Category Archives: Drug Abuse

Economic Worries can Lead to Drug Abuse

Middle-aged, average Americans are not supposed to die at alarming rates. In fact, with increased health care, social programs and a general improvement of self-awareness, the middle class is supposed to live longer than past generations. However, this is not the case. In fact, ten years ago the number of deceased middle-aged Americans started to climb significantly. In an effort to find out why, two economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, delved into the numbers and found a surprising correlation.

They found that other statistics were rising along with the death rate. Drug and alcohol use among this demographic were increasing at a similar rate. What was even more interesting was that as these two things were rising, the economy was taking a nose dive. The uncertainty of the financial future could be causing people to give in to depression and succumb to overdoses, alcoholism and suicides, all things contributing to the death rate.

“Whatever it is these people are unhappy, they’re left behind, some of their jobs have gone away, they’re worse off than their parents were, they’re worried about opportunities for their kids,” explained Deaton.

In a separate study, researchers made a connection between the rise of opioid abuse and the rise of unemployment. They found that countries with more unemployed citizens also had higher rates of substance abuse. It appears that connection is so sensitive that a 1% increase in unemployment effects a 3.6% increase in opioid overdoses. In yet another study, this time in China, researchers found that when trade brought about sudden unemployment there were more suicides and drug overdoses. Examined as a group, these studies certainly indicate that people are greatly affected by the tide of the economy.

But, if rise and fall of the economy can bring about such extreme behaviors, maybe health officials, families and loved ones can use this as a predictor. For instance, if it appears that there are less jobs, or unemployment starts to rise, communities can have programs in place for out -of-work professionals that connect them with their peers, therapists if needed and networking tools to get them back in the work force. There can also be more substance abuse prevention programs for adults.

If you have a loved one struggling with drugs or alcohol due to economic stress, contact us today to see how we can help.

Responsibility for Opiate Epidemic Includes Pharmacies

Opinions abound regarding who all should be held accountable for the surge in opioid addictions and subsequent overdoses in our country. Yes, heroin is leading the pack at the moment, but there were several years leading up to this where painkillers containing substances like oxycodone and hydrocodone were the major culprits, and they are still a major part of the problem today.

A lot of finger-pointing has occurred as to whose fault it was for the number of people becoming dependent. Many place the blame directly on the pharmaceutical companies for the manufacturing and marketing of the drugs. Some people find fault with the doctors who have been over-prescribing the painkillers, although most people only blame the addicts themselves. In truth, these are all correct, but there is another missing element in between the manufacturers, doctors and patients – the pharmacies.

Checks and balances are the framework of our government as well as most businesses and within the health care system. The idea is that one person cannot make sweeping decisions without first consulting or getting approval from a separate entity. This is done to ensure the safety and effectiveness of any decision. For instance, pharmacists make sure that the patient knows how to take their medicine, or alert them if their doctor prescribes them something that may interfere or be dangerous with another medication the person is already taking. Businesses that distribute prescription drugs receive orders from pharmacies and are supposed to alert authorities if a pharmacy is ordering too large quantities for what they need.

However, the checks and balances have failed in places like West Virginia. The state has struggled with the opiate crisis for many years, and they have several counties that lead in prescription overdose death rates. But this is not surprising when one looks at the number of painkillers they had been receiving.

For instance, a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia ordered 9 million prescription painkiller pills in two years. This pharmacy is located in a town that has 392 residents. This should have set alarm bells off with the distributor, but instead of flagging it as suspicious, they continued to send the pills.

The amount of money being made on these pills may be what compels distributors to look the other way when pharmacies start ordering excessive quantities of the drugs. According to an investigation conducted by reporters at the Charleston Gazette-Mail, three drug companies (McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen) made over $17 billion from West Virginian pharmacies from 2007 to 2012.

“It starts with doctor writing, the pharmacist filling, and the wholesaler distributing. They’re all three in bed together. The distributors knew what was going on, they just didn’t care,” claimed a retired West Virginian pharmacist.

Prescription drug companies have continued to profit off of the painkiller epidemic that is sweeping throughout the country, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars over time. Although it is difficult to point the finger at only one entity, what happened in West Virginia highlights the importance of maintaining an honest system that monitors the prescriptions as well as the people filling them.

Surgeon General Asks All Doctors to Help Reduce Prescription Opioid Problem

sgrxThe 19th Surgeon General of the United States of America, Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., has issued a landmark letter to all physicians seeking help to address the opioid epidemic in the country. He acknowledges the critical role that doctors have played in partially creating the problem through the over-prescription of narcotics, while at the same time asserts that they can help to greatly reduce the crisis as well.

“Everywhere I travel, I see communities devastated by opioid overdoses. I meet families too ashamed to seek treatment for addiction,” Dr. Murthy wrote, citing that overdose deaths have quadrupled in America since 1999.

He also noted that the responsibility is shared with pharmaceutical companies as well as patients, stating, “Nearly two decades ago, we were encouraged to be more aggressive about treating pain, often without enough training and support to do so safely. This coincided with heavy marketing of opioids to doctors. Many of us were even taught – incorrectly – that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain.”

Dr. Murthy asked his fellow physicians to take a pledge to reduce prescription opioid abuse at a special website set up at www.TurnTheTideRx.org, which also includes helpful information on recommended prescribing practices, non-narcotic alternatives for treating pain, resources for patients who become addicted and other helpful information. The goal is to address the problem from all sides within their profession.

“First, we will educate ourselves to treat pain safely and effectively. A good place to start is the enclosed pocket card with the CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline. Second, we will screen our patients for opioid use disorder and provide or connect them with evidence-based treatment. Third, we can shape how the rest of the country sees addiction by talking about and treating it as a chronic illness, not a moral failing,” the Surgeon General wrote.

If you have a loved one who is battling an opioid dependency, contact us today to speak with a treatment consultant who can help you find an appropriate rehab center.

What Role Do Drug Companies Play in the Opioid Epidemic?

drug makers profitingAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 44 people die each day from an overdose on prescription painkillers. In all, more than 47,000 people died of drug overdoses in a single year, according to the most recent statistics, and about 60% of them are tied to opioids such as prescription narcotics and heroin.

Although the majority of painkiller users don’t go on to use heroin, approximately 75% of heroin addicts first started out on prescription opiates. The connection is undeniable.

If so much carnage is tied back to these prescription drugs, what level of responsibility falls on the pharmaceutical companies for continuing to pump out these drugs and market them to doctors as well as patients? Yes, prescribing practices need to be overhauled, which will help, but how much culpability is there on the part of the drug makers that are literally raking in billions of dollars off the plight of thousands of Americans?

An article in Time recently pointed out that there is much more to this connection than many people might suspect. Not only are they profiting off the sale of the addictive substances, but also off newer drugs designed to treat symptoms caused by the painkillers. Dr. Akikur Mohammad, who is an adjunct professor at University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and the author of The Anatomy of Addiction, pointed out that there was a commercial during the Super Bowl for a drug treating OIC (opioid-induced constipation).

Here are a few things to think about. The maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, paid out one of the largest fines in history due to misleading practices and knowingly promoting their drug as being safe when they knew it was more addictive, yet they continue to sell the drug. Think they’re alone?

Another important point is that the United States and New Zealand are reportedly the only modernized countries that allow drug manufacturers to market directly to consumers. And it’s working, too – the U.S. consumes 75% of the prescription drugs in the world despite having only 5% of the global population.

Study Links Substance Abuse, Stress to Teen Violence

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Teen Substance AbuseSubstance abuse and stress appear to be major catalysts for teen violence. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that despite the belief that race, community or culture are the major determining factors when it comes to violent behavior at a young age, drug use and stress are more of the main influences.

Researchers and some members of the medical community are hopeful that not only will this information dispel common disbeliefs that children are born into a violent lifestyle, but that they will also be able to receive more help to handle stressors and drug temptations.

Alisha Moreland, MD, is the director of the Avel Gordly Center for Healing at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and is anxious to help at-risk youth. “I get very concerned about the political conversation when you start talking about risk factors for people of color, violence and guns, because it speaks to the myth that if you’re black or Latino, you’re inherently violent. Everybody at some point becomes emotionally distressed, but that does not mean you are mentally ill, nor do mental health and mental illness mean the same thing,” explained Moreland.

In order to conduct the study, researchers investigated data that was gathered from 13,503 teenagers. In addition to analyzing the information provided, they also conducted interviews with the teens. It was discovered that of the children studied, the majority cited drugs and stress as motivating factors.

Before the study was even conducted, it was widely accepted that children who grow up in households where members of the family are abusing drugs are more likely to abuse drugs themselves. This correlation along with the obvious stressors this places on a child can all contribute to future acts of violence. Identifying potential motivating factors to underage violence will not only prevent future altercations, but could allow children to receive help for drug abuse and emotional problems before they escalate.

Marijuana Use and Addiction Sharply Increase

marijuanaA recent study showed that marijuana use among adults more than doubled in just a dozen years. The results were published in JAMA Psychiatry last month. Researchers found that the percentage of adults who used marijuana in 2001 was about 4.1, but that number ballooned to 9.5 by 2013.

Many experts believe that marijuana use has increased even more since then, but this was the latest information available for comparison. What the study also showed is that the amount of people who were developing marijuana use disorders was increasing as well, not just in overall number, but also the percentage of users.

The lead author of the study was Deborah Hasin, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University. She recently commented to CBS News that, “the trend upward in marijuana use indicates that more adults are at risk for marijuana-related adverse consequences, including the risk of marijuana use disorders (abuse or dependence) that we showed. Our findings are consistent with the studies of others that have shown increases in problems such cannabis-related emergency room visits and fatal vehicle crashes.”

As a result of the few states that have voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults, millions more people have been viewing the drug as being less harmful than it can be. Many are still under the misguided concept that it is not an addictive drug, yet each year there are an overwhelming number of people who seek treatment to end their marijuana addiction.

Flakka is Newest Synthetic Drug Taking Lives

flakkaSynthetic drugs continue to pose serious risk to our nation, and the latest formulation has recently taken multiple lives in South Florida alone. The drug is alpha-PVP, but is commonly known as “flakka” on the street.

Reportedly coming into the U.S. from China, flakka is a synthetic stimulant that also causes paranoid hallucinations. It is the next a synthetic cathinone derivative similar to mephedrone and bath salts. Mephedrone was more prevalant in Eruope and the UK club scene, and bath salts are infamous here in the U.S. for creating crazed zombie-like users.

“I have never seen such a rash of cases, all associated with the same substance,” said James N. Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University who has studied the Florida drug market for decades and was interviewed for an article in the New York Times. “It’s probably the worst I have seen since the peak of crack cocaine. Rather than a drug, it’s really a poison.”

Flakka, which is also sometimes called gravel, is producing similar insanity and gruesome deaths as bath salts. These drugs are very cheap as well, which makes it more appealing to homeless people and young people as well. Police reports include terrifying stories of the devastation caused by the drug.

As the synthetic market continues to widen, the best hope we have as a nation to help keep our kids away from these is to empower them with enough information as possible as well as provide enough activities and support so they aren’t as tempted to try to find a chemically-induced escape from reality.

Welfare Recipients to Undergo Drug Testing in Michigan?

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michigancapitolIn order to combat the drug problem in Michigan, the state House of Representatives and Senate have passed legislation to create a pilot program that would perform drug tests on anyone in the state receiving welfare benefits and suspected of drug use. This is one of the first states to try to implement such a procedure. While the bill has not been signed by the Governor, it is hoped that it will be enacted soon.

As part of the pilot program, three counties will be chosen to participate in the trial. Drug tests would be administered in the event that there are suspicions of drug use. The legislation allows for first time offenders to be given the opportunity to enroll in a state-run treatment center. In the event the violator refuses addiction treatment in Michigan, or does not complete the program, all welfare checks would stop. In order to ensure that children of addicts are still taken care of, welfare checks for the children would still be administered, but they would be given to a relative approved by the state.

This new legislation coming up against much dissent, with those opposed to it stating that the new laws are unconstitutional and targets those who are poor. Supporters of the bill are quick to point out that private sector jobs require drug testing frequently. “This bill has to do with the fact that the working men and women of this state who pay for these benefits are subject to the same requirement (drug testing by employers). It’s treating the people who are poor exactly the same as the working men and women of this state,” explained Senator Bruce Caswell.

The Michigan legislature had passed a similar law many years ago, but a judge overruled it, stating it was unconstitutional if there was no suspicion that drug use was a problem. A similar law was overturned in Florida recently. In an attempt to avoid the law being overturned again, policy makers added in the clause that welfare recipients had to fall under suspicion of drug use before they could be tested, as well as provide for minors involved.

Charitable Organizations Help Fight Against Drug Abuse

fundingWhile our nation struggles with the ongoing drug and alcohol epidemic, charitable organizations are stepping up to the plate to offer assistance. For the most part, individual states fund many rehabilitation facilities, community outreach projects and the public services that monitor and prevent further drug activity. The millions of dollars that go into fighting the drug problem is enough to bankrupt any state, however with the help of organizations that sponsor addicts to go into treatment, host educational seminars and generally help the community, states are able to reach more addicts and families than ever before.

One of the largest reasons many charities have developed and gotten involved with the drug plight our communities are facing is because they see the need for further education. Oftentimes charities and organizations are developed after someone loses a loved one to an addiction. Taking the knowledge that many wished they had when the addiction first started and imparting that knowledge onto others is a driving force behind many foundations.

As the number of children in foster care grows due to parents addicted to drugs, and as more and more babies continue to be born already addicted to some sort of substance, it is clear that the need for education and prevention is greater than ever before. Charitable organizations look to helping those with addiction problems before it is too late. “To have a true, long-lasting impact on addiction, on the drug problem substance abuse in general, I’m absolutely convinced we have to be just as much about prevention, treatment and recovery as we are about enforcement,” explained Booth Goodwin, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Goodwin recently spoke at a conference dedicated to those who have developed different non-profit organizations to help fight against drug abuse. During the conference, Goodwin acknowledged that the drug problem is getting worse, especially with the increased amount of heroin on the streets. According to him, states and communities truly need help from charities to further educate and prevent new addicts from developing the deadly disease.