Tag Archives: Drug Addiction Treatment Center

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.”

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 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

How Opioids Surprisingly Overtook Prince – Featuring Expert Insight

How Opioids Overtook Prince_SummitEstate.comPrince was a fascinating character. He was a legend in the music industry. He won numerous awards, including a Golden Globe, seven Grammys and an Academy Award for Best Original Score in Purple Rain. He was alwo inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. But that’s not all. Prince was also known for leading a healthy lifestyle. He was a proud vegan and voted “World’s Sexiest Vegetarian” in a PETA poll in 2006. Unfortunately, Prince’s remarkable life was cut short on April 20 at the age of 57. With such an abrupt and untimely death, many people speculated that drugs were the cause of death. Prince’s lawyer assured the public that this wouldn’t have been the case. Prince led a healthy lifestyle. He was not some drugged-out singer. Friends and family validated what Prince’s lawyer said. Chazz Smith, Prince’s cousin, told the Associated Press that, “I can tell you this: what I know is that he was perfectly healthy.” Journalist Heather McElhatton, who worked with Prince in the 1990s, said that the singer had “limitless energy” and that she never saw him drink or do drugs. So what happened?

Lethal Overdose Of Fentanyl

Autopsy reports verify that Prince died from a lethal overdose of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a drug that is used to treat severe pain. It’s remarkably potent and works similarly to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more powerful. Fentanyl can be a very addictive drug, but according to friends and family, Prince didn’t seem to be the face of an addict. Did Prince habitually use opioids, or was this something more recent? He was complaining of knee and hip pain from his past performances. Could this be the reason he was taking this drug? Who prescribed him the medication? If Prince did have a prescription, was it legitimate? In Minnesota, if an individual who illegally prescribed fentanyl and it causes death, they can receive a third-degree murder charge and 25 years in prison.

Not Your “Typical” Addict

With so many questions left unanswered, all we have are a lot of opinions surrounding Prince’s death. And with these come the stereotypes. Prince didn’t look or act like an addict. Those who knew Prince say he was an unlikely candidate for addiction. Here are some of the reasons why.

  • He had plenty of friends and family around him who weren’t using drugs.
  • He wasn’t in constant trouble with the law.
  • He was extremely particular with his looks. Prince was always well-groomed and clean cut.
  • He was a proud vegan, having given up meat in his 20s.
  • He had incredible drive. Many people who worked with Prince said they couldn’t keep up with his determination and motivation.

Erasing The Stereotypes

Prince didn’t fit the stereotype of an opioid addict. It’s possible that he wasn’t addicted and his death was just the result of an unfortunate, accidental overdose. It’s possible that whoever prescribed him the drugs was well-intentioned and wanted to help Prince with his knee and hip pain. But could it be possible that within the last few months or years, Prince did develop a dependency to opioids? He may not have started out with that intention, but as we know, opioids can take over extremely quickly. We need to lose the stereotypes and start recognizing this epidemic as a serious problem that affects all of us: our friends, our family, our neighbors, our coworkers and our idols. No one is exempt.

Expert Insight From The Summit Estate Team

Here at Summit Estate, we cannot ignore the opioid addiction problem. We work with individuals in recovery each day at our treatment facility. Our treatment team feels deep remorse for Prince and his friends and family after hearing the news about his accidental overdose. Tim Sinnott, MFT, LAADCr, Summit Estate’s very own Clinical Program Director has taken the time to provide additional insight on this issue:

Tim Sinnott, MFT, LAADCr-Clinical Program Director

Tim Sinnott, MFT, LAADCr-Clinical Program Director

For the past 30 years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to have worked in the addiction rehabilitation profession.  Over the decades I have worked with alcoholics and addicts from all social classes. The recent demise of Prince has brought more attention to the current epidemic of opiate overuse in America. Many people are surprised when celebrities become addicted.  Addiction (substance use disorders) is an “equal opportunity disease” that affects all classes of human beings.  The overwhelming power of today’s pharmaceutical opiates causes people who overuse them to become quickly addicted.

“Many athletes and celebrities are becoming addicted at alarming rates via prescriptions for medical issues.  If one is not careful they can become addicted very quickly.”

Prince was known to be someone who was healthy and lived a healthy lifestyle.  He was active, ate well, maintained a positive attitude, etc.  He also had chronic pain issues and medical procedures.  In a way, he was a prime candidate for opiate use disorder.  The fact that his use led to dependency and overdose is not that surprising.  In fact, it is happening more every day.

“The amount of opiate drugs prescribed today is alarming.”

Once people are using them for a period of time it is difficult to stop.  If the prescription is stopped, people often turn to street drugs which are easily available and less expensive.  Being a celebrity probably made it easier for Prince to continue to get prescriptions for quality pain medications. Medical professionals are real people too and they are in their profession to help people.  They can also be influenced by celebrity and their own codependency issues. It is unfortunate that people around Prince were a day late in trying to access help for the fallen star.  Treatment works and the success rates of treatment for substance use disorders are similar to treatments for asthma, diabetes and heart disease.  The trick is compliance to the treatment and continuing care plans.  Many celebrities and non-celebrities alike are in recovery.

“It is estimated that today there are 23 million people in recovery in the U.S.”

Celebrities tend to go to treatment centers that offer quality care and have greater amenities. They are usually attracted to holistic programs offering a body, mind and spirit approach to recovery. A key issue also, is that their anonymity and presence in treatment can be protected. Celebrities are usually more steadfast in wanting to protect their anonymity. I believe the most important factor in getting celebrities into treatment is similar to getting anyone into treatment.  It usually involves the family and support network.  Celebrities often wield great power and influence.  It takes a strong family member or manager to insist they get help for their addiction. If the celebrity goes into treatment, a good family program attended by the family and support network is of utmost importance.

“As far as the current opiate epidemic in the U.S. goes, it appears it is still continuing to rise.”

The phenomenon of chronic pain and its management needs ongoing assessment and scrutiny.  The overproduction and access to pain medication needs to be addressed at the national level.  Until our legislators and medical professionals put more stringent controls into place and more resources into non-prescription pain management mechanisms, we will continue to see this epidemic rise.

Opioid Overdose In Hollywood

Prince is not the only celebrity who has lost his life to opioids. Let’s take a look at some other famous individuals whose lives were cut short as part of this recent opioid epidemic. In 2014, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died at the age of 46 from a deadly interaction of heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine. In 2013, actor Cory Monteith died at just 31 from a toxic mix of heroin and alcohol. Whitney Houston shocked her fans when she passed away at age 48 after drowning in the bathtub. It was believed that she drowned because of complications from cocaine, a heart problem and possibly other drugs. Michael Jackson passed away in 2009 at the age of 50 from a lethal mix of prescription drugs. These are just a few of the most well-known celebrities who have died from an overdose in recent years. We encourage you to check out this website to get a better idea of the many individuals – musicians, actors, athletes – who have lost their lives to drugs and alcohol.

More Than Hollywood’s Problem

Of course, the prescription drug problem does not affect just famous people. It’s not solely a Hollywood problem. It’s not a poor man’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem. According to SAMHSA, nearly 2 million people had an addiction to painkillers in 2014. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with over 47,000 lethal overdoses in 2014, according to the CDC. Opioid addiction is at the root of this problem, with over 38,000 deaths coming from prescription painkillers and heroin alone. Back in the 1960s and 70s, heroin was a problem for low-income males living in the inner cities of America. It was much easier for mainstream America to sweep the problem under the rug because it was more contained. Today, heroin is a drug that has quietly moved into the affluent suburbs. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the opioid problem in our nation. It affects everyone in some way.

What Could Be The Next Big Drug?

Fentanyl is going to get a lot of attention in light of Prince’s death. As a result, doctors are going to be exceptionally careful about prescribing this drug. It’s also likely that the laws surrounding the illegal prescribing of the drug will be handled more severely. We may see the use of the drug decrease, but another drug will almost certainly gain momentum in the meantime. What could that drug be? Even with the various forms of designer drugs on the market as well as the legalization of marijuana in some states, many people believe that the next big drugs will still come from the opioid family. One drug on everyone’s radar is Kratom. Kratom is a controversial painkiller that’s described as being sedating and effective at taking away pain. Though it’s highly addictive, just as other opioid drugs are, it has a lower overdose rate. Kratom comes from a legal plant that has been used in Asia for hundreds of years. But as the prescription and heroin problems worsen, some users are finding Kratom to be a useful alternative. The drug hasn’t been a threat to the U.S. – until now. The DEA has put it on its list of “drugs of concern.” This is indication that Kratom will eventually be banned at the federal level, but in the meantime, some states are scrambling to ban the drug as well.

Addiction Follows No Rules

It’s clear that the prescription drug problem isn’t going away anytime soon. So many stories start with the average American family’s medicine cabinet or a legal prescription following an injury or surgical procedure. No one plans to be addicted. No one foresees handing over their lives to a drug like fentanyl. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that we need to recognize, accept and do something about. Education is crucial. Prince has left a legacy in so many ways. He was PETA’s biggest rock star. He had a passion like no other. He broke the stereotypes, and he was proud to do it. Prince was not one to conform, and his death reminds us of this. He didn’t fit the stereotypical norms of an addict. He was everything but that: healthy, happy, successful and surrounded by people who loved him. Prince died at the hands of a problem that has reached epidemic proportions yet still doesn’t get the attention or compassion it deserves. As we learn more about the circumstances surrounding Prince’s death, let’s remember that he didn’t look or act like an addict. Let’s open our eyes to this very real problem and be part of the solution.  

We need to share the awareness of opioid addiction and accidental overdose with anyone and everyone. Please share this insightful article with your colleagues, family and friends…You never truly know who may be secretly struggling. Share now!