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Substance Abuse

Long-Term Use of Prescription Opioids Increases Depression Risk

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Prescription drug abuse has been associated to so many health issues and risks. A new study adds another potential risk of long-term opioid use: depression.

The study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, investigated a potential link between opioid medication and a person’s tendency to experience depression. Study co-author Jeffrey Scherrer said in a news release that this newfound link is associated more with longevity of use rather than the amount. “Opioid-related new onset of depression is associated with longer duration of use but not dose… Patients and practitioners should be aware that opioid analgesic use of longer than 30 days imposes risk of new-onset depression,” Scherrer said.

Scherrer and colleagues used data from three health groups — Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) — between 2000 and 2012. The researchers went through roughly 107,000 cases of new opioid users between 18 and 80 years old who didn’t have a history of depression.

The research team revealed that 12 percent of VHA cases exhibited depression after taking opioid medication. The same could be said for 9 percent of the BSWH group and 11 percent of the HFHS population. “Findings were remarkably consistent across the three health care systems even though the systems have very different patient characteristics and demographics,” Scherrer expressed.

The study proponents believe that more research should be conducted in line with the effects of prescription painkillers on human health. The researchers also urged medical professionals to look into the potential development of depression in their patients who receive opioid prescription from them.

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Substance Abuse

Elders Face Higher Risk of Prescription Drug Abuse

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The rate of prescription drug abuse has gradually decreased from 1996 to 2012, but a study discovered a rising trend in a unique demographic: the elderly.

Researchers from New York University revealed in a news article that people in their 50s have a high tendency to abuse opioids and narcotic painkillers. Study lead author Dr. Benjamin Han explained how their study on monitoring opioid treatment programs have led to the startling discovery. He mentioned a “pronounced age trend in those utilizing opioid treatment programs from 1996 to 2012, with adults aged 50 and older becoming the majority treatment population.” In 1996, adults between 50 and 59 years old represented 8 percent of the patients treated for painkiller abuse. However, the number has since ballooned to almost 36 percent by 2012. In contrast, people younger than 40 years of age represented 56 percent of substance abuse patients in 1996, but decreased to only 20 percent after 16 years.

“These increases are especially striking, considering there was about a 7.6 percent decrease in the total patient population over that period of time, and suggests that we are facing a never before seen epidemic of older adults with substance use disorders and increasing numbers of older adults in substance abuse treatment,” Han stated.

The researchers believe that their study could be used to address the needs of the above-50 demographic, so that they can follow the decreasing rate of painkiller abuse across other age groups.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Interview with Clare Waismann Registered Addiction Specialist at Waismann Method Medical Group

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Clare WaismannWe recently sat down with Clare Waismann, a registered addiction specialist with the Waismann Method Group to talk about the trends she is seeing in opiate addiction and how the Waismann Method helps people break their addiction to opiate painkillers and heroin.

Waismann said one of the biggest trends she is seeing in opiate addiction is that people who initially get addicted to prescription painkillers are switching to heroin because it is abundantly available. This includes people who would never have thought about taking an illegal drug.

The addictions specialist also said some people’s tolerance for opiate drugs is at an alarming level, as they seem more willing to take a risk to get high. In fact, she is seeing tolerance levels unlike anything she’s seen before in decades of treatment.

To read more about what Waismann has to say about synthetic drugs, prescription drug abuse in the workplace and among veterans, plus what makes the Waismann method effective in treating opiate addiction, click here to read the full interview.

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Substance Abuse

Education Program Helps Doctors Issue Correct Opioid Prescription

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Prescription drug abuse has become a worldwide health issue, prompting governments and medical organizations to pursue programs that prevent the problem from escalating. One of these programs comes from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), who has been successfully educating clinicians on how to properly prescribe opioid medication to patients.

The program is called Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education (SCOPE of Pain), a three-hour educational program that participants may view either in person or online. The program is aligned with the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) requirement of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As of June 2014, more than 10,000 individuals have undergone SCOPE of Pain since it started in 2013. Roughly 27 percent of this population are clinicians, who are the primary targets of this program.

To monitor the effectiveness of the program, a group of researchers led by Dr. Daniel Alford of BUSM checked the prescription practices of the participants before and after completing SCOPE. According to a news release, about 87 percent of the participants committed to change something in their regular routine to support the objective of the program. After two months, the study discovered that roughly two-thirds of the SCOPE of Pain participants said that they have become more confident in prescribing opioids to follow the guidelines. “Our program improved knowledge, attitudes, confidence and clinical practice in safe opioid prescribing,” said Alford, who also works as course director of the program.

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Substance Abuse

Public Hearing at Michigan Capitol Aims To Fight Prescription Drug Abuse

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Michigan State Capitol will host a public hearing on July 21 (Tuesday) to discuss prescription drug abuse and ask for recommendations in addressing this lingering issue.

The hearing serves as an action plan for the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force, which was created in June by Gov. Rick Snyder. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, chairperson of the task force, is asking the general public to help the state come up with tangible plans to prevent the issue on prescription drug abuse from escalating. “We are eager to hear the ideas and thoughts of our state’s concerned residents in order to develop a more effective strategy to address this critical issue,” said Calley in a news item.

Michigan is serious in combatting the drug abuse problem. In fact, the state will set aside $1.5 million for measures to prevent abuse of prescription drugs, painkillers and opioids. The budget will be available in October of this year.

Among the members of the task force include Michigan police chief Kriste Kibbey Etue, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Human Services head Nick Lyon.

If you are interested to join the hearing, head to the Michigan State Capitol on Tuesday at 5:00 – 7:00 P.M.

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Substance Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse Linked To History of Illicit Drug Use

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A team of researchers from the University of Georgia investigated various factors that lead people to prescription drug abuse, and one thing is certain: Those who have a history of using illicit substances are prone to abuse painkillers as well.

Regardless of social status or racial profile, results of the nationwide survey point to the same finding. “Male or female, black or white, rich or poor, the singular thing we found was that if they were an illicit drug user, they also had many, many times higher odds of misusing prescription pain relievers,” study lead author Orion Mowbray said in a news item. People at least 50 years old were found to get their pain medication from multiple doctors, while younger adults obtained their prescription drugs from peers or even drug dealers.

Results of the study were based on analysis by the university’s School of Social Work on more than 13,000 respondents of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The research was also in agreement with a recent report of the Centers for Disease Control, regarding the higher likelihood of heroin users to abuse opioid medication as well.

The research team said that their study, recently published in the Addictive Behaviors journal, could pave the way for better ways to prevent drug abuse. “This study gives us the knowledge we need to substantially reduce the opportunities for misuse,” Mowbray added.

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Substance Abuse

Opioid Overdose in Veterans Linked To Receipt of Benzodiazepines

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A team of researchers from three medical facilities discovered via a cohort study that many of the cases of veterans drying from opioid overdose involved benzodiazepines as well.

Data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) from October 2004 to September 2009 were traced back to identify a link between painkiller abuse and use of benzos. The results were staggering, as reported by study co-author Tae Woo Park. “The risk of receiving both opioids and benzodiazepines during this six-year period was approximately four times higher than in those who received opioids alone,” Park said in a news release. Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs usually prescribed to patients who are taking opioid medication for their pain.

Results of the study revealed that close to half of veterans who died due to opioid overdose were also receiving benzos. “From a public health perspective, this is deeply troubling, because drug overdoses are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and prescribing benzodiazepines to patients taking opioids for pain is quite common. In 2010, 75 percent of pharmaceutical-related drug-overdose deaths involved opioids,” Park added.

The researchers hope that their study could pave the way for better methods of pain treatment. “As we learn more about pharmaceuticals and how they interact with each other, we can try to reduce the risk of harm to patients,” Park said.

The study was jointly conducted by Boston Medical Center, Rhode Island Hospital, and Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

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Substance Abuse

Study: Emergency Department Important In Decreasing Prescription Drug Overdose Cases

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A study recently published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine revealed that emergency departments (EDs) play a vital role in curbing the long-standing issue on prescription drug abuse.

Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) surveyed beneficiaries of Project ASSERT from 2011 to 2012 to check the effectiveness of the campaign to offer education and intervention in opioid overdose cases. The initiative provides nasal naloxone rescue kits to emergency departments as a counter-measure for drug overdose patients, as well as education programs focused on overdose prevention.

Results of the survey showed that 73 percent were able to receive nasal naloxone rescue kits from EDs or other sources to counter the overdose. Meanwhile, more than 50 percent of survey respondents were able to report an overdose case and contacted 911 for the necessary assistance, while roughly one third of them were able to use the naloxone kit onto the overdose patient during the rescue.

Study lead author Dr. Kristin Dwyer, who works at the emergency department of BMC, expressed the importance of their research. “This study confirms that the emergency department provides a promising opportunity for opioid overdose harm reduction measures through overdose education and naloxone rescue kit distribution… Our program reached a high-risk population that commonly witnessed overdoses, called for help and used naloxone to rescue people, when available,” Dwyer said in a news release.

Project ASSERT is a banner program of BMC. Beginning in 1993, the project has conducted intervention programs, treatment referrals, and screening for drug and alcohol intoxication.

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Substance Abuse

FDA Shifts Focus On Manufacturers To Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

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In a move to prevent the growing issue on prescription drug abuse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed a new set of guidelines aimed at helping drug manufacturers formulate abuse-deterrent medication. According to the FDA News Release, the document is entitled “Guidance for Industry: Abuse-Deterrent Opioids – Evaluation and Labeling,” which delineates the appropriate study methods in ensuring that manufactured drugs prevent potential abuse.

FDA chief Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. said that this latest initiative aims to help both drug companies and consumers to make drugs safer. “The science of abuse-deterrent medication is rapidly evolving, and the FDA is eager to engage with manufacturers to help make these medications available to patients who need them… We feel this is a key part of combating opioid abuse. We have to work hard with industry to support the development of new formulations that are difficult to abuse but are effective and available when needed,” Hamburg said.

The latest statement from FDA also includes several recommendations on the method of conducting studies about abuse-deterrent drugs, the correct way of evaluating these studies, and the appropriate claims placed on labels. Despite the newness of the concept, abuse-deterrent medication is being envisioned by the FDA as a good sign of things to come, especially in defeating the rising problem of prescription opioid abuse. “Development of abuse-deterrent products is a priority for the FDA, and we hope this guidance will lead to more approved drugs with meaningful abuse-deterrent properties,” according to FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research director Janet Woodcock, M.D.

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Indiana Dealing with HIV Outbreak Due to Prescription Drug Abuse

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Indiana has called in federal experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help with an HIV outbreak that has swelled to 55 confirmed cases and 13 other preliminary positive cases, the Indiana State Department of Health said.

“We are engaging local, state, and national partners to determine where we can most effectively focus our efforts,” Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams said in a news release. “Extra care is being taken to invest resources in getting people off drugs and into treatment, since drug abuse is the clear driving force behind this outbreak.”

Most of the infected people had shared needles while injecting the painkiller Opana, a prescription drug that’s more potent than Oxycontin, the agency has reported, while some of the HIV cases have been linked to unprotected sex.

Indiana’s health department said it has created a public awareness campaign dubbed “You Are Not Alone” that provides information on drug abuse, safe sex, needle disposal and HIV testing and treatment. The three-month campaign began recently and will include radio, digital and social media ads and billboards along Interstate 65.

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