New Technology Tests Breath for Illegal Drugs

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iStock_000001996195_LargeFor many years, testing urine samples have been the primary method of checking for the presence of drugs and alcohol. However, this can be an invasive and challenging process, depending on circumstances. Urine samples can present problems such as the following:

  • Samples are easy to manipulate, those being tested can purchase drug and alcohol-free urine.
  • Samples may be easily tainted with other substances, such as water and/or other easy to obtain items,
  • The sample must be procured by witnessing the person creating the sample, often considered an invasion of privacy.
  • Results can be complicated by the presence of other medications and is not always accurate.
  • Samples are messy and may be mishandled easily.

The search for more accurate forms of testing has been ongoing. Blood tests are one option, but are lengthy to perform and require medical staff to obtain, as well as process. Expensive lab fees and long waiting periods for results are other reasons this method is less popular.

What is the new approach?

New technology being developed eliminates many of these factors. Analyzing the breath of the person being tested happens with a process called liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. This is a highly sensitive method for detection of drugs in the system of the person being tested.

Basically, this technology captures small aerosol particles being exhaled and tests them for the presence of drugs. The device collects these particles and filters them for presence of drugs, such as amphetamines, methamphetamines, marijuana and cocaine.

How will it be applied?

Those most often impacted by the waiting period for testing of urine or blood are law enforcement officers and personnel. Others who will find this form of testing valuable and viable are employers who perform random testing, emergency room personnel who must act quickly in medical situations, treatment professionals who perform regular testing of participants, school officials who suspect drug use on campus, sporting officials who must perform random testing on athletes in competitions, and all those who need to save money on testing procedures as well as obtaining access to fast results of the testing.

What is the importance of testing?

Recent studies have shown that approximately 75 percent of those aged 18 and higher who use drugs, even only occasionally, are employed. They often use drugs while on the job and in the workplace, therefore making them a high risk group for workplace accidents and loss of productivity.

Using the percentage above, this translates to about 42,000 people per year who are coming to work high or getting high while in the workplace. This can lead to liability for the employer in many arenas. Is it any wonder that more employers are beginning to see the benefit of drug testing for their employees? It is estimated that approximately three quarters of the Fortune 500 companies now regularly perform drug tests.

Retraining costs and loss of productivity from employees who begin to lose work and eventually either quit or are laid off has created the trend toward pre-employment drug screens. It is estimated that 71% of employers now utilize this practice. Waiting times for blood and urine samples, along with high costs of lab and medical fees for this practice make the new technology very appealing for small to medium sized companies who currently do this type of testing.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Hypertension Medication Finds New Use in Treating Opioid Addiction

July 30, 2015 by  
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New medicineThose in the early stages of opiate addiction treatment or anyone experiencing opioid withdrawal symptoms typically receive Buprenorphine.

Trade names for Buprenorphine are Cizdol, Suboxone, Subutex and Bunavail. Suboxone, which contains Naloxone, reportedly provides a safer alternative to Methadone treatment, which has been used for many years in treating heroin and various other opiate addictions. Methadone is known as a likely cause of respiratory depression among users when abused or mixed with other opiate drugs.

The combined effect of Suboxone with naloxone was designed to reduce pleasurable effects of crushing the pills for injection, although the creators of the drug report painful withdrawals when these drugs are injected.

A recent development in opioid recovery, however, has found a new blend of medications to also be effective in helping recovering opioid addicts stave off cravings.

What is Clonidine?

Researchers found that Buprenorphine, when combined with the drug Clonidine, shows positive and promising results in reducing cravings, even when symptoms of withdrawal were gone.

Clonidine is a medication frequently administered to regulate high blood pressure and treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is a medication used to reduce hypertension as it relaxes the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely. Other uses for the drug include reduction of menopausal symptoms and as an aid to smoking cessation.

Trials were conducted on 208 individuals undergoing outpatient treatment for opioid addiction, which used randomized double-blind techniques for control of a placebo versus the Clonidine recipients. Results showed a marked difference in the time that was seen in those who relapsed back to drug use.

Why is this Important?

Reduction of stress is an important factor in the treatment of addiction to pain medications and other opioid drugs, such as heroin. When stress is reduced, the craving for use of drugs is reduced as well.

Many years of research have been conducted to quell the high rate of recidivism and relapse with heroin and opium abuse and addiction. Today, the highest incidence of drug abuse is seen with pain medications. The high cost of pain medications typically lead those who are addicted to find relief through heroin, which has shown high rates of use and abuse due to its widespread production, availability and low cost.

Treatment protocols for reduction in use and abuse of opioid medications are a priority in the fight against addiction. The use of Clonidine provides another step in the battle faced with abuse and addiction to opioid drugs.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

 

Cocaine’s Effects on the Brain: Impulsive Behavior

July 23, 2015 by  
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77490More than 800,000 people in the United States suffer from cocaine addiction. They are known to be highly impulsive without regard to negative consequences, possibly due to increased cocaine relapse. Many scientists speculate that this impulsivity may serve as an important behavioral target for the development of relapse prevention medications.

In attempt to end cocaine addiction, medical researchers have searched for a medication that can help end this dependency. Regretfully, many of these past attempts did not see complete success, but they’ve shown hope.

A new scientific study has discovered that the brain function of cocaine addicted people who demonstrate highly impulsive behavior differs from the brain activity of those who are not addicted. During this research, the left caudate, which is a brain structure known to control motor function, performed differently between cocaine users and non-cocaine users when answering specific questions.

To measure impulsivity in the study, scientists used a common test called the “Go/NoGo task.” This monitors a person’s ability to inhibit an impulsive response. More on how this task is administered can be found here.

The findings led researchers to believe that “Targeting altered brain connections in cocaine addiction for therapeutic development is a fresh idea, offering a whole new arena for research and the potential to promote abstinence and prevent relapse in these vulnerable individuals.”

The Brain During Relapse

In addition, a report published last month examined how cocaine can alter the brain, leading to more common relapses addicts. The process is a bit intricate to understand, but provides incredible insight for the possibility of reducing relapses.

The findings suggest that stress may cause “profound changes” in the brain and therefore, play a role in increasing the risk of relapse in cocaine addiction addicts.

This new research pinpointed a mechanism in the “reward center” of the brain that identifies how cocaine addicts relapse after stressful events.

Perhaps more importantly, this animal study detected a potential mechanism for protecting against such relapses.

Here is what took place during the research:

  • Researchers focused on neuropeptides which are “messenger molecules” that carry information between neurons in the brain and form the brain’s communications system.
  • Scientists discovered that there was direct communication between the neuroreceptors controlling stress and neuroreceptors controlling reward.

They concluded that “Our research showed that cocaine disrupts the interaction between receptors and these changes… [This] could increase the risk of relapse under stressful conditions.”

The next step is to design a process that can restore this broken interaction between neuroceptors to minimize stress-driven relapse in cocaine addicts.

These two recent studies certainly provide hope and provide the foundation and opportunity for the development of new, more targeted methods for reducing addiction-based relapses, especially with the highly dependent drug, cocaine.

Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

New Synthetic Drug ‘Flakka’ Triggers Crazed Behaviors

July 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Health, Treatment and Recovery News

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Young man smokingFlorida seems to be the point of entry for “flakka,” a new drug reportedly coming primarily from China, India and Pakistan. The substance’s frightening effects has been seen to put a number of Florida residents in the headlines, emergency rooms and in the hands of local police.

In April 2015, flakka exploded in the media after causing erratic and delusional behavior. According to Florida police, it has similar effect as another recreational designer drug termed “bath salts.”

What is Flakka?

Flakka—sometimes referred to as “gravel” due to its small crystal pebbles and foul odor—is produced from cathinones, a naturally occurring amphetamine-like stimulant found in the khat plant. Much like the coca plant in South America, some cultures are known to chew on khat leaves to achieve euphoria.

The active ingredient found in flakka is alpha-PVP, which is a substance banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2014, although it continues to be found in vast amounts throughout parts of the U.S. Last year in Broward County, Florida, there were 200 cases filed against laboratories reportedly using alpha-PVP. Within the first three months of 2015, Florida officials reported having discovered more than 300 cases within state.

How does it affect the body?

Flakka affects the user’s central nervous system by stopping the re-uptake of the chemical compounds dopamine and norepinephrine. These two chemicals in the brain, known as the “pleasure chemicals,” then flood the brain causing a concentrated pleasure effect. This is similar to the brain’s reaction with other amphetamine drugs.

What are symptoms of flakka?

As the user increases the dose, which can be easily done as the amount of flakka needed to get high is both small and inexpensive, they begin to experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, increased excitability and a very intense sense of pleasurable euphoria. This is quickly lost, however, as their brain begins to produce hallucinations and delusions due to higher concentrations of dopamine and norepinephrine.

Most users experience a spike in body heat up to 106 degrees farenheit, explaining the tendency for them to take off clothing and run around naked, as seen with many recently reported incidents in Florida.

The user becomes very agitated and violent as their adrenaline soars, along with surges of super-human strength. Police report that some users require up to four officers to subdue and restrain them. Intense paranoia and hallucinations added to their intense violent reaction to the drug make these users frightening to deal with.

What are the dangers of flakka?

The most serious risk around use of flakka is that it takes only a tenth of a gram to have strong effect on the brain chemistry of the user. This amount currently costs only $4 to $5 on the streets. Due to this low cost and the small dose required, users will experiment with higher doses and begin to experience dangerous side effects.

As the dose increases, so does its effect on the user’s brain chemistry. This leads to a state known as “excited delirium.” Users become extremely agitated, highly excitable and delirious. This effect becomes longer lasting, the higher the dose.

High body temperatures, when sustained for any period of time, create the breakdown of internal muscle tissue, which are then released into the bloodstream, leading to kidney failure. Heart attack is also a common side effect of sustained, increased heart rate from use of flakka.

Some users also experience extended periods of psychosis, as a result of the drug. As with similar drugs, it is possible for permanent psychosis to occur, along with psychotic episodes that may be a long-term problem for users.

There is also no “build up” of effects with flakka. The user does not develop tolerance or the need to up their doses overtime to get the same high, nor does a user develop tolerance to higher doses. This makes it possible to reach an overdose at any point, from the first or 100th use.

Another dangerous factor with using flakka is the user’s ability to mask their drug use with vaping, or inhaling vapor through an e-cigarette or similar device. Virtually unknown to others, flakka is easy to mask in this fashion, making it easy to use in public. Flakka, however, can also be smoked, inhaled, snorted, injected or swallowed.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Painkiller-Addicted Babies a Growing U.S. Concern

June 30, 2015 by  
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Newborn baby girl crying , ten days old.

As the problem with addiction to pain medication and other opioids increases in our country, so does the incidence of infants being born addicted. According to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of U.S. babies born withdrawing from narcotic painkillers has tripled since 1995.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome, stemming from increased rates of addiction to oxycodone, morphine and hydrocodone, has become a nationwide epidemic. Withdrawal symptoms for infants include seizures, muscle spasms, shaking, diarrhea, vomiting and high fever, along with extensive crying, which can all last from a few weeks to a few months. The symptoms are usually seen in infants early as two weeks of age.

In Florida, where research is being conducted to quell the onset of such high incidence, doctors suggest increasing treatment for mother exposed or addicted to painkillers. The increasing rates of babies born with birth defects caused by their mother’s addiction to opioid drugs has also alarmed a number of Florida doctors. These birth defects, aside from the babies’ withdrawal syndrome, include heart, brain and spinal problems as well as high risks for premature birth and decreased birth weight.

The reports also show that from 2010 to 2011 alone, 242 babies in three hospitals were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. With this onset increase in infant birth defects, CDC has been contacted to provide assistance to physicians and mental health professionals.

Infants in four out of five cases require treatment with morphine or anti-seizure medications to control withdrawal symptoms, a Florida doctor reports. The hospitals are also required to place these babies in neonatal intensive care units, where they stay an average of 26 days while being treated.

Because the mothers of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome suffer from addiction, few of them are able to afford to put their newborns in such expensive treatments. At the same time, a number of these infants do not get to go home as their mother’s are decline custody, usually landing the children in foster care. This interferes with bonding between the mother and baby, which is an important developmental stage of mental health for the infant.

One solution, according to both medical and mental health providers, is to place these mothers in immediate treatment when they test positive for drugs during pregnancy. Currently, it is reported that only 10 percent of addicted mothers are being sent for help. Intervention to the mother’s addiction is one way to reduce the incidence of babies being born with these issues, provided they are able to abstain from substance use during pregnancy.

Canadian Reports

Doctors in one Canadian province of Ontario report a rate of increase at 15 times during the years from 1992 to 2011. The Canadian treatment for mothers who have taken or abused pain medications during pregnancy is to place them on Methadone, which is reported to counter-balance the effects of pain medication addiction, increasing birth rates without infant withdrawal symptoms.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

SAMHSA Releases New Guidelines for Treating Alcohol Use Disorder

June 12, 2015 by  
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe largest U.S. government agency that deals with public mental health issues has released an updated guide to widely used alcohol addiction and abuse medications. While other large treatment communities have long voiced out their own opinions regarding regulation of medication treatments, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s recent update is an addition to the progress being made within this arena over the past few years.

Along with the updated diagnostic tools found in the current The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), SAMHSA also sends treatment providers “Medication for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide,” which is a booklet that allows for charting the course of a patient’s treatment experience using medications that are increasingly becoming more popular in treating different degrees of alcohol dependence.

Medication-assisted treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence has seen an increase nationwide. One reason for the growth of this treatment protocol are changes in medical insurance. Often, these changes are driven by the need to reduce treatment episodes for each individual as costs for detoxification and treatment program services continue to rise, along with numbers of individuals who require treatment.

Many treatment providers have struggled for decades to meet these increasing needs and create a bridge from patient treatment to long-term recovery for patients. While medication-assisted alcohol abuse management is not new, some of the drugs and their methods of prescription have been receiving new uses.

Currently, there are four medications recognized to be the most appropriate treatment for alcohol dependence. SAMHSA’s booklet provides a table with information about the use of these four medications and the DSM-5 criteria for severity of alcohol dependence. When used as suggested, these medications may be used as short-term or long-term tools for recovery.

The four drugs, which have been approved by the U.S. Drug Administration (FDA) for alcohol disorder treatment in the detoxification and oral processes and for preventing relapse, include disulfiram, acamprosate, oral naltrexone and an injectable extended-release form of naltrexone.

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse) has been used for a long time for alcohol use and abuse, mostly as a preventative intervention. This drug causes abdominal discomfort and illness if the patient drinks alcohol while on the medication.
  • Acamprosate (Campral) is a medication used to bridge the brain’s functioning in the glutamatergic and GABAergic systems. These are the areas of the brain thought to control mood and nervous system health. When alcohol use and withdrawal disrupts this dynamic, the drinker experiences mild to severe symptoms, both as a result of drinking and of stopping drinking. This drug is primarily used post-withdrawal to alleviate long-term symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Oral Naltrexone (also known as Vivitrol) is a newer medication used for blocking the opiate receptors, or pleasure-sensing receptors in the brain. Both forms of the drug give the same effect when alcohol is introduced; the patient receives no sensation of pleasure. The oral form of the drug is used to introduce these effects at onset of treatment to provide relief from cravings and withdrawal.
  • Injectable, extended-release Naltrexone is used for long-term purposes of abolishing the cravings for alcohol and a return to drinking behaviors (relapse).

SAMHSA’s booklet cuts through the usual challenges that comes with working with various clinical criteria and caters to providers who are not trained in medical settings, such as counselors and other lay persons without medical education.

Along with guidelines for assessing and diagnosing alcohol dependence, SAMHSA also lists other possibly co-existing mental and physical health conditions, which can interfere with alcohol abuse treatment if not addressed. Based on each patient’s needs, assessment for medication-assisted treatment begins. SAMHSA has also produced a guide for how much treatment to use as the patient progresses through specific stages of treatment.

 
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Prescription Drug Abuse: Teenagers Get Legally High

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girl holding prescription pillsLegal drugs, including painkillers like OxyContin, now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). A 2015 research study suggests that the deadly consequences are often seen in teenagers as they remain unaware of the significant physical dangers from readily available prescription drugs.

The CDC has labeled this dire situation among our youth as an “epidemic” as 44 people in the United States die from overdose of prescription painkillers. The trend, the organization states, continues to increase and hit adolescent aged individuals due to problematic practices.

“Prescription drugs are seen as blessed by a trusted institution, the FDA, while increasingly aggressive advertising by drug companies simultaneously floods parents and children with messages that these substances are safe, popular, and beneficial,” lead researcher Richard Netemeyer and his colleagues wrote in The Legal High: Factors Affecting Young Consumers’ Risk Perceptions and Abuse of Prescription Drugs.

The Current Research

This latest nationwide study went directly to the teens via an internet survey and requested information in these areas:

  1. Their use of substances including alcohol, tobacco and both legal and illegal drugs.
  2. Whether they struggle with anxiety and/or a desire to be popular.
  3. The level of risk they associated with prescription drugs.

The findings revealed:

  1. Prescription drug use increased in direct proportion to psychological states such as anxiety.
  2. Use of legal prescriptions increased the use of other restricted substances such as alcohol.
  3. Male teens with a high need to be popular and teens in general appear to be at exceptional risk.
  4. Prescription drug abuse accelerated exponentially among this demographic, such as when the level of anxiety or desire to be popular was at its very highest.

What’s Next?

Many experts believe his segment of prescription drug abuse can be avoided with adult involvement. As grown-ups, it is our responsibility to counsel and provide healthy coping mechanisms for our teens when they experience high levels of anxiety.

Providing information, knowledge and support can help in advance of teenagers experimenting with prescription drugs.

The study’s investigators concluded that, “Campaigns must target parents … since they clearly underestimate both the physical risks of prescription drugs and the likelihood that their children will abuse these drugs.”

Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

Treating Serious Mental Illness in Prison

May 26, 2015 by  
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A black man with hands outside the bars of a prison cellThe dismal history of treatment for mental illness in the U.S. include stoning them to death, burning them at the stake and locking them in cages to separate them from the rest of the population. These tactics are seldom fit for animals, yet they were applied stating that this is in the best interest of both them and others.

Historically, a diagnosis of mental illness was a sentence to ostracizing, minimizing and socially shutting out those afflicted. Prior to the 1800s, mental institutions were places of barbarism and torture. With the advent of psychiatry as a viable medical practice in the early 1900s, mental illness started to be discussed more often and treated with greater focus. Hospitals were more often the choice for housing mentally ill persons and were developed to be more humane throughout the century. As the numbers of mentally ill patients grew, the high costs of operating these hospitals began to wear on tax dollars and politicians began to seek less expensive ways to treat our mentally ill citizens.

During the 1970s through 1990s, hospitals were closed down due to high costs and low funding. The creation of housing options was rampant, but not sufficient to keep mentally ill people housed and cared for physically and medically. Today, most of the mentally ill persons in this country — as is the case worldwide — have become homeless. Increasingly, their illnesses have also led them to perform illegal acts.

Serious Mental Illness Among Inmates

Today, we have a high number of imprisoned persons who are incarcerated in state, county and municipal jails and prisons. The numbers are staggering, given the state of our current penal institutions and the overcrowded conditions that are bankrupting state, county and federal financial systems.

About 20 percent of those incarcerated in jails and 15 percent of those in state prisons have what is described as a serious mental illness (SMI). Serious mental illnesses include schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depression or brief psychotic disorder. Since many mentally ill persons use and abuse alcohol and drugs, these disorders are complicated by their abuse and/or dependence on those substances. This number reflects approximately 356,000 inmates nationwide, or ten times the number of persons being treated in state hospitals.

Not only are our jails and prisons being filled up with mentally ill offenders, those who are mentally ill are also more likely to remain in these settings much longer than those who do not have a mental illness diagnosis. As an example, one article found that New York Riker’s Island Jail had an average length of stay of 42 days, which translated into 215 days for mentally ill inmates.

A Shortage of Mental Healthcare

A deputy in a Mississippi detention center who referred to his prisoners said, “They howl all night long. If you’re not used to it, you end up crazy yourself.” The story of the terrible things these prisoners do to themselves and others because of the lack of mental health treatment in prisons are horrifying and too real.

Lack of funding for treating the mentally ill is causing rising numbers of crimes everywhere. One state with a large problem is Virginia, where the state’s largest mentally ill population resides in state prison; which houses 3 times more of them than do the state hospitals. Law enforcement officials once offered part of their budget to the mental health system to get proper care for the mentally ill in their custody.

Shortages of appropriate care and housing of mentally ill persons has led to numerous violent crimes, including homicides, rape and physical attacks resulting in serious injury for the victims.

Recommended Solutions

Recommendations for treating the mentally ill who are imprisoned include housing in communities where their conditions can receive appropriate medical treatment and they can receive socially viable skills for living with their condition.

Other recommendations are to give them appropriate counseling and therapy to stop the high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse and dependence, to create programs that train and work with these individuals so that they may procure employment opportunities, and to increase knowledge and cooperation between law enforcement and mental health professionals to work with this population more effectively

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

Increase in Opioid Misuse: The Painful Truth

May 17, 2015 by  
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bottle of pillsA recent analysis of 35 existing studies about opioids has revealed an astounding increase in its use, misuse and addiction. Opioids—medications that include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, morphine and codeine—are known to be both psychologically and physically addictive. Often, opioid users become dependent on the medication and get to a point where they need to up their doses to induce the same level of euphoria. Prescriptions of these highly addictive medications have exploded in the past decade, hiking up the cases of opioid reliance and uncontrollable usage.

The Rise of Opioid Prescriptions

An estimated 20 to 30 percent of opioid drugs legally prescribed by medical professionals are misused, according to a 2015 study published by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). “On average, misuse was documented in approximately one out of four or five patients,” writes Kevin Vowles, a professor at University of New Mexico, and his colleagues. The study also states that “addiction [occurs] in approximately one out of ten or eleven patients.” The report, which is an analysis of 35 existing studies primarily conducted in the United States, classified three problematic types of opioid use:

  1. Misuse – When opioids are used contrary to instructions
  2. Abuse – Exploiting the drug for its euphoric effects for recreational purposes
  3. Addiction – Continued opioid use with actual or potential harmful effects

A Possible Solution

This update on the rising opioid usage has led many experts to call for a strategy and immediate plan to put an end to what the study dubs as an “opioid epidemic.” Generally, the study’s authors tout that helping to reduce the misuse of powerful pain killers may be as basic as educating and monitoring patients. Vowles, who is the study’s lead researcher, suggests that “[since] one in four patients on opioids display patterns of opioid misuse, but not addiction, then perhaps more efficient targeting of treatment resources would be of benefit.”

Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

The Toll of Drug Use on 200 Million People Worldwide

May 8, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News

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hand reaching for pillsEarlier this year, Los Angeles Times reported numbers for drug abuse worldwide, commenting on the impact on the cost of healthcare due to widespread drug use. It is estimated that 200 million people worldwide use illegal drugs every year. These numbers do not include alcohol or tobacco use, which also impacts healthcare services and costs dramatically.

The Drugs

The study was conducted by The Lancet, a medical journal in the United Kingdom. The specific drugs that the study is focusing on are opioids, amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana. Their information is being compiled from reports on drug use and abuse, dependence, fatalities and other health concerns recognized to be consequential to drug abuse. While other substances may have health implications, these four drugs offer the most thorough information from which to conduct the study.

Statistics

Globally, marijuana use is estimated at 125 to 203 million users. Amphetamine use is shown at 14 to 56 million users, opioids are reportedly used by 12 to 21 million and cocaine use is reportedly 14 to 21 million persons.

Total number of users has increased worldwide. 2012 statistics on illegal drug use have shown increases from 180 to 185 million in the 1990s to early 2000.

Drug users who inject drugs number from 11 million to 21 million. It is estimated that 1 in 20 persons who are in the age group between 15 and 64 are using illegal drugs.

Health Implications

Obvious side effects of drugs are deaths caused by overdose. Other far-reaching complications include heart disease, lung and breathing problems, kidney and liver disorders and mental illness.

Health care costs for those impacted by drug use include the astronomical number of persons who suffer from heart and lung diseases caused by tobacco use. While legal, tobacco is known to cause over 5 million fatalities per year worldwide. An increase of up to 8 million is expected by the year 2030.

This number does not include those 16 million Americans who suffer from some form of disease directly attributable to tobacco use. It is estimated that for each death from smoking, 30 more persons suffer from a smoking-related illness.

Over 2 million people die from alcohol abuse each year around the world. This number far overshadows the 250,000 estimated annual deaths due to use of illegal drugs. However, the years of life lost for illegal drug use comes in at over 2 million. The reason it is higher than that of alcohol (1.5 million) is because many illicit drug users begin to experiment with drugs at a young age and subsequently die from them.

Healthcare costs for those who do not die from drug overdose are astronomical. Why? Those with persistent and ongoing healthcare issues caused by drugs will run in the billions of dollars per year. Care for chronic and persistent illness is costly and those who have these health issues are going to increase annually, as do the numbers of drug users who incur health issues around their drug use and abuse.

More Findings

The number of persons who use illegal drugs vary from those who actually become dependent. This ratio is impossible to determine, since there is no formula that applies. There is also little correlation that can be drawn between users who go on to incur healthcare costs because causal implications cannot be formulated either.

What is significant and does show strong trends for the future, as these statistics impact the field of healthcare, are the staggering number of persons who use illegal drugs. It must be recognized that costs will continue to rise as incidence of use escalates.

Sources:

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. World Drug Report 2011. Retrieved online from: http://192.168.1.1:8181/http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/WDR2011/World_Drug_Report_2011_ebook.pdf

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work and a CATC IV in addictions counseling. She teaches meditation and mindfulness, specializing in addiction and trauma. She also leads workshops and seminars on treatment of addictive disorders and stress reduction.

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