Teenagers Treated for Headache Were Prescribed Opioids Almost Half of the Time, According to Study in Journal of Adolescent Health

adolescentClinicians prescribed opioids for almost half of the teenagers they treated for headache when medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, are recommended as first-line therapies, according to a study today in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The study was conducted by WellPoint and HealthCore, the outcomes research subsidiary for WellPoint a health benefits company, in conjunction with representatives selected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Neurology. The study included 8,373 adolescents from 13 to 17 years of age with recurring headaches.

“Pediatric and adolescent use of opioids is a concern,” said Dr. Eric Wall, past chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Commission on Science. “The risk of abuse, as well as the potential for redirection, such as sharing with others, is high among adolescents.”

Forty-six percent of those complaining of headache received an opioid prescription. Of those who received a prescription, nearly half – or 48 percent — received only one prescription, while 23 percent received two prescriptions and 29 percent received three or more prescriptions.

Teenagers with visits for headache to the emergency department had twice the rate of opioid prescriptions as those who had not visited the emergency department. And, those who had three or more emergency department visits were four times more likely to have opioid prescriptions.

The study showed much higher rates of opioid prescription than rates of around 12 percent that had been reported previously.

http://www.businesswire.com/news/rxtimes/20140228005350/en/Teenagers-Treated-Headache-Prescribed-Opioids-Time-Study

Source: BusinessWire.com – February 28, 2014

AATOD Conference Photos

AATODThe American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction has posted photos from their November 2013 National Conference in Philadelphia on their website. Photos include:

http://www.aatod.org/national-conference/2013-aatod-conference-philadelphia/2013-conference-photos/

Source: American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction – February 26, 2014

Fewer Opioid Treatment Programs Offer HIV Testing

“According to a study, fewer opioid treatment programs are offering onsite testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), despite guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending routine HIV testing in all health care settings.

The absolute number of programs offering testing for HIV, STIs, and HCV increased from 2000 to 2011. However, the percentage of programs offering HIV testing decreased significantly, by 18%, and the percentage of those offering testing for STIs fell by 13% throughout the study. Testing for each infection did not change over time in public programs, but HIV testing dropped by 20% among for-profit programs and 11% in nonprofit programs.

http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2014/February2014/Fewer-Opioid-Treatment-Programs-Offer-HIV-Testing

Source: PharmacyTimes.com - February 19, 2014

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Updated Research Report on Heroin

NIDA Blog: Addiction and Free Choice

choices“The recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a result of drug addiction has provoked many thoughtful, sympathetic responses in the media, from people in recovery who understand how hard it is to wrestle with addiction, as well as from scientifically informed journalists who understand that addiction is a disease. But it has also prompted others to express the age-old notion than drug use is a choice, and that those who die as a consequence of their drug use are just reaping the consequences of their freely chosen actions. It is unfortunate that that view persists in our society, despite the decades of scientific research soundly disproving it.

Choices do not happen without a brain—it is the mechanism of choice. The quality of a person’s choices depends on the health of that mechanism. However much we may wish that a person’s choices were free in all instances, it is simply a fact that an addicted person’s failures in the realm of choice are the product of a brain that has become greatly compromised—it is readily apparent when we scan their brains. Even if taking a drug for the first time is a “free” choice, the progression of brain changes that occurs after that involves the weakening of circuits in the prefrontal cortex and elsewhere that are necessary for exerting self-control and resisting the temptations of drug use. Once addiction takes hold, there is greatly diminished capacity, on one’s own, to stop using. This is why psychiatry recognizes addiction as a disease of the brain, and why professional intervention is needed to treat it in most instances.

Moreover, even the “freely willed” first choice to take a drug cannot be the basis for judgment and stigma against people suffering from addictions. Matters of choice and lifestyle—what you eat, how active you are, where you live—may contribute to the risk for, or even directly cause, a wide range of medical conditions, including chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers. We do not withhold or impede treatment of people suffering from those conditions, even if their health may have turned out differently had they made different choices at various points in their lives.

There is no way of precisely predicting which freely chosen adolescent drink, or cigarette, or experimentation with an illegal substance, opened the door to a later loss of free-choice capacity in a person who has become addicted. But once addiction is established, the sufferer from this disease cannot will themselves to be healthy and avoid drugs any more than a person with heart disease can will their heart back to perfect functioning, or a person with diabetes can will their body’s insulin response to return to normal.

Thus, those who say “it was their own choice” after a person dies of an overdose fail to grasp that an addicted person’s brain has a disrupted choice mechanism. And as revealed by Hoffman’s tragic, ultimately fatal relapse into drug taking, the neuronal disruptions in the brain of an addicted person can persist even after decades of sobriety. Speaking of “free choice” is simply not useful when trying to understand an individual’s addiction or its consequences, as addiction is precisely a disease that disrupts the neuronal circuits that enable us to exert free choice.”

http://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2014/02/addiction-free-choice

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse Dr. Nora Volkow Director – February 18, 2014

News & Updates – February 21, 2014; Issue 196

Message from AATOD Regarding the Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

AATOD“Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death has attracted national media attention as most celebrity deaths do, especially when they relate to a drug overdose. We have seen this phenomenon shortly after the deaths of Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson. There was an immediate flurry of media attention, and then other stories took center stage.

For many addiction treatment professionals and patient advocates, the issues surrounding celebrity deaths represent the daily struggles that must be confronted by a wary public. A number of issues naturally come to surface during such times about opioid addiction and treatment.”

The AATOD message addresses:

  • Changing Social Attitudes
  • Changing Federal and State Oversight
  • The Opportunity to Educate

“The tragedy of Mr. Hoffman’s death will inevitably be revisited by another celebrity death in the future. We will engage once again in the flurry of media stories which typically have a limited lifespan. Ultimately, we need to work effectively to change America’s perceptions about the safety and danger of prescription opioids, the danger of heroin (which is obviously not an FDA approved drug), and the value of prevention and early intervention in providing access to care. Mr. Hoffman’s death is a stark reminder of the dangers of using heroin. It is not, nor has ever been, a safe drug. The user simply does not know what the drug has been cut with or its potency.

Many people who have worked in the addiction treatment community for many years know that heroin has been adulterated with all sorts of dangerous chemicals which can lead to death. We need to continually educate the public about these issues and work with patient advocates and public policy officials to ensure that the message is consistent and sticks.”

http://www.aatod.org/news/message-from-aatod-regarding-the-death-of-philip-seymour-hoffman/

Source: The American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence – February 11, 2014

Heroin Use, and Deaths, Rise – The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman from an Apparent Heroin Overdose Underscores the Drug’s Resurgence

“The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent heroin overdose underscores the drug’s resurgence in recent years, fueled by a growing supply from Latin America and a crackdown on prescription narcotics that has pushed addicts to seek old-fashioned alternatives.

The number of heroin users in the U.S. jumped almost 80% to an estimated 669,000 in 2012 from 373,000 in 2007, according to surveys by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Annual overdose deaths attributed to heroin hit 3,094 in 2010, the most recent data available, up 55% from 2000, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While heroin is diluted with other substances as it makes its way to the street, retail buyers often get a purer product than in decades past, said James Hunt, special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York division. While a dose of heroin in the 1980s might have been 5% pure, it is not uncommon to find a street bag today that is 50% pure, making it potentially more lethal, he said.

Moreover, heroin is sometimes combined with other dangerous drugs, including the synthetic opiate fentanyl. That combination has been blamed for a spate of deaths in recent months along the East Coast, including 37 in Maryland and 22 in Pennsylvania.”

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304851104579361250012275942

For additional information see February 5 SAMHSA Blog Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Can Kill, But There Are Steps We Can Take to Save:  http://blog.samhsa.gov/2014/02/05/fentanyl-laced-heroin-can-kill-but-there-are-steps-we-can-take-to-save/

Source: Wall Street Journal – February 3, 2014, SAMHSA – February 5, 2014

Wider Use of Antidote Could Lower Overdose Deaths by Nearly 50%

“Distributing naloxone and training people to use it can cut the death rates from overdose nearly in half, according to a new study.

The new study, published in the BMJ, followed the expansion of Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) programs in Massachusetts.  The programs were offered at emergency rooms, primary care centers, rehabilitation centers, support groups for families of addicted people and other places that might attract those at risk.

The study involved 2912 people in 19 different Massachusetts communities — each of which had had at least 5 opioid overdose deaths between 2004 and 2006.  The participants were trained to recognize overdose, call 911 and administer naloxone using a nasal inhaler.  If the naloxone didn’t work, they were instructed to try another dose and perform rescue breathing until help arrived.

During that time, 153 naloxone-based rescues were reported for which there was data on outcomes, and in 98% of those cases, the drug revived the victim.

There are still practical barriers however, to widely distributing naloxone and implementing more OEND type programs. Advocates have argued that the medication should be made available over-the-counter since it has little potential for abuse and is nontoxic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and even the drug czar’s office support making it more widely available, and unlike the case with needle exchange programs, there has been no organized opposition to OEND. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no precedent for allowing over-the-counter sales of such a drug: naloxone is a generic medication approved in an injectable form. Without a company to submit an application for its use in the intranasal version, the agency isn’t likely to OK over-the-counter sales.”

http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/05/wider-use-of-antidote-could-lower-overdose-deaths-from-by-nearly-50/

Source: HealthlandTime.com – February 5, 2014

From NIDA Notes: Medications That Treat Opioid Addiction Do Not Impair Liver Health

A trial that compared buprenorphine/naloxone (Bup/Nx) to methadone produced no evidence that either medication damages the liver. Researchers concluded that Bup/Nx and methadone are equally safe for the liver, and Bup/Nx may be considered a first line alternative to the more established medication for treating opioid addiction.

Dr. Andrew Saxon at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, and Dr. Walter Ling at the University of California, Los Angeles Integrated Substance Abuse Program, conducted the trial with colleagues in the NIDA Clinical Trials Network. Dr. Saxon’s team randomly assigned 1,269 new patients in 8 U.S. opioid treatment programs to therapy with either Bup/Nx or methadone. The study findings reflect the experiences of 731 patients who provided blood samples for liver function tests at baseline, completed the 24 weeks of active treatment, and submitted blood for at least 4 of 8 scheduled tests of liver function during treatment. These tests include measuring the levels of two enzymes (alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase) that the liver releases when it is injured.

Most trial participants maintained enzyme levels that indicate healthy liver function throughout the study. In 15.5 percent, enzyme levels increased to higher than twice the upper end of the normal range, indicating some ongoing liver injury. A few patients developed extreme elevations to 10 times the upper limit of normal or had other laboratory signs of severe liver injury.

The percentages of Bup/Nx and methadone patients who experienced each outcome were so close as to be statistically equivalent, warranting the conclusion that both medications were similarly safe. Although the researchers could not definitively rule out the possibility that the medications contributed to some of the observed worsening of liver function, their analysis produced no evidence to this effect. Instead, they say the changes most likely resulted from hepatitis, the toxicity of illicit drugs, and impurities in those drugs. Infection with hepatitis B or C doubled a patient’s odds of a significant change in enzyme levels and was the only predictor of worsening liver function. Most extreme increases in enzyme levels occurred when a patient seroconverted to hepatitis B or C, or used illicit drugs during the study.

The researchers note that about 44 percent of those screened for the study did not meet its enrollment criteria, suggesting that the participant group was healthier than many who visit clinics for addiction treatment. The ineligible population was also older, had a higher rate of stimulant use, and was less likely to be white than patients in the enrolled group, suggesting that the evaluable patient group might not be representative of all opioid-dependent patient groups.

Graphs available at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2013/12/medications-treat-opioid-addiction-do-not-impair-liver-health

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Notes – December 2013

Q & A – Methadone or Buprenorphine for Maintenance Therapy of Opioid Addiction: What’s the Right Duration?

question boxQuestion: How long should patients with opioid addiction be treated with methadone or buprenorphine?

Response from Michael G. O’Neil, PharmD Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice; Consultant, Drug Diversion and Substance Abuse, South College School of Pharmacy, Knoxville, Tennessee

“Data supporting positive long-term outcomes after definitive discontinuation of methadone or buprenorphine in a predetermined time frame for all patients are lacking. Prudent clinical practice dictates that duration of therapy should be individualized by well-trained addiction specialists, taking into account a disease treatment history that includes such factors as relapse, individual patient characteristics, evidence-based literature, patient adherence, socioeconomic characteristics, and environmental considerations until long-term evidence-based studies prove otherwise.

In summary, the complexities of the disease of opioid addiction have created a frustrating situation for practitioners and patients alike. Basic practice principles for chronic diseases, such as hypertension or schizophrenia, should be applied to patients who are unable to stay in recovery using abstinence programs alone. Strict discontinuance of opioid maintenance therapy solely on the basis of duration of treatment is not clinically justifiable at this time. Individualization of treatment for opioid addiction with methadone or buprenorphine by qualified specialists is necessary for many suffering patients, in conjunction with counseling, community support, or behavioral interventions. Treatment cultures for opioid addiction need to continue to evolve, as does education of the general public.”

The article can be accessed at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/819875

Source: www.Medscape.com - February 3, 2014

Crime Does Not Increase Around Methadone Clinics in Baltimore

crime purchased shutterstock_78337543“Citizens’ concerns that methadone treatment centers (MTCs) might be focal points for serious crime are unwarranted, a recent NIDA-supported study suggests. Dr. Susan Boyd and colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore found that crime rates in the immediate vicinities of that city’s MTCs were level with the rates in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The researchers used Baltimore City Police Department records from 1999‒2001 and global positioning data to plot the distribution of FBI Part I crimes (homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) within a 100-meter (328-foot) radius of 15 MTCs. A statistical analysis of the plots showed that the crimes were no more frequent within 25 meters of the MTCs than they were 75 to 100 meters away.

In contrast to the case with MTCs, the likelihood of Part I crimes rose with closer proximity to convenience stores. The researchers suggest that the high volume of foot traffic around these stores provides opportunities for criminals to find victims. Consistent with this surmise, the frequency of crime declined near mid-block residences, where foot traffic is relatively sparse.

The study MTCs included all but one of the 16 centers located in Baltimore. They were situated in diverse communities, including inner-city, working-class, and middle-class neighborhoods, according to Dr. Boyd. The convenience stores and residences were located in neighborhoods that closely resembled those of the MTCs in demographic and social features that influence crime rates.

“There’s no evidence from our study of increased reports of crime around the methadone clinics,” says Dr. Boyd. She and colleagues are now analyzing data on actual arrests around the study sites to see whether drug sales and possession increase with proximity to methadone treatment centers. The researchers hope that demonstrating that MTCs are not hot spots for crime will reduce public resistance to the building of new centers, and thus remove an impediment to making methadone treatment more widely available.”

See graphs available at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2012/12/crime-does-not-increase-around-methadone-clinics-in-baltimore

See related blog available from the Institute on Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA) available at: http://iretablog.org/

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Notes – January 2014, IRETA – February 13, 2014

Jana Burson Blog: More about IRETA’s Guidelines for Benzodiazepines in OTPs

blog1“This is a continuation of my last blog post about the IRETA (Institute for Research, Education & Training in Addictions) guidelines for management of benzodiazepine use in medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction. You can read all of the guidelines at: http://ireta.org/sites/ireta.org/files/Best%20Practice%20Guidelines%20for%20BZDs%20in%20MAT%202013_0.pdf

Under the section of recommendations regarding addressing benzodiazepine use is found the following statement:

“Many people presenting to services have an extensive history of multiple substance dependence and all substance abuse, including benzodiazepines, should be actively addressed in treatment. People who have a history of benzodiazepine abuse should not be disallowed from receiving previously prescribed benzodiazepines, provided they are monitored carefully and have stopped the earlier abuse.”

The experts, after reviewing the best data, are saying that if a patient has abused benzos in the past, but isn’t abusing prescribed benzos now, it may be OK to continue benzos, with careful monitoring.

I don’t like this statement. It doesn’t conform to my present thoughts on the topic. I fear that the majority of patients with a history of benzodiazepine abuse or addiction will, sooner or later, revert back to problem use of the medication. That’s my anecdotal experience. Anecdotal experience is worth something, but data from clinical trials trumps anecdotal experience, and IRETA’s guidelines are based on both clinical trials and expert opinion.

So now I need to challenge my previously held views about benzos in the OTP. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable to change a long-held view. But isn’t that what I ask of my patients? In the interest of science, I will re-consider my present opinion, but I won’t ignore the last part of the statement, which says careful monitoring needs to be done.”

 http://janaburson.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/more-about-iretas-guidelines-for-benzodiazepines-in-otps/

Source: Jana Burson - February 2, 2014

Genes Play a Large Role in Opioid Dependence

dna“There is reason to think that opioid dependence is at least 60 percent inherited. Now a genomewide association study appears to have led to the identification of major genes contributing to this risk.

Some major genes that contribute to the risk for opioid dependence appear to have been identified. The genes make proteins that influence calcium signaling or potassium signaling within neurons.

The lead scientist, Joel Gelernter, M.D., a professor of psychiatry, genetics, and neurobiology at Yale University, told Psychiatric News that he was surprised by this finding. He had expected genes that code for opioid receptors to turn out to be major contributors, he said. But that was not the case.

Gelernter and his coworkers conducted a genomewide association study to see whether they could significantly link any gene variants with a risk for opioid dependence. They used a relatively large sample—some 5,700 subjects (over a third with opioid dependence and the rest controls). Afterward they conducted two more studies—one with some 4,000 subjects and the other with some 2,500 ones—to see whether they could replicate their initial findings.

They were able to link variants of a number of genes with a risk for opioid dependence. But the variants that were most strongly associated with opioid dependence risk were those from genes involved in calcium or potassium signaling within neurons.”

http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/newsarticle.aspx?articleid=1820456

Source: Psychiatryonline.org – January 28, 2014

Supreme Court: Heroin Dealer Can’t be Given Longer Sentence Because Client Died

Pg8_law“The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled a heroin dealer cannot be held liable for a client’s death and given a longer sentence if heroin only contributed to the death, and was not necessarily the only cause.

The ruling is likely to result in a shorter sentence for Marcus Burrage, who received 20 extra years in prison because of his client’s death, according to USA Today. The decision is also likely to make it more difficult in the future for prosecutors to extend drug sentences, the article notes.”

Site last updated March 28, 2014 @ 7:50 am