In order to really fight addiction on a local level, it takes individuals and groups within each community to take a stand and make a difference. That is exactly what comedian Jimmy Graham is doing in Pitman, NJ. New Jersey is home to some of the most rampant heroin abuse in the nation.
Graham was a former high school football and wrestling coach who had two sons battle an addiction. He has since gone on to form a non-profit organization called Stand Up to Addiction. He encourages families to speak openly about their problems and seek help.
As part of his advocacy work, Graham even goes around and confronts people who are known drug dealers in the neighborhood. “I found out also some of the dealers were my wrestlers and football players, too, and that just killed me,” he said. He also goes around and has planted signs in their yards that read, “Not in our town, stop or leave.”
Most people who become strong advocates in the community have had personal experiences with addiction, either overcoming it themselves or having a loved one get caught up in it.
Graham now makes his living as a stand-up comedian. He has a couple benefit shows scheduled and plans to start organizing community meetings as well. Although some of his tactics may be considered unconventional, his purpose falls directly in line with the national organization known as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). If you would like to help a similar effort in your area, check out CADCA’s registry for local resources, or start something on your own like Jimmy Graham did. You might be surprised about how much support you have and the amount of good you can do.
Several areas of the healthcare field are abuzz with the recent news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved the use of OxyContin to treat chronic pain in children as young as 11 years old. Those disturbed most by the decision are addiction treatment and prevention specialists. However, some doctors remain uncertain.
OxyContin is a powerful prescription narcotic that is in an extended release form that is often given for moderate to severe chronic pain. All oxycodone products have a very high potential for abuse, and the drug’s maker, Purdue Pharma, has settled major lawsuits claiming it withheld evidence of the additional risks that OxyContin carries. The maker eventually introduced tamper-resistant forms, but many users are still able to get around that.
A lot of people have heard of OxyContin because of the prescription painkiller epidemic that has swept across the country. Many believe that OxyContin was one of the biggest culprits of this disturbing trend, as well as a gateway drug to heroin. Patients who were prescribed the drug can easily become dependent on it and eventually addicted to. Thousands of people now die each year from overdoses on synthetic opioids like this drug.
Given all this information and the deadly history with the drug, why would the FDA approve it for use in children? Dr. Sharon Hertz with the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research claims that it is okay for certain uses and said, “new study data and resulting pediatric indication for OxyContin give doctors more specific information on how to safely manage pain in their pediatric patients following these types of surgery or traumas.”
Regardless of how safe particular studies may claim the drug is for children, the fear is that it will once again be overprescribed, leaving thousands of young people at serious risk of harm.
Addressing the addiction problem in the United States requires more than the work of official agencies and treatment centers. Understanding all of the aspects of addiction and how to combat it can take much more research and collaboration. In an effort to tackle more of these subjects, the Yale School of Medicine has partnered up with The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia). The combined forces of these renowned institutions will likely produce further breakthroughs in the field of addiction and relapse prevention.
“Combining the resources and talent of Yale, a leading source of research findings in almost every aspect of addiction, with CASAColumbia, an institution on the cutting-edge of translating scientific findings and disseminating information, is a momentous achievement in the fight against the disease of addiction,” explained the Chairman of CASAColumbia, Jeffrey B. Lane.
In order to get the most mileage out of this new partnership, directors have promised to focus on a variety of addiction-related issues. Psychiatry, public health, neuroscience, clinical trials, healthcare policy and biostatistics are all areas that will be explored by researchers at the new facility. Researchers will also investigate other addictions, such as gambling and food. Examining why and how a person can become so compulsively driven to do the same thing over and over again, despite health and relationship consequences, is important when looking for solutions to the problems by providing greater understanding.
CASAColumbia was founded in 1992 by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare as well as Presidential Advisor. The organization originally focused on alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, abuse, and addiction, and assembled under one roof the skills needed to assess the impact of all addictive substances in all sectors of society.
A recent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling could potentially impact the fate of physicians and pharmacists throughout the state. A 3-2 vote made it legal for addicts to sue their doctor or pharmacist for allowing the person to become addicted to prescription painkillers. Since the decision was made the medical community and the general public are divided over the future implications of this decision.
Prescription drug abuse has long since reached epidemic proportions and in states like West Virginia, and thousands of people are dying because of their addiction to painkillers. Because of the extreme gravity and speed that prescription painkillers are taking over people’s lives, extreme decisions like the one made in the West Virginia may be called for.
One of the most common ways that addicts acquire their prescription painkillers is through doctor-shopping. This means that they go from doctor to doctor complaining of ailments and receive prescriptions to various narcotics. Many states have instituted a prescription monitoring programs in an attempt to avoid excessive doctor-shopping and other forms of prescription drug fraud. The tool that can be accessed by other doctors and pharmacists is designed to allow doctors to input the information from their visit with a patient as well as review the patient’s prescription drug history.
The decision to allow people who become addicted to prescription drugs to sue doctors and pharmacists is extreme but will likely give many professionals pause before liberally prescribing prescription painkillers.
“It may cause some physicians to curb or stop treating pain altogether for fear of retribution should treatment lead to patient addiction and/or criminal behavior. It may create additional barriers for patients seeking treatment for legitimate chronic pain due to reduced access to physician. It would allow criminals to potentially profit for their wrongful conduct by taking doctors and pharmacists to court,” explained The West Virginia Medical Association in response to the new ruling.
It could be very difficult to prove that a particular doctor or pharmacist was the cause of someone’s addiction, yet there is no doubt that the prescribing industry has certainly played its part, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in the escalation of the prescription drug problem in America.
Due to the prescription drug epidemic that the United States is still battling, there has been a significant increase in the number of babies being born addicted to narcotic painkillers. A recent study looked into the problem of infants born addicted to drugs, something called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The study first delved into the babies addicted to drugs in general, however, researchers noticed that many babies who were born with an addiction had mothers who were not taking illicit drugs. In fact, these mothers were being treated by doctors who were prescribing them narcotic painkillers.
Prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone are very similar to heroin. They produce the same euphoric effect and they have painful withdrawal symptoms. Painkillers are one of the most abused drugs in the country, and legislators and law enforcement have been working tirelessly to reduce the amount of people that abuse the pills.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center studied information from 112,029 women who were pregnant in Tennessee. They found that of all the babies born addicted to drugs, nearly two-thirds of the mothers had filled prescriptions for at least one painkiller during the pregnancy. Other drugs were also present, including prescription antidepressants, nicotine and street drugs. The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.
The study is important because it specifically looks at the prescription painkiller problem and how it is affecting newborns and mothers. It shines a light on the need for more doctor education regarding painkiller abuse and the importance of drug monitoring systems that would allow doctors to see if their patient is exhibiting drug-seeking behaviors.
“Historically, drug withdrawal for newborns has been described among illicit drug use such as heroin or women treated for previous opioid abuse. This is really one of the first studies to look at legal prescriptions for pregnant women. And it draws attention to what is going on in our nation,” explained Stephen Patrick, a neonatologist who specializes in infant drug dependency.
Hopefully, for the sake of our children, doctors will start to pay more attention to what they are prescribing to women who are pregnant, as there are many other damaging effects that can cause harm to the babies than NAS, including a wide range of complications before and after birth.
The National Drug Facts Week wrapped up at the end of January. It is a week designed to enlighten and educate young people about the dangers of drugs and the facts about drug abuse. Children and teenagers often get their information about drugs from television, the Internet or their friends, and then use that information as the basis for their decisions about drug and alcohol use.
Unfortunately, relying on these sources for information regarding drugs and alcohol can lead young people into engaging in risky, dangerous and even deadly behavior. Teenagers are especially very susceptible to peer pressure and feeling the need to fit in. National Drug Facts Week aims to arm these young people with the facts and allow them to make more informed decisions in this area.
One thing that young adults may not realize is that drug and alcohol abuse cost the public billions of dollars. This may not mean something to them immediately, but a closer look at why drug use is so expensive may shed some light into the world of addiction that many children and teenagers do not understand. Healthcare for overdoses, psychotic breaks, injuries due to substance abuse and rehabilitation programs are all contributing to inflate the overall cost of drug abuse.
National Drug Facts Week was launched in 2010 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) . To counteract the myths they get from other sources, NIDA scientists want to stimulate events in communities so teens can learn what science has taught us about drug abuse and addiction.
Participating events occurred this year in communities and schools throughout the country, with the intent on having honest conversations about the effects of drugs and alcohol. Observances such as this and others throughout the year are very necessary in continuing to combat addiction, as prevention is the earliest chance to save lives before intervention and treatment is needed.
Overdose deaths from heroin abuse and prescription pain medication abuse (opioids) increased through much of the United States in 2012. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed the data from 28 states and found that twice as many people died from prescription opioid overdoses than died from heroin overdoses.
There are a couple of things that appear to be driving the increase of heroin overdoses. First, there is the widespread exposure to painkillers that can often find addicts winding up on heroin. Second, there seems to be an increase in heroin supply to meet this increasing demand. No all prescription opioid users become heroin users, but previous research showed that 3 out of 4 new heroin users abused painkillers before using heroin.
Heroin’s cheaper price and increasing availability have been contributing factors. Since heroin and prescription painkillers are in the same category of substance, users experience the similar effects from both drugs. Therefore, the relationship between the two drugs is not surprising.
CDC Director Tom Frienden, MD, MPH says that reducing inappropriate prescribing practices is an important part of the strategy targeting overdoses from both heroin and the medications. “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term,” he said.
Researchers also believe it is important to help those who are addicted to heroin and painkillers with effective treatment services in conjunction with the preventative measures. While some may recommend opioid replacement therapy, we work with facilities that help people fully detox from heroin and other opiates, and incorporate long-term residential treatment.
A group of researchers at Indiana University are studying the effect that gender and environment have on drug abuse. The study examined men and women to see the effects that gender, social environment and genetics had on drug addiction. The results of the study indicated that there is a definite link between the three areas of study and drug abuse.
While scientists have known for a long time that gender plays an important role in the type of experiences a person has, it was interesting for researchers to add in the element of genetics. Men and women go about their day differently, get treated by their families differently, have different responsibilities and have different ailments that they are predisposed to. Taking all of this into account, researchers looked at the different sex’s susceptibility to drug use. For instance, men who have strong ties to their families and who are protected by their families are less likely to abuse drugs. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to abuse drugs if they are sheltered by their families. The data gathered indicates that women have too many pressures on them when they are isolated like that and can resort to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanism.
“It is likely that gene-environment interactions may operate differently for men and women, perhaps because they experience some aspects of the social world in divergent ways. In families and communities, for example, women often bear more responsibility for developing and maintaining relationships, and do more of the care work that is required in those contexts. We cannot assume that a social environment that is favorable for men, and thus reduces the harmful impact of a risky genotype, is also beneficial for women, or vice versa,” explained Brea Perry, medical sociologist and lead researcher of the study.
The conclusion of the study was important because it shows people that men and women respond to environmental factors differently. While genes and gender play a large role in determining a person’s susceptibility to drug use, environment factors play an equally large role as well.
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