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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.
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