Protecting Drug Dependent Babies

NASNeonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) occurs when a mother uses opioid narcotics during the course of her pregnancy. After birth, some babies will experience withdrawal symptoms which require medical attention. NAS is a byproduct of elevated opioid addiction rates, one that introduces newborns to substance dependency from the start of life. In the wake of the opioid epidemic in the United States, neonatal intensive care units have been overburdened on a number of different levels.

Naturally, NAS requires more than just treatment; mothers who struggle with opioid addiction need assistance as well, in order to ensure the safety of the children upon going home. Reuters looked into the matter; the investigation found that 110 babies whose mothers used opioid narcotics during their pregnancy – died from preventable causes at home. The investigation, while troubling, led to action among lawmakers on the national level. The legislation will provide assistance to opioid dependent mothers, and require both federal and state governments to monitor, better than they have in the past, the health and safety of babies born drug-dependent.

Protecting Our Drug Dependent Infants

Last week, a bill went to the Senate floor which prompted the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to pledge reforms, Reuters reports. This week, a similar bill was introduced in the House that would require states to report the number of babies determined to have been born drug-dependent. The states would also have to report the number of infants who have had safe care plans developed.

“We see the damage of substance abuse across all segments of our society, but perhaps the most tragic cases involve newborns who enter the world defenseless against the addictions they were born with,” said Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania in a statement. “It is a sad reality in this country that a baby is born addicted to opioids every 19 minutes. We must do everything we can to safeguard the most vulnerable among us and ensure they will be well protected and cared for.”

A Failure to Report

In 2003, a law was passed that required hospitals throughout the country to alert state social services when a baby was born dependent on drugs, according to the article. The Reuters report found that only 9 states actually comply with the 2003 law, putting newborn babies at severe risk.

Going forward and in a perfect world, the expectant mother would be able to begin her addiction recovery well before the baby is born. While adult intervention is not appropriate in every situation, it may be the only way to prevent fallout from severe addiction. In some cases, intervention may even be a life-saving solution for loved ones that deny the presence of addiction or the need for rehabilitation. If you have questions about intervention and recovery, please contact us.

Meditation Dramatically Reduced Patient Pain

meditationChronic pain affects millions of Americans. Left untreated, one’s quality of life can be severely diminished. In the United States, doctors treating chronic pain almost always turn to prescription opioids for pain management. While there is little question as to whether drugs like oxycodone are effective, the price of pain relief often leads to dependence, addiction and overdose.

The United States has been in the grips of an opioid epidemic for over a decade, a crisis driven primarily by prescription opioids. Government crackdowns and the tightening of prescribing restrictions have resulted in a number of prescription painkiller addicts turning to heroin to fill the gap. Heroin is cheaper and stronger than the majority of prescription opioids, and arguably more deadly for the fact that users are not always aware of what they are using.

Pain Management Alternatives

It may be harder to acquire opioid medications, but that does not mean that they are not being prescribed at alarming rates – still contributing to the problem. It is crucial that pain management experts turn to alternative forms of treatment, methods that do not involve dangerous narcotics.

New research suggests that meditation may be an effective alternative to opioids for treating pain, Medical Daily reports. A research team from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that meditation dramatically reduced patient pain, without the assistance of their body’s “pain-blocking process and opioid receptors.” The research was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Meditation On Pain

The study involved 78 volunteers who were injected with either a saline placebo solution or naloxone, according to the article. The participants were separated in four groups; each group had a different variation of treatment, such as:

  • The first group received naloxone and meditated.
  • The second practiced meditation without naloxone.
  • The third group meditated and had a saline placebo.
  • The fourth group received the placebo and didn’t meditate.

The volunteers in the meditation groups saw pain reductions by over 20 percent, the article reports. However, the participants who did not meditate saw an increase in pain.

“Our finding was surprising and could be important for the millions of chronic pain sufferers who are seeking a fast-acting, non-opiate-based therapy to alleviate their pain,” said Dr. Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in a statement. “Our team has demonstrated across four separate studies that meditation, after a short training period, can reduce experimentally induced pain. And now this study shows that meditation doesn’t work through the body’s opioid system.”

About Holistic Treatment

We, too, understand the importance of using a holistic treatment approach which includes meditation. Prayer or relaxation exercises are proven to lower anxiety and reduce tension by increasing an individual’s spiritual awareness and sense of wellbeing. When volatile emotions are managed, there is less chance of relapse or binging. Over time, a meditation practice can be a long-term tool for achieving and maintaining sobriety and finding joy in life.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)

addictionAddiction treatment and prevention are crucial if we are ever to get a handle on the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic in the United States. As presidential candidates criss-cross the country, addiction is a major talking point – especially in some of the most rural areas. Everyone is interested in learning how the potential leaders will tackle the problem, a crisis that is stealing 78 lives every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On top of an interagency effort to curb overprescribing, expand access to the life saving drug naloxone and create more substance use disorder treatment facilities Senators have been working to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

A Fighting Chance

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), if passed, the bill authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. After concerns that there would not be enough funding for the bill to be effective, an amendment to the bill was put forward for an additional $600 million in funding. On Wednesday, the amendment failed to receive the 60 votes needed to approve the additional funds, The Washington Post reports. Despite the amendment being voted down, Senate Democrats said they will not block the legislation over funding.

“There certainly is no desire to take the bill down over that through the caucus at large,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), an author of legislation. “If somebody’s so mad about that that they just can’t bring themselves to vote for it, that will be their personal decision.”

The Big Picture

The democratic Senators choice to not block the bill because of the vote on Wednesday is indicative of how much attention the crisis deserves. While the amendment had the support of Senators from both sides of the aisle, there are a number of republicans who feel that the bill had enough funding to adequately address the opioid epidemic, according to the article. One could argue that some lawmakers do not fully grasp the true scope of the problem.

“It just seems ill-advised, to say the least, to appropriate more money when in fact there’s already $571 million available to deal with this epidemic,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

This is a story we will continue to follow.

Marijuana Can Lead to Substance Use Disorders

substance use disorderLast month, a new study was published that debunked the often stated claim that marijuana was the “gateway” drug, meaning the use of cannabis would lead people to trying harder, more dangerous narcotics, possibly resulting with the development of a substance use disorder. The study painted a picture of the true gateway drug – alcohol. While the findings shined a new light on an old idea, it does not mean that the use of marijuana is completely safe and that those who use marijuana won’t go on to try harder drugs.

The changing views about cannabis in the United States, for better or worse, has resulted in long overdue research about the drug. A new study published recently found that people who smoke marijuana were at a much greater risk of developing an addiction to other drugs or alcohol, HealthDay reports. The research was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

All Roads Lead from Marijuana

The findings come from preliminary interviews of nearly 35,000 adults, who were interviewed again three years later. Almost 1,300 of the adults used marijuana, according to the article. The researchers found that two-thirds of cannabis users had some type of substance use disorder after the second interview. Of those who didn’t use marijuana, only 20 percent were found to have a substance use disorder. What’s more, the researchers observed that people who used marijuana once or more a month, had higher rates of substance use disorders.

“This new finding raises the possibility that the recent rise in marijuana use may be contributing to the coincident rise in serious harms related to narcotics and other drugs of abuse,” said lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

Recreational Disaster

With more states lightening their laws regarding marijuana, and four states where adults 21-years or older using marijuana legally, it is important that we acknowledge the fact that marijuana is not a benign substance just because it’s legal. Alcohol has been legal for a long time; every year thousands of people lose their life due to the use of the substance, from alcohol related illness and accidents.

“In the ongoing national debate concerning whether to legalize recreational marijuana, the public and legislators should take into consideration the potential for marijuana use to increase the risk of developing alcohol abuse and other serious drug problems,” said Olfson.

Substance Use Disorders

If you or a loved one’s use of marijuana, or another mind altering substance is out of control, reach out for help before the problem worsens. Please contact Next Step Intervention to get on the road to recovery.

Changing the Language of Addiction

addiction

When people think or talk about people living with addiction, words often are used that can be pejorative. Names like “crackhead,” “junkie,” “dope fiend” and “lush” are commonly used to label those with substance use disorders. The list goes on ad infinitum. While many of the names used to describe those living with life threatening mental health disorders have a history, and they are often spoken without offense being taken, the use of such monikers only serves to fuel the fiery stigma of addiction.

The Language of Addiction

Both researchers and advocates suggest that if we are to continue breaking down the stigma of addiction, it requires that we change how we talk about the illness, The Boston Globe reports. They are calling for the use of medically accepted terminology when talking about substance use disorders because pejorative words like “abuser” discourage people from reaching out for help.

“The biggest thing we trade in is hope,” said Dr. Barbara Herbert, Massachusetts Chapter President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Our biggest enemy is hopelessness. That’s why I think language matters a lot.”

Standardized Communication About Addiction

For the first time in American history, we have a Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who is himself in recovery. Michael Botticelli would like to do away with words to describe addiction that have negative connotations, and standardize federal communication about addiction, according to the article.

“For a long time, we’ve known that language plays a huge role in how we think about people and how people think about themselves,” said Botticelli. “Words have to change so attitudes change.”

He points out that saying someone is “clean” from drugs, implies that active drug use is dirty, the article reports. He adds that: “We don’t say for a diabetic whose blood sugar spikes that they have a ‘dirty blood sugar.”

Choose Your Words Wisely

Removing stigma can begin with an intervention. Substance abuse interventions are to be carefully planned and facilitated by an interventionist who might also be a licensed counselor or social worker. Typically the meeting is held in a private, neutral location where all family and friends who are participating can feel comfortable sharing their feelings and concerns. The interventionist coaches the group to choose their words wisely and to present a united front in the form of rehearsed, straightforward messages about the facts of the problem and its impact on others. An intervention is not about creating guilt trips or placing blame. It is about being firm and compassionate conveying the consequences that have resulted from addiction and share the group’s desire for the addicted individual to make positive changes.

Promoting positive changes can be the first step in removing stigma!

Treating Neuropathic Pain With Prescription Opioids

neuropathic-painWhile prescription opioids are highly addictive and have led to an epidemic in the United States, there is no question prescription opioids are great for treating pain. When people go to a hospital with a minor injury they might receive Tylenol 3 (codeine) or Vicodin (hydrocodone), if a patient is in need of surgery they are given something a lot stronger, such as morphine or fentanyl. People who are living with chronic pain are often prescribed monthly supplies of opioids and are at a heightened risk of developing a dependency to the drugs which can lead to addiction.

The treatment of chronic pain over the last 15 years played a large part in creating the opioid epidemic that we face today. This is a fact which suggests that physicians need to adopt different prescribing practices, and look to alternative forms of pain management treatment. Opioids have long been the go-to treatment for all forms of pain, but it turns out that treating certain types of pain with opioids may counter health improvements.

The Nerve of Prescribing Opioids

The American Chronic Pain Association states that neuropathic pain often involves nerve fiber damage which sends the wrong signals to other pain centers. Neuropathic pain can be difficult to live with, diminishing one’s quality of life. So it is not all that surprising those doctors will prescribe opioids for neuropathic pain. However, new research suggests that patients prescribed opioids for neuropathic pain experienced no improvements in physical functioning, compared to patients treated with alternative therapies, Medical Daily reports. The research was published in the journal Pain Medicine.

“Opioids can help people with severe pain be more comfortable, but if they are not also facilitating improved function, the impact of these medications on quality of life should be questioned,” said Geoff Bostick, lead author of the study.

Researchers analyzed data from 789 patients, some of the participants were using opioids to treat the neuropathic pain. The participants provided self-reported baseline measures of function before the study, and then again after six and twelve months of treatment, according to the article. The patients using opioids for neuropathic pain saw no improvements in physical functioning, compared to patients using other therapies.

Hindering Improvement

If using prescription opioids during the healing process does not improve physical function, it begs the question of whether or not they should always be used. Bostick points out that improving movement and function may be more important than pain relief. If we consider all the risks of using opioids, it is hard not to agree with him.

Monitoring the Future 2015

monitoring-the-futureEvery year, researchers at the University of Michigan conduct the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, funded by research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The MTF is a long term epidemiological study that that looks at legal and illicit drug use and perceived risk of use among American adolescents and adults. The research has been ongoing since 1975. The MTF, among other things, provides experts with a window into people’s beliefs regarding drugs and alcohol use, allowing them to make informed decisions in the development of intervention techniques.

Monitoring the Future 2015

As the year comes to a close, we have a chance to see the progress we have made and the setbacks we have experienced as a nation. This year’s survey shows that overall; teens are reducing their use of:

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol (including binge drinking)
  • Prescription Opioids
  • Synthetic Marijuana

“These are some of the lowest numbers we have ever seen,” NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow told CBS News. “Notable is cigarette smoking — it is lower than we’ve ever seen it. Heroin is at the lowest it’s ever been. For prescription opiates, it’s the lowest we have ever seen. Overall this is very good news.”

Less Fire, More Smoke

While the aforementioned findings are promising, there is still work to be done – especially when it comes to marijuana. The researchers found that marijuana use has not declined among teenagers, CBS News reports. In fact, for the first time more high school seniors smoke marijuana than regular cigarettes on a daily basis.

In recent years, the nation has seen a growing tolerance for marijuana. Currently, there are 23 states and DC with medical marijuana programs, and four of the states have passed recreational use legalization for adults. The perceived dangers of marijuana use are fairly low among teenagers and young adults.

The researchers found that teens view marijuana as less risky this year, compared to last year, according to the report. Last year, 36.1 percent of 12th graders said that regular marijuana use could be harmful, compared to 31.9 percent this year.

Developing Brains

While marijuana use may not be as bad for the mind and body as, let’s say alcohol or heroin, marijuana use has been found to have negative effects on the brain – especially the developing brains of teenagers and young adults.

“Among teens, several studies provide evidence showing marijuana’s effects are deleterious,” said Volkow.

Driving Under The Influence of Prescription Drugs

drugged-drivingWith more people than ever taking prescription narcotics, the likelihood that people will drive under the influence is that much greater. Even though prescription drugs are legal, it does not remotely mean that they are safe to drive with in one’s system. Developed nations have requirements that prescription bottles warn of the dangers of operating heavy machinery while taking the drug. Unfortunately, a number of people choose to drive despite the warning labels, meaning that the labels are not a strong deterrent.

New research suggest that warning labels are not enough and most people drive while under the influence of the prescription drugs, ScienceDaily reports. The findings will be presented at the Tackling Drug Driving in Queensland: Leading Research and Contextual Issues symposium in Brisbane, Australia.

Use Care When Operating A Vehicle

Road safety researcher Dr Tanya Smyth, from the Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety, said that driving while taking some prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of illegal drugs. Smythe found that warning labels and pharmacist consultations were the chief systems used for controlling drugged driving, according to the article. Such methods are ineffective when you consider that prescription drug users have to self-assess their impairment, a subjective gauge to say the least.

“The biggest problem is that research has shown drivers are unable to accurately self-assess their impairment when taking medication and are overconfident in assessing their abilities,” said Smythe.

May Cause Drowsiness

In the 21st Century, many prescriptions are filled online and are sent to people’s home. This means that a number of patients are not being consulted with by pharmacists. Dr Smyth said prescription drug users were not receiving important advice from pharmacists, the article reports.

“This limits their exposure to verbal warnings, and increases the likelihood of people having to rely on labels.”

Smyth added that more research is required to fully understand how medications affect individuals.

“Some medications can cause a variety of impairments including drowsiness, increased reaction time, loss of mental concentration, shakiness and affect coordination and these all make it unsafe to drive, cycle or use machinery”.

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Please contact Next Step Intervention if you are struggling with prescription drugs. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Celebrates 80th Anniversary

AANow in its 80th year, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has come a long way since the programs humble beginnings in Akron, Ohio in 1935. Through the AA community, millions of people have found a new way of life through recovery – a life free from alcohol and drugs.

Active members of AA and those who have yet to experience recovery, can find support at any one of the 115,326 groups in 180 countries around the globe. It is hard to believe that it all began with just two men with a desire to stay sober. Today, there are millions of people actively working a program of recovery in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, striving to practice the principles of the program in all their affairs.

Come Together

While the Middle East is not known for heavy alcohol consumption, it may please you to learn that people are experiencing the miracle of recovery in the rooms of AA there as well. In Fact, 100 AA delegates from 15 Asian nations met in Dubai last week for the Alcoholics Anonymous’ regional biannual meeting, Gulf News reports. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss public communications strategies for the next two years.

“The purpose of the regional meetings is to see how we can, at a country-to-country level, carry the message,” said John L_, Asia Oceania AA regional chairman. He adds that one reason AA has been so successful is “one alcoholic carries the message to another alcoholic.”

Spreading The Message

Active members of AA often say ‘you cannot keep it [recovery], if you do not give it away.’ Spreading a message of hope to people who are facing seemingly insurmountable odds is what keeps the program moving forward. People struggling with addiction are guided by people in recovery who have come before them, and in turn they too will hopefully pay what they have learned forward.

One thing is certain, recovery is a shared experience.

We would like to thank everyone who has made an effort to work a program of recovery and spread the message that “we can, and do recover.”

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Please contact Next Step Intervention if you are struggling with alcohol. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

College Students Find It Easy To Obtain Prescription Drugs

prescription-drugsAround the country the use of prescription stimulants is quite common on college campuses, used with or without a prescription. Students will use drugs, such as Ritalin or Adderall, for more focus and energy while studying. While prescription stimulants can give a student an edge during finals, the drugs can be habit forming and lead to the use of other narcotics.

The selling or use of prescription drugs is illegal without a prescription from one’s doctor; nevertheless, use with of drugs without a prescription happens quite frequently. In fact, a new survey has found that college students in the U.S. have little trouble illegally acquiring prescription drugs on campus, HealthDay reports.

The 2015 College Prescription Drug Study

Researchers at Ohio State University found that 70 percent of the more than 3,900 survey respondents reported that obtaining medications without a prescription was somewhat “easy or very easy.” The data comes from students at six public and two private colleges and universities in five states across the country, and included undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

The data showed that about 18 percent of undergraduates misused prescription stimulants, according to the article. What’s more, 83 percent obtained the drugs from their friends. While prescription stimulant misuse was the most common, their survey showed a significant amount of prescription opioid misuse.

More Than Just Stimulants

The researchers found that 10 percent of undergraduates misused prescription opioids, and about one third of them reported that acquiring the drugs was “easy or very easy.” About 9 percent misused sedatives, and 44 percent said it was “easy or very easy” to obtain the drugs.

“Overall, 1 in 4 undergraduates reported that they used prescription pain medications, sedatives or stimulants for nonmedical reasons in their lifetimes,” said study author Anne McDaniel, associate director of research and data management at Ohio State University’s Center for the Study of Student Life, in a press release.

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Please contact Next Step Intervention if you are struggling with prescription drugs. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

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