In the News: Naloxone Can Save Lives

person in drug overdoseLately there’s been a lot of discussion and news coverage of naloxone (also known as Narcan). This is a drug that can be administered to a person who has overdosed on opiates (derived naturally from opium) or opioids (synthetic opiates). These include heroin, morphine, OxyContin, Vicodin, methadone, and many other pain medications. There are various ways to administer naloxone, including a device that pretty much automatically injects naloxone if you just hold it against the body. It even has a voice that gives you instructions. Another type of naloxone administration will send a jet of the drug up a person’s nose.

The fact is that in most cases naloxone will bring a person out of an overdose in just a couple of minutes. It reverses the effects of the narcotic which slows down a person’s breathing to the point of death when too much of the drug has been ingested. Time is always an issue when you are trying to save someone’s life. You have to reach him (or her) before he is too far gone. Continue reading

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Will Zohydro Become the Next “OxyContin”?

hydrocodone pillsThere’s a new painkiller on the market. It’s called Zohydro. It offers a new formulation for those in pain: 100% hydrocodone.

Of course, there were already hydrocodone painkillers on the market. They contained, usually, 10 milligrams of hydrocodone and 325 milligrams of acetaminophen. This is the formulation brand named Vicodin or Lortab, among others. You may know acetaminophen by its best known brand name, Tylenol.

One of the reasons Vicodin (and other formulations) had acetaminophen was to discourage abuse by addicts. Many people know that acetaminophen causes liver damage or even failure if too much is taken, especially if it is taken together with alcohol. The idea was that people would want to avoid liver damage and do would not abuse this pill. Continue reading

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Stopping the Rise of Synthetic Drugs

k2 synthetic marijuanaA colleague asked me a question today that got me thinking. It was an important question and it deserved some thought.

She asked me, “How do you suggest we stop the rise of synthetic drug abuse?”

The new synthetic drugs on the market are brutal, indeed. They all too often result in the death of the users or people close to them. There are the drugs like Spice, bath salts, N-Bomb, mephedrone, MDPV, 2C-E, pFBT, Bromo-DragonFLY, Smiles and many others. According to international agencies that monitor these drugs, there are more than two hundred formulas that have been sold as illicit drugs. Their completely unpredictable formulas and absent manufacturing controls makes using one of these drugs one of the riskiest things you can do with your life. Continue reading

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Does Opiate Abuse Boil Down to A Prescription Problem

prescription problemThe United States is currently experiencing a massive wave of drug use, but it’s not at all confined exclusively to street drugs. On the contrary, the drugs that are fueling what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling a “deadly epidemic” are coming from the pharmacy and are not being pushed by drug dealers but by medical doctors.

Pharmaceutical painkillers such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin) have become some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., and they are also some of the most widely abused drugs of any kind. It should not be assumed, however, that all doctors have turned into dope peddlers who are doing little more than helping the big drug companies line their pockets at the expense of their patients’ health. On the contrary, it is a small minority of doctors who account for a very large percentage of all prescriptions written for opioid drugs every year. This is according to a study presented earlier this my at the annual research meeting of AcademyHealth. In the years 2011-2012, fully 40% of all prescriptions for narcotic painkillers in the U.S. were written by only 5% of all the doctors who prescribed such drugs, meaning that only a very few of all the doctors in the country are to blame for putting these powerfully addictive drugs in the hands of the American public. Continue reading

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Polydrug Use is a Killer, According to the Florida Medical Examiners

Every year, the medical examiners of Florida issue a report on the drugs found in the bodies of people who died in this state. They also delineate which people died with one or more drugs being the causative factor. This report has just been released for their 2013 deaths and it both interesting and revealing.

polydrug causes of death

The results for hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab and others), methadone, alcohol (ethanol) and cocaine. Blue indicates that when the drug was present, it caused the person’s death. Red indicates where the drug was found but did not cause a person’s death.

In the first six months of 2013, there were more than 94,000 deaths of any kind. Medical examiners determined that drugs were present in 4,159 cases. These deaths were tested for a long list of frequently-abused drugs including amphetamines; anti-anxiety drugs like Valium and Xanax; alcohol, prescription or illicit opiates like OxyContin, Vicodin, methadone, morphine and heroin; bath salts; and of course, marijuana.

Here’s the astonishing fact about the results of these tests. Of those people who had a drug in their systems when they died:

93.5% of them had more than one drug present. Continue reading

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Our Dreams for Kids Just Don’t Include Drug Abuse

teen party and drug abuse There’s a current news release from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on the subject of youth and drug abuse. It is more than a little dismaying.

The report gives the numbers of young people who are abusing different types of drugs. The report only includes people aged 18 to 25, the ages of heaviest drug abuse, generally speaking. Here’s what an analysis of drug use statistics showed about the drug use of our young adults on any average day:

  • 3.2 million of them used marijuana
  • 57,304 used heroin
  • 51,319 used cocaine
  • 46,179 used hallucinogens
  • 17,868 used inhalants.

Remember, these numbers are for each and every day!

Also, on that average day, there were thousands of people using drugs for the first time:

  • 2,470 initiated marijuana use
  • 1,754 misused a prescription drug
  • 1,200 used cocaine
  • 850 used stimulants
  • 566 used an inhalant
  • 258 used heroin
  • and 174 tried methamphetamine.

Continue reading

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America’s Seniors Struggle with Addiction

elderly and prescription drug abuseThere’s been plenty of news and media coverage of the addiction of teens and young adults to drugs or alcohol. After all, these are the years of greatest drug abuse, on average. But now, USA Today brings a different drug situation to light: the problem of our older adults becoming addicted to prescription drugs.

After an analysis of government figures on drug abuse, USA Today realized that doctors were prescribing addictive prescription drugs for American’s seniors are a rapidly increasing rate. Painkillers, anti-anxiety medication – the prescription pad is an easy – if unthinking – solution to complaints by seniors. But there are some significant problems resulting from this practice:

• Rising overdose deaths
• A jump up in emergency room visits due to these drugs
• More admissions to addiction treatment programs. Continue reading

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Will Big Tobacco Become Big Weed

cigarettesIf you have ever looked into the arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana, you have probably become familiar with a list of commonly cited benefits, such as moving it out of the black market, defunding drug cartels and making the drug an additional source of tax revenue. The potential downsides of pot legalization, such as increased rates of drug use, are typically shrugged off by cannabis advocates as being minimal and outweighed by the likely benefits. To listen to these arguments, one would walk away with the idea that legalizing marijuana would be a thoroughly populist thing to do, an action that would take the violence and money out of the pot industry and put a benign “herb” into the hands of the people. Continue reading

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Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse

prescription pillsJust fifteen years ago, prescription drug abuse was a minor subject. Even ten years ago, it took a back seat to the routes to addiction we were used to. Alcohol and marijuana were the primary channels to addiction, not pills.

But now, prescription drug abuse is headline news. Many people start their drug use by abusing pills and so many of these people got starting taking pills because of a legitimate prescription for pain.

In a recent Senate Caucus meeting a couple of weeks ago on the subject of prescription drugs there were some strong opinions voiced during that meeting on how pill abuse could be eliminated. Continue reading

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The Connection Between Gambling and Substance Abuse

gambling chipsIn a study conducted by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and published in September of last year, we learn of evidence that appears to draw a link between gambling addiction and substance abuse. Gambling is commonly included on lists of different types of addiction, but it is not normally considered to go hand in hand with drug or alcohol addiction. The study would seem to indicate that there are some common denominators between substance addiction and gambling addiction that tend to make these two conditions a problem for people. Continue reading

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