Relapse Prevention Through Naltrexone

relapseAddiction is extremely hard to recover from, but it is worth the effort if you are willing to take certain steps to improve your quality of life. It could be argued that there has been no other time in American history when addiction recovery has been more vital, in the wake of a prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. One of the reasons that the epidemic has continued as long as it has is the fact that recovering from opioid addiction is arduous and relapse rates are staggering.

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about improving and expanding addiction treatment services nationwide, especially in rural America. Additionally, substance use disorder centers need to utilize evidence based treatments in order to mitigate the chances of relapse. A number of treatment centers have begun prescribing patients naltrexone – sold under the brand name Vivitrol ®.

Relapse Prevention

Early recovery can be a trying time, filled with strong cravings to use, coupled with new feelings and emotions that can drive such urges. New research suggests that utilizing naltrexone can dramatically reduce the chance of relapse, HealthDay reports. The study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of opioid narcotics, which means if an addict were to use oxycodone or heroin they would not experience a high. The participants in the study were all opioid-addicted adults with history involving the criminal justice system. The participants were split into two groups, one receiving monthly naltrexone injections; the other group didn’t receive the drug but was referred to counseling and referrals to community treatment programs, according to the article.

After six months, only 43 percent of the Vivitrol group had experienced a relapse, compared with 64 percent in the other group. What’s more, no one in the naltrexone group had an overdose during the six months, compared to five overdoses in the group that did not receive the drug.

Promising Findings

“We believe our study is the first of its kind to look at the real-world effectiveness of extended-release naltrexone in community settings,” lead author at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York said in a news release. “It may be particularly effective with populations, such as recently released prisoners, who typically don’t have access to other evidence-based daily medications for opiate disorders, like methadone or buprenorphine.”

If you are in need of addiction treatment services, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can help you determine the best course of action for a successful recovery, giving you the tools necessary to prevent relapse.

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.

Graphic Images and Smoking

smokingSmoking rates have dropped dramatically over the last several decades. Every adult knows that cigarettes carry inherent risks to one’s health. It seems like with each year that passes, researchers add to the list of conditions and cancers linked to tobacco use. While health officials and lawmakers have made it more difficult for tobacco companies to market and sell their products, millions of Americans continue to smoke despite these risks.

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about placing graphic images on cigarette packaging, pictures that show smokers what can happen. Public health experts believe that it would be a deterrent that may stop people from picking up the habit and may influence current smokers to quit. Naturally, tobacco lobbyist have put up stiff resistance to the implementation of such warnings, which is why we still have only the Surgeon General’s warning. Interestingly, new research suggests that graphic warnings may not have the desired result and may produce a boomerang effect, Science Daily reports. The findings were published online by the journal Communication Research.

A Threat to Freedom

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois found that graphic images may be viewed by smokers as a threat to their freedom, choice or autonomy. When some people are told what to do, or have the feeling that they are being told what to, they will often do the opposite.

“What we found is that most people don’t like these warning labels, whether they are smokers or nonsmokers,” said Nicole LaVoie, a doctoral student in communication and the lead author of the study. “It makes them angry, it makes them express negative thoughts about the packaging, that they’re being manipulated,” LaVoie said. “Ultimately, it also makes them think that the source — the government in this case, mandating these labels — is being overly domineering, is being too much in their business.”

Smoking in Recovery

If you are working a program of recovery and also smoke cigarettes, you may want to seriously consider breaking the habit. Cigarettes are extremely difficult to quit and are also bad for you, but new research suggest that people in recovery who smoke are at much greater risk of relapse. In recent years, a significant number of people working a program have turned to e-cigarettes as healthier alternative; however, some e-juices that smokers vaporize actually contain a small amount of alcohol which could potentially trigger a relapse.

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.

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.

E-Cigarettes Are More Popular Among Teens

e-cigarettesE-Cigarettes have been available to consumers for some time now, despite any serious regulation. While debate over e-cigarette safety continues, the rate of e-cigarette use continues to climb. Major concerns about the devices stem from their appeal to teenagers and young adults.

Nicotine e-juices, which are vaporized in e-devices, come in thousands of flavors – many of which are fruity flavored and have colorful names that are likely to attract teenagers. In fact, e-cigarettes do not only appeal to teens, the age group is using them at much higher rates than adults.

Like Father, Like…

New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that 13.4 percent of high school students currently use e-cigarettes, compared to 3.7 percent of adults, The Los Angeles Times reports. The researchers found that 15.2% of American adults smoke traditional cigarettes, a rate much higher than adult e-cigarette use.

The findings come from 2014 National Health Interview Survey data. This is the first comprehensive look at the popularity of electronic cigarettes among U.S. adults, according to the article. The data indicates that e-cigarettes are much more popular among younger adults and teens than adults.

A New Generation of Nicotine Users

While some people are turning to e-cigarettes as a tool for smoking cessation, there is no clear evidence to support using the devices to quit. On the other hand, there are concerns that e-cigarettes will open the door for young people to become tobacco users, the article reports. The research showed that 9.7 percent of younger adults, who had tried electronic cigarettes, had never used traditional cigarettes.

“This finding raises concerns that e-cigarettes may be introducing a generation of young nonsmokers to nicotine addiction,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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

Childhood Head Injuries Could Lead to Alcohol Abuse

alcohol-abuseConcussions, head traumas, or traumatic brain injuries (TBI), are something that can severely impact one’s life and can be fatal. We see it all the time with football players who take major hits, they walk off the field and go home. Sometimes people with TBIs go to bed and never wake up.

It turns out, that even minor concussions can lead to changes in the brain that can impact people later on in life, possibly resulting in addiction. New research suggests that females who experience a head injury during childhood may be at an increased risk of alcohol abuse later in life, ScienceDaily reports. The study was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

A Bump On The Head

Working with mice, researchers found that females who experienced “mild closed-head brain injury” were at a greater risk of misusing alcohol later in life, according to the article. The females were also more likely to associate drinking with reward and pleasure.

Fortunately, the adverse effects may be reversible with enriched environments. The mice that were raised in environments that provided activities were less likely to exhibit increased drinking behavior, when compared to the mice raised in standard housing. The researchers found that enriched environments reduced degeneration of nerve axons.

It’s Not Set In Stone

“We wanted to demonstrate that this effect is not set in stone at the time of injury,” said Zachary Weil, assistant professor of neuroscience at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study. “There are ways to intervene, but they’re expensive in terms of effort and money. It requires sustained treatment and rehabilitation and educational support.”

“The best therapy for a childhood brain injury is everybody getting great medical care and rehabilitation, regardless of socioeconomic status,” he said. “People with juvenile head injuries are already at risk for memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor learning and reduced impulse control. If we can prevent alcohol misuse, chances for a good life are much better.”

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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.

Ex-Drug Offenders Qualify for State Benefits

ex-drug-offendersSadly, incarceration has long gone hand and hand with addiction – a byproduct of America’s war on drugs. Until recently, people arrested and convicted for nonviolent drug offenses were not given the option of treatment and were required to serve lengthy sentences. Upon release, many of ex-offenders found limited options with regard to state assistance, making it difficult for such individuals to get by. In many states, ex-drug offenders are ineligible for welfare and food stamps.

The Times Are A-Changin

Fortunately, as draconian drug laws fade and lawmakers see the value of treatment over incarceration; many states have begun adopting more enlightened views with regards to addiction. A number of states are now allowing ex-drug offenders to qualify for state benefits (i.e. food stamps), The Wall Street Journal reports. Lifting the two-decade-old ban on benefits for people convicted of drug crimes is a huge step in the right direction.

Last year, both California and Missouri lifted their bans and Alabama and Texas followed this year. In August, a Congressional Research Service report found that in 12 states ex-offenders are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federal welfare program, according to the article. Almost 24 states allow ex-offenders to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Starving Ex-Offenders

Rules barring former drug offenders from participating in state assistance programs stems from a law passed in 1996, the article reports. In 2013, a study found that more than 90 percent of recently released ex-drug offenders lacked reliable access to food, and more than a third said thatx in the last month they had gone and entire day without food.

“Should they be denied those benefits when that could help them get back on their feet again and be a productive member of society?” asked Alabama state Sen. Cam Ward, a Republican representing Montgomery who sponsored the legislation.

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If you are or your loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

Navigating Social Situations Involving Alcohol

alcoholRecovering from a substance use disorder is challenging to say the least, around many corners are obstacles that can derail one’s program. In early recovery, sponsors in 12-step programs and counselors at treatment centers advise you to stay clear from situations where alcohol will be present – known as risky situations. Being around others who are consuming alcohol can be dangerous.

Unfortunately, alcohol is everywhere and avoiding situations where alcohol is present is often easier said than done. Holidays and work gatherings are common situations that people in recovery need to face, but it is possible to abstain from alcohol and have a good time. It is important for people working a program of recovery to stay close to their support network, if ever you feel shaky help is always a phone call away.

The Life of A Former Drinker

Alcoholics who give up drinking will find times in their recovery where they will have to navigate social situations where alcohol is involved. Some people will let their associates know they don’t drink, whereas others will try to remain inconspicuous about the fact that they abstain from alcohol. A new study has examined the wide variety of approaches that people who don’t drink take when it comes to how and whether to tell people that they don’t drink, ScienceDaily reports. The research was part of a larger study on how non-drinkers handle social events.

“The findings tell us that former problem drinkers can find it tricky to navigate social situations where alcohol is involved, and makes clear it’s important to support those who aren’t drinking and not push non-drinkers to disclose their reasons for not having a drink,” says Lynsey Romo, study lead and an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University.

The study involved 11 former problem drinkers who were interviewed by the researchers. The participants length of sobriety ranged from one to 19 years, according to the article. Some people were open about the fact they didn’t drink, while others tried to avoid the situation outright by holding a cup the whole time or saying “no” when offered a drink.

Staying Social In Sobriety Without Stigma

“We found that former problem drinkers still want to be social, of course, but that they had to find ways to determine whether to disclose their non-drinking status to others,” Romo says. “Study participants said they felt the need to weigh how much they should tell other people. Essentially, they assessed the risk of being socially stigmatized if they were open about not drinking or about being in recovery.”

The research was published in the journal Health Communication.

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If you are or your loved one is struggling with alcohol, please contact N2 Treatment. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

Needle Exchange Programs Reduce Disease Transmission

needle-exchangeThere are a number of lawmakers who have mixed feeling about needle exchange programs, places where IV drug users can exchange used syringes for clean ones. Many taxpayers are not comfortable with fronting the bill for addicts to continue their drug use, despite the fact that needle exchange programs have proven to reduce the spread of infectious disease. On top of that, needle exchanges give counselors a perfect opportunity to discuss recovery with active users, potentially channeling them into treatment.

Exchanges Reduce Transmission

New research suggests that after Washington D.C. lifted the ban on funding needle exchange programs it prevented 120 new cases of HIV in just two years, USA Today reports. The ban was lifted in 2007, giving the District’s health department the power to provide free:

  • Clean Needles
  • Condoms
  • HIV Tests
  • Referrals to Addiction Treatment

“Policy change makes a difference,” says lead author Monica Ruiz of George Washington University.

The Research

If the DC ban had not happened, Ruiz calculated 296 HIV infections would have occurred, according to the article. In the two years after lifting the ban, there were 176 new cases of HIV, which means that lifting the ban prevented 120 cases. Ruiz and her colleagues calculated the average lifetime cost of treating the 120 people had they been infected, about $44 million.

“Our study adds to the evidence that needle exchange programs not only work but are cost-effective investments in the battle against HIV,” says Ruiz, an assistant research professor of community health at George Washington’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

The findings were published in AIDS and Behavior.

DC is Not Alone

A number of states have seen an alarming rise in the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C, forcing government officials to change their stance on the value of having clean needle programs. The Governor of Indiana declared a state of emergency regarding HIV transmission linked to the prescription drug Opana ®. Governor Mike Pence allowed for needle exchanges in the most troubled areas of the state. Indiana’s state health commissioner, Jerome Adams, said that needle exchanges “have been shown scientifically to slow the spread of infectious disease across time and across the country.”

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If you are or your loved one is struggling with opioids, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.

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