Tag Archives: Addiction

Horizon BCBC Offers NJ Members Free Peer Recovery Counselors

A blond woman is having a videochat. A computer sits on her lap and a man is on the computer, talking to her.

In New Jersey, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is offering their clients a new secret weapon as they begin their recovery journey. Peer recovery counselors, trained to help others who are trying to get clean, will be offered to anyone who is currently receiving treatment for a substance use disorder.

The counselors will be available 24/7 via telehealth sessions. The sessions will take place over live video chat, which is how they can be offered any time, day or night. Horizon told the media that about 1.35 million of the 3 million members they currently have would be eligible for the program. Nearly seven out of a hundred thousand people in their network end up seeking help for a substance use disorder.

Why Peer Recovery Counselors?

Allen Karp, Horizon’s executive vice president, says that peer-support programs “dramatically improves a person’s chances of achieving long-term success.” People in treatment or counseling, who have begun treatment and are considered “stable” will be eligible for extra help.  The first few months are a critical point in many peoples’ recovery journey; when they begin to feel better and wonder if they need to stay in treatment at all. A recovery support specialist, who has been through similar things, can often reassure people that staying clean and sober is worth it.

About 1.35 million of the 3 million people insured by Horizon will be eligible for the program, a spokesman said. Horizon’s commercially insured members are diagnosed with substance disorder at a rate of slightly more than seven in 1,000.

This tactic of using healthcare to try to help people in recovery isn’t new, but it’s rare. Healthcare companies, including insurers, have been limited in their support of treatment centers. After all, there are high relapse and drop out rates. Horizon BCBS is trying to change that.

New Jersey seems to be leading the charge for healthcare-facilitated drug addiction treatment. Currently, the state of New Jersey also funds “opioid recovery specialists” – people who visit patients who just experienced an overdose. In recovery themselves, they’re there to let overdose victims know that there’s a better way of life. Their purpose is to engage the patient and encourage them to get treatment.

How Will the Opioids Crisis Response Act Fight Addiction?

Opioids Crisis Response Act into law

Much to the excitement of addiction recovery advocates and after a time stalled in Congress, lawmakers are finally close to passing a hefty bill to combat opioid abuse. The measure would combine law enforcement and public health measures, and includes initiatives and funding to help make addiction recovery services more accessible to people with opioid use disorder. If passed, the law will be the most comprehensive action to date to deal with the opioid epidemic.

The bill is a rare bipartisan effort in a time where many initiatives have stalled entirely due to the deep political divides in both the House and the Senate. The bill itself stalled in the House of Representatives earlier because Democrats objected to a part of the law that would benefit a group tied to the pharmaceutical industry that helped create the epidemic of addiction that our country faces today.

Finally, a compromise was reached in the Senate this week removing the provision, and the bill was modified to focus on a variety of other efforts, including:

  • Attacking illegally imported drugs by creating a new type of cooperation between the federal Food and Drug Administration and Customs and Border Protection.
  • Providing the Postal Service with tools and equipment to detect and stop illegal shipments of synthetic compounds like fentanyl from coming into the country.
  • Providing money to increase boost research on non-opioid pain treatments
  • Make substance-abuse therapy more accessible to Medicare via telemedicine services.
  • Create a pilot program of Medicare coverage for opioid addiction treatment.
  • Give more access to medication-assisted treatment by lifting a cap on the number of patients (from 100 to 275) that a qualified doctor can prescribe drugs like Suboxone, a drug that helps limit opioid cravings and ease the physical pain of withdrawal.
  • Authorize $500 million per year through 2021 for new grants to help states fight opioid addiction.
  • Create new grants to be used by the Department of Health and Human Services to develop to help support addicts in recovery in their transition to independent living. It would also help create job programs for them.
  • Launch a pilot program that would provide temporary sober housing for people in recovery.

Although addiction recovery advocates say that the bill still doesn’t provide the states with enough money, it’s a good step towards combating the opioid addiction epidemic. Some of the funds may be matched in the states to help round out the costs.

The Senate expects to vote on the legislation next week.

 

 

 

 

Fentanyl-Cocaine Combo Causing Deaths in MD

Image shows an empty hospital bed.

In Maryland, the government has been doing its best to fight the addiction crisis, but they’re not yet winning: in 2017, the number of fatal overdoses increased 9%. Most of these overdoses (90%) were considered to be opioid-induced, with Fentanyl overdoses increased by 42 percent last year, rising from 1,119 in 2016 to 1,594. Fentanyl is a drug that is 50 times stronger than heroin and is typically used in a medical setting. When added to other street drugs, it can be deadly, especially if novice opioid users are taking the drug. In Maryland, they have discovered that a fentanyl-cocaine combination of drugs is causing deaths. Between 2015 and 2016, cocaine deaths doubled because of this lethal combination.

The Maryland Department of Health Secretary Rober R. Neall called the increase in fentanyl-related deaths “staggering.” Officials think that the overdose deaths of cocaine containing fentanyl were accidental; the user may have had no clue that the two drugs were combined. Over 71% of cocaine deaths in 2017 was due to the fatal combination.

These deaths did not seem to have anything in common other than they were accidental. State officials say that the increase in cocaine deaths took place across demographics, affecting all age groups and both genders almost equally.

Heroin overdose deaths have also been decreased in the last year. In 2016, they had amounted to 58% of overdose deaths in the state.

In 2017, the amount of drug fatalities hit an all-time high in Maryland, although the actual increase in drug deaths was just 9%. This number compares to a 66% increase from 2016 to 2017. So it’s possible that efforts to combat fatal overdoses are working. One way the state is helping prevent these overdoses is via Narcan, an opioid antagonist that can help reverse overdoses. They are available both to first responders as well as over-the-counter for residents that have taken the training online.

 

 

Medicaid Recipients Have Better Access to Treatment Than Others

Medicaid Recipients

Poor adults seeking help for their opioid use disorder can get more help using Medicaid than other people, including those who may have no insurance or private insurance, according to a report by the Kaiser Foundation.

Medicaid has been instrumental to combatting the opioid epidemic, and in areas where the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid, the most vulnerable populations are given a lifeline. Not only do they get help with any long-lasting medical effects of drug addiction, but they also are often able to attend an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Republicans have often spoken about retracting the expansions of Medicaid or forcing participants to participate in work programs to “earn” their health insurance. Although many people with substance abuse disorders experience extreme poverty as a barrier to treatment, no new funds have been made available on a federal level to increase access to drug treatment.

According to the Kaiser Foundation, 43% percent of nonelderly adults with opioid addiction who were covered by Medicaid received inpatient and outpatient opioid addiction treatment services in 2016. In comparison, only 21% of those with private insurance and 23% of the uninsured were able to get the addiction treatment services they needed.

About 1.9 million adults experienced opioid addiction in 2016. Of those who were able to attend a treatment program, Medicaid covered 38%. Health experts credit the Medicaid expansion in 33 states, which has extended access to a range of treatment services. People who are covered by Medicaid can get access to life-changing addiction treatment services. Medicaid typically covers medication-assisted treatment such as Suboxone alongside counseling and other support services.

People with an opioid abuse disorder and the right kind of medical coverage usually have access to treatment in either inpatient or outpatient settings. There are some ways that addiction treatment can be administered, from a private doctor’s office or clinic setting to a fully-scheduled and monitored inpatient treatment program. Having access to a variety of options allow individuals the flexibility they need according to their lifestyles and needs.

If you are looking for information on which states have expanded Medicaid, click here.

Kratom Recall Due to Salmonella Expands Nationwide

kratom recall

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control notified the public that a salmonella outbreak caused by Kratom had prompted a recall of the product. Kratom products sold under brand names including Botany Bay, Enhance Your Life and Divinity by Divinity Products Distribution are all part of the voluntary recall. Kratom is often touted as an opioid substitute that can help people with a variety of issues, from addiction and chronic pain to anxiety and inflammation. The supplement, which is currently legal, is a plant native to southeast Asia that has become more popular in recent years due to its easy availability on the internet.

The Oregon Health Authority asked people to stop using kratom last week when testing found salmonella bacteria in several product samples. Four people in Oregon have already gotten sick from the bad batches they consumed.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a “voluntary destruction and recall” for the kratom supplements distributed nationwide under the brands mentioned earlier. If you own products included in the kratom recall, it is most appropriate to throw them away or even use them as compost, according to the FDA.

“There are currently no FDA-approved therapeutic uses of kratom, and importantly, the FDA has evidence to show that there are significant safety issues associated with its use,” federal regulators told the media in a news release. The DEA recently announced that kratom works similarly to prescription opioids, and has caused deaths in the US due to heart issues, anaphylaxis, and other complications. Kratom is often referred to as a type of “snake oil” supplement, with vendors and users claiming it can cure everything from the pain of arthritis to mental health issues and even addiction itself.

While used to help opioid users detox from heroin and other deadly opioids, Kratom has few studies to show its effectiveness, and there have been no studies to determine whether it is addictive or not. Users who take the drug often say there are no ill effects, although there are dozens of anecdotes online of people who have trouble ceasing Kratom after using it for a few months or more. Headaches are one of the most common complaints of people who are attempting Kratom cessation.

If you or somebody you love is taking Kratom as a supplement, and you don’t think you can stop on your own, there is help available. Addiction treatment can help you cease to use in a therapeutic, calm environment where you can work on reclaiming your own life. Medication-assisted treatment may be helpful, but this is something that you and your treatment center will need to weigh based on your health conditions and patterns of use.

Office of National Drug Control Policy Needs New Drug Czar

The Trump Administration recently employed 24-year-old Taylor Weyeneth to be the deputy chief of staff (also known as the drug czar) of the Office of National Drug Control Policy or ONDCP. While many addiction advocates were hoping the Administration would be filled by an experienced professional, the appointment of Mr. Weyeneth proved to be profoundly flawed.

Before Mr. Weyeneth’s work for the Trump administration, there were only two jobs from which he gleaned experience the only position he’d held since graduating from college in 2016. One of these tasks was working on President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Washington Post reported earlier this month. Aside from his young age, and lack of experience in the field of mental health or addiction, this young man’s lack of knowledge also spilled into the jobs he listed on his resume. Included in the resume was a post he held at a law firm, where the attorneys terminated him for being a “no show” just seven months into the position.

Like many young people first entering the world of employment, he had three versions of his resume. However, each resume had discrepancies that at best, were inaccurate. At worst, they were meant to deceive and claim that he had more experience than he did, even as the experience listed was meager. For example, on all three resumes, Weyeneth asserted he had a master’s degree from Fordham University. The Washington Post spoke with a university spokesman who told them that Weyeneth had not completed his coursework and did not earn the degree.

How did such an inexperienced person get appointed to the commission? The question remains unanswered. Weyeneth graduated from college in May 2016 and was quickly named a White House liaison to the drug office the following March. By July, he was promoted to deputy chief of staff in July. His resume noted no experience in the field of health and human services, mental health or addiction.

Although Mr. Weyeneth has announced his plans to step down by the end of the month, his appointment is a cause for alarm in a department meant to set policy and recommend funding and programs for states, cities, and counties struggling with an epidemic with no end in sight.

ONDCP Needs an Experienced Drug Czar to Tackle Addiction

In the addiction field, honesty is paramount, and policy needs to be set by experienced mental health professionals, medical professionals, and people experienced in the area of addiction and recovery. It is unclear who is in charge in the interim once Mr. Weyenth’s post is vacant; however, the ONDCP website lists Richard Baum as Acting Director. Mr. Baum has a wealth of experience in the drug policy field as an academic and serves as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt Graduate School of Public Policy where he teaches students about American drug policy.

Every year, ONDCP works on and plans a National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines the presidential Administration’s efforts to reduce drug use, manufacturing and trafficking. The policy also focuses on lowering drug-related crimes, overdoses, and other health consequences. In 2017, the agency was still acting on former President Obama’s plan.

Using Marijuana for Morning Sickness is Dangerous

A new study shows that more women than ever are turning to marijuana for morning sickness, although there is no medical evidence to show that this is safe. In fact, experts are warning that using marijuana while with child is dangerous for the unborn.

The study, which followed trends in pregnant women in California, is a cause for alarm for many reasons. For one thing, the marijuana use referenced in the study was self-reported, which means that study participants likely under-reported their use of cannabis. An earlier study by the same organization also found marijuana use among pregnant women rose from 2.37% in 2002 to 3.85% in 2014.

The numbers may sound small, but the worries of medical providers are not. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, published an editorial explaining the many dangers. Few things are known about the effects of marijuana use on fetal development. However, with reports that women should avoid sugar, caffeine, and even specific candies such as licorice to help with normal fetal growth, it seems that marijuana use would be an automatic “no” for pregnant women. Most of the women in these studies were younger, typically ages 18-24, and may not be aware of the dangers.

Many people are suspicious of prescriptions and worry the dangers of “big pharma” drugs are more pronounced than the dangers of marijuana. Marijuana is touted as a natural, safe alternative to other medications, and more women seem to think it’s less dangerous than medical treatments for morning sickness and other ailments. It is also possible that many of these pregnant young women are addicted to marijuana, and have trouble quitting usage on their own.

Marijuana is a drug. It has mostly been viewed as a recreational drug in the past 10 years, and few medical studies can back up the medicinal usage for pregnant women.

marijuana for morning sickness

What the Research on Using Marijuana During Pregnancy Says

No research or recommendations, even from medicinal marijuana providers, suggest that marijuana usage during pregnancy is a good idea.

In fact, research from the Centers for Disease and Control shows pregnant women who use marijuana put their child at risk of low birth weight and developmental problems. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuses, animal studies have linked marijuana use to miscarriages, but no human evidence currently shows how large this risk is. However, research shows that women who use marijuana while pregnant are 2.3 times as likely to have a stillborn child.

Using drugs while pregnant is more dangerous than drinking coffee or soda while pregnant, and it is not a solution to your medical needs. Whatever you put in your body, you are putting in a vulnerable, not-fully-developed body that hasn’t even taken its first breath. If you are having severe morning sickness, talk to your obstetrician or primary care doctor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women avoid marijuana while trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy, and while they are still breastfeeding. Using marijuana for morning sickness can be dangerous to your baby’s health.

If you are pregnant and having trouble ceasing drug or alcohol use, there is help available. You’re not alone, and you’re not a bad person. Addiction is a disease and it can be treated with the right support network in place. Please call a treatment center on this page or your local Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous hotline. You don’t have to use if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to make the journey alone.

 

Fake Street Pills Made With Deadly Opiates Now Common

overdose on fake street pills

People addicted to Oxycontin often resort to desperate measures, including buying their pills on the street. Unfortunately, addicted persons who buy these pills are discovering that they’re fake street pills. They are now being linked to carfentanil and cyclopropyl fentanyl overdoses in New Jersey and across the country.  New Jersey is just one of many states that has experienced deadly incidents of street pills – typically sold as Oxycontin or Hydrocodone — giving their users more than they bargained for.

Luckily, in Holmdel and Long Branch New Jersey, investigators were able to seize the pills before anyone got hurt – as far as they know, anyway. (It takes months for a state Bureau of investigation to tally the figures that include deaths from any illicit drugs.) The seizure was made last week, and the oxycodone pills were found to not contain oxycodone at all. In fact, they contained carfentanil, a synthetic opiate that is 10,000 times as strong as morphine. The drug is so strong that a non-drug user can experience an overdose if just a speck or two is absorbed through their skin. It’s used to sedate elephants and is entirely unsafe for people.

Some of the fakes seized in New Jersey also contained cyclopropyl fentanyl, which has no known medical use for humans or animals and is said to be about 50 times stronger than heroin.

Cyclopropyl fentanyl is also a dangerous new trend among street pills fakes – like carfentanil, it’s a powerful opioid. While recently found in New Jersey, this drug is tied to several mass overdose incidents across the US. Georgia linked the drug to an incident that flooded emergency rooms for 48 hours last July, with several fatal overdoses that never made it to the hospital.

Fake pills are often sold on the street, and US authorities suspect they originate in China. The carfentanil and cyclopropyl fentanyl pills found in Monmouth County, New Jersey were meant to masquerade as Oxycodone, and both were a bright white pill marked A/215, the same number that prescription drug website show as Oxycodone.

There is virtually no way for drug users to differentiate fake street pills from real pills, although sometimes they crumble easily or have a tinge of yellow, according to authorities.

These powerful and deadly opiates have also found their way into heroin as well.

If someone you know and love is addicted to prescription painkillers or opioids, it’s important to encourage them and/or their friends to carry naloxone, a lifesaving opiate antagonist that can reverse an overdose. Let them know there is help whenever they are ready, and encourage them to contact a treatment or 12-step hotline to explore their options. Sometimes a list of phone numbers kept in their wallet may be effective to help them when they’re desperate and in need of a person who understands what they’re going through.

People do get clean, and they do recover.

Across the US, Diversion Programs Spread Hope

As Americans become more aware that addiction is a disease and not a crisis of character, law enforcement and the judicial system have started to stand up and take notice. Rather than lock up the masses of people with a substance abuse disorder, many law enforcement agencies now offer diversion programs. Diversion programs are run in different ways, but they all focus on helping an addicted person improve their lives and hopefully break free from their disease.

One such example is a program that has been in place for 10 years, in Essex Massachusetts. Started by a DA personally affected by the opioid epidemic, a total of 117 people from 22 communities took part in the drug diversion program in 2016, with a success rate averages 40 to 50 percent. (In the world of substance abuse disorders, this is an excellent rate. Treating these issues can be incredibly challenging.)

The DA goes over cases that are drug-related to find arrestees that may have suffered from addiction. From there, they are offered a range of free services, including medication-assisted therapy, residential treatment, and individual and group therapy. Completing the program prevents them from being prosecuted. They must commit to attending all of the meetings and therapy for at least 6 months, but many of them stay to graduate from treatment. Some people don’t make it the full 6 months, but the people who run the program know they’re saving lives. Some of the attendees just aren’t ready to get clean, but they might have another chance if they get arrested again.

New Diversion Programs Forming All the Time

In Worcester, Massachusetts, the newly-launched Buyer Diversion Treatment Alternative steers lower-level drug offenders away from courts and prisons and into recovery.

And in Lucas County, Ohio, one of the hardest-hit areas suffering from opiate addiction in the US, a $1.7 million state grant was just awarded fund a diversion program for people convicted of low-level felonies in Common Pleas Court.

The Targeted Community Alternative to Prison program, better known as T-CAP, gives judges the discretion of keeping offenders in local facilities rather than sending them to prison.

There are many more locations that have started to change the way they view addiction. Diversion programs give people a chance to get clean and away from the shackles of their substance abuse disorder. Many of the programs offer drug treatment for free or low fees. People in these programs may or may not stay clean, but they are there long enough for the seed to be planted. Many of them learn what life is like for those in recovery, and they have at least the desire to stay clean. Programs like these are planting the seeds of hope for those who suffer from addiction to stay clean.

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
  • 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.