All posts by Michael

Washington State Debates Using Medications for Addiction Treatment

There has been much talk recently in the state of Washington about the opioid epidemic. A two-day summit was recently held with two main focuses:

  • Reduction of legally purchased drugs
  • Medications in the treatment of opioid addiction

However equally important both topics are the questions surrounding the use of medications for treatment is gaining more attention.

A handful of people that work in law enforcement spoke about the importance of treating opioid addiction as a ‘medical condition’ and it was their general consensus that the drugs should be removed from the shadows of society. They agreed that using medications has proven to reduce deaths and help people lead functional lives.

Much Debate About Using Medications

The debate over using medications to help addicts recover has been very contentious over the last two decades. however, prescribing medications to opioid addicts is still the preferred method for treatment towards rehabilitation. Experts will agree that a person who has developed an opioid addiction should be treated like any other patient with a sickness.

Providing medications is often the first step in recovery as well as the first line of defense against an overdose. The goal is to restore a degree of normalcy to the daily life of the addict. Some notable medications for opioid addiction treatment are as follows:

  • Naloxone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Suboxone, Subutex, and Sublocade
  • Methadone

They use some medications like methadone to alleviate the pain of withdrawals and limit euphoria. This classification of drugs allows addicts to perform tasks as rudimentary as going to the store and as important as performing duties in the workplace. Otherwise while under the influence of opioids the addicts have difficulties with most normal activities.

Some medications are used to relieve immediate complications from opioids. This classification of drugs is used to prevent possible death and revive patients who have overdosed.

Various Medications Used:

  • Naloxone, has shown a reduction in overdose deaths by 6%
  • Buprenorphine, showed better than a 50% reduction in deaths
  • Suboxone, showed to alleviate dependence
  • Methadone, alleviates pain without the euphoria associated with opioids

Limited Access for Meds

In the state of Washington buprenorphine programs have reached full capacity and therefore have illustrated the need for improved access to medications, namely buprenorphine and methadone. It will take some very serious consideration by policy makers to provide more resources and solve this growing need.

Saving Lives with Naloxone

The importance of Naloxone in saving lives has been proven. When addicts have overdosed the administering of Naloxone is the difference between life and death. There is little argument surrounding it’s effectiveness. Any doubt about Naloxone will come under scrutiny from the medical community.

There are some reasons to speculate about using medications to treat addiction. The most well known medication methadone relieves pain and is a detoxifier yet is habit forming and can be dangerous if used improperly. However, methadone has been the forerunner for a long time and it’s usefulness in helping addicts cope has been proven time and time again regardless of it’s adverse effects.

There are multiple approaches to recovery with different levels of effectiveness but the use of medications has been proven to be the very effective. These drugs have been shown to save lives and or allow the addict to maintain a degree of productivity in their daily lives.

Pennsylvania Gets Boost in Addiction Recovery Funding

The Health and Human Services Administration made the announcement that $485,000,000 will be granted towards funding addiction recovery in America’s battle with opioids. The money will be distributed throughout the United States with Pennsylvania getting the fourth largest disbursement. 

Why Pennsylvania?

The disbursement of funds was determined by factoring which states had the most severe problems with addictions and how each state presented their proposals for the grant money. Pennsylvania health administrators were clear in stating that opioid addiction is the number one public health problem in their state.

Reports have indicated that there were more than 3,500 overdoses that led to deaths in the state of Pennsylvania in 2015. This is a 20% increase in deaths from opioids in 2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania, estimates this number will go up even higher in 2016 and in 2017 if left unattended. The most common problematic drug in 2015 in Pennsylvania was heroin while the next highest number of overdoses leading to death was by the prescription drug fentanyl. The Governor’s concern for his state has prompted some important initiatives to combat the epidemic. Their efforts are being substantiated by the CDC.

Opioid Crisis of Epidemic Proportions

The CDC has been watching the crisis grow in Pennsylvania. They have noted that from 2014 to 2016 a sharp rise in deaths from overdosing in Pennsylvania. The state is clearly in a crisis and has made some strides in fighting the epidemic through various programs and increasing the availability of drugs. Some of the new programs are listed below:

  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) 

The programs will be embedded to the already existing health care facilities and distribution networks making their implementation more streamline. As well the programs will be available to all economic sectors of Pennsylvania not just in the urban areas as was the common practice for these measures in the past. This tactical and inclusive approach was a key factor in determining Pennsylvania’s  monetary award from the Human Health Services.

A portion of the grant money will still be allocated towards dealing with the the process of “Warm handoffs”. This is the process of identifying an individual’s unique problem with addiction and then directing that individual to the appropriate treatment and recovery specialist. This method has the recommendations of doctors and is very accepted by the professionals who work in addiction recovery.

Tiger Woods’ DUI An Issue of Vicodin Not Alcohol

Tiger Woods has recently been arrested for a DUI but his blood alcohol level was 0.0%. It has been determined by law enforcement agents Mr. Woods was taking prescription pain killers due to his recent back surgery. It was determined that the medications were the cause of his impairment. The list of pharmaceuticals that he has been prescribed are below:

  • Soloxine
  • Vicodin
  • Turox

Vicodin is a highly addictive prescription painkiller that is commonly distributed. Turox is an anti-inflammatory drug. Soloxine a drug used for dogs with hyperthyroidism. It has been shown that the synergy of these drugs can lead to serious complications with health. In some cases the combination of such drugs have even led to death. However it is the Vicodin that is the most dangerous drug in this group.

Mr. Woods’ arrest gives a signal for Americans to be on alert in regards to their safety on the roads. There is a rising rate in accidents ending in fatalities due to drivers under the influence of opioids. Therefore not only alcohol related deaths in automobile accidents are the concern these days. Furthermore the combination of alcohol and prescription pain killers are of extreme concern to public safety.

Even without this deadly combination of drugs the leading cause for impairment are the opioids which stand alone as a major factor in a person’s inability to properly function behind the wheel. As in the case of Tiger Woods who was found asleep while in the driver’s seat. His slumber was directly due to the effects of the highly addictive opioid Vicodin.

Society is fortunate that Mr. Woods’ incident was only an arrest and not a serious accident. The statistics are unfortunately negative in regards to the actual deaths caused by prescription opioid related car accidents:

  • 2014, 9,967 people died in alcohol related crashes
  • 1/3 of all related fatalities in the USA from alcohol
  • 20% of drivers killed in car accidents tested positive for drugs
  • 2010  11% of car accidents with fatalities by drugged driver

While drugs purchased on the streets like heroin adds considerably to the death toll, the largest increase in deaths are related to prescription opiates such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone. The number of deaths from methadone increased by a factor of 7 between 1999 and 2006, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Florida is Ground Zero for Patient Brokering Arrests

With the most recent addition of Amanda LaFrance arrested in Florida for steering patients to treatment centers in return for cash kickbacks, Florida is far and away the epicenter of this illegal activity.

Amanda, who is 25, was caught in a government sting intended at chipping away at this unethical practice is notable for her young age, but not for the size of her crime. Her alleged transgression of receiving $6,750 pales in comparison to the types of figures that ringleader James Kigar was moving around (the main operator of Whole Life Recovery, which is the drug rehab at the center of the controversy).

Many Ask, “What is the Big Deal About a Referral Fee?”

The practice of brokering patients is, in short, getting financial payment for referring patients to a specific treatment center. If this does not sound like much of a crime to you, then you are not alone.  The practice of paying “kickbacks” for treatment referrals might seem logical, but there are strict regulations surrounding referring patients to get medical care.  The law is intended to keep referrals going to destinations that have the patient’s best interest in mind, not the finances of the person doing the referring.

“Addicts Helping Addicts”

The saying goes in the 12-step Meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous that it is made up of “addicts helping addicts.” It would seem to be a grave violation of this ethos to sell someone’s treatment to the highest bidder rather than truly recommend what might help them.  What makes Amanda LaFrance’s crime a little more tragic and unexpected was that she was in fact merely three years removed from entering treatment for her own addiction. Amanda then subsequently had a child with fellow recovering addict Deon Hill. In the interim they have both relapsed and Deon Hill has been charged with armed robbery.

The arrests have netted many in the Palm Beach area but there are similar charge being prepared in the Southern California area and no doubt many other hotbeds of addiction treatment centers.


Canada Struggling With Influx of Fentanyl

Canadian MapCanada has been recently inundated with Fentanyl, which is an incredibly potent opiate painkiller that is very popular with those addicted to narcotics.

Recently, one article in particular seems to encapsulate how serious the problem is: A Killer High: How Canada Got Addicted to Fentanyl.

This article chronicles the pain suffered by the survivors of those who overdose, and also features excellent reporting about how easy it is to obtain the drug online.

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State Attorney Generals Push Congress to Pass CARA

38 state attorney generals across America have banded together to urge the U.S. Senate to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2015. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose home state is facing a huge uptick in opiate use, told the Associated Press that the nationwide epidemic demands a comprehensive response. Advocates say the act will arm states with the necessary tools to effectively confront the growing crisis of addiction – primarily to opiates and crystal meth – that has recently surged to epidemic proportions in communities across Midwestern states such as Ohio and Indiana.

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Thousands Touched By Addiction Attend UNITE to Face Addiction Rally

The October 4, 2015, UNITE to Face Addiction rally in Washington, D.C., was a historic moment for those in recovery and the first-ever rally of it kind. Tens of thousands of supporters touched by addiction turned out on the National Mall in Washington. D.C. for the inaugural event, meant to bring awareness for the struggles faced by those suffering from the disease of addiction. Organizers hailed the event as an opportunity to change the conversation from one of problems to solutions for addiction in America. 

The UNITE to Face Addiction rally was organized by Facing Addiction Inc., a 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to finding solutions to the addiction crisis, as well as an independent coalition of national, state, and local non-profit organizations focused on helping individuals and their families cope with the effects of the devastating disease.
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Spice is Not a Natural “Herbal High”

The term “Spice” is drug slang for a class of herbal concoctions that have gained a reputation as a safe and way to get high. Sold as incense or potpourri in convenience stores, head shops and over the Internet, Spice consists of a mixture of dried plant leaves and stems that have been soaked in synthetic chemicals. When smoked, Spice produces psychoactive (mind-altering) effects that have been compared by some to marijuana.

Many Spice products carry labels saying “not for human consumption.” Despite these labels, Spice is marketed as a natural “herbal high.” It has been sold since 2004 under a variety of names, including K2, Genie, Incense and Bliss.

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Federal Panel Votes for More Controls on Vicodin

Hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller that is an ingredient in Vicodin, has been responsible for more deaths since 2006 than any other prescription medication. In an effort to stem the growing tide of Vicodin-related deaths, a federal panel has recommended that the FDA reclassify the drug as a Schedule II narcotic. This would place it in the same category as prescription drugs like OxyContin and fentanyl and illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. All of these drugs that have a high potential for abuse and addiction.

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Spirituality Linked to Drug Abuse and Other Mental Health Issues

Pagan SymbolsPeople who describe themselves as “spiritual” but who aren’t members of an organized religion are more likely to suffer from a variety of mental problems, including eating disorders, drug abuse, depression, anxiety and phobias. This was the finding of a recent study conducted by researchers at University College London.

The study used survey data from more than 7,400 randomly selected adults. Study participants were asked about their spiritual beliefs and religious habits as well as their mental state. About 35% of those surveyed were self-described members of an organized religion and said they attended services at a church, synagogue or mosque. Nearly 20% of participants said they were spiritual but had no religious affiliation. The remaining survey members, about 45%, claimed to be neither spiritual nor religious.

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