The use of any kind of mind altering substance can have an effect on a person’s mental health, in turn causing a number of complications. One of the more common side effects of drug use is depression. Over the last decade, the United States has seen a dramatic rise in prescription opioid use, which has led to an epidemic. New research suggests that individuals who use higher doses of narcotic painkillers are at increased risk of depression, HealthDay reports. The study followed 355 patients in Texas, who reported low back pain at an initial doctor’s visit, and at one-year and two-year follow-up visits. Researchers initially concluded that those who used higher doses of opioids to manage their pain were more likely to experience depression, according to the article. However continued research indicated that most of the risk of depression is due to the duration of narcotic painkiller use, not the dose - but, higher doses usually were accompanied by longer durations of use. “A strong potential explanation of our finding that increasing opioid dose increases risk of depression could be that the patients who increase dose were the longer-using patients,” said lead researcher Jeffrey Scherrer, an associate professor for family and community medicine at Saint Louis University. “This is logical as longer use is associated with tolerance and a need to increase opioids to achieve pain relief.” Establishing a link between painkillers and depression, as well as what dosage might put patients at higher risk, “may inform prescribing and pain management” by doctors, the article reports. “We hope to find risk factors such as opioid misuse that could be in the pathway from chronic opioid use to new onset depression,” Scherrer said in a news release. “This would expand the targets for intervention to limit the risk of depression in patients who need long-term opioid therapy.” The study’s findings were published in the journal Pain.
New research suggests the use of high-potency marijuana may be linked to an increased risk of psychosis, Medical News Today reports. The study was conducted by researchers at the institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London in the UK. Dr. Marta Di Forti and her team observed the effects of high-potency marijuana use among 780 individuals aged 18-65. Between 2005 and 2011, 410 participants reported a first episode of psychosis, according to the article. Psychosis occurs when people experience hallucinations or delusions, often happening in conjunction with particular mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. The research suggests, according to Dr. Di Forti, that the risk of psychosis among marijuana users is dependent on different factors, like frequency of use and drug potency - factors which should be considered by physicians. "When a GP or psychiatrist asks if a patient uses cannabis it's not helpful; it's like asking whether someone drinks," says Dr. Di Forti. "As with alcohol, the relevant questions are how often and what type of cannabis. This gives more information about whether the user is at risk of mental health problems; awareness needs to increase for this to happen." It was determined that around 24% of psychosis cases could be avoided if people were to stop using this high-potency cannabis, the article reports. Although, since the study was conducted over a long period of time, the researchers say they did not have data on how much marijuana was used each day, which could present problems. "However, because we collected information about use over a period of years and not about present use, the reliability of such detailed information would probably have been confounded by recall bias to a greater extent than was the general description of pattern of use that we obtained," the researchers add. The findings were published in The Lancet Psychiatry.
Educating teenagers and young adults as to the dangers of drug use has long been of the utmost importance. While such programs have put up a good fight, the reality is that the young are still losing their lives to overdoses which we all would like to see avoided. The prescription drug epidemic has touched all corners of America, putting high school teenagers at risk and opening the doors to other opioids like heroin. Rather than focus on drug use in general, new programs in Illinois and Pennsylvania designed for middle school and high school students, have set their sights on prescription drug use, Reuters reports. The developers of Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE), say it is more effective to zero-in on prescription opioids, rather than emphasizing a more generalized anti-drug approach. Prescription drugs are fast becoming the drug of choice amongst teenagers. Another new program, Heroin Prevention Education program uses interactive software centered around the life of a recovering teen heroin addict who began abusing opioid painkillers after having his wisdom teeth pulled, according to the article. Like many before, the teen’s addiction to opioids brought him intravenous heroin use. The article points out that these new programs face challenges due to lack of funding. In 2011, funding was cut according to the former Office of the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities. "The whole field is sort of in withdrawal," said William Hansen, who runs All Stars, a school drug-prevention provider out of Greensboro, North Carolina. He says that schools have been pouring more money into academic testing and pulling away from drug prevention. What’s more, there has been increased criticism of anti-drug programs in schools, citing program like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) - a program which has proven ineffective in deterring drug use amongst teens. However, the new programs argue that they have come up with more effective strategies. "Our program really is looking at adolescent brain development, addiction on a brain level," said Christopher Adzia, the program manager at the Robert Crown Center for Health Education.
The prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States has created a new generation of addicts. Years of over prescribing and poor oversight allowed the problem to grow to epic proportions, ushering in a new wave of heroin addiction in America. While moves have been made to get a handle on the problem, some efforts are more effective than others; the reality is that the problem doesn’t appear to be getting much better. The White House's 2016 budget focuses on prescription drug abuse; it includes new measures aimed at reducing opioid overdoses in America, The Hill reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) will see increased program funding, as well other agencies working to get control of the problem. Individual states will receive aid to expand their prescription drug monitoring programs, this will allow for better tracking of “doctor shoppers” and “pill mills.” Wider distribution of naloxone is needed, a drug which can save lives by reversing the effects of opioid overdoses. Providing law enforcement with naloxone will strengthen the likelihood of saving a life, due to the fact that they are usually the first to respond. More education is needed regarding the dangers prescription drugs carry with them, many who walk out of the doctor’s office do not understand that these drugs are not only highly addictive - they can be lethal. "Every day, more than 100 people die as a result of drug overdose, and more than 6,700 are treated in emergency departments," a budget summary document stated. "Abuse of prescription and illicit drugs, such as heroin, is an urgent public health concern." Generally the new budget will spend nearly $4 trillion in total, raising the ceiling on the spending limits introduced under the 2011 budget deal, according to the article. It has been estimated that the new budget would cut deficits by $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years.