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The Deadliest Opioid in America Continues to Claim Lives

The Deadliest Opioid in America

If you think heroin is the deadliest opioid in America, think again. While that might have been the case in the past, things have taken a major shift over the past few years.

Heroin led to nearly 16,000 deaths last year, but another popular opioid surpassed that tragic number.

If you have not guessed already, we are talking about fentanyl.

Fentanyl is an opioid that is over a 100 times stronger than street heroin.  To put that into perspective, transdermal fentanyl is 100-150xs more potent than oral morphine and is often prescribed to treat advanced cancer patients.

Drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl doubled during 2016, accounting for 25% more deaths than heroin, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this week.

In 2016, the data revealed that 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. Out of this number, 20,100 deaths were attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. If we compared those numbers to heroin deaths, that’s an almost 5000 person difference!

The recent data also reveals how unevenly drug deaths are spread throughout the country:

  • In states like Delaware, overdose rates rose 71% between 2016 and 2017 (with 309 deaths during the year).
  • Maryland had an increase of 67% for a total of 2,171 overdose deaths.
  • Of the states that reported data, only Nebraska, Washington and Wyoming saw a decrease in overdose deaths over the past year.

Fentanyl has been getting a great deal of attention as the drug is responsible for the massive increase in overdose fatalities.  For example, last year in Massachusetts, 69% of people who died of an opioid overdose (and had a toxicology screen) had fentanyl in their systems, according to the Boston Business Journal.

Furthermore, in Ohio, fentanyl killed nearly 2,400 people in 2016, which is double the number in comparison to the year prior, according to Cincinatti.com

“It truly is everywhere,” Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), said to USA Today.

Education is Key

Over the summer, the DEA worked to educate first responders about the dangers of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids like carfentanil and acryl fentanyl. These synthetic opioids are strong enough to make even the most casual user overdose and pose a severe threat.

Despite the dangers of addicts receiving a potentially fatal drug, law enforcement officials say the demand for fentanyl continues to rise. This is because fentanyl boost profits for dealers to sell the drug as heroin.

 “You can make it as strong as you want, and in bulk and fast,” said Tim Reagan, a DEA agent in Cincinnati.

Still, law enforcement expects fentanyl seizure to become more of the norm at the end of this year.

“I expect that in fiscal year 2017, the numbers of seizures in the mail and express consignment environment (such as FedEx and UPS) will be much higher than they were last year,” said Robert Perez, an acting commissioner with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.

Where is it coming from?

Fentanyl is coming from a variety of locations, but one main target is China. China has been singled out as the main source of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Through the dark web, drug dealers are able to purchase fentanyl from websites hosted in China. They then have shipments sent to the US.

According to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seizures of fentanyl arriving by mail have increased significantly:
  • In 2011, 0.09 kilograms of fentanyl were seized by mail
  • In 2016 it rose to 37 kilograms

Unfortunately, officials in the United States are expecting the worse when it comes to the opioid crisis. Experts are looking at current trends, and most believe the opioid crisis will get worse before it gets better.

Did you know the major impact fentanyl was having on the opioid crisis? Sadly, when it comes to using drugs, your next high could be your last. Therefore, make a choice to recover from addiction today. Tomorrow may be too late. Do not wait. We are waiting for your call. Call now.

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Drug Possession Penalties May Be Reduced In New Oregon Bill

Drug Possession Penalties May Be Reduced In New Oregon Bill

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

A new Oregon bill is headed straight to the governor’s desk.

If passed, the bill would reclassify certain illicit drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. The goal is to reduce the state’s prison population.The bill would also increase access to treatment for those without prior felonies or convictions for drug possessions, the Washington Post reports.

The bill would reduce penalties for possession of heroin, cocaine, meth and other illicit substances. The bill was already approved by the state legislature and now awaits the signature of the governor.

“We are trying to move policy towards treatment rather than prison beds,” said state Senator Jackie Winters, co-chair of the Public Safety Committee. “We can’t continue on the path of building more prisons when often the underlying root cause of the crime is substance use.”

Also included in the bill is a new initiative that will track the effects of law enforcement policies and procedures by collecting data on the demographic of Oregonians stopped by police. This initiative aims to identify any potential racist practices and address the disproportionate number of black Oregonians behind bars.

According to a 2016 report, by the Sentencing Project, blacks make up less than 2% of the state’s population; yet represent more than 9% of the state prison population as of 2014. Furthermore, the report found that the incarceration rates for black individuals are 5.6 times that of whites.

“Too often, individuals with addiction issues find their way to the doorstep of the criminal justice system when they are arrested for possession of a controlled substance,” says Kevin Campbell, executive director of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police. “Unfortunately, felony convictions in these cases also include unintended and collateral consequences including barriers to housing and employment and a disparate impact on minority communities.”

Still, some lawmakers are wary of the bill and disagree with its “soft on crime” approach.  State Senator Betsy Johnson, a Democrat who voted against the bill, said the shift toward decriminalization promotes a “hug-a-thug policy.”

The bill is headed towards the desk of Governor Kate Brown who will ultimately have the final say. In the past, Governor Brown has expressed support for the bill.

“While we still have much work ahead, HB 2355 represents an important step towards creating a more equitable justice system to better serve all Oregonians,” said Brown. “Addressing disparities that too often fall along racial and socioeconomic lines should not be political issues.”

While states like Oregon are attempting to address these disparities, on the federal level, things are headed in a different direction. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions attended a D.A.R.E. training conference in Texas. While at the conference, Jeff Sessions praised the D.A.R.E. program of the 80s and 90s and hinted at bringing back that initiative today.

D.A.R.E is famously known as the “Just Say No” anti-drug initiative led by Nancy Reagan that took over school campuses in the 80s and 90s. The problem with the campaign is that there were never any proven results stating the program was effective in lowering drug use.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance:

“To date, there have been more than 30 evaluations of the program that have documented the negligible long-term impacts on teen drug use.”

Although the program has undergone some changes, the effectiveness of the initiative remains uncertain. Overall, it is interesting the different strategies certain parts of the country are taking in regards to addressing addiction. While some are focused on decriminalization, other areas have a tougher approach.

What are your thoughts on these new policies? Getting help can save a life, and treatment can offer a far better future than prison. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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The Dangers Of Mixing Prescription Opioids And Benzos

The Risks of Benzodiazepines and Opioids Together

Benzos are so overused that they top all prescriptions in psychiatric medicine and are among the most prescribed medication of any type in the United States. Nearly 50 million benzos prescriptions are written every year.

Prescriptions for benzos have skyrocketed over the past two decades. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines more than tripled and fatal overdoses more than quadrupled.

What’s the Big Deal?

Benzos are known for helping with anxiety disorders and insomnia, so what’s the big deal if they are heavily prescribed?

Well, there are a couple of reasons why this is a major problem.

First, there is evidence indicating these drugs do not work well over the long-term. Studies reveal that long-term use of benzos can increase anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, it is possible to treat anxiety and sleep disorders without medication, or at least with other medications besides benzos.

The second problem is the addiction and dependence risk. People who receive high doses of benzos can become physically dependent fairly quickly. Without medical supervision, the withdrawals from benzos are severe, ranging from intensified anxiety to high blood pressure, seizures, and convulsions.

The longer someone uses benzos, the greater the likelihood of addiction. People who misuse benzos tend to take higher-than-prescribed doses or mix the pills with alcohol or other drugs. Benzos are often chewed or crushed which interferes with the timed-release formula and speeds up the effects. This way of using benzos is extremely dangerous.

A Deadly Combination?

The true dangers of benzos really amplify when they are taken with other substances like opioids and alcohol.  The risk of combining benzos and opioids is well-known, yet many doctors prescribe benzos and opioids together to patients.

From 2001 to 2013, benzos and opioid prescriptions increased by 80%, according to an analysis by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. It is not considered safe to use both together yet this is fairly standard practice.

Opioids vs. Benzos?

Highlighting the dangers of benzos is not intended to diminish the significant dangers of prescription painkillers. Make no mistake, we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and opioid addiction has become a national crisis. However, in 30 percent of opioid-related deaths, a combination of benzos and opioids caused the overdose. That’s why it is so important to talk about benzos when we are discussing the opioid epidemic.

Why is this combination so deadly?

Opioids and benzos both slow down the body systems, particularly the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.  Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why this combination is so risky. You are essentially combining two substances that slow down the functioning of your body. If you add a cocktail on top of that, it only compounds the problem. In worse case scenarios, this combination of substances causes breathing to stop.

In addition, alcoholics regularly abuse the benzo alprazolam, known by its brand name Xanax. Alcohol is a depressant so combining alcohol with the sedative effects of benzos increases the likelihood of overdose and respiratory failure.

Should Doctors Take the Blame?

The use of benzos often begins in the form of a prescription. Dual prescriptions of benzos and opioids are far from uncommon. Doctors are more likely to prescribe to patients who complain of pain, anxiety, and insomnia during a limited 15-minute consultation time.

In this rushed state, a physician may desire to help a patient but not have the time to explore the underlying causes. Therefore, medication becomes the easiest treatment.  It unclear whether doctors are adequately warning their patients of the potential dangers of combining these drugs to help prevent addiction. As for now, it is difficult to place the blame on one person or thing, but one thing is for certain: people need to know the risks.

Overall, more and more people are struggling with addiction, and overdose death numbers have reached epidemic levels. If you are currently struggling with addiction, please do not wait. Recovery is possible. Call toll-free today.

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Higher Risk for Hep-C among People with Opioid Addiction

Higher Risk for Hep-C among People with Opioid AddictionThe opioid epidemic continues to reach epidemic numbers, and with the increasing overdoses comes increasing cases of hepatitis C. New cases of hepatitis C have nearly doubled over the past few years. Furthermore, those with opioid addiction are more likely to suffer from a variety of health disorders, complicating treatment for substance use disorder.

Hepatitis C is among the most concerning disorder to affect people with opioid addiction. People who abuse opioids are 9.1 times more likely to have hepatitis-C (HCV), in comparison to those who did not abuse opioids, according to an analysis by the health care company Amino. Amino drew data from the claims of 3.1 million privately insured patients between 2014 and 2016.

As the opioid epidemic spreads throughout the country, new cases of HCV have skyrocketed.  In 2014, there were an estimated 30,500 new cases in the United States. This is nearly double the number of new cases in 2011, according to STAT News.

The CDC reports that new HCV infection is rising specifically among intravenous drug users under 40 years old, particularly in more rural areas. People with opioid use disorder are more likely to drink to excess, and more likely to have suicidal ideation.

While these numbers are shocking, many are not surprised:

“It’s known that people with co-occurring behavioral and mental health issues are at high risk for addiction even when prescribed opioids for a bonafide prescription medical use,” Dr. Anna Lembke, a Stanford University psychiatrist, and opioid addiction expert, told Amino.

However, Lembke was particularly moved by the fact that people with opioid addiction are seven times more likely to suffer from “failed back syndrome,” a chronic condition that is diagnosed following back surgeries.

“What I thought was really interesting was the correlation with failed back syndrome,” she said. “Perhaps failed back syndrome is a risk factor for developing an opioid use disorder—and that could be part of the reason why this community experiences such chronicity and lack of improvement. This is a subgroup that’s especially vulnerable to opioid misuse.”

The data collected by Amino looked at health claims among people with a variety of insurance codes, representing conditions from opioid dependence to opioid abuse in remission. Amino is a private insurer, and the data revealed a sharp increase in opioid abuse specifically among those with private insurance.  According to the data, there was a six-fold increase in opioid-related insurance claimed between 2012 and 2016 among private insurers.

However, Lembke notes that this sharp increase may be underrepresented:

“Patients don’t want to carry them on their charts, and doctors don’t want to stigmatize their patients,” said Lembke. “But they will go ahead and chart it if there’s utility in it. And the utility is you can’t get buprenorphine, methadone maintenance, or naltrexone paid for by a third-party payer unless it’s diagnosed.”

Last month was Hepatitis Awareness Month.  The treatments for hepatitis C have really come a long way, and it no longer as life endangering as It once was. The key is to seek treatment early. Unfortunately, due to the stigma of addiction, many are afraid to get tested.

Studies like these show that the numbers are not improving. Those with opioid addiction seriously need testing to prevent the disease from progressing any further. Please do not feel shame about testing for this disorder. Furthermore, if you are struggling with substance use disorder, please reach out to us. We have the tools to guide you to a sober life. Do not wait. Call today.

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Why Did I Gain So Much Weight After Going to Rehab?

Why Did I Gain So Much Weight After Going to Rehab?

If you have gained a significant amount of weight after rehab, rest assured you are not alone. Like the freshman 15, gaining weight is practically expected.   In fact, 65 percent of people gain weight after leaving rehab. Even more struggle with eating disorders, compulsive overeating, or what is now known as “food addictions.” What is the correlation and how can we get to the bottom of this?

First, we must look at the brain. Drug addiction and overeating have similar effects in the brain.  When you were using drugs, it released happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which made you feel good. After becoming sober, you may find that you use food to acquire those same happy chemicals.

You might try to “replace” the high you felt from drugs with unhealthy foods. Foods high in fat, sugar, and calories tend to initiate a quick dopamine response in the brain. Unfortunately, like drugs, this happy feeling does not last long. Eventually, you crash and then try to eat again to achieve that same feeling. Substituting food for drugs or alcohol may lead to compulsive overeating and yes, weight gain.

Weight gain can be a source of personal suffering for some, and may even lead to a relapse. It can also contribute to health consequences like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It is important to address the reasons why you have gained weight in recovery.  Nutrition is crucial in the early stages of recovery, so it is important to recognize when you are not taking care of yourself properly.

Five common reasons people struggle with weight gain during recovery:

  1. Stress

    Stress is a risk factor for overeating. In the early stages of recovery, you may find yourself under a lot of stress, and now you do not have your drug of choice to mask those feelings. Research has shown time after time how stress can lead to overeating. For many, stress can lead to compulsive overeating and obesity.

  2. Lack of Dopamine

    One major reason for overeating is a lack of dopamine receptor in the brain. When the brain is low in dopamine, it affects impulse control and emotional regulation. Most people with any addiction have a lack of dopamine in the brain. The brain does not instantly recover once you stop using. In the absence of drugs for this reward mechanism, food becomes the next best thing. Weight gain inevitably follows.

  1. History of Eating Disorders

    Another reason for weight gain is a history of eating disorders before entering rehab. Dual diagnosis in rehab is extremely common. Many enter rehab with other psychological conditions including eating disorders. Almost 40 percent of women in recovery meet the criteria for an eating diagnosis. Men in treatment also experience binge eating and weight gain, especially in the beginning as they seek to satisfy cravings for drugs and alcohol. Few treatment centers screen their clients for eating disorders, so this is often not addressed once the recovering addict exits treatment.

  2. Untreated Depression or Anxiety

    As stated above, dual diagnosis is very common in treatment. Many addicts enter treatment with a history of anxiety and depression. Treatment for mood disorders can help reduce the risk of overeating related to these co-occurring disorders. Often, anxiety and depression can lead a person to overeat in an attempt to relieve themselves of these emotional hardships. Overtime, overeating occurs which leads to weight gain.

  3. Nutritional Deficiencies

    In some ways, weight gain after recovery is not a bad thing. Many recovering addicts are nutritionally deficient after detoxing from drugs. Chances are, there eating behaviors and lifestyle choices were not healthy while using. Eating can be a way of restoring your mind and body back to health. It is important to eat the right foods, however overstressing about weight gain should not be your main concern after leaving treatment. Your body may just be in a healing process. Your priority should be staying sober.

Despite the importance of nutrition in recovery, it is uncommon for treatment facilities to address it. It is important to go to a facility that incorporates wellness into the recovery process. While in treatment, take steps to eating healthy and exercising so that it becomes a lifestyle change upon leaving treatment.

There are steps that you can take to improve your overall health and well-being. Talk to your doctor about supplements you can take to help make the process easier. We encourage you to develop a healthy eating and exercise plan while you are in treatment. The staff at your facility may be able to help you along this process.

Overall, being mindful of your health while in treatment and after treatment is important. If you have gained weight after rehab, do not fret. Simple changes can turn it all around.

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