Tag Archives: overdose

Preventing New Opioid Use Disorders

opioids

As National Recovery Month quickly comes to a close it is important to talk, once again, about opioid use disorders. The use of which has resulted in the most serious addiction epidemic to ever bear down on the United States. Naturally, being in the field of addiction medicine, we’ve covered this topic at great length. From causation to consequence. While we can talk about such things ad nauseam, it is far more important to discuss some ways out this “perfect storm.”

In the immortal words of Robert Frost, “the best way out is always through.” So, and with that logic in mind — headfirst into the storm, we go. As has been pointed out, time and time again, the root of the epidemic rests with opioid prescribing practice standards. Which, up into recently, there were relatively few. But, even with greater utilization of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) opioids are still prescribed in great numbers. In fact, in many California counties, there more prescription opioids than people, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Case in Point: 2016 Trinity County population — 13,628 people. However, there were 18,439 prescriptions filled in the same year. The highest per capita rate of opioid prescriptions in California, in the fourth smallest county in the state.

The case of Trinity County is not unique to rural California, any more than it is to rural America. Prescription opioids may be a little harder to get or prescribed in large numbers. But, it has had very little effect overall. After all, more people died of overdoses in 2016 than 2015. The only real and notable difference is what people are overdosing on, and why.

Preventing New Opioid Use Disorders

Fewer people are dying from prescription opioids than just a few years, ago. Which is great. However, more people are dying from heroin and fentanyl, an even deadlier opioid analgesic. A New York Times analysis found that 15,400 overdose deaths could be attributed to heroin, 20,100 to fentanyl. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses during last year. Which means that more people are dying from illicit opioids than prescriptions.

Such numbers should not be read to mean that the focus of addiction prevention should pivot to illicit opioids. Especially when you consider that most people report starting down the path to opioid use disorder with prescription painkillers. The heroin and fentanyl problem in America has its origins in prescription opioids. And opioid use initiation most commonly begins with a prescription, still. The Trinity statistics are a clear indication that the business of prescribing is, good.

There is no question, making headway requires a multifaceted approach. Calling upon both lawmakers to enact common sense legislation and health leaders to push for more informed doctors. The better doctors understand addiction, the fewer patients who will be prescribed opioids. In turn, reducing the number of future opioid use disorders. What’s more, encouraging doctors to only rely on a prescription opioid when it’s absolutely necessary.

In the United States we’ve become so reliant on opioids, we ignore the alternatives. Non-opioid methods of managing pain, that in many cases can be more effective, and certainly less dangerous.

Opioid Addiction Can Be Avoided

Every time opioids are prescribed, there is potential for future opioid use disorders. You may be surprised to learn that with some forms of pain, opioids can exacerbate one’s symptoms. If “addictive” and “prolonging pain” is a possibility, it dictates that doctors should look elsewhere in many cases. You’d even think that doctors would welcome opioid alternatives, and in many cases, they do. But, there are still others who rely heavily on prescription opioids for all things pain. Despite the risk of opioid use disorders. The reason for this is often because of financial incentives to prescribe certain drugs by the pharmaceutical and insurance industry.

opioid use disorder

Apropos to this, attorneys general (AG) from 35 states sent a message to insurers encouraging painkiller alternatives, The Los Angeles Times reports. Addressed to the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, the letter called for insurers to prioritize coverage of non-opioid treatments. As wells as, pain management techniques that include physical therapy and massage.

If we can get the best practices changed with insurance companies and the payment incentives are just a bit different than what they are today, I think that's going to continue to see the number of pills prescribed and dispensed drop dramatically," said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. "This is an important new front to open up."

Reducing prescriptions is just one step in reducing the prevalence of opioid use disorders, but it’s perhaps the most salient. With more than 2 million with opioid use disorders and rising, action is required now. Both the pharmaceutical and insurance industry can have a major role in ending an epidemic they helped create.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Efforts to change prescribing practices are vital, but they don’t mean much to those already in the grips of addiction. Equally important to reducing our reliance on opioids, is increasing our reliance on addiction treatment. Tempering the storm of opioid addiction is best achieved through opioid use disorder treatment. Recovery is possible, and if you have been touched by the disease, please do not hesitate to reach out for assistance. At PACE Recovery Center, we are fully equipped to assist young men who are ready to break the insidious cycle of addiction. Please contact us today, and make this Recovery Month the beginning of your own recovery.

The Science of Addiction

addiction

One of the most read and loved monthly magazines is National Geographic. Most of us have fond memories growing up scanning the magazine for awe-inspiring images of animals and landscapes. With the first issue published in 1888, National Geographic now reaches more than 730 million globally in 172 countries and 43 languages every month. In the United States, there is a circulation of 3.5 million per month. Many readers subscribe for articles about pan troglodytes (common chimpanzee) or loxodonta africana (African bush elephant). But, Nat Geo focuses on human interests as well. In this month’s edition, the publication set its sights on addiction, and the conditions’ many complexities.

We often think of addiction as being an American problem. We know it affects people around the globe, but in the United States we are using the market share of drugs. Especially opioid use, as you must be acutely aware by now has reached epidemic proportions. Opioid use, prescription or illicit, is a serious concern that deserves overwhelming attention. Yet, it is worth pointing out that opioids, like alcohol or any other mind-altering drug, can cut life short. This doesn’t just happen in America, it is happening almost everywhere. Finding ways to mitigate the risks of premature death is no easy task, to be sure. Although, taking the focus off the substances, and placing it on the underlying condition is perhaps the most salient. The disease of addiction.

After all, addiction is addiction is addiction. What one struggles with pales in importance to what is to be done about it. History shows us that billions of dollars can be spent to make it more difficult to get “high.” Yet, people will still get high.

Addiction by The Numbers

In the U.S. we have tried “locking up” every addict, and most people still use again upon release. All we’ve accomplished is creating an overburdened prison system housing mostly nonviolent drug offenders. Exhausting billions in taxpayers’ money every year. To make a long story short, treating addiction as a crime hasn’t paid off—doing absolutely nothing good. Rather than delve into to Our track record of draconian policies on addiction in America, let's pivot our focus. As was pointed out earlier, Nat Geo published a lengthy spotlight on addiction and the scientific effort for clarity. But first, some figures:

  • 1.1 Billion Smokers Worldwide
  • Over 100 Opioid Overdose in America Every Day
  • 3.3 Million Worldwide Die Each Year from Alcohol
  • 21 million Americans Living With Drug or Alcohol Addiction

In 2015, 33,091 Americans died of an overdose, enough to make anyone wince, but again addiction is not just Our problem. Over 200,000 people worldwide die of overdose or drug-related Illness every year, The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reports. Such figures you might find hard to believe. You may find it even harder to believe that more people are living with the disease of addiction than cancer in America. Both are deadly, but only one of them carries social stigma. Veritably, we don’t need to point out which. If addiction in America is an epidemic, addiction worldwide is nothing short of a pandemic. And if solutions are to be found it requires the attention of some of the world's brightest scientists.

The Science of Addiction

In a sense, addiction is a pathological form of learning,” said Antonello Bonci to National Geographic, a neurologist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Which begs the question, can it be unlearned? Many experts would argue, no, it can’t. And for good reason. Few people, if any, have ever thought their way out of an illness. However, science continues to shed light on the complexities of addiction. In turn, new avenues have been opened to help treat the disease and give a greater number of people hope for breaking the self-defeating cycle.

The Nat Geo article has many facets and layers of minutiae. We obviously can’t cover all of it, except for the main takeaways. One area covered had to do with advancements in transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The researchers working with TMS point out that medications can only go so far. They [medications] can help people quit using, but they do little to prevent relapse. The idea that putting down drugs and alcohol is easy, how to not pick them back up is the crux of addiction science. Dr. Luigi Gallimberti, a psychologist and toxicologist who has been treating addiction for 30 years has hope for TMS, according to the article. Which could essentially reboot the human computer (brain) by activating drug-damaged neural pathways. Gallimberti worked with Bonci, and preliminary research showed promise with cocaine addicts. Future research is planned.

It’s so promising,” Bonci says. “Patients tell me, ‘Cocaine used to be part of who I am. Now it’s a distant thing that no longer controls me.’ ”

Keeping Cravings At Bay

The article transverses several areas involving addiction, from sex to overeating. It talks about the merits of spiritual programs based on the 12 Step model, and beyond. But the overarching theme, or target for that matter, is “craving.” How to stop the brain from craving substances or behaviors that are self-defeating? If the brain's trait of remarkable plasticity can easily lead to addiction, could it be used to foster recovery?

As it stands now, the ways and means of recovery utilized today seem to be anyone's best shot at recovery. A combination of medical detox, residential addiction treatment, medications and continued spiritual maintenance has borne the most fruit. A modality that will surely be fine-tuned as science uncovers the mechanisms of addiction more fully. Particularly regarding craving and keeping dopamine in check. Interestingly, the article writes: “In Buddhist philosophy, craving is viewed as the root of all suffering.”

Perhaps one day soon every addict will have a magnetic wand waved over one’s head. Putting an end to the cravings that lead to relapse. Programs of recovery today, are in no way full proof. But they can lead to long term recovery for anyone who is willing to give the program their all. Those who are committed to being vigilantly honest with them self and others can succeed. It is not easy, testament to the rates of relapse in recovery. But, those who lay a solid foundation to build their recovery upon can, and do recover. At PACE Recovery Center, we specialize in the treatment of young adult males touched by addiction. Are you ready to break the cycle of addiction and learn how to mitigate cravings to avoid relapse? If so, please contact us today. Recovery is possible.

Addiction Treatment: The Endless Possibilities of Recovery

addiction

Few other places in the country have been as ravaged by the opioid addiction epidemic as West Virginia. Prescription opioids and heroin have stolen the lives of young and old alike. Lawmakers and health experts continue to develop methods for turning the tide. While addiction treatment centers work tirelessly to spread the message of recovery to as many afflicted as possible. Addiction recovery being the most effective means of saving people from the insidious grip of opioid dependence.

America has been trying to get a wrap on the epidemic for nearly two decades. As as result, many are doubtful that it is even possible. Opioids are so addictive and incredibly deadly, yet the drugs are prescribed at alarming rates, still. Those who lose access to prescription opioids regularly turn to heroin. Thus, putting themselves at risk of fentanyl exposure, a synthetic opioid commonly mixed with heroin to boost potency. Fentanyl can be up to a hundred times stronger than morphine.

Without access to addiction treatment, those addicted to opioids are at incredible risk of experiencing an overdose. And a potentially fatal overdose, at that. Those who seek help often relapse shortly thereafter, testament to just how addictive this family of drugs is. A relapse after a short stent of abstinence increases the chances of an overdose exponentially. Because one’s tolerance has diminished. This is why it so important that people who seek help do so by way of long-term residential treatment. Therefore, further mitigating the risk of relapse and subsequent overdose. The longer an addict or alcoholic stays in treatment, the greater the chance for long-term recovery.

There are around 142 fatal overdoses every day in the U.S. Given the high morbidity rate, some might think that recovery impossible. But, it is, just ask Sturgill.

INTERVENTION℠ Endless Possibilities, Continued

So, who is Sturgill? A&E INTERVENTION℠, interventionist Sylvia Parsons and PACE Recovery Center gave a young West Virginian a life-saving opportunity. Sturgill (then 23) was in the grips of addiction, a problem that began the same way as so many Americans. With an injury that called for prescription opioids. A broken arm sent Sturgill into an addictive death spiral, involving the abuse of alcohol, benzodiazepines, methadone, and heroin. A potentially deadly admixture, to be sure.

Sturgill was a promising young golden gloves boxer and wrestler who dreamed of the Olympics. He was also an academically gifted pre-med student. But a broken arm and multiple surgeries led to a pain pill addiction, which soon turned to heroin.” —reads the A&E INTERVENTION℠ website

With the help of Parsons, Sturgill’s family implored him to choose life and take the opportunity to get treatment. He accepted the gift of recovery and last year came to PACE Recovery Center. While there are never guarantees in recovery, Sturgill's story went from one of despair to the light of the spirit. During the season premiere of A&E INTERVENTION℠ (Season 17) an update on our former client was provided to viewers. Now, with over a year clean and sober, Sturgill remains plugged into the local recovery community. His future plans include getting certified to be an alcohol and drug counselor (CADC).

The update shows that, in fact, with recovery there can be endless possibilities if one is willing to do the work. Please take a moment to watch the short clip below:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Addiction Treatment Is The Answer

I can't put it into words how blessed I am… I do something for recovery every day." —Sturgill

Not too long ago, Sturgill was in the same frightful position as millions of other Americans. Today, with the help of his family and his family in recovery he is living a life in recovery. It all started with a willingness to surrender and make the courageous decision to go to treatment. It is often the hardest decision that one will make in a lifetime. The grip of one’s disease is extremely powerful. It will do whatever it can to keep you from saving your own life. But, it is possible to break the cycle and lead a fulfilling life in recovery.

If your story is similar to Sturgill’s, PACE Recovery Center can help you find the miracles of addiction recovery—too. Please contact us today to begin the lifesaving journey.

Opioid Addiction Epidemic: A Perfect Storm

opioid addiction

The opioid addiction epidemic in the United States is nothing, if not a “perfect storm.” All of us in America are acutely aware of the devastation caused by this insidious family of drugs. We have seen how overprescribing and a lack of emphasis on addiction treatment has morphed into a catastrophic problem. One comprised of millions of addicts caught in a vicious maelstrom of mental illness, unable to access the help they need. At least, in most cases. Practically everyone across the country knows (or has known) someone who has been touched by opioid addiction. It is highly likely that you were acquainted with a person who died from an opioid overdose. Perhaps it was a loved one.

Given the unprecedented nature of this epidemic, finding ways to stem the tide of opioid use has been a challenge. For nearly two decades Americans, some of whom were young adults, often found themselves on the road to addiction by way of a prescription opioid. Those who already had a propensity for developing the disease became caught in the cycle before they knew what hit them. It does not take long for dependence to set in. And once it does, the future holds little good, short of hopefully finding recovery one day. That is if an overdose doesn’t steal one’s life beforehand.

Some of you reading this may be saying to yourselves, ‘But… Isn’t it more difficult to acquire prescription opioids, now?’ Well, in many cases that is an accurate perception. However, it is still relatively easy for people to get ahold of prescription opioids. Either through a doctor, or on the streets. Many Americans have few qualms about giving a friend or family member some of their painkillers. Despite the inherent dangers of doing so.

Opioid Addiction Epidemic: The Perfect Storm

Like all great storms, they are usually made up of several weather fronts coming together. In the case of the opioid addiction epidemic, many addicts struggling to acquire prescription opioids have turned to heroin. A drug that is easier to get, less expensive and often more potent. The drug is even more dangerous (of late) due to the introduction (unbeknownst to the user) of the analgesic fentanyl. A powerful painkiller that causes severe respiratory depression, being 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

In 1991, a nor'easter named the Halloween Gale consumed Hurricane Grace off the eastern seaboard. Thus, creating a new hurricane that morphed into a catastrophic cyclone over the Atlantic. You might be familiar with this weather event, being popularized by author Sebastian Junger in his book The Perfect Storm. It tells the story of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel lost at sea during the storm. Perhaps you saw the movie? So, what does this have to do with addiction?

One way to look at it is this, rampant over prescribing of opioids (hurricane). Reduced prescribing leads to greater demand for heroin, “graciously” supplied by Mexican Cartels (nor'easter). A new hurricane is created, which is then accelerated by fentanyl to become a cyclone. A veritable perfect storm of addiction and death.

There is a noticeable difference between the Perfect Storm of 1991 and the perfect storm that began roughly ten years later with prescription opioids. The latter was man made. Surely there are some who could argue that 1991 may have been the product of climate change, but that topic is for another blog. With regard to addiction, Americans created this epidemic—so it is up to us to find our way out of this tempest of mental illness. Addiction treatment is the answer.

Addiction Treatment Via Surrender

Last December, we covered an important topic regarding the opioid addiction epidemic. And, the idea that addiction can’t be arrested away—only treated. We have written about the dismal failure that is the American “war on drugs.” There is little need for debate, draconian drug sentencing laws do little to curb addiction rates. Opioid use disorder treatment, on the other hand, saves lives without the use of handcuffs and cell bars. A mindset shared by the Gloucester, Massachusetts Police Department.

In 2015, the former Chief of Police in Gloucester created the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI). When we first wrote about PAARI, 160 police departments nationwide were using the model to help addicts find treatment. PAARI, otherwise known as “Angel Programs,” encourages addicts to surrender their drugs and treatment will be arranged. No criminal charges, no jail time. Just treatment and continued recovery (hopefully).

Today, there are more than 260 law enforcement departments in 30 states using the model, ABC News reports. To be sure, the Angel Program conceived in the commercial fishing town of Gloucester has not prevented overdoses from happening, outright. But, every person helped into addiction treatment is potentially one fewer overdose.

Opioid overdoses are soaring in much of the country, and the total for Gloucester might well have been higher if not for the ANGEL program," said Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry professor at the Stanford's School of Medicine.

Calming the Storm

So, let’s bring the nautical theme of the opioid addiction epidemic and PAARI full circle. For starters, the Andrea Gail and her crew lost in the Perfect Storm of 1991 was based out of Gloucester. The Angel Program was devised in the very city synonymous with the Perfect Storm. While naloxone couldn’t have helped the crew of the Andrea Gail survive their storm, it is helping other fisherman today, survive the storm of addiction, that is. Gloucester police Chief John McCarthy says that officials have been distributing the overdose reversal drug naloxone to boat operators. Training fishing crews on how to use the life-saving overdose antidote at sea. Heroin is deadlier than hurricanes. Hopefully those who survive an overdose will be referred to treatment and find recovery.

Are you a young adult male struggling with opioid use disorder, or do you have a son who is battling addiction? PACE Recovery Center can help you break the cycle, and teach you how living a life of addiction recovery is possible.

Addressing Alcohol Use Disorder In America

alcohol use disorder

The American opioid addiction epidemic has long been a top priority among lawmakers and health experts. The scourge of opioid abuse across the country has resulted in thousands of premature deaths, the result of overdoses. If you have been keeping yourself apprised of efforts to curb opioid use and abuse rates, it is likely that you have heard or read statements indicating that the opioid epidemic is unprecedented.

A claim that is spot on when it comes to the abuse of drugs. What makes opioid abuse so pernicious is the fact that technically, someone can overdose at any time. People often say that addiction is a slow death, dying spiritually at first and then expiring physically down the road—often decades later. Not so with opioid use disorder. But, if we were to step back and look at addiction in America as a whole, one could easily argue that the most severe addiction epidemic that the U.S. has ever faced and continues to struggle with is tied to a substance that is legal for adult consumption. Alcohol is a drug that is responsible for far more deaths every year than opioid narcotics, such as OxyContin or heroin. However, opioid addiction receives far more attention than AUD.

Alcohol, like prescription drugs, is a multibillion dollar enterprise. Despite the deadly nature of heavy alcohol use, the substance is both legal and is considered to be a socially acceptable for both relaxation and celebration. The substance can be acquired with little effort, there are no rules about how much can be purchased or used at one time. Suffice it to say, one can drink themselves to death without out any checks and balances. Unlike a doctor who may stop prescribing a drug because of concerns of abuse, liquor stores will sell booze to anyone with a pulse.

Alcohol Abuse Figures of Interest

A few years ago a National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) revealed that over 20 million Americans consumed alcohol at potentially dangerous levels. The data was analyzed by author Philip J. Cook, and used for a book titled, “Paying the Tab: The Costs and Benefits of Alcohol Control.” NESARC data revealed that 24 million adults (18 +) - drink an average 74 alcoholic beverages every week—about 10 drinks a day. A lot of alcohol to be sure.

In the following year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed that 26.9 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month. What’s more, the survey indicated that 15.1 million adults had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), a figure made up of 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women. While those figures are staggering, perhaps the most concerning finding was that about 1.3 million adults received treatment for AUD at a substance use disorder center in the same year.

Alcohol and Opioids—A Common Tie

If one were to try and find a silver lining regarding the American opioid addiction epidemic, you may think that it would be a difficult task considering the death toll. However, the crisis has brought to light the fact that there is a real lack of addiction treatment services in this country. A reality that brought about the passing of legislation that would, among other things, expand access to addiction treatment.

Substance use disorder treatment centers utilize effective science-based therapies to help people save their own lives. In conjunction with medication and introducing patients to recovery support groups (i.e. 12-Step programs and SMART Recovery), people with the disease of addiction can have a real chance at sustained abstinence for decades. Many facilities have started to take advantage of certain medications that can help clients after being discharged avoid relapse. One such drug is naltrexone, commonly sold under the brand name Vivitrol ® has been used for years on opioid addicts.

Naltrexone has been found to have an impact on opioid cravings, it can deter relapse by blocking the euphoric feelings produced by opioid use. One can take an OxyContin, but not get high. Interestingly, science shows that both opioids and alcohol impact some of the same receptors in the brain. So, it stands to reason that naltrexone may help alcoholics curb their drinking. Studies indicate that Vivitrol can decrease the pleasure that comes with drinking alcohol, NPR reports. If you reconsider the survey that showed only a small fraction of alcoholics go to treatment, it is vital that primary care physicians utilize the drug which research shows has been historically underused.

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

If you are one of the millions of Americans who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, we implore you to seek help immediately. The problem, as with any addiction, it will only get worse. Alcohol use disorder is a progressive disease, without treatment it can be fatal. Please contact PACE Recovery Center to begin the journey of recovery. We specialize in treating young adult males, and have helped many people start the journey of recovery. Here’s to life!

Addiction Epidemic, Not Opioid Epidemic

addiction epidemicThe American opioid epidemic may be misleading to some people. While prescription painkillers and heroin are both addictive and carry the potential for overdose death, the U.S. is not actually in the midst of an opioid drug epidemic. We are, in fact, in the grips of an addiction epidemic. Case in point: Efforts to limit access to prescription opioids have had the effect of making it harder to acquire certain drugs, but people are still dying at unprecedented rates. Why? The answer being that the epidemic we face is not the disease of drugs, but rather the disease of addiction—a debilitating mental illness.

Remove every drug from the equation, and the mental health disorder known as addiction will live on. We could take it even further, arguing that the crisis we actually face is the epidemic of untreated addiction. And if that is the case, it is hard to compare the problem we see to epidemics of the past, such as the AIDS epidemic.

A Waxing or Waning Epidemic

The field of epidemiology, much like addiction, is not an exact science. Experts have a good understanding of both, but there are no guarantees which way things will go. Will the epidemic wax or wane, will the recovering addict continue to improve or will they relapse? Questions that are hard to answer. Attempts to curb the opioid use disorder epidemic stealing lives across the country are extensive, and multifaceted.

  • The adoption of prescription drug monitoring programs for combatting “doctor shopping.”
  • Revising provider opioid prescribing practice guidelines.
  • Expanding access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.
  • The most important effort of all, increasing access and funding for addiction treatment services across the nation.
The last effort is the most significant. It is the only tactic that addresses the root problem, rather than just the symptoms of addiction, i.e. dependence and overdose. Making painkillers harder to acquire or abuse will only serve to force opioid addicts to find their drugs elsewhere. Naloxone can save lives, but it cannot cure addiction. Treatment is the most effective measure for ending the opioid use disorder epidemic.

Hope On the Horizon

The severity of the American opioid epidemic can be most easily gauged by the death toll associated with abuse, as opposed to opioid addiction rates. If the death toll increases, efforts are not having the desired effect. On the other hand, if fewer people die in any given year, one could argue that the measures implemented have been effective. With opioid overdoses surpassing traffic fatalities, you might think that the crisis is as bad as ever. However, the big picture may tell another story altogether.

Using epidemiological models, researchers believe that there may be an end in sight. At least regarding opioid overdose death rates. A couple of years back, a group of researchers from Columbia University used what is known as Farr’s Law to develop projections regarding the epidemic. Looking at overdose death rate data from 1980 to 2011, it showed that 2016-17 would be the height of the opioid epidemic. According to the models developed using Farr’s Law, the death rate should line up with that of the 1980’s by the year 2034. However, the authors warn:
Although the method we applied originated from studies of infectious diseases, it is unknown whether Farr’s Law applies to epidemics of a non-infectious origin. It is plausible that a non-communicable disease, such as drug overdose, can follow infectious patterns...Mortality data over the next two decades will ultimately test the accuracy of our projections. If the drug overdose epidemic is indeed waning, it may imply that the intensified efforts in recent years, such as enhanced prescription drug monitoring, are working and should be continued.”


Can We See the Forest for the Trees?

It would be nice if their projections hold true. Every life saved is a step in the right direction, even if efforts fail to address the underlying cause of the epidemic—addiction. But if we accept that addiction, while in fact a disease, is something quite different than other health conditions, there is really no way of knowing how things will go. What we can bet on is that expanding access to addiction treatment is a sure way of seeing results. All other efforts are likely to only produce superficial results, merely scratching the surface of the greater problem that is an addiction epidemic.

The greatest life-saving potential can be found in treatment centers and the rooms of recovery for continued maintenance. If you or loved one is in the grips of opioid addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center.

Synthetic Opioids, A Real Threat

synthetic opioidsSurely, we can all agree that opioid narcotics should be the main focus of substance use prevention efforts in the United States. Americans continue to lose their lives every day from prescription opioid and heroin overdoses; many of those overdose deaths involve young adults caught in the grips of addiction. Opioid use disorder rates are well over 2 million Americans, and some experts believe that that number is actually much higher. Unlike other addictive narcotics, drugs in the opioid family can cause serious respiratory depression. It only takes a little bit too high of dose for one to experience an overdose, and without access to the lifesaving overdose reversal drug naloxone, the outcome can be fatal. While drugs like heroin are already deadly enough, the narcotic is commonly mixed with even more potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Experts estimate fentanyl to be about 80 times more potent than morphine, and as much as 50 percent more potent than medical grade heroin. It is a drug that was never meant to be used without the close supervision of medical personnel, yet overdose death cases involving the drug are more and more common these days. Unfortunately, naloxone is not as effective with fentanyl-laced heroin as compared with heroin on its own, or with synthetic opioids all together.

Synthetic Drug Epidemic

The prescription opioid/heroin epidemic has proven to be next to impossible to curb, with so many variables to contend with between prescribing practices and the growing demand for heroin in the wake of prescription opioid government crackdowns. The matter is complicated even more by the fact synthetic opioids are becoming ever so common, some of which are not even illegal and can be purchased online by teenagers. Talk of synthetic drugs in the U.S. is usually with regard to “bath salts” or Spice (synthetic cannabinoids), along with a number of other chemically similar variations. There are zero standards in the synthetic drug world, which means that users have no way of predicting how they will react to those types of drugs. It is likely that you have heard the horror stories about violent attacks involving synthetic drugs. Government officials continue to attempt to make it harder for people to acquire such drugs, but is has proved to be a difficult task; every time a chemical formula is banned, chemists simply alter the composition. Teenagers and young adults can easily, and inexpensively purchase synthetic drugs, and they do so despite the dangerous side effects they might experience. While overdose deaths involving synthetic cannabis are relatively rare, when it comes to synthetic opioids that is simply not the case. What’s more, synthetic opioid death rates are likely to go in only one direction, due to the rise in the use of a family synthetic opioids—relatives of fentanyl. Such drugs include:
  • ifentanyl
  • carfentanil
  • furanyl fentanyl
  • U-47700
“Pink,” sold online under the name U-47700, is an unregulated synthetic opioid which could be up to eight times stronger than heroin, NBC News reports. The drug is being purchased online for $5 plus shipping, an appealing price tag for a potent drug.
This stuff is so powerful that if you touch it, you could go into cardiac arrest," said Police Chief Wade Carpenter, Park City, UT. "The problem is if you have a credit card and a cell phone, you have access to it."
Please take a moment to watch the short video below: If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Merging Epidemics

At this point, the line between the opioid use epidemic and the synthetic drug scourge in America is blurring. If it weren’t easy enough already to acquire, try and become addicted to opioids, the surge in online synthetic opioid sales is concerning. The ability to buy drugs online appeals to, already Internet savvy, young adults. Many such users have no idea about the deadly nature of these drugs. If you are a young adult male abusing heroin or prescription opioids, please contact PACE Recovery Center. With each day that passes, there is a greater likelihood that a bag you buy will contain a deadly additive like fentanyl or carfentanil. Recovery is possible, and we can help you achieve it.

Total Cost of The American Opioid Epidemic

opioid epidemicIs it possible to quantify the true impact of the American opioid epidemic? The unprecedented health crisis has left people in the public and private sector scrambling to find desperately needed solutions. With each day that passes—more Americans become dependent on opioids—more people lose their lives to overdose. And while efforts to curb the scourge of opioid addiction in the U.S. have had some effect, without a paradigm shift in thinking regarding prescription opioids—the problem will only continue to disrupt the country. While it is easy for us to look at the staggering death toll to stress the seriousness of the issue, it is important that we all take stock of the societal costs of opioid addiction. With over 2 million Americans living with an opioid use disorder and over 70 people paying the ultimate price for their addiction every day, there is an exponentially greater number of family members who have been affected by the epidemic. It may be impossible to compute the amount of heartache and pain that family members will endure for years, especially if they lost someone to an overdose.

The Cost Of An Epidemic

As you might imagine, there is a heavy price tag attached to the opioid epidemic. The bulk of the cost, naturally, is tied to the burden put on the health care system—whether it be to cover insurance claims for hospitalizations or treatments, or keeping babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) stable—the overall cost of the opioid scourge is daunting to think about. In fact, new research estimates that the epidemic cost is $78.5 billion annually, Newswise reports. Of that estimate, health care accounts for about one-third (over $28 billion) of the total cost. The findings will be published in next month's issue of Medical Journal. Even when opioid use disorder does not result in hospitalization or loss of life from overdose ($21.5 billion), there are other costs to consider as well. Those who are addicted to opioids are often too sick to get to work or hold down a job. The researchers found that loss of productivity accounts for about $20 billion, according to the article. Almost two-thirds of the total economic cost could be attributed to:
  • Health Care
  • Addiction Treatment
  • Lost Productivity
"The costs that we can identify, however, do help increase our understanding of the impact of the epidemic," the researchers conclude. "These estimates can assist decision makers in understanding the magnitude of adverse health outcomes associated with prescription opioid use such as overdose, abuse, and dependence."

Worth The Cost Of Treatment

It is worth pointing out that of the more than $28 billion spent on health care, $26 billion was covered by insurance companies, the article reports. It was not that long ago that it was extremely difficult to get insurance companies to cover mental health disorder treatment, i.e. extended stays at addiction treatment facilities. While there is still a lot more that insurance companies can do to help people with addiction issues, it is good to see that insurance companies are finally insuring people with a history of addiction and paying for some of the bill to help them find recovery. Research overwhelmingly supports addiction recovery services as being the best weapon against the opioid epidemic. Prescription opioids and heroin are extremely difficult to withdraw from and the chance of relapse is especially high among opioid addicts; while those who go to a substance use disorder treatment center have the best chance of achieving sustained recovery in the long run. If you or a loved one is battling opioid addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center to begin the journey of recovery.

Opioid Epidemic and Money Laundering

opioid epidemicIt has been several years now since the federal government, and state governments alike, began making it harder to acquire prescription painkillers—opioid narcotics such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Percocet (oxycodone / paracetamol). Drugs of that type are not only addictive, they can be downright deadly, i.e. 78 overdose deaths in America every day related to either prescription opioids or heroin. While it remains a fact that it is still quite easy for some opioid addicts to acquire painkillers (in some cases even after they experience an overdose), the latest opioid scourge sweeping across the nation is heroin. Years of over prescribing opioid painkillers caused Americans to become over reliant on this class of drugs when it comes to pain. This led to an unprecedented rate of opioid addiction, and the opening of a Pandora’s box. When it became more difficult to get such drugs from one’s doctor, faced with certain withdrawal symptoms, many opioid addicts turned to the streets for their drugs.

Prescription Opioids to Heroin

Heroin is cheaper than a tablet of oxycodone on the street, and it is typically stronger or easier to come by. Most of today’s heroin users began by using prescription opioids and then pivoted to heroin. Seeing dollar signs, Mexican drug cartels decided to take advantage of the billion dollar illicit opioid market in America. It is fair to say that cartels trafficking and selling illegal drugs north of the border is nothing new—an exchange that has been happening for nearly half a century. However, never in our history has there been such a high demand for a mind altering substance that can snatch one’s life in the blink of an eye. And if heroin wasn’t bad enough, Mexican cartels are also buying ingredients to synthesize even more powerful opioids, such as fentanyl. In recent years there has been a number of overdose deaths involving an addict who thought they were using heroin, but were actually using fentanyl. Verily, the American opioid epidemic has become a “gold rush” for Mexican drug cartels. That being said, where does all the money go and how does it get to its final destination? It turns out that the answer to that could be a way to combat the crisis we face.

American “Laundry”

A new report conducted by the nonprofit group the Fair Share Education Fund, calls upon legislators to stop allowing the use of anonymous shell companies, The Hill reports. In fact, the United States is among the countries where it is easy for criminals to set up anonymous shell companies to launder their money. Changing the laws that allow for this would make it much harder for drug traffickers to see a return. The effect could have real impact on the opioid epidemic in America.
We should use every tool at our disposal to tackle the opioid crisis, and going after the money is just such a critical tool,” says the Fair Share Education Fund.
The ease in which criminals are able to set up anonymous shell companies is one of the reasons that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) estimates that federal authorities only confiscate 1.5 percent of the money Americans spend on illicit drugs every year, according to the article. Because money can be laundered so easily, it is difficult for law enforcement officials to make cases against drug traffickers.
Authorities may have good reason to suspect someone of being involved in criminal activity,” said the group. “However, without the basic information necessary to show that a suspect is directly linked to a shell company used to facilitate illegal activity, they are unable to make their case, or run out of the time and resources needed to do so.”

Treating the Opioid Addict

Reducing access to opioid drugs, including heroin, is one important step. But treating the addict is also paramount. At PACE Recovery Center opiate and heroin addiction treatment options include psychosocial approaches, pharmacological treatment, therapeutic groups, 12-Step recovery, as well as individual and experiential therapy. Our addiction treatment staff also lead psychoeducational groups that cover the disease model of addiction, emotional management tools, relapse prevention techniques, boundaries and healthy relationships, and general life skills that help smooth the transition of clients from active addiction into life.

Safe Disposal of Prescription Drugs

prescription drugsThe overprescribing of opioid painkillers in the United States has created an epidemic that many fear will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. At the end of the day, all that we as nation can hope for is mitigating the rampant opioid abuse and overdose rates, a class of drugs both illegal and legal that are responsible for over 70 deaths every day. While it has become more difficult to acquire large quantities of such drugs, sometimes from multiple doctors, prescription opioids are still doled out at alarming rates. Efforts to combat the epidemic with effective measures have led to the U. S. House of Representative adopting the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) last Friday. Yesterday, July 13, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 90 to 2 to approve the bill; a move which, if all goes well, will hopefully bring about much needed resources for tackling the multifaceted opioid crisis in America. The legislation covers a number of different areas, including:
    • Expanding access to addiction treatment services.
    • Strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).
    • Increasing the availability of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.
    • Enlarging the number of prescription drugs safe disposal sites.

Opioids In The Wrong Hands

Historically, when people were written a prescription for particular drugs, the medications were taken until no longer needed. For instance, if you sustained an injury and a doctor prescribed an opioid, then the pills would be taken until the pain dissipated. More often than not, there would be leftover tablets that would reside in one’s medicine chest collecting dust. Such medications were not given another thought and people would continue living their lives. But those were in the times before the epidemic we face today. Today, leftover prescription opioids pose a serious risk to society, as they often end up in the hands of others—sometimes for an injury—sometimes to be abused. Unwanted or unused pain medication can be found in great numbers in medicine cabinets across the country, which some believe to be the result of doctors writing prescriptions for too much of an opioid painkiller. Please keep in mind that the population of the United States is only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we are prescribed and use the vast majority of the planet’s opioid medication supply. Leftover medication is inevitable. With over 2 million Americans abusing prescription opioids, there is a desperate need to make sure that unwanted medication is disposed of safely—lest the drugs end up in the hands of children or are abused, potentially resulting in an overdose. New research suggest that more than 50 percent of patients’ prescribed opioids have unused medication, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Despite the fact that most adults are privy to the knowledge that prescription opioids are both addictive and deadly, 20 percent of the research survey participants reported sharing their medication with either friends or family. Perhaps the most troubling finding of the survey was that 50 percent of patients failed to receive information on safe storage or proper disposal of unused/unwanted medication.

Opioid Take-Back Efforts

Federal, state and local governments have made an effort to offer patients with leftover medication access to safe disposal sites for a number of years now. National Prescription Drug Take-back Days result in the collection of millions and millions of pill tablets that would have otherwise sat in medicine cabinets, been flushed down the toilet and/or diverted. Additionally, many pharmacies will take-back your unwanted prescription drugs year round. Nevertheless, whether out of laziness or failing to grasp the severity of the crisis, a significant number of prescription narcotics never make it to safe disposal sites. Simply flushing your pills down the toilet is not a safe form of disposal, evident by the fact that many municipal drinking water supplies contain remnants of prescription drugs. There is now a way to safely dispose of unwanted medication at home. A safe and environmentally responsible method of disposing of prescription meds may be made available to patients across the country in the near future. The Deterra Drug Deactivation System, or Deterra System, is “a simple 3-step process, a user can deactivate drugs, thereby preventing drug misuse and protecting the environment,” according to the product manufacturers website. The system is currently being utilized by:
        • Pharmacies
        • Law Enforcement
        • Healthcare Providers
        • State Agencies
        • Non-Profits
Remember, if you or a loved one are seeking an opiate or heroin rehab and addiction help, please reach out to us today.