Seattle Opiate Deaths Illustrate Problem Across the Country

From Seattle, a report has just come out that illustrates the migration from prescription pain pill abuse to the use of heroin, with deadly results. This is a tragic trend that has been seen in every corner of our country. In New England, the effect of this migration has been particularly brutal.

You may have already heard about this trend in your local newspapers. It’s been on the front pages for the last few years – local kids dying from heroin overdoses to the total astonishment and shock of their families. The potency of heroin is so variable that just because these teens and young adults survived their abuse of prescription drugs, a highly potent dose of heroin could catch them completely off guard and end their chances of recovery, happiness or success in life, forever.

graph showing King county heroin deaths
Image source:

A graph from this new report shows the interrelationship between heroin and prescription drugs. The blue line that goes so high is the deaths in King County (the county Seattle is in) from prescription drugs. You see them peak and then drop pretty drastically.

The red line that is coming up to meet it is the deaths from heroin. You see that they fell as prescription painkiller deaths increased back before the new millennium and then they began to climb again. The climb of heroin deaths started in 2010. That’s the year that the first prescription painkiller was converted to a tamper-resistant formula – this was OxyContin. After hydrocodone, Oxys were the most popular drug of abuse. As soon as this pill changed, drug users immediately began to migrate to heroin. Continue reading

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The Hidden Dangers of Ecstasy

ecstasy pillI was just reading an article about Ecstasy – actually, it was about pills SOLD as Ecstasy. It’s long been known that these pills could contain just about anything. Methamphetamine, heroin, caffeine, inert fillers or it could actually contain methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Otherwise known as MDMA or Ecstasy.

Pills sold at music festivals, raves or nightclubs have completely unpredictable ingredients. So much so that organizations have sprung up just to test pills for partygoers and assure them that the pills were “pure.” Of course, that label overlooks the fact that some people die after consuming pure Ecstasy, so “purity” is no guarantee of safety.

That said, there is a recent trend toward the inclusion of a very dangerous drug in these pills. That drug is PMA – Para-Methoxyamphetamine. You can see that it is chemically somewhat similar to MDMA. But it is even more dangerous than MDMA. Continue reading

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The Morning After Your Alcohol Binge – Are You OK to Drive Now?

blurred vision of driving with hangoverYou got drunk last night – it doesn’t happen often but it was a celebration and you got carried away. You’d given your keys to a friend who took you home and tucked you into bed. When you wake up and deal with the headache and nausea, you still need to drive to work. You were careful to not to drive last night, but what about today? Are you still impaired? After all, shouldn’t your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) be zero by now?

A new study shows that it’s quite possible for you to be an impaired driver when you get behind the wheel to go to work this morning.

A group of researchers examined the blood of drivers suspected of being drunk or impaired. Drivers were also given clinical tests to determine if they were competent to drive. The 146 drivers who tested negative for any current signs of psychoactive drugs (including alcohol) were further examined. Some of these drivers had failed the driving competence test and some had passed it.

The blood test results of these 146 drivers were then evaluated to determine if they had any of the breakdown products of alcohol left in their bodies – when the body breaks down alcohol, it creates new chemicals: ethyl glucuronide and ethyl sulphate. The alcohol is actually gone, but these chemicals remain to show signs of recent drinking.

In 16 cases, those who failed the competence test showed ethyl glucuronide and/or ethyl sulphate in their blood tests. In those who passed the competence test, only three people showed any signs of these chemicals, and their levels were lower than in the 16 failed-test cases.

The researchers concluded that even when alcohol is effectively gone, a hungover driver may constitute a public safety hazard if he gets behind the wheel.

If you really want to play it safe for your own safety and the safety of others, drink in moderation if at all. As a general rule, if you wake up hungover, you’ve drunk too much.

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Can Addiction Be Predicted

failed paperThe subject of addiction and what causes it is rife with theories.  Any area of life or behavior which is problematic and not well understood all too frequently lends itself to a plethora of complexities and proposed solutions which ultimately prove unworkable and do not result in a betterment of the condition.  So it is with addiction; the speculation and theorizing as to what causes it and what cures it—and whether or not it can be genetically predicted. Continue reading

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Are There Really Opiates in Every Town in America?

heroin and prescription opiatesIt seems like everywhere you look these days, there’s news about opiates. This is both good and bad. It’s bad because this means there are so many opiates in circulation that people need to be notified that there’s a problem. But it’s good because I think more people are becoming more aware of that something is wrong and needs attention. If they are more aware of it, they will be more alert to opiate abuse by a loved one.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, heroin abuse is on the rise. Past month use of heroin was reported by 281,000 people in 2011. In 2012, that number was 335,000.

News reports concur with these survey results. For so many people, the problem started with painkillers. Maybe a patient was prescribed painkillers for dental work, an injury or surgery but actually got more pills than needed. Maybe the pills took the edge off some anxiety they were feeling and they used up the bottle even though they didn’t need it. When the pills were gone, they didn’t feel so good so maybe they then went back to the doctor and got more pills.

For some, their use became chronic and they gradually became unable to deal with life successfully because their focus was on making sure they had the pills they needed. A couple of jobs were lost, they began to sell off valuables from their own homes or the homes of parents. It’s not like they wanted to, they just couldn’t take that dopesick feeling.

When the money ran out, they turned to heroin instead of pills because it was a fraction of the price. It’s a story told over and over again, on the front page of small town newspapers when they lose a few beloved young people. For many thousands of other people, no one tells their tale.

According to a report in the Huffington Post, far too many of our soldiers returning from overseas are in chronic pain and taking opiate painkillers. In a July 2014 article, Huffington Post reports that nearly half the soldiers returning from deployments suffer from chronic pain and about 15% are taking opioid (synthetic opiate) painkillers. This is about twice as many people suffering from pain and almost four times as many taking opioids. Forty-four percent of those taking opioids also reported that they actually had no pain or only mild pain in the last month. I fear that many of these soldiers may unintentionally fall into the same pattern that led these other people to heroin use.

It doesn’t take long for the body to adjust to the presence of opiates or opioids. The prescribing information for hydrocodone, the most popular drug of abuse, says: “some mild degree of physical
dependence may develop after a few days of narcotic therapy.” A FEW DAYS! The prescribing information also notes that withdrawal pain and sickness of “clinically significant proportions”
will show up after several weeks of continued use.

I don’t want anyone to go through this experience but it strikes me as particularly unfair when it’s our soldiers who have been working to protect this country.

I believe there is pressure mounting both from the professional side and the non-professional side to change the prescribing methods of doctors. If doctors are better trained on correct prescribing and on spotting symptoms of drug dependence, they will not unwittingly create addicts. They also need to be trained how to help when a person does become dependent on their pills. This conversion will take awhile, but it’s absolutely necessary. A good doctor wants to help, but to provide consistent help, many doctors will need to rethink their prescribing practices and some will need to retrain in this area.

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How to Tell if Someone Has a Drug Problem

 young woman with drug problemOne of the most common things that happens with the families of drug users is that they think there is a problem, they’re sure there’s some kind of problem, but they can’t identify it. A drug user will exploit their uncertainty to deny everything and continue to use drugs.

This really is a strange phenomenon. One might think that when a drug user starts running into problems caused by the drugs, they might lay off the drugs or ask for help. Well, a few do. But when a person is truly gripped by addiction and driven by cravings, it’s very common that they cover up their drug use and manipulate those around him (or her).

Even if a family finds drugs on the person or in the home, the user will still try to manipulate the situation. “Those don’t belong to me,” or “I only did it this once.” Or maybe, “Yes, I was using a few pills [plus cocaine plus marijuana plus heroin that go unmentioned] but I can quit.”

This is one of the saddest things about addiction. The condition itself prevents the person from getting help. It’s like addicts become wired to prevent detection or recovery.

Certainly there are a few exceptions. But when this deception exists, it can delay rehabilitation by years. Meanwhile, the problems get worse and worse. Families are mystified as to why the person’s life continues to fall apart. Continue reading

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Maryland’s Drug Situation Illustrates the National Problem with Heroin and Pills

maryland mapMaryland has long struggled with a heroin problem. In fact, the Baltimore inner city has been renowned as a center of heroin abuse and addiction for many years. It’s not uncommon for multiple generations in the same family to seek help for addiction at the same time. But as opiate painkillers introduced a broad spectrum of people to a dependence on this type of drug, heroin abuse has followed and spread across the Maryland landscape. After all, there are drugstores in every town in every state in the US. And far too many states have unscrupulous doctors who are willing to make the money by selling prescriptions for addictive substances. The migration to heroin is seen as necessary when money sources dry up, because heroin is so much cheaper than pills.

Even though Maryland already had a high rate of heroin abuse, recent news reports state that there has been an 88% increase in heroin-related overdoses in a two year period. This increase really takes the problem to a fever pitch in the state. Continue reading

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Not Just Suburban Families Suffering from Painkiller Addiction

sillouette of a soldierFor the last several years, the mainstream media has been reporting on the way that painkiller addiction has been working its way into the homes of people who never would have used an illegal drug. This addiction was initiated by the legitimate prescribing of painkillers like Vicodin, Lortab or OxyContin. As a person’s body builds tolerance to the pills, they need more of the drug just to feel normal and keep the pain away. This route to addiction is insidious because the person using the medication may not even realize when legitimate medical use slips into misuse and addiction.

Now, the story is emerging of how soldiers returning from deployments overseas either come back addicted to pain medication or how it develops after they continue the medication in the US.

One of the latest media stories on this tragic problem appeared in the Huffington Post. According to a study published on their website, nearly half the soldiers who return from deployment have chronic pain and 15% are using opioid (synthetic opiates) painkillers.

It’s also notable that of those taking painkillers, 44% state that they have had mild or no pain in the last month. Continue reading

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New Evidence of Severe Damage from “Spice”

k2 synthetic marijuanaWhen you’re a non-drug-using adult, it’s hard to understand why anyone, anywhere would ever use a drug as dangerous as Spice. Also called K2 or referred to by brand names invented by illicit chemists, Spice has caused some of the most intense physical damage and even fatalities. It can happen in the first use or the tenth. You really don’t know what you’re getting, chemically speaking, and you don’t know how your body will react to it.

But some young people have not heard about these dangers. And some other young people think that “it won’t happen to them.” But they never know what’s going to happen until it has already hit them – and then it may be too late.

A new report from Spain describes such a case. Professors of medicine in Castallon reported on a person who suffered a catatonic psychotic break after using Spice. But that’s not all. The person also suffered from difficulty moving and was bent over even months after he stopped using Spice. He had stiffness in the head and neck and could not control his motions. Continue reading

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UK Protects their Population by Setting Standards for Drugged Driving

drugged drivingEveryone knows that there are legal limits for driving while drunk. But now some nations and US states are working hard to determine what the legal driving limits for drug use should be. After all, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has documented the fact that many drugs of abuse make it harder or even impossible for a person to continue to drive competently after use.

In the NHTSA documentation for marijuana, the agency describes the effects of using marijuana before driving: “The short term effects of marijuana use include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficultly in thinking and problem-solving, and loss of coordination. Heavy users may have increased difficulty sustaining attention, shifting attention to meet the demands of changes in the environment.”

When a person takes the club drug Ecstasy (MDMA), the NHTSA noted these impairments occurred in some drivers: “Speeding, jumping red lights, hallucinations/delusions, and a sense of detachment in five impaired driving cases.” Continue reading

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