News & Updates – May 11, 2012: Issue 167

Hooked: Why Bad Habits are Hard to Break – 60 Minutes Interview with NIDA’s Dr. Nora Volkow

Hooked: Why Bad Habits are Hard to Break – 60 Minutes Interview with NIDA’s Dr. Nora Volkow

In the battle against addiction, “just say no” is magical thinking, says Dr. Nora Volkow. She’s the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and after spending decades studying the brains of addicts, Dr. Volkow has determined that drug addiction is a chronic disease that physically changes the brain. Dr. Volkow has found that even images of an addictive substance, such as alcohol or drugs, can produce a dopamine response in an addict’s brain, and some foods can trigger a similar reaction. Morley Safer reports on Dr. Volkow’s revolutionary research into addiction, as well as on her revolutionary family history.

The 60 Minutes segment is available at:

60 Minutes also held a live Facebook chat with Dr. Volkow who gave answers and guidance on issues of drug use, abuse, addiction and treatment. The transcript of those questions and answers is available at:

Source: – April 29-30, 2012 

Scientific American: This is Our Society on Drugs: Top 5 Infographics

Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge that present complex information quickly and clearly. This compilation of infographics on addiction include:

  • This is Your Brain on Prescription Drugs
  • This is Your Body on Drugs
  • Prescription Drugs Go Figure
  • Medical Uses of Abused Drugs
  • Drug Use in Today’s Classroom

Source:  –  April 20, 2012

About One Baby Born Each Hour Addicted to Opiate Drugs in U.S., U-M Study Shows

About one baby is born every hour addicted to opiate drugs in the United States, according to new research from University of Michigan (U-M) physicians.

In the research published April 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, U-M physicians found that diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome, a drug withdrawal syndrome among newborns, almost tripled between 2000 and 2009.

By 2009, the estimated number of newborns with the syndrome was 13,539 – or about one baby born each hour, according to the study that U-M researchers believe is the first to assess national trends in neonatal abstinence syndrome and mothers using opiate drugs.

“Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report which found that over the last decade sales for opiate pain relievers like OxyContin and Vicodin have quadrupled,” says Stephen W. Patrick, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., lead author of the study and a fellow in the University of Michigan’s Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine.

“Although our study was not able to distinguish the exact opiate used during pregnancy, we do know that the overall use of this class of drugs grew by 5-fold over the last decade and this appears to correspond with much higher rates of withdrawal in their infants.”

The majority of the mothers of babies born with the syndrome were covered by Medicaid for health care costs. The average hospital bill for babies with the syndrome increased from $39,400 in 2000 to $53,400 in 2009, a 35 percent increase. By 2009, 77.6 percent of charges for babies with the syndrome were charged to Medicaid.

Journal citation: doi:10.1001/JAMA.2012.3951.

Source: University of Michigan Health System – April 30, 2012

Tennessee Hospital Seeing More Babies Born Exposed to Prescription Drugs

Between 55% and 94% of babies exposed to opioids prior to birth exhibit signs of withdrawal, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Since the epidemic is relatively new, there is no national protocol on how to treat NAS. East Tennessee Children’s Hospital focuses its treatment on two areas: environmental and medicinal. Last year, the hospital created a wing of private rooms that is quieter, darker, and easier to control for the massive influx of babies suffering from drug withdrawal. for the massive influx of babies suffering from drug withdrawalthat is quieter, darker and easier to control for the massive influx of babies suffering from drug withdrawal.

The hospital also trains volunteers, called cuddlers, to hold and comfort the babies.

Source: – April 28, 2012

Drug Addiction, ‘Personhood’ and the War on Women

Criminal charges are now being brought against women in Alabama for “chemical endangerment of a child” which has been utilized to penalize mothers who use drugs during their pregnancy and has a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life (if the baby dies).

Originally enacted to protect children from meth labs, the law prohibits a “responsible person” from “exposing a child to an environment in which he or she…knowingly, recklessly  or intentionally causes or permits a child to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance or drug paraphernalia.”


Source: – April 26, 2012

Heroin Addicts Have Higher Pain Sensitivity, Even During Treatment

Heroin addicts often have an increased sensitivity to pain, and this sensitivity does not subside over the course of treatment with methadone or other opioids, new research finds.

Researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles sought to determine how increased sensitivity to pain might change as a heroin addict moves from drug abuse to stabilization and eventually to maintenance on a pain-treatment opioid such as methadone or buprenorphine.

Source:– April 25, 2012

Heroin Users are Fitter Than You Think

Myth: Heroin users miss out on exercise.

Professor Joanne Neale from Oxford Brookes University in the UK presented interim results at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center (NDARC) seminar series from three studies looking at physical activity among heroin users.

One study of 100 people on OST in the community found that a third walked an average of five miles (8 kilometres) or more a day – nearly 10,000 steps a day. Another study that examined offenders in the community and in prison found that before entering prison, study participants were walking just shy of five miles a day on average. Tellingly, another study found a significant amount of the exercise heroin users had undertaken was incidental and part of the heroin lifestyle. In the words of one user: “Some days you can walk miles and miles… trying to score and get money and that… In that way, I suppose I’ve always kept quite fit…” Nevertheless three months after commencing treatment, more than half of those same heroin users were formally exercising and taking part in a wide range of sports including badminton, bowling, circuits, cycling, dancing, sit ups, football, golf, the gym, squash, swimming and yoga.

There was a lot of interest from the audience at NDARC on whether future studies could be designed to measure the impact of exercise on treatment outcomes.

A PowerPoint presentation is available for download at:

Source: National Drug and Alcohol Research Center – April 23, 2012

Study Shows Widespread Misuse of Prescription Drugs

Nearly two out of three Americans don’t follow their doctor’s orders properly when taking prescription drugs, neglecting to take their medications or seeking out pills that weren’t intended for them, according to new research.

Of the people that didn’t follow their doctors’ orders, two in five weren’t taking any medications even though they had been prescribed, suggesting some people can’t afford them, skip treatments or even divert them to the black market, Quest Diagnostics says. The remaining 60% of misusers were taking medications that weren’t prescribed by their doctors.

The report can be found at:

Source: – April 25, 2012

Government Considers Overdose Antidote, Naloxone, to Fight Prescription Drug Misuse

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has for the first time advocated considering the distribution of the naloxone, an overdose antidote, as a way to curb the rising toll of overdose deaths in America.

The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, has said that the drug should be available without a prescription.

Source: – April 27, 2012

Study Describes Illicit Use of Buprenorphine Among Nonmedical Users of Opioids in Ohio

“Our study clearly indicates that non-medical use of buprenorphine has found a niche in the streets among illicit users of pharmaceutical opioids” (p. 206).

While buprenorphine misuse has been reported in many states, most studies have focused on opioid-dependent individuals, heroin users, and/or those in treatment. For example, an Ohio study of treatment providers, law enforcement officials, and drug users recruited through treatment programs found evidence of increasing buprenorphine misuse (see CESAR FAX, Volume 21, Issue 2). New research in Ohio now provides evidence of illicit use of buprenorphine among a population not previously studied—young adults not involved with heroin or injection drug use nor dependent on pharmaceutical opioids. Following are findings from this community-recruited sample* of young adults from the Columbus, Ohio area:

Knowledge About Buprenorphine: The majority of users reported that when they were first introduced to buprenorphine they had limited knowledge about the drug. Some had no idea it was used to treat opioid dependence and were told that it would work like any other pain pill.

Street Availability: While the majority of respondents reported that buprenorphine was more difficult to obtain than more commonly used prescription opioids (such as oxycodone or hydrocodone), several respondents reported that they felt the popularity of and demand for buprenorphine has been rising. Friends or acquaintances who were addicted to prescription opioids or heroin and networks of users with legitimate prescriptions were the most common sources of illicitly used buprenorphine. In fact, some users “expressed a belief that buprenorphine doses prescribed by physicians were too high for most patients who needed much lower amounts to control their withdrawal symptoms” (p. 205).

Use to Get High: While approximately one-half said that they took buprenorphine to get high, the reported effects ranged from no effect to too intense. Those who used buprenorphine to get high typically used it on very few occasions, either because the street availability was limited or they did not get the euphoric effects they expected or wanted. Some believed that you need to inhale buprenorphine and/or have a low tolerance to opiates to get high.

Use to Self-Medicate: About one-half reported using buprenorphine to self-medicate withdrawal symptoms*, using the drug regularly to replace their preferred opiates, to reduce their illicit pain pill use, or to quit altogether. Self-medication was preferred to going to a substance abuse treatment program because of the high cost of buprenorphine-based treatment at primary care, waiting lists at publicly-funded facilities, and the stigma related to seeking drug treatment.

*A total of 396 nonmedical users of pharmaceutical opioids ages 18-23 years old who were living in the Columbus, Ohio area were recruited using respondent-driven sampling. Participants had to 1) self-report the nonmedical use of prescription opioids at least 5 times in the  past 90 days; 2) have no lifetime dependence on opioids; 3) have no history of heroin or injection drug use; 4) not have been in formal treatment in the last 30 days; 5) intend to use again nonmedically; and 6) not currently be awaiting trial or have pending criminal charges. Quantitative data were collected on all participants, qualitative data was collected on a subset of 51 individuals, and 20 of these were also interviewed 12-18 months after baseline.

Source: Adapted by CESAR from Daniulaityte, R., Falck, R., and Carlson, R.G., “Illicit Use of Buprenorphine in a Community Sample of Young Adult Non-Medical Users of Pharmaceutical Opioids,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 122(3):201-207, 2012. For more information, contact Raminta Daniulaityte at – April 30, 2012

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