Hurricanes Magnify Addiction Issues

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Authorities planning for natural disasters such as hurricanes must prepare for its effect on people struggling with drugs or alcohol, experts tell the Associated Press . The stress of hurricanes leads to an increased danger of relapse and overdose. Before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, a needle exchange program in Miami distributed extra syringes, while patients at methadone clinics picked up advance medication. Florida, in cooperation with the federal government, allowed methadone clinics to provide up to five days of medication ahead of the hurricane. Scientists found that during Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, people with a drug problem often avoided evacuating in order to stay close to their dealers. Some shared needles with strangers, which put them at risk of becoming infected with HIV and hepatitis. People who were in treatment missed doses of medication, and used street drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
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Fatal Heroin Overdoses Have Risen Fivefold in 15 Years

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Fatal heroin overdoses have risen fivefold from 2002 to 2016, according to a new government report. Last year, an estimated 13,219 Americans died of a heroin overdose. The number of people who used heroin in the United States rose from 404,000 in 2002 to 948,000 in 2016, CNN reports. An estimated 11.8 million Americans misused an opioid last year. Of those, only 8 percent used heroin. The majority misused prescription painkillers, the article notes. According to the findings, from the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21 percent of Americans 12 and older with an opioid use disorder received treatment for their illicit drug use at a specialty facility in the past year. Receipt of treatment for illicit drug use at a specialty facility was higher among people with a heroin use disorder (37.5 percent) than among those with a prescription pain reliever use disorder (17.5 percent).
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Pennsylvania Congressman Nominated to Lead Drug Policy Office

The White House has announced President Trump will nominate Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), according to The Washington Post. In April, CBS News reported that Marino was expected to be named the next head of ONCDP. In May, Marino withdrew from the position, citing a critical illness in his family. Marino has worked to expand access to opioid addiction treatment. He was appointed to serve on the House’s committee combating the opioid epidemic in 2016, after two bills he introduced on drug control were enacted. One of the bills, the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act, aims to curb drug trafficking across borders. The other bill increases collaboration between prescription drug distributors and the Drug Enforcement Administration to combat drug use.
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Older Men Drink More Regularly, but Younger Men Drink More

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Among the 67% of U.S. men who drink alcohol, those aged 50 and older are more likely than those under 50 to say they have imbibed within the last 24 hours, which suggests older men drink more frequently than younger men. However, younger men likely drink more than older men on the occasions when they do consume alcohol. Men in all age groups drink more often than women do. U.S. men aged 50 and older report they consumed an average of 5.3 alcoholic drinks over the past seven days, while men aged 18 to 49 had an average of 6.2 drinks. Both older and younger women report drinking fewer than three alcoholic beverages in the last week. These data come from aggregated results of Gallup's Consumption Habits Survey from 2001-2017, totaling interviews with 11,544 U.S. adults who drink alcohol. The type of drinks that men and women prefer may at...
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Many Drug Dealers Test Strength of Synthetic Opioids on Customers

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Many drug dealers use their customers to test the strength of the synthetic opioids they sell, the Associated Press reports. They want the drugs to be strong enough to keep their customers coming back, but not strong enough to kill them. Local dealers take fentanyl made in Chinese labs and use powders such as baby formula to increase its volume and street value. “It is sick and awful that dealers are treating people this way,” said Bradley Ray, Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, who studies overdose prevention. “It is sad that things have come to this. (Testers’) addictions will push them to take that; they’re not thinking clearly.”
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Hospitals Missing Opportunities to Help Opioid Overdose Survivors

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A new study suggests hospitals are missing opportunities to help opioid overdose survivors avoid future overdoses. The researchers looked at claims data before and after overdoses among Medicaid patients who overdosed on heroin in Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2013, NPR reports. The filling of opioid prescriptions fell by only 3.5 percent, while medication-assisted treatment rose by only 3.6 percent. Medication-assisted treatment—buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone—is considered the gold standard treatment for opioid addiction, the article notes. “This is a time when people are vulnerable, potentially frightened by this event that’s just occurred and amenable to advice, referral and treatment recommendations,” said study senior author Julie Donohue of the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s safe to characterize it as a missed opportunity for the health system to respond.”
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President Has Not Yet Taken Action to Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency

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Although President Trump announced in August that he was declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, he has not yet taken formal steps to do so, CBS News reports. If he does officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, then FEMA can make money available to states, the article notes. States could also request aid, and public health workers could be redeployed to fight the epidemic. Dr. Cece McNamara Spitznas, who works in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said, “What the powers are related to a national emergency and trying to determine how would that apply in this situation — it requires a lot of specialist eyes to take a look. And a lot of people to sit around and sort of go through exactly what we can do legally, and across all the different parts. I think we’re in that phase of looking at...
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Fentanyl is a Major Cause of Increase in Heroin-Related Deaths

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Half of the increase in deaths involving heroin after 2013 can be attributed to heroin mixed with fentanyl, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 33,000 people died of an opioid overdose in the United States in 2015, HealthDay reports. Opioid overdoses accounted for 63 percent of drug overdose deaths in the United States that year. Between 2010 and 2015, heroin overdose deaths quadrupled, from 3,036 to 12,989. A second study by the CDC found about 90 percent of overdose deaths in Ohio early this year involved fentanyl or a chemically related substance. Only 6 percent involved heroin. Young Men and Women’s Brains DO Not Function the Same after Heavy Alcohol Use According to a recent article in Science Daily , Scientists have found that brain functions in young men and women are changed by long-term alcohol use, but that these changes...
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Alcohol May Affect Brain Function Differently in Men and Women

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A new study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference finds that chronic alcohol use affects the brain cells of young men and women differently. Participants of the preliminary study did not have alcohol use disorder, but were classified as heavy drinkers. All participants were also in their 20s, suggesting that alcohol-related brain changes may not take very long to develop. The participants included 11 men and 16 women between the ages of 23 and 28 years, who all reported "heavy" drinking patterns over the previous 10 years. People who reported little or no alcohol use served as controls. Interestingly, the researchers found differences in the activity of receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA – which plays an important function in regulating anxiety and is thought to play a role in depression. "Generally, our work showed that alcohol causes more pronounced changes in both electrical and chemical neurotransmission in men...
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Increasing Availability of Medication-Assisted Treatment Using Buprenorphine

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Many people who need treatment for substance use disorders are not receiving it. Though there are many physicians with waivers to provide buprenorphine for medication-assisted treatment, they tend to be clustered in and around urban centers,leaving many rural counties without access to treatment. In fact, 60.1 percent of rural counties in the United States lack a physician with a DATA 2000 waiver to prescribe buprenorphine. To widen the availability of medication-assisted treatment using buprenorphine, the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act authorized SAMHSA to allow nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to apply for waivers to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction. To receive the DATA 2000 waiver, NPs and PAs must complete 24 hours of training (triple the 8 hours required of physicians). To make training more accessible to NPs and PAs, including those in remote areas, SAMHSA offers the training free through the Providers' Clinical Support System...
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