Tag Archives: Drug Addiction Treatment Center

Helping Addicted Inmates

The number of people suffering from substance use disorder who likely think they won’t end up in jail is probably large—especially if they have good jobs. They never think it will happen to them. But it can. As a recent episode of the TV program Dopesick Nation showed, even formerly responsible citizens may find themselves stealing, forging prescriptions, and so forth to support their habit.

 You may have heard we’re not doing nearly enough for substance abusers who end up in jail. But there are a few programs around the country that seek to help these people, often in small towns, that can serve as examples for other towns. Here are a few.

Peer recovery coaches in NJ

 In one NJ town, certified peer recovery specialists are volunteering to work with those suffering from substance use disorder who are incarcerated. In a new program called Next Step, the volunteers are called coaches, and they help to steer prisoners into treatment.

Bail reform in certain areas of the country means that nonviolent offenders are being released earlier, and for addicts, that usually means without treatment or the offer of treatment. (And many [most?] likely got little help in jail.) Although it’s too soon to comment on the program’s success, shortly after the program was instituted at the jail, nearly half of those screened entered treatment.

One of the county prosecutors noted that when people are sent to jail, it’s often their lowest point, a good time to try and convince them that treatment may save their life. Several local organizations have stepped up to provide clinical assistance, including a social services organization helping inmates find jobs, a recovery center, a peer recovery organization and a hospital.

 Having a peer in recovery work with an incarcerated person is another tool in the toolbox to help someone get healthy and return to society.

Helping Addicted Inmates

The Start Strong 3 E’s in Kentucky

There’s a new treatment program in the detention center in Kenton County, KY, in which inmates are expected to be “Employed, Enlisted, or furthering their Education,” 12 weeks after release, according to the program director. The key in this area, which has suffered greatly in the opioid addiction crisis? The jail is partnering with Aetna Better Health and getting help from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

 The concept involves giving medication not only to quell cravings or ease withdrawal symptoms, but to stabilize patients getting therapeutic care in jail. They will then have the option to stay with medication assistance during and after their incarceration, according to a local TV station. And, luckily for these inmates, there’s an aftercare program with intensive job training.

Vivitrol and Counseling in Central New York State

In Onondaga County, NY, addicted inmates are given the opportunity to have injections of Vivitrol and attend counseling sessions. According to the Vivitrol website, the medication “is a non-addictive, once-monthly treatment proven to prevent relapse in opioid dependent patients when used with counseling following detoxification.”

Chicago’s Thrive program

Inmates suffering from substance abuse in a Cook County jail who are not in the drug court program are being offered naloxone on release and will be monitored “in a modified version of the sheriff’s electronic monitoring program.” (For example, caseworkers who worked with one woman on the inside will continue to work with her once she’s released.)

Other programs, in Indiana, Orange County, Florida, and Cincinnati, Ohio and Kings County, California, to name a few, show that a number of jails realize they can contribute to finding solutions to substance abuse in this country. Whether it’s to offer Suboxone, Naltrexone, Vivitrol, peer coaches, and counseling and job training, or a combination, these programs can serve as a blueprint for other jails.

 

Substance Abuse and the Legal System

How Many Chances Should a Drug User Get?

Recently, a letter to the editor in a newspaper from the managing director for policy at the Drug Policy Alliance asked the rhetorical question above. He’s a psychiatrist with a background in public policy and bioethics, and he wrote to the paper after reading that a patient with endocarditis was denied necessary surgery because of intravenous drug use. He called it abandoning a patient. Endocarditis, an infection of the heart, is life-threatening but treatable. Just as drug use has been compared to having cancer—a disease that we treat even if the person has smoked, when smoking is a known carcinogen—the psychiatrist argues that a known drug user shouldn’t be denied care. Should someone with a second heart attack be sent to hospice instead of being treated, just because he didn’t take his medication after the first one, he asks? He notes that several illnesses are accompanied by behavior that is self-destructive. And when the writer asks about how many chances drug users should get, he answers his own question: “The same number as a smoker with cancer, a drunken driver in an accident, and a father after a heart attack. The same number you would want for your loved one.”

Felons Becoming Lawyers

There’s one area in which the legal system is surprising a number of people—allowing former drug addicts who have been incarcerated to become lawyers. Yes, you read that right. If you watch 60 Minutes, you may have seen the segment where a man robbed banks, spent years in prison and went on to become one when he was released. But Tara Simmons seems to be one of the first people suffering from substance use disorder to get her law license. As an article about felons becoming lawyers explains, “Whether people like Ms. Simmons should be allowed to practice law is a hot question these days. Acceptance for those with less-than-impeccable pedigrees seems to be rising.” Ms. Simmons had to appeal after her application to even take the bar exam was rejected. And even if you pass in a similar situation, it may be difficult to be sworn into the bar. A former cocaine trafficker who did time spent $25,000 “going through the process.”

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Relapsing Shouldn’t Be a Crime

Along these same lines, an editorial in The New York Times used the case of Julie Eldred to discuss the argument noted above—sending people to jail for relapsing because she broke her probation when she tested positive for fentanyl. That’s what often happens in the U.S. justice system, the paper noted. But her case is now being heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Wil it change drug policy? That remains to be seen. Her lawyer is challenging the notion that it’s OK to require people with a substance use disorder not to use drugs while on probation, and of sending them to jail if they do. The prosecution rebutted the disease model of addiction as her defense. Using that very disease model, the editorial goes on to give a cogent argument for keeping addicts who relapse out of jail. The argument in favor is that those who suffer from a substance use disorder cannot choose rationally and consistently because their ability not to relapse is impaired by brain changes due to chronic drug use and the colossal force of addiction. Policies like the one that caught Julie Eldred in their net are part and parcel of the criminalization policy. While not everyone suffering from substance use disorder should be freed from all consequences, the consequences should be fair, says a professor of public policy.

Treatment of Opioid Use is Not a Mystery

In response to the editorial mentioned previously, a clinical professor of population health felt the need to point out a few facts about the fight against the opioid epidemic. People with opioid use disorder who are successful in overcoming it take methadone or buprenorphine and undergo behavioral therapy and counseling, he says. And sometimes it doesn’t even take doing both for them to succeed. He, too, complains that we criminalize the patient, the disease, and the treatment when we don’t have to. The writer is also the former chief of addiction medicine at the notorious Rikers Island prison, by the way, which was a big part of the movie “The Night Of.” Another writer, a director of the Program in Addiction Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, had a great thought: “We need to teach addiction with the same attention to genes, physiology, cells receptors, transmitters and scientific evidence as we do cancer to try to capture trainees’ interest.” For more information or to find a Rehab in California, please contact Summit Estate at (866) 569-9391.

 

Some Good News In Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

A New Medication

 On June 6, CBS TV profiled an early stage biotechnology company called Blue Therapeutics that has developed a non-addictive painkiller. Pharmaceutical companies have been talking about developing less addictive painkillers lately, but their definition refers to pills that would be more difficult to crush and so forth. Blue Therapeutics supposedly has the real thing, which means that people looking for pain relief will not become addicted with this medication as has happened so often with other pain relief. This company’s medication clings to different receptors that are non-addictive and so it “eliminates the narcotic high,” according to a company executive who was interviewed. Unfortunately, the medication won’t be available for about five years. It’s in clinical trials now.

 Acupuncture

 People in recovery from heroin and methamphetamine addiction might suffer from anxiety and fear like Sarah Downs, the woman featured in an article appearing in several newspapers in May. She was at the Pickaway Area Recovery Services (PARS) in Ohio, for acupuncture, which she hoped would ease the symptoms she experienced since getting sober for three months prior. Jimmy Laux, a chiropractor associated with the program, eased needles into her ears in a new program for the center. What’s interesting is that a judge is linked to the program as well. He heard about Laux because he sends defendants to a recovery facility, and Laux educated him about acupuncture for easing addicts’ recovery. This judge has pledged almost $13,000 for treatment for people who don’t have the funds to pay for it themselves. Acupuncture isn’t meant to be used in isolation, the article said. NAR-ANON and AA meetings are also important, as well as therapy. But the executive director of PARS said that his research “shows that people in recovery who undergo acupuncture stay clean at a higher rate than those who don’t.”

drug rehab programs

 Brain Stimulation

 It’s surprising that brain stimulation isn’t more well-known than it is when it was publicized as far back as 2015. On a site called Addiction Recovery Guide, run by a psychologist, Magnetic Brain Stimulation and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation are mentioned as promising research. Magnetic Brain Stimulation stimulates nerve cells in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls impulsive behavior. The article says it’s been used since the 1980 to treat depression, and in a study using it for cocaine addiction, patients were able to reduce their cocaine use and had few cravings after eight sessions. This information was published in the European Neuropsychopharmacology Journal (December 3, 2015). Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation has also been used for depression and anxiety, and was also was found to decrease cravings for drugs, although more study on how many sessions and what length is needed. This information was published in the October 2016 issue of the Annals of Neuroscience.

 Exercise

 The fact that exercise is good for people in recovery is nothing new. Treatment centers often have exercise programs, and clients are advised about the benefits of exercise, But if you thought that was only to return a person to health, you should know that exercise can have actual positive effects on recovery. In June  U.S. News cited a study which found “daily aerobic exercise altered dopamine signaling in the brain in ways that make alcohol and other substances of abuse less appealing or rewarding.” The lead author also said that exercise also increases functioning of the brain’s frontal areas, which help inhibit cravings. For information on drug rehab programs please contact our rehab in California at (866) 569-9391

White Collar Professionals and Addiction

Often, the stereotype of someone suffering from alcohol or other substance use disorder is that they’re down and out, barely functioning most of the time, and always looking for the next drink or fix. Yet if you’re at all knowledgeable about addiction, you know that addiction affects people at all socioeconomic levels, including executives in the corner office and other white collar professionals.

 

These employees often work in highly stressful jobs, such as in high-tech companies, where much is expected of them. They also fall prey to the stigma of addiction, so the fear of losing their job is strong.

 

Denial is strong at this level, and the excuses are many.  Perhaps the most common is that they don’t have a problem. Some people say they deserve to drink or take drugs because of all they’re dealing with, or even that they can do their job better with drugs. (I interviewed one woman addicted to oxycodone who said she took a handful of pills every day just to feel normal.) Others say they could never take time from work for treatment.Tyler Fitzgerald, Clinical Director of Summit Estate, says his experience has been that most companies are incredibly supportive of people getting help, especially in Silicon Valley. “What they won’t put up with is the absenteeism, the hangovers, and the outbursts,” adds Jon Heller, Summit Estate’s Admissions Director.

 

You may have done some research and learned that effective treatment facilities group people with similar needs for the best results. A teenage boy does not have the same rehabilitation needs as a high-level executive, for example. Summit Estate caters to white collar professionals with stressful jobs. “We’re the non-luxury luxury treatment center,” says Fitzgerald. “This is not the kind of place where people come and are pampered and get to sleep until noon and have breakfast brought to them. We don’t emphasize the things that aren’t necessary. We focus on real treatment for real people.”

 

Similarly, he explains, the reintegration program is an intensive daily program that can be built around people’s work schedules, if need be. “People continue working with their therapist and their treatment team while being reintegrated into the community and learn how to deal with the everyday stresses of work.” 

 

Even during the program, people who absolutely need to keep in touch with work can be accommodated. “What we do is take away excuses not to come,” says Fitzgerald.

 

On Psych Central, Dr. David Sack explains that addicts may think they’re “getting away with” their addition quite awhile before taking action:  “High-functioning addicts are masters of disguise whose struggles with drugs and alcohol may go unnoticed for years, often with increasingly severe consequences. A … position of power at work … may cushion them from the consequences of their drug use, while a sense of self-importance or belief that they can resolve their own problems may prevent them from seeking treatment.

 

 

Fitzgerald offers the perfect conclusion for this post with an apt observation about treatment: “Our clients could be at their bottom. They could have been called in at work and spoken to about their performance, or perhaps other people have noticed they’ve been intoxicated or are increasingly missing deadlines or work. Everyone’s bottom is the same — you’re up against a wall, and the rug’s about to be pulled out from under you and you’re going to be exposed. Our clients often come to us in a state of panic that they’re going to lose their job; this is the time to save it.” 

Do You Ever Stop Being an Addict?

One of the difficult things to approach is the way people think about people who need a drug addiction treatment center. It is often seen as a weakness and not as a genetic trait. It is believed that those who have the genes associated with addiction have a much higher chance to fall in substance abuse. Whatever the case is, treatment and awareness are important to improve patient’s life quality.

As with many other psychological issues, there is a great deal of misinformation and often common ‘’public’’ concepts perpetuate stereotypes that need to be defeated. Summit Rehab Center has the mission not only to support those going through addictions but also, provide useful information on this matter.

A Metaphor works best sometimes

When you fight cancer and win, the term used is remission instead of ‘’cured’’. The reason for this is that the underlying causes of cancer (often genetic) are still present, it is just that cancer has been defeated this time. The exact same concept applies to addiction and rehab programs. You are never 100% cured of the addiction, you just fight the urges of substance abuse instead.

substance abuse

A point to strengthen this argument

For recovering addicts, the only way to avoid a relapse is to cut the addictive substance off entirely. Many people enjoy alcohol in a social setting and can drink moderate amounts without major problems. However, someone who abused alcohol will be unable to drink just a moderate amount. Their addiction will kick in and a downward spiral of abuse will re-emerge.

Each Journey is Different

For some, regular meetings of support groups and a sponsor might be necessary for life. For others, the process of rehab is easier and eventually, they will slip back into regular life. The important path that each person will have to take to fix their lives is personal. Whether you call it cured or remission or something else, as long as you’re not abusing substances anymore then that’s what matters the most.

Finding a path and a method that works for the recovering addict is vital to ensuring a long-term recovery. At Summit Estate, we provide high-quality rehabilitation programs for many different types of substance abuse. If you or a beloved one is going through such terrible situation, don’t hesitate anymore. Please give us a call at (866) 569-9391 and let us know what your situation is.

Choose Among the Many Options for Rehab

Substance abuse can happen to anyone. Nobody can say “it won’t happen to me”. For numerous reasons, an individual can fall in alcohol, illegal or prescribed drugs addiction. If this is your case or a beloved one’s, you need to know there is a way out of this problem. You can choose among the many options for rehab available. And Summit Estate Recovery Center has a wide variety of therapies for this matter.

Summit Estate Recovery Center provides two different facilities. A 23-acres luxury property for a residential patients, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. And an outpatient facility located in a beautiful historic converted barn in downtown Saratoga, California. In both places, many patients get several different types of treatments for their disease.

Making the right choices

The first and most difficult step is to admit you have a problem. No matter what other people say, it’s no shame to go through this and nobody is a position to judge you. Summit Estate Recovery Center accepts people from all over the world looking to overcome their drug or alcohol addictions. Their expert team can treat several types of drug addictions, like:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids (Hydrocodone)
  • Marijuana (cannabis)
  • Methamphetamine
  • LSD

Choose Among the Many Options for Rehab

In addition, Summit Estate Recovery Center can treat other different problems. For example, prescription drugs and painkillers abuse, which is a much common disease than many people think. This dependence usually starts when individuals are prescribed a certain drug by a doctor. It’s a much more difficult addiction than one may think because of the easy access to the substances. And it caused thousands of deaths over the last decade.

Among the many options for rehab, Summit Estate Recovery Center also provides alcohol addiction treatment and dual diagnosis treatment. Although alcohol is socially accepted and of legal access, its constant use can lead to serious problems. A successful counseling on these issues craft an individualized plan for each client. The main focus is to modify behaviors and show there’re better possibilities in life. Most of the time, addictions go hand to hand with psychological issues. That’s when a dual diagnosis treatment is needed.

A better quality of life is possible

Summit Estate Recovery Center professionals know how much addictions can take from people’s lives. If you’re going through such experience, choose among the many options for rehab the institution has for you. Give yourself and our beloved ones a better life. Call 866-569-9391 and get the help you need and deserve.

 

Summer 2017—The Opioid Epidemic:  Where Are We Now?

The Opioid Epidemic

The good news is that the number of opioid prescriptions being written by doctors is starting to decrease. The number peaked in 2010, but since then, prescriptions for high, dangerous doses have dropped roughly 41 percent. To put that in perspective, the prescribing rate in 2015 was triple the rate in 1999, when the current opioid problem began. The reasons for the decrease range from tighter state and insurer limits on how many pills can be prescribed, to stricter regulations concerning pain clinics, to a new set of prescription guidelines released by the CDC in 2016.

However, there’s still much work to be done – and that’s putting it mildly.

Many people are looking to President Trump and the new administration in Washington to help end the epidemic. When he was elected, President Trump said he’d make the opioid crisis a priority, and addiction experts raised their voices in support of swift and forceful action. On March 29th, 2017,  two months after being sworn into office, he signed an Executive Order establishing the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and appointed New Jersey governor Chris Christie to head the commission. Christie convened the commission’s first meeting in June and recently issued an interim report. He promised to deliver a final report in October.

The commission advised Trump to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. The report does not shy away from the facts, stating “The opioid epidemic we are facing is unparalleled. The average American would likely be shocked to know that drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined.”

The report makes several recommendations, including:

  1. Mandating prescriber education and training for both opioid prescribing and the risks of developing a substance use disorder.
  2. Rapidly increasing treatment capacity.
  3. Eliminating barriers to treatment resulting from exclusions within the Medicare program.
  4. Expanding access to medications that help treat opioid addiction.

(Read a full draft of the interim report here.)

It remains to be seen where all this will lead. Not everyone is hopeful. Michael Fraser, the executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, recently told The New York Times, “It’s really about drawing attention to the issue and pushing for all hands on deck. It would allow a level of attention and coordination that the federal agencies might not otherwise have, but in terms of day-to-day lifesaving, I don’t think it would make much difference.” One governor called the report incomplete because it doesn’t do enough to ensure that people with mental health and substance abuse issues have access to healthcare.

In another development, a report appeared this summer describing a new legal tactic to battle the opioid crisis: in one area on the east coast, prosecutors began charging drug dealers with second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide if they could prove the dealers were responsible for an overdose death. In such cases, prosecutors are required to provide evidence that the accused “knew the risks of the drugs yet provided them anyway.” Observers point out that this requirement could be problematic, since defense lawyers might argue that drug dealers want to cultivate customers, rather than kill them.

Meanwhile, the epidemic rages. The CDC estimates that 142 people die every day from drug overdoses. As with most bureaucracies, organizations like President Trump’s new commission tend to move slowly. Unfortunately, where the opioid epidemic is concerned, there is no time to lose.

How Your Addiction Affects Your Children

child alone with teddy bear

There are countless reasons to seek treatment for a substance abuse or addiction disorder. First on the list is your personal health and well-being. If you aren’t aware of the consequences of addiction, you should know it affects all aspects of your life: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Physically speaking, the consequences of untreated addiction and substance abuse disorders are devastating. Long-term addiction ravages your central nervous system, your musculoskeletal system, your endocrine system, and all your major organs. Left untreated for long enough, a severe substance abuse disorder can lead to disability and death.

If those reasons aren’t enough to convince you to seek treatment for your substance abuse or addiction disorder, next on the list is the effect your addiction has on your loved ones. Your parents, siblings, and spouse or partner all suffer when addiction takes hold of your life. This article won’t address any those people, though. Instead, it will focus on the innocent and often forgotten victims of addiction: your children.

Warning: this article won’t pull any punches. Spoiler alert: exposing your child to addiction dramatically increases your child’s risk factors for many of the leading causes of death in adults. No, we’re not talking about actually giving your child drugs or alcohol – we assume most adults know better than to do something so reckless and harmful. What we’re talking about is this: children of parents struggling with addiction have a far greater chance of experiencing long-term physical, emotional, and social dysfunction than children of non-addicted parents.

Addiction, Parenting, and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Twenty years ago, the Centers for Disease Control launched a study on the effect of adverse childhood experiences on an individual’s long-term health. Known as the ACE Study, this paper launched the beginning of what’s now commonly referred to the mental health profession as trauma informed care. Over the past two decades, extensive research has verified that children exposed to adverse, traumatic experiences have an increased risk of the following life-threatening health conditions when they become adults:

  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol Use Disorders
  • Substance Abuse Disorders

In addition, children exposed to adverse experiences are more likely to:

  • Develop learning disabilities
  • Display behavioral problems
  • Develop cognitive issues
  • Develop mood and/or anxiety disorders
  • Begin sexual activity early
  • Become pregnant during adolescence
  • Initiate domestic or intimate partner violence
  • Adopt risky behaviors

Now that you know what can happen as a result of adverse childhood experiences, it’s time to define what they are. The CDC Study identified all of the following as ACEs:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Physical or emotional neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • Living with an individual struggling with substance abuse or a mental health disorder
  • Living with an individual who was incarcerated
  • Experiencing racism and/or bullying
  • Living in foster homes
  • Living in an unsafe neighborhood
  • Witnessing violence

You may have noticed the fourth item on the list:

Living with an individual struggling with substance abuse or a mental health disorder.

If you’re a parent currently struggling with an untreated alcohol or substance abuse disorder and your children live with you, then it’s critical for you to understand that you might – emphasis on might – be exposing them to an adverse childhood experience. We warned you: we’re not pulling any punches. We’re talking about serious stuff, and the numbers don’t lie. However, none of this means you’re a bad person, a bad parent, or that your child is automatically going to grow up into a depressed, anxious, addicted adult struggling with obesity and heart problems. What it does mean is that your child does – according to the statistics – have a greater chance of developing one or all of those conditions, especially if there’s not another adult in the household to provide the necessary protective buffering needed to mitigate the effects of your addiction and related behaviors.

How ACEs Impact Children

The reason ACEs cause so much damage to children – and the mechanism by which this damage manifests as mental, emotional, and physical dysfunction in adulthood – is simple: stress. A reasonable amount of stress is healthy. Challenging and stressful experiences teach children to handle adversity and develop the positive coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills they need to become successful adults. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University defines three categories of stress in growing children:

  • Positive Stress is an essential part of typical, healthy development. Examples might be the first day of school or a difficult athletic event. Physical symptoms include increased heart rate and a slight elevation of stress hormone levels.
  • Tolerable Stress triggers a greater physical response. Heart rate and hormone levels increase dramatically. This level of stress might be caused by the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a serious injury. The negative physical and emotional effects of tolerable stress can be alleviated if the stressor does not last too long and the child has positive relationships with adults who can help the child adapt to and process the stressful situation.
  • Toxic Stress occurs when a child experiences extended periods of adversity, such as abuse, neglect, exposure to substance abuse, mental illness, or exposure to violence without positive adult support. When a child’s stress response system is activated for long periods of time, negative consequences include compromised brain and organ development, cognitive deficiencies, and increase risk for chronic disease.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), toxic stress is the primary reason adverse childhood experience have severe consequences. In a paper published in 2012, the AAP states that childhood stress crosses the threshold tolerable to toxic when children experience:

“…strong, frequent, or prolonged activation of the body’s stress response system in the absence of the buffering protection of a supportive adult.”

You just read the most important words in this article: “in the absence of the buffering protection of a supportive adult.” It’s possible for children to bounce back from exposure to your substance abuse or addiction disorder. It’s possible for them to live, grow, and thrive in the face of extreme adversity. It’s possible for them to succeed in life despite your addiction disorder. They can develop the coping skills and resiliency necessary to survive as long as the adverse experience – in this case, exposure to addiction – is balanced with positive, secure, protective experiences. But there’s a catch: they need a clear-headed, responsible, supportive adult to chaperone them through the tough times.

Be The Adult Your Child Needs

If you’re struggling with an untreated substance abuse or addiction disorder, it’s likely you’re not able to be that adult right now. We can’t give you parenting advice without meeting you, and we don’t know the details of your situation, but if you’re a parent struggling with an untreated substance abuse or addiction disorder and your children live with you, then for their sake, find a way to place them in a healthy, safe, and sustaining environment while you get help. When and if you embark on your journey to recovery, the life you save may not only be your own – it may also be the life of your child.

Summit Estate’s Dr. Kenneth Blum Publishes Important New Addiction Study In Medical Journal

Summit Estate’s very own clinical consultant Dr. Kenneth Blum, M.Sc, DHL, was the lead author of an article recently published in Current Pharmaceutical Design medical journal. Dr. Blum and his collaborators believe they may be onto the “hatching of the addiction egg” with their research.

Current Pharmaceutical Design publishes in-depth reviews that involve modern research on rational drug design. Each issue of Current Pharmaceutical Design is focused on a single therapeutic area, covering subjects important to modern drug design such as:

  • Medicinal Chemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Disease Mechanism
  • Drug Targets

Solving America’s Addiction Epidemic

The new Dr. Blum-led article is titled, “Neuronutrient Amino-Acid Therapy Protects Against Reward Deficiency Syndrome: Dopaminergic Key to Homeostasis and Neuroplasticity.” Ultimately, the article aims to further the understanding of common mechanisms of all types of addiction in order to foster better diagnoses, treatment and prevention of relapse.

The authors raise a number of questions before delving further into the research, such as:

  • Why are medical professionals failing at reducing the incidence of “bad behaviors”?
  • Are we aiming at the wrong targets for the treatment of behavioral disorders?

Quick Background On ‘Reward Deficiency Syndrome’

In 1996, Dr. Blum and his research team coined the term “Reward Deficiency Syndrome” (RDS) to explain the neurochemical and genetic mechanisms involved in addictive behaviors, including substance and process addictions. A few years prior, Dr. Blum was involved in identifying the connection between the dopamine D2 receptor and severe alcoholism.

In his new article, Dr. Blum points to a past study which observed that habitual cocaine use was connected with a reduction in dopamine D2 and D3 receptors. He and his team also maintain that medication-assisted treatment with an emphasis on anti-dopamine (or dopamine antagonist) medications, such as those involving clozapine, fails in the long run when it comes to RDS behaviors.

Homeostasis Over Antagonist Therapy

When it comes to treating addiction, Dr. Blum and his fellow researchers propose using dopamine antagonist therapy in the short term, and dopamine agonist therapy in long term recovery. Put simply, it’s better to try to keep the recovering addict’s dopamine levels fairly stable over the long term than to stunt the neurotransmitter altogether.

“The neuro-mechanisms involving ‘dopamine homeostasis’ are key to understanding recovery from drug and non-drug addictive behaviors,” Dr. Blum writes.

Amino Acid Therapy Could Be Key

In the article, Dr. Blum and his team identify a particular allele for which neuronutrient-amino acid therapy would be beneficial if the host is suffering from addiction. Amino acids help balance brain chemicals and other parts of human physiology. The article also points out a number of gene polymorphisms that lead to a heightened risk of all RDS behaviors.

The Importance Of Dr. Blum’s New Addiction Study

Dr. Kenneth Blum, M.Sc, PhD, DHLDr. Blum and his fellow researchers conclude that paying attention to addicts’ dopamine levels is essential to better understanding the science of addiction. They encourage medical professionals to look for a certain allele in their patients that indicates a high risk for addiction, as amino acid therapy appears to be an effective treatment for people who carry this particular gene variant.

The authors finish with a call for more genetic and neuroimaging studies as they pertain to drug addiction. If that were to happen, Dr. Blum and his colleagues believe that neuroscientists will actually hatch “the addiction egg.”

To learn more about Dr. Kenneth Blum, see our Staff Page.

Trends in Opioid Use, Strength, and Addiction

Opioid addiction continues to rise in the United States. Americans struggle with the consequences every day. Opiates come in many different forms and strengths. Increasing tolerance and downplaying the number of pills taken often marks addiction.

Identifying the Problem

An estimated 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. In 2001, The Joint Commission labeled pain as thefifth vital sign” in pain management. It required physicians to obtain a subjective measurement of a patient’s pain on a scale of 1-10. Feeling pressure to adhere to new quality standards, physicians overprescribed opioids for pain management. The result is an epidemic in opioid abuse. Opioid overdose-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Opioid addiction affects the health and well-being of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, and classes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates 2.1 million Americans abuse opioids. The Obama administration recently allocated $1.1 billion for drug abuse initiatives and treatment options.

Types of Pain Management

Opioids take different forms and strengths. Each type has a unique half-life (the amount of time it takes for half of a drug to metabolize). Below are some commonly prescribed opioids. Morphine – is known as the “gold standard” of opioids—the yardstick by which all other opioid analgesics are measured. Morphine has a half-life of 1.5-7 hours. Morphine is prescribed only in a clinical setting. It’s typically administered intravenously though it may be taken orally. Like other opioids, morphine may cause nausea, dizziness, constipation, respiratory distress, and certain cardiac problems. Unlike other opioids, morphine may also cause a histamine reaction. Tramadol –  is a synthetic opioid. It’s a relatively weak opioid with a half-life of 5-7 hours. Tramadol’s efficacy is about 10-20% of morphine. Tramadol is a centrally-acting pain reliever. It treats post-surgical, obstetric, and chronic pain of neurogenic or mechanical origin. Tramadol is the opioid of choice for those with poor cardiopulmonary function (such as the elderly, the obese, and smokers) or patients with impaired renal and/or hepatic function. Tramadol can be an effective treatment option for those who can’t take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or for whom these drugs ineffectively manage pain. Codeine – is another fairly weak opioid with a half-life of 9-11 hours. It’s often prescribed to combat chronic back pain. When combined to paracetamol (e.g., acetaminophen and Tylenol), it provides effective management for moderate-to-severe chronic pain and acute pain after dentistry. Codeine is more easily tolerated than tramadol and has fewer common side effects. However, tramadol is more potent than codeine and has fewer cardiopulmonary effects. Pethidine – also known as Demerol, is a synthetic opioid that works on mu and kappa receptors to relieve pain. Pain relief occurs quickly, making pethidine the logical option for relief of labor pains—particularly during the second stage. However, pethidine has a relatively short half-life of 2-3 hours. Pethidine is associated with a high risk of suicide. It has a high side-effect profile compared to other opioids. Hydrocodone – is a schedule II opioid with a half-life of 2-4 hours. Hydrocodone is reportedly equal to the gold standard morphine. In fact, some doctors have suggested that hydrocodone may be even more potent in analgesic quality than morphine. Hydrocodone is also more powerful than codeine or tramadol. It’s more efficacious in providing pain relief for acute musculoskeletal pain. Even though it has a fairly low bioavailability, hydrocodone isn’t available in pure formulations. It’s typically combined with acetaminophen for pain relief (e.g., Vicodin). Oxycodone – more commonly known as Oxycontin, oxycodone is a strong synthetic opioid with a half-life of 3-4.5 hours. It’s approximately twice as strong as morphine. Because of its high potency, oxycodone is only used to treat acute pain. Chronic pain sufferers are more likely to be prescribed tramadol or codeine.

Mechanisms of Action: How Do Opioids Work?

Opioids are known as mu antagonists because they work on the mu receptors of the brain. While opioids may have other differences—for example, some are also kappa antagonists—all opioids have mu antagonist qualities in common. Mu receptors are one of the brain’s endorphin receptors. Opioids work by triggering the rush of endorphins, which are the body’s natural opioids, to dull the sensation of pain. Endorphins also generate a sense of well-being.

How Does an Opioid’s Potency Relate to Its Addictive Qualities?

How Does an Opioid’s Potency Relate to Its Addictive QualitiesAny opioid can be abused, but some have a higher likelihood than others. The distinction lies in both tolerance and potency. Opioids work by triggering natural opioid receptors, but over time, synthetic opioids can actually inhibit the body’s endogenous endorphins. When the body can’t produce enough endogenous opioids on its own, patients experience the following feelings of withdrawal:

  • Discomfort
  • Shaking
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms, coupled with the return of moderate to severe pain, results in addiction-seeking behavior. Patients build a tolerance to the drug and seek more to experience the same effect.

Other Forms of Abuse

Abuse may begin when patients seek alternate delivery routes to achieve the “high” associated with a rush of endorphins. Patients may take their oral medications and crush them into a fine powder and snort them. For example, oxycodone is known for both its high potency and long half-life. Yet when an oxycodone pill is crushed and snorted, it not only produces a strong high, but it also increases the risk of negative side effects—such as respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, coma, or death. Extended release formulations are particularly dangerous. Abusers have access to all of the medicine at one time if they crush, snort, or smoke them. This increases the strength of the opioid and thus the high. Addicts may also find other ways to increase the relative strength of an opioid. A patient may take a relative’s Vicodin when a codeine prescription runs out. Since Vicodin has a stronger potency and a longer half-life relative to codeine, the patient’s body will inhibit his or her own endogenous opioid systems more quickly.

Spotting Addictive Behaviors in Opioid Abusers

Those who abuse opioids may display behaviors similar to alcoholics or other addicts. Much like an alcoholic may downplay how much he or she drinks in a day, an opioid abuser may downplay his or her habit. While admitting to taking a much weaker Tylenol with codeine recreationally, he or she may actually be taking hydromorphone or oxycodone, which are extremely potent and dangerous opioids. Addicts can become incredibly good at lying (even to themselves) about the extent of their problems. It’s important to realize that many opioid prescription problems have roots in real moderate to severe pain. When prescriptions run out, addicts may turn to other drugs of abuse, like heroin, to dull the pain and trigger a euphoric feeling. Indeed, heroin use is on the rise: according to NIDA, the number of heroin users doubled from 380,000 in 2005 to 670,000 in 2012. Prescription drug addicts are at risk for more than just an overdose, especially if they turn to heroin. Intravenous drug abuse can lead to other complications, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne disease transmission from dirty needles.

The Dangers of Opioids and The Solution

The addictive qualities of an opioid depend on its potency and half-life. The stronger the drug, the quicker the path to addiction. As tolerance develops, abusers may turn to alternate avenues to experience the “high”, from crushing and snorting pills to switching to a stronger opioid to using heroin. Addicts are creative with the way they administer prescription pills, leading to an increased risk of overdose because opioids continue to build in their systems. High amounts of opioids can lead to organ damage, tissue death, respiratory depression, and cardiac arrest. As the full extent of the opioid epidemic comes to light, opioid abuse is becoming less stigmatized. Loved ones should be on the lookout for potentially abusive behaviors, such as downplaying the number of pills taken. Early intervention produces the best chance of opioid abuse recovery. Our staff here at Summit Estate specializes in Opioid addiction, let us help you or your loved one recover from this dangerous addiction. Click the button below to see more about our services offered on opioid addiction.

Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment Center