share similar brain changes, some alterations are exclusive to one type of alcoholic but not another, PsychCentral reports. The findings are published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.

There are two types of alcoholics, anxiety-prone (Type I) and impulsive (Type II) based on Cloninger’s typology, according to the article. The researchers looked at post-mortem brains from both types of alcoholics and a control group.

“From the viewpoint of the study setting, this division was made in order to highlight the wide spectrum of people suffering from alcohol dependence. The reality, of course, is far more diverse, and not every alcoholic fits into one of these categories,” said Olli Kärkkäinen, M.Sc. (Pharm).

Typically, Type I alcoholics are more prone to anxiety and are more likely to become dependent on alcohol later in life, the article reports. On the other hand, Type II alcoholics usually become dependent on alcohol when they are younger and show greater impulsivity and antisocial behavior. In Type I alcoholic brains, the researchers found:
  • Changes in the endocannabinoid system, which modulates stress responses.
  • Increased Docosahexaenoylethanolamide levels in the amygdala, possibly linked to their anxiety prone nature.
With Type II alcoholic brains, the researchers found elevated levels of AMPA receptors in the anterior cingulate cortex, according to the article. That part of the brain has a hand in learning and the regulation of behavior, which could explain the impulsive nature of Type II alcoholics.

“These findings enhance our understanding of changes in the brain that make people prone to alcoholism and that are caused by long-term use. Such information is useful for developing new drug therapies for alcoholism, and for targeting existing treatments at patients who will benefit the most,” said Kärkkäinen, the study findings were part of his doctoral thesis.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Exercise Creates New Dopamine Receptors

Addiction recovery requires a lot of hard work; years of living in the grips of the disease can be a hard break. It is often said that the easiest part of recovery is putting down the drink or drug, the hard part is not picking them back up. Eternal vigilance is needed if long term recovery is to be achieved. Drugs and alcohol take a heavy toll on the brain; in a sense they change the wiring - one’s neurochemical receptors can diminish over time. The effect that drugs have on the brain from greater and prolonged use can affect one’s ability to abstain from use in recovery.

Fortunately, the human brain has an extraordinary ability to repair the damage done by substance use, and there are things that can be done to speed up the process. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that exercise can help those in recovery from methamphetamine addiction, UPI reports. The UCLA team’s research indicates that exercise aids the brain in adding new dopamine receptors, diminishing one’s cravings for meth. The findings were published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

"We know that deficits in the striatal dopamine system are hallmark features of substance-use disorders and are caused by molecular adaptations to repeated drug exposure and, likely, also reflect a genetic predisposition," said Dr. Edythe London, professor of psychiatry and molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA, in a press release

The study involved 19 people; the researchers asked 10 of the participants to exercise three times a week for an hour and to do resistance training for eight weeks, according to the article. The other nine members of the study were asked to not exercise, but were given health education training. PET scans were performed to find how many dopamine receptors were present in the reward system part of the brain - known as the striatum. After eight weeks, the exercising group had a 15 percent increase in dopamine receptors, compared to just 4 percent in the non-exercising group.

"Although this is a small study, it's a very encouraging finding," said London. "The results demonstrate that methamphetamine-associated damages to the dopamine system of the brain are reversible in human subjects, and that recovery of the dopamine system after chronic drug use can be facilitated with exercise training." 

At Celebrate Hope clients are encouraged to exercise and/or do yoga, as we believe that recovery requires healing both mind and body. Please contact us to begin the journey of recovery.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Being Charlie: Addiction and Homelessness

Hollywood often paints inaccurate pictures of addiction, usually the result of writers who themselves have never struggled with the disease. While it is good that such movies spark conversations about addiction, helping break the stigma of the insidious illness, it is always nice to see films that were written by those who walked the lonely road.

Every adult in America has probably seen a Rob Reiner film, such as WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… You may even know something about the acclaimed director's life. You may not know that Reiner’s son Nick began his battle with addiction in his early teens, according to People. Nick Reiner was sent to his first addiction treatment center when he was about 15 years of age. The center would be the first of 17 such facilities that he would check into, and he is only 22 years old.

Nick’s story is like so many others who began using drugs and alcohol at a young age. He bounced in and out of treatment centers, found recovery and relapse - eventually winding up homeless living on the streets. Now sober, he decided to write a film that resembles his own experiences, according to the article.

Being Charlie, directed by Rob Reiner, is the story of the son of a famous former actor who is running for governor. Along the way, Charlie who is trying to find recovery, refuses to go back to rehab and finds himself homeless. "It's not my life," says Nick Reiner but he adds "I went to a lot of these places, so I had a lot of these stories."

"I was homeless in Maine. I was homeless in New Jersey. I was homeless in Texas," says Nick. "I spent nights on the street. I spent weeks on the street. It was not fun." 

Please take a moment to watch the trailer below:

If you are having trouble viewing the trailer, please click here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Heavy Cannabis Use Compromises Brain's Dopamine System

Marijuana, despite what many will claim, is not a benign substance and carries the risk of addiction. All over the country, more and more people are in favor of doing away with marijuana prohibition, in favor of both medical and recreational marijuana legislation. This fall, a number of states are expected to vote on legalizing the controversial drug. Whether legalization is a good or bad thing is up for debate; however, the change in stance on marijuana has allowed for research that was previously impossible to conduct.

In recent years, a number of studies have been conducted dealing with cannabis use and the drug's effect on the brain. If we are going to vote on the legality of a drug, it is crucial we have all the facts. It turns out, that marijuana’s impact on the brain may not be too dissimilar to other, more dangerous drugs. New research suggests that heavy cannabis use compromises the brain's dopamine system, Science Daily reports. Heavy cannabis use can impact the striatum - the region of the brain responsible for working memory, impulsive behavior, and attention. The findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

"In light of the more widespread acceptance and use of marijuana, especially by young people, we believe it is important to look more closely at the potentially addictive effects of cannabis on key regions of the brain," said lead author Anissa Abi-Dargham, MD, professor of psychiatry (in radiology) at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). 

The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) on 11 adults severely dependent on cannabis and 12 matched healthy controls, according to the article. The heavy cannabis users had significantly lower dopamine release in the striatum, compared to the controls. Lower dopamine release was associated with worse performance on learning and working memory tasks.

"We don't know whether decreased dopamine was a preexisting condition or the result of heavy cannabis use," said Dr. Abi-Dargham. "But the bottom line is that long-term, heavy cannabis use may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a variety of negative effects on learning and behavior."

Friday, April 8, 2016

Social Media and Depression

Addiction to technology is a real disorder, one that can be especially difficult to treat because technology is an aspect pervasive of everyday life. Practically everyone has a computer with access to the internet, and it is probably fair to say that even more people have a smartphone of some kind. Having a device in your pocket that can be reached for at anytime can be a slippery slope, especially for people who actively use social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Past research has shown that people who use social media may be at risk of depression, but a new study has found the link may be rooted in addiction, Reuters reports. The findings were published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, and come from 1,763 people ages 19-32, who were asked questions about their:
  • Symptoms of Depression
  • Social Media Use
  • Addictive Behaviors
“We believe that at least having clinicians be aware of these associations may be valuable to them as they treat patients with depressive disorders. For example, they may wish to inquire about social media use patterns and determine if those patterns are maladaptive,” said study coauthor Ariel Shensa of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The researchers looked at how often the participants used 11 of the most commonly accessed social media platforms, according to the article. The sites included:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Vine
  • Snapchat
  • Reddit
Addiction to social media explained for most of the cases where social media use was linked to depression, the article reports. However, how social media is used and depression was noticeably linked together.

“Ultimately, it appears that the way social media is used, rather than the amount social media is used, leads to maladaptive outcomes,” said Lindsay Howard of the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO)

If you experience an injury that requires a trip to the local emergency room, there is a good chance that you will be prescribed an opioid narcotic for the pain and will be told to follow up with your primary care physician. If you are still experiencing pain when you see your family doctor, there is an even greater chance that you will be prescribed more painkillers. In fact, nearly half of all opioid prescriptions written in the United States come from primary care physicians. One does not have to take opioids for too long before dependence develops, a slippery slope towards addiction which began back at the emergency room. So, what would happen if emergency room doctors only prescribe opioids as a last resort?

At one emergency room in New Jersey, the chairman of emergency medicine has decided to answer that question. At St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, NJ, doctors have begun using opioid alternatives to treat pain, keeping opioids off to the side for last ditch treatment efforts only, the Associated Press reports. The program, Alternatives to Opiates (ALTO), has been used since January, and in the first two months 75 percent of the emergency rooms 300 patients did not receive prescription opioids.

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new prescribing guidelines, calling on primary care physicians to only use prescription opioids when every other alternative proves ineffective. While the guidelines are not something the CDC is normally responsible for creating, due to the dire nature of this epidemic every health agency needs to work together to put a stop to prescribing opioids when they are unnecessary.

Andrew Kolodny, director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing points out that emergency rooms are the front lines of the opioid crisis we face, according to the article. He supports the doctors at St. Joseph's, utilizing alternative forms of pain management.

"In many cases, we're exposing people to opioids when we don't need to be," said Kolodny.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Addiction Recovery Goes Mainstream

addiction recovery
In recent years, there have been a variety of cable TV programs that tie addiction recovery into the story line. In a number of shows, you can see characters working programs of recovery - sometimes more accurately than others. Nevertheless, completely accurate or not, it is nice that addiction recovery is considered to be topical enough to incorporate into prime time television. With the nation facing a prescription opioid and heroin crisis - affecting millions of Americans, it is good for people to see that addiction no longer carries the stigma it once did. Addiction is a mental illness that needs come out of the darkness so that people will seek the help they so desperately need.

If you have been perusing Netflix of late, you may have stumbled upon a new series called Flaked. The show was co-written by former Arrested Development co-star Will Arnett. The show centers around a character named Chip who is a recovering alcoholic and regularly attends meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). While the series is fictional, it draws from a number of Arnett’s own experiences with alcoholism.

"When I see people saying 'Other shows have tackled (the subject) better,' I say, 'You can't say that it's not accurate, because it's my experience,' " Arnett told USA Today. "I'm shedding a little light on my relationship with my own sobriety, which at times has been tricky at best." 

Another Netflix show that ties addiction into the story is called Love, starring Paul Rust and Gillian Jacobs. The show was written by Paul Rust, along with his wife Lesley Arfin who drew from her own past experience with addiction. Jacobs' character, Mickey, is a functioning alcoholic, drug and sex and love addict who is new to the program.

"I wasn't trying to think, 'How can every single person relate to this one character?'" said Arfin about creating Love to USA Today. "As far as Mickey's concerned, she's new to recovery, so it's not going to be her whole personality or overtake anything." 

Both Flaked and Love are relatively lighthearted and even comical at times, but they paint a fairly accurate picture of what people recovering from addiction go through on a day to day basis. If you have a moment, it may be worth your time to watch both series.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood

With every year that passes, it seems like scientists understand better both the roots and nature of addiction. While the brain is an extremely complicated organ, one that will probably never fully be understood, we know now that the groundwork for addiction begins at a young - potentially even at prenatal stages of life. The brain is extremely impressionable when we are young, the things we are exposed to can have an impact on our ability to defend against threats later on in life, such as experimentation with drugs and alcohol.

"Infancy, toddlerhood, and the first years of school are hardly a time most people associate with drug use," writes NIDA Director, Nora D. Volkow, M.D, in a blog post. "But aspects of family, school, and community environments during this crucial window of human development can set the stage for the social, emotional, behavioral and academic problems that, a decade or more later, may take the form of increased risk-taking and experimentation with substances like alcohol, cigarettes, or illicit drugs." 

It is probably safe to say that one of parents' greatest fears is that their child will have the disease of addiction. The current state of things with the opioid epidemic has shown millions of Americans that their child is eligible for addiction, too. It cannot be overemphasized how important early prevention and intervention are, and they may be the dividing line between some teenagers using mind altering substances or not. This week, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released evidence-based guides for practitioners and researchers: Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood.

“Thanks to more than three decades of research into what makes a young child able to cope with life’s inevitable stresses, we now have unique opportunities to intervene very early in life to prevent substance use disorders,” said Volkow. “We now know that early intervention can set the stage for more positive self-regulation as children prepare for their school years.” 

Part of the guidelines' aim is to help people design and implement addiction interventions, including:
  • Educators
  • Policymakers
  • Treatment Professionals

Friday, March 4, 2016

Shatter: The Rise of Powerful THC Products

Marijuana today, is quite different than what was available just a few decades ago. The cannabis is significantly stronger by as much as 25 percent due to advanced cultivation techniques. What’s more, there are number of products available that have tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels that can have adverse effects on some people that use such products.

One such cannabis product that is growing in popularity around the country, primarily in states with medical marijuana programs and recreational use laws, is known as “shatter.” What’s more, the concentrated form of cannabis oil is finding its way into states where marijuana is completely illegal, ABC7NY reports. There is shatter available that has THC levels up to 90 percent.

In the Houston area, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents have had a rise in seizures in the past year, according to the article. The product is made using a process that involves butane which is filtered through the plant matter. The gas extracts the THC from the plant, after which the pure THC is cooked into a waxy material; when hardened, the wax will actually shatter if it hits the floor. On top of the process being crude in nature, the process of making shatter can actually be extremely dangerous.

“Marijuana concentrates are extracted from leafy marijuana in many ways, but the most frequently used, and potentially most dangerous, method is butane extraction,” the DEA stated. “The butane extraction method uses highly flammable butane gas and has resulted in numerous explosions and injuries, particularly on the West Coast, where production is most common.” 

With the lightening of restrictions on marijuana in a number of states, with more expected to follow, it is important that people are aware of what they are using when it comes to marijuana products. Teenagers are especially at risk, due to the fact that THC can have a lasting effect on developing brains. If you are struggling with marijuana addiction, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea to begin the journey of recovery.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Taking God Out of Alcoholics Anonymous

If you have ever been to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), there is good chance that you have heard some things said or read that reminds you of a sermon you've heard from a pulpit. The Lord’s Prayer is often times recited at the end of a meeting in place of the Serenity Prayer. While it’s hard to argue that reciting such words is not religious, it should be understood that AA has no religious affiliations and the only requirement  for membership is “a desire to stop drinking.” While every member should create a relationship with a higher power of some kind, it does not have to be a deity and can be whatever you choose. One’s higher power can differ from everyone else's.

Interestingly, a man from Toronto, Canada, plans to file suit against AA World Services and its local chapter in Toronto, Ontario, Toronto Sun reports. Larry Knight is claiming AA of discriminating against atheists and agnostics by refusing to list secular groups on their website. Toronto has two secular AA groups, Beyond Belief and We Agnostics.

In 2011 the two groups were expelled and “delisted” from the local meetings roster after they’d removed the word “God” from AA’s 12 steps to recovery found in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and replaced it with the words “mindful inquiry,” according to the article. The two groups were also barred from voting “on matters that are important to all AA members.”

“The reason we went this way is because after three years of discussion, nothing happened,” Knight told the Sun. “The clock ran out and we’re still not allowed to vote. It’s important to feel that we are equal partners with an opportunity to speak.”

“The only requirement for membership in AA is this desire to achieve sobriety and to help others in this achievement,” Knight told a summary hearing last month. “AA was not meant to be presented on any religious terms and ... atheists and agnostics have been included as members in other parts of Canada and the United States over the years in order to promote an inclusive approach to AA membership rather than promote any religious perspective.”

Friday, February 19, 2016

Draconian Drug-Induced Homicide Laws

Last week we wrote about caution to heroin dealers from prosecutors. If you sell heroin to someone which results in a fatal overdose you may be looking at a over 20 years in prison. It turns out that you may not have to be a heroin dealer to receive a life sentence after all. A man in Louisiana was given a life sentence for injecting his girlfriend with heroin that resulted in an overdose death, Fox19 reports. The stiff sentence raises a lot of questions about culpability.

The case of Jarret McCasland, 27, is not simple. While the man has a history of selling drugs, he did not sell the heroin that resulted in the death of his girlfriend Flavia Cardenas, 19. Nevertheless, 19th Judicial District Judge Don Johnson gave McCasland the maximum sentence possible for a second degree murder charge.

"There are two consenting adults who were using drugs,” said McCasland's attorney, J. Rodney Messina. “this thing could have flip-flopped. He could have been the one that's six feet under, and then they would be prosecuting Miss Cardenas." 

We know for act that treating addiction with jails and prison is not effective in deterring drug use, and it certainly does not cure addiction. In recent years, in the wake of the American opioid epidemic, we have seen a dramatic change in how lawmakers look at addiction. Many of which now believe that treatment is the most effective weapon for fighting addiction. Apparently, lawmakers in some parts of the country did not receive the memo. A drug policy reformist at Roosevelt University, Kathie Kane-Willis, contends that draconian drug-induced homicide laws need to be changed, according to The Fix.

 “It may seem like a kinder gentler war on drugs and perhaps for folks in urban areas that is the case,” said Kane-Willis. “In the Midwest and the South that is not the case at all, in fact we are seeing really disturbing trends in the ways that these cases are being handled.”

Keep in mind, If you or a loved one is battling opioid addiction, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. We can help you learn how to live free from addiction and begin your journey of recovery.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Drug Dealers and Overdose Deaths

We have a seen a dramatic change in recent years regarding how we treat those who suffer from a substance use disorder. More and more states are seeing that addiction is not something that is going to disappear, and it definitely cannot be treated with jail cells. Referring people to addiction treatment centers is the best thing that law enforcement officials can do when they come in contact with addicts. Locking addicts up only serves to overburden penal institutions and rarely results in addicts getting the help they desperately need, which is why the majority of drug addicts use again upon their release.

On the other hand, how drug dealers are treated is getting stiffer, especially if their drugs can be linked to overdose deaths. In Virginia, a warning was made to drug dealers, if their drugs resulted in a death they could face 20-year and above sentences, The Washington Post reports. The dealers were put on notice by U.S. Attorney Dana Boente and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring.

“We hope that they understand that they will be prosecuted and there will be severe penalties for selling heroin when someone dies,” Boente said in an interview. “And if people sell heroin, sooner or later, someone will die from their sale.” 

The stiff sentences have already been handed out. Recently, Gregory Hatt, 28, pleaded guilty to selling heroin which resulted in a death. If Hatt had not plead out and fought the charge and lost, he was looking at a 20-year minimum sentence. In 2014, a federal judge in Alexandria, VA, sentenced a dealer to 30 years for selling heroin that was linked to three deaths, according to the article. The Supreme Court has issued guidelines restricting when such methods should be used. Drug dealers that are arrested whose narcotics were not involved in a death will not face such stiff penalties.

 “If we can charge that within the requirements of the law, we’re going to, in appropriate cases, charge that case, and we’re going to be aggressive in those investigations,” Boente said.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Over The Counter Naloxone

It cannot be stressed enough; there is need for greater access to the life saving opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone in the United States, especially when you consider that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 44 people die every day from an overdose. In recent years, there has been call from both addiction experts and lawmakers for expanded access to naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan. The drug was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in nasal spray form, which makes it easier for people without any medical knowledge to administer the miracle drug.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that expanded naloxone access could save more than 20,000 lives per year in the United States. It is estimated that the drug saved 10,000 lives between 2006 and 2010.

In a number of states and cities across the country, naloxone can now be acquired without a prescription. This means that both opioid users and their families can purchase the drug with little effort, and more lives will be saved. CVS pharmacies in 13 states are preparing to offer naloxone over the counter, EMS 1 reports. With the rise in heroin use across the country, a byproduct of the prescription opioid epidemic, the likelihood of overdose rates increasing is great.

"Over 44,000 people die from accidental drug overdoses every year in the United States and most of those deaths are from opioids, including controlled substance pain medication and illegal drugs such as heroin." said Tom Davis, vice president of pharmacy professional practices at CVS/pharmacy. "Naloxone is a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses and by providing access to this medication in our pharmacies without a prescription in more states, we can help save lives." 

The states where naloxone will be offered over the counter include:
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject below:

Having trouble watching the video? Please click here.

If you or a loved one is battling opioid addiction, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. We can help you learn how to live free from addiction and begin your journey of recovery.
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