Opioid Painkiller Prescribing Varies Widely Among States

Capsule and Pills“Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012 – many more in some states than in others – according to a Vital Signs report released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that highlights the danger of overdose. The report also has an example of a state that reversed its overdose trend.

Health care providers in the highest prescribing state, Alabama, wrote almost three times as many of these prescriptions per person as those in the lowest prescribing state, Hawaii. Most of the highest prescribing states were in the South. Previous research has shown that regional variation in use of prescriptions cannot be explained by the underlying health status of the population.

“Prescription drug overdose is epidemic in the United States. All too often, and in far too many communities, the treatment is becoming the problem,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Overdose rates are higher where these drugs are prescribed more frequently. States and practices where prescribing rates are highest need to take a particularly hard look at ways to reduce the inappropriate prescription of these dangerous drugs.”

The report suggested that states consider ways to increase use of prescription drug monitoring programs, and  consider policy options (including laws and regulation) relating to pain clinics (facilities that specialize in pain treatment) to reduce prescribing practices that are risky to patients.

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0701-opioid-painkiller.html

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – July 2014

 

Treat Patients with Addiction During, After Hospitalization, Researchers Say

hospital sign purchasedshutterstock_33280960The results of a new study demonstrate that starting hospitalized patients who have an opioid (heroin) addiction on buprenorphine treatment in the hospital and seamlessly connecting them with an outpatient office based treatment program can greatly reduce whether they relapse after they are discharged.

Led by researchers at Boston Medical Center (BMC), the study shows the important role that providers play in offering these patients addiction treatment both while in the hospital and after – even if their primary reason for being in the hospital is not for their addiction.

In this study, 139 hospitalized individuals with opioid addiction who were not already in treatment were randomized into two groups. One group received a tapered dose treatment of buprenorphine for withdrawal and referral information about community treatment programs and the other were initiated on buprenorphine, an opioid substitute proven to treat opioid addiction, along with referral to a primary care office-based buprenorphine treatment program.

Of those in the buprenorphine maintenance group, more than one third (37 percent) reported no illicit opioid/drug use for the month after they left the hospital compared to less than one in ten (nine percent) among the control group. These patients also reported, on average, fewer days of illicit drug use and continued to use less over the following six months. This effect was evident despite the fact that these patients did not initially come to the hospital seeking treatment for their addiction.

“Unfortunately, referral to substance abuse treatment after discharge is often a secondary concern of physicians caring for hospitalized patients,” said Jane Liebschutz, MD, MPH, a physician in general internal medicine at BMC and associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, who served as the study’s corresponding author. “However, our results show that we can have a marked impact on patient’s addiction by addressing it during their hospitalization.”

This study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-06-patients-addiction-hospitalization.html

Source: Boston Medical University –  June 30, 2014

Heroin Users Are 90 Percent White, Living Outside Urban Areas

“The image of the heroin user is changing, according to researchers who say the great majority are now white men and women who mostly live outside the cities.

Their study published in JAMA Psychiatry, tracked data from almost 2,800 heroin users and found that first-time users are now generally older than those who began taking the drug in the 1960s. About 90 percent are white, according to the study, and 75 percent now live in non-urban areas.

The research also confirmed a link between the rise of opioid abuse and the growing use of heroin that had been noted in earlier studies. Heroin use has jumped 80 percent to 669,000 users from 2007 to 2012, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, after being relatively stable since 2000.”

http://washpost.bloomberg.com/Story?docId=1376-N6AV3H6S972C01-71HUL1EQ4U5J4QKSAPSPOBBT5I

See related article  - Opioids leading to new class of heroin abusers, study finds at: http://www.jsonline.com/news/health/opioids-leading-to-new-class-of-heroin-abusers-study-finds-b99278535z1-260996001.html

Source: WashingtonPost.com – May 29, 2014

Opioid Prevention Programs Could Reduce Deaths from Overdose

hospital sign purchasedshutterstock_33280960“Researchers at the University of Cincinnati  School of Medicine conducted a study that analyzed 19 published studies evaluating the effectiveness of Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs (OOPPs) in terms of recognition, prevention, and risk factors for opioid overdoses. Fourteen of the studies analyzed featured follow-up data on over 9,000 people enrolled in an OOPP, of which half had experienced an overdose and 80% witnessed one.

The research found that eleven of the OOPP studies reported a 100% survival rate when administering naloxone, and the others featured at least an 83% rate. The percentages were determined out of nearly 2,000 naloxone administrations.

However, the researchers believe further studies must be conducted to ensure the strength of knowledge of overdose prevention and risk factors for those who are enrolled in OOPPs. Their findings are promising, but there is limited research and data on OOPPs and that’s really the only way more can be determined about overdose prevention efforts.”

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/15166/20140603/opioid-prevention-programs-reduce-deaths-overdose.htm

The article Development and Implementation of an Opioid Overdose Prevention Program Within a Preexisting Substance Use Disorders Treatment Center which was published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Also see article from Medscape ‘Project Lazarus’ Making Headway on Opioid Overdoses available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/826865. Free registration required.

Source: ScienceWorldReport.com – June 3, 2014

Death by Prescription Painkiller – First Major Review Provides Evidence of Sharp Increase in Deaths from Painkillers in US and Canada and Leading Causes

The number of deaths involving commonly prescribed painkillers is higher than the number of deaths by overdose from heroin and cocaine combined, according to researchers at McGill University. In a first-of-its-kind review of existing research, the McGill team has put the spotlight on a major public health problem: the dramatic increase in deaths due to prescribed painkillers, which were involved in more than 16,000 deaths in 2010 in the U.S. alone. Currently, the US and Canada rank #1 and #2 in per capita opioid consumption.

In an effort to identify and summarize available evidence, Nicholas King, of the Biomedical Ethics Unit in the Faculty of Medicine and his team conducted a systematic review of existing literature, comprehensively surveying the scientific literature and including only reports with quantitative evidence.

“We also wanted to find out why thousands of people in the U.S and Canada are dying from prescription painkillers every year, and why these rates have climbed steadily during the past two decades,” says King. “We found evidence for at least 17 different determinants of increasing opioid-related mortality, mainly, dramatically increased prescription and sales of opioids; increased use of strong, long-acting opioids like Oxycontin and methadone; combined use of opioids and other (licit and illicit) drugs and alcohol; and social and demographic factors.”

“We found little evidence that Internet sales of pharmaceuticals and errors by doctors and patients–factors commonly cited in the media — have played a significant role,” Prof. King adds.

The findings point to a complicated “epidemic” in which physicians, users, the health care system, and the social environment all play a role, according to the researchers.

The results of this research are published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Source: McGill University – June 17, 2014

A Fix Special Report—The Maddening State of Addiction Research Funding

funding“Most of us understand that substance addiction and alcoholism is a major social, health, and economic issue. The costs to the economy alone in health care, productivity loss, crime, drug enforcement and incarceration are estimated to be more than $500 billion a year – and that number is from a study ten years ago. In response, only a tiny percentage of this is spent every year by all players – government, private Pharma companies and foundations – on developing and testing a variety of would-be miracle cures (or even just helpful medications or processes).

In the substance abuse funding game there are gamemakers – those who decide which projects are worthy of the awarded dollars – and competitors: researchers vying for limited funds. The gamemakers come from the public and private sector and ultimately determine whether a competitor moves forward or gets denied.

This article is an inside peek at how that game is played and who gets to be the winners and who the losers.”

http://www.thefix.com/content/fix-special-report-maddening-state-addiction-research-funding

Source: TheFix.com – June 6, 2014

Doctors Have ‘Knowledge Gaps’ About Opioid Abuse (Free registration required to view article)

“Many physicians still have a lot to learn about opioid misuse, abuse, and diversion, according to the results of a survey of clinicians who attended 1 of last year’s major pain meetings.

“Clinicians in the real world are not reading the data that we currently have about opioid abuse-deterrent formulations, they don’t understand how big the problem of diversion is, and they have serious knowledge gaps about where people who abuse opioids are getting these drugs,” Joseph V. Pergolizzi, MD, from Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, Maryland, told Medscape Medical News.

Less than half (45%) were aware that most (71%) prescription opioids that are abused are obtained from a friend or a relative, and only 53% believed that more than half of recreational abuse is sourced through diversion of a legitimate prescription.”

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/824702

Source:  Medscape.com -May 6, 2014

Belgium Study Suggests Heroin-Assisted Treatment Superior to Methadone for Heroin Addiction (Free registration required to view article)

“Patients severely addicted to heroin may respond to a treatment practice that incorporates pharmaceutical heroin, a new feasibility study suggests.

An open-label, randomized controlled trial (RCT) of 74 patients showed that significantly more of those who received diacetylmorphine under strict nurse supervision in a specialized center responded at 3, 6, and 9 months after starting treatment than those who received methadone.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/825108

Source:  Medscape.com -May 13, 2014

New Resources and Events Available on ATForum.com

Have you visited ATForum.com lately? Over 30 new meetings, conferences, and webinars have been added to the site in addition to key new resources including the following on medication-assisted treatment.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: How States Can Help Advance the Knowledge Base for Primary Prevention and Best Practices of Care
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials – March 2014.

Confronting the Stigma of Opioid Use Disorder—and Its Treatment
Journal of the American Medical Association – February 26, 2014.

Medication-Assisted Treatment With Methadone: Assessing the Evidence
Psychiatric Services – February 1, 2014.

Medication-Assisted Treatment With Buprenorphine: Assessing the Evidence
Psychiatric Services – February 1, 2014.

Medscape Ask the Pharmacist: Methadone or Buprenorphine for Maintenance Therapy of Opioid Addiction: What’s the Right Duration
Medscape – February 3, 2014. Note: A Medscape account is required to view this article. If you do not have a Medscape account you can create one for free.

Advancing Service Integration in Opioid Treatment Programs for the Care and Treatment of Hepatitis C Infection
International Journal of Clinical Medicine – January 2014.

Advancing Access to Addiction Medications Report
American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) – December 2013.

IRETA Blog: Women Have Been Particularly Affected By the War on Drugs, Part II

“How can we use what we know about women and the War on Drugs to create real drug policy reform?

In our first installment about women, addiction, and the criminal justice system, we shared some stark facts about the impact of “War on Drugs” policies on American women.  Here are two:

  • The number of women in prison has grown by over 800% in the past three decades. The female prison population grew by 832% from 1977 to 2007. The male prison population grew 416% during the same time period.
  • Two thirds of women in prison are there for non-violent offenses, many for drug-related crimes. In the 10-year period from 1999 to 2008, arrests of women for drug violations increased 19%, compared to 10% for men.

This blog addresses three ways to make drug policy reform matter to women.

  • Expand alternatives to incarceration
  • Improve access to treatment for incarcerated women
  • Make prisons and correctional services more gender-responsive

The blog can be accessed at: http://iretablog.org/2014/03/14/women-have-been-particularly-affected-by-the-war-on-drugs-part-ii/

Source: Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions – March 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

MAT With Methadone or Buprenorphine: Assessing the Evidence for Effectiveness

evidenceIt’s not surprising that a thorough review of the efficacy of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with methadone or buprenorphine reveals  a high level of evidence for the positive impact of MAT in keeping patients in treatment and reducing or eliminating illicit opioid use.

What is surprising is that the stigma against MAT persists—even though evidence suggests that methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) has a positive impact on drug-related HIV risk behaviors and criminal activity—and thus could make clinic neighborhoods safer, rather than less desirable.

The research findings on MMT and buprenorphine or buprenorphine-naloxone maintenance treatment (BMT) were published in November 2013 in two peer-reviewed articles (see References) as part of the Assessing the Evidence Base (AEB) Series sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Assessing the Evidence Base Series

SAMHSA sponsored the AEB Series to help guide providers’ decisions about which behavioral health services public and commercially funded plans should cover. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) greatly expands health care coverage and provides the opportunity “for federal and state agencies to work with private and nonprofit sectors to transform the American health care system” by developing a comprehensive set of community-based, recovery-oriented, and evidence-based services for people with mental and substance use disorders. The ACA doesn’t specify specific treatments, leaving the decision to federal, state, and local agencies, managed care organizations, and commercial and private insurers.

Deciding which services have verified effectiveness isn’t an easy task. To help in the decision-making process, the AEB Series provides a literature evaluation for 14 behavioral health services. For people with substance use disorders, they include, in addition to MMT and BMT, residential treatment, peer-recovery support, and intensive outpatient programs. The goal of the AEB Series is “to provide a framework for decision makers to build a modern addictions and mental health service system for the people who use these services and the people who provide them.”

The Studies

Authors of the MMT and BMT studies searched major databases and other sources to review meta-analyses, reviews, and individual studies from 1995 through 2012.

In brief, the studies found that with adequate dosing, MMT (> 60 mg) and BMT (16 mg-32 mg) caused a similar reduction in illicit opioid use, but MMT was associated with better treatment retention and BMT with a lower risk of adverse events. In pregnancy, MMT and BMT (without naltrexone) showed similar efficacy, but MMT was better than BMT in retaining pregnant women in treatment, and BMT was associated with improved maternal and fetal outcomes, compared to no MAT.

MMT and BMT showed similar occurrence rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome, “but symptoms were less severe for infants whose mothers were treated with BMT.” BMT is associated with a lower risk of adverse events, and has the advantage of greater availability (office facilities improve access and provide earlier care). MMT may be needed for patients who require high doses of opioid agonist treatment, and has the advantage of a possible positive effect on mortality, drug-related HIV risk behaviors, and criminal activity.

The authors advise that MMT “should be a covered service available to all individuals,” and that BMT “should be considered for inclusion as a covered benefit.”

Sprinkled within the two articles are qualifiers such as “possible,” “associated with,” and “suggestive.” That’s because the statistical significance shown in some large, well-designed studies tends to disappear when data from individual studies are merged. Merging changes drug dosages, length of treatment, patient characteristics of the group, and other data; these changes may make reaching statistical significance impossible.

Areas for Future Research

The authors identified several areas where additional data would be helpful. For methadone, these include the impact of MMT on secondary outcomes, the efficacy and safety tradeoffs of doses > 100 mg, and confirmation of results of interim treatment for improved outcome. (In interim treatment, patients receive methadone daily under supervision for up to 120 days, and emergency counseling, while awaiting placement in a program.)  Another research area: the use of MMT in subpopulations—racial and ethnic minority groups, and people who misuse prescription drugs.

For buprenorphine, suggested research areas include the impact of BMT on secondary outcomes, appropriate dosing to enhance outcomes, and confirmation of stepped-care results. (Stepped-care involves gradually increasing buprenorphine doses to 32 mg—higher doses “do not provide additional efficacy;” patients requiring more medication are switched—“stepped-up”—to high-dose methadone.) Other research areas: the use of BMT in subpopulations (described above), and improved induction protocols to minimize retention problems.

A box in each publication summarizes the authors’ findings for each treatment. We reproduce them below, as they appeared in print.

 

Evidence for the effectiveness of MMT: high

Evidence clearly shows that MMT has a positive impacta on:

  • Retention in treatment
  • Illicit opioid use

Evidence is less clear but suggestive that MMT has a positive impact on:

  • Mortality
  • Illicit drug use (non-opioid)
  • Drug-related HIV risk behaviorsb
  • Criminal activity

Evidence suggests that MMT has little impact on:

  • Sex-related HIV risk behaviorsc

 

a Compared with placebo, detoxification, drug-free rehabilitation, or wait-listing
b Sharing injection equipment.
c Having unprotected sexual relations.

 

Evidence for the effectiveness of BMT: high

Evidence clearly shows that BMT has a positive impact compared with placebo on:

  • Retention in treatment
  • Illicit opioid use

Evidence is mixed for its impact on:

  • Non-opioid illicit drug use

 

Regarding retention in treatment and illicit opioid use, BMT had a positive effect compared to placebo, while MMT had a positive effect compared to placebo, detoxification, drug-free protocols, or wait-listing protocols.

Closing Statements

The authors note the importance of MAT, especially considering the poor success rates of abstinence-based treatments, and recognize both MMT and BMT as important treatment options. Below are summaries of their closing statements.

Methadone: The authors point out the need for educating providers, consumers, and family members about the benefits of MMT and ways to avoid the significant adverse events that can occur (referring to respiratory depression and cardiac arrhythmias). They also note the need for education about “appropriate doses to improve efficacy” and “appropriate initiation to minimize adverse events.”

They close with: Because of MMT’s relative efficacy, efforts should be made to increase access to MMT for all individuals who struggle with opioid use disorders. Directors of state mental health and substance abuse agencies and community health organizations should look for methods to increase access to MMT, and purchasers of health care services should cover appropriately monitored MMT.”

Buprenorphine: Noting the key advantage of buprenorphine—its availability—and the “limited access to and more restrictive safety profile of MMT,” the authors consider BMT an important treatment for opioid dependence. “Policy makers have reason to promote access to BMT for patients in substance use treatment who may wish to choose BMT as a potentially safer alternative to MMT.

They close with: “Administrators of substance use treatment programs, community health centers, and managed care organizations and other purchasers of health care services, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurance carriers, should give careful consideration to BMT as a covered benefit.”

#     #     #

References

Fullerton CA, Kim M, Thomas CP, et al. Medication-assisted treatment with methadone: assessing the evidence. Psychiatric Services in Advance. November 18, 2013; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300235.

Thomas CP, Fullerton CA, Kim M, et al. Medication-assisted treatment with buprenorphine: Assessing the Evidence. Psychiatric Services in Advance. November 18, 2013; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300256.

Dougherty RH, Lyman DR, George P, Ghose SS, Daniels AS, Delphin-Rittmon ME.

Assessing the Evidence Base for Behavioral Health Services: Introduction to the Series.

Psychiatric Services. 2014; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300214

http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=1759202

Prescription Drugs a ‘Tipping Point’ For Dating Violence among Urban Youth

A new University of Michigan Injury Center study recently found a link between misuse of prescription drugs and physical violence among dating partners.

Alcohol and other drugs have been a well-studied health concern among youth with a history of substance use. Previous studies asking youth about daily use over the course of a month show that alcohol and drugs are more likely to be used on days in which violence, both dating and nondating, occurs than on days when there was no violence.

This latest research indicates a connection with misusing prescription sedatives and opioids prior to incidents of dating violence, which many youth or adults may not think of as a risk factor for dating violence.

“Without the alcohol or prescription drugs involved, they simply might walk away from a potentially violent situation,” said Quyen Epstein-Ngo, a fellow at the U-M Injury Center and researcher at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. “The alcohol and other substance use may be the tipping points.”

The study examined substance use—prescription sedatives and opioids—immediately preceding dating violent conflicts on the day of the conflict among high-risk urban youths. Data was collected from 575 participants ages 14-24 in the Flint Youth Injury Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and supported by the U-M Injury Center, which looks at substance use and violence among youth treated in an urban emergency room. They reported substance use and instances of violence over a12-month period.

 http://www.healthcanal.com/substance-abuse/46532-prescription-drugs-a-tipping-point-for-dating-violence-among-urban-youth.html

Source:  HealthCanal.com – January 11, 2014

New Mexico Jail Methadone Program Shows Mixed Results

jail croppedjailjail cropped
jail cropped“A recent study conducted by the University of New Mexico found that inmates in the methadone maintenance program, which provides a daily dose of methadone to inmates already enrolled in a community-based methadone program, spent almost 40 days longer out of jail than their opiate-addicted counterparts not enrolled in a methadone program. That amounts to per-inmate savings to taxpayers of almost $2,700, according to the study, as taxpayers shell out around $69 to house an inmate per day.

The study published in early December, however, contains another finding that erases the savings: Inmates enrolled in the methadone program tended to stay in jail 36 days longer than other inmates. It’s unclear what causes methadone inmates to stay longer, though the program’s directors and others have a couple guesses – that methadone-receiving inmates are more comfortable in jail than those addicted to heroin, and that inmates getting methadone tend to prefer serving their full sentences and leaving jail without probation.”

http://www.abqjournal.com/331644/news/methadone-program-shows-mixed-results.html

Source:  ABQJournal.com – January 6, 2014

Beating the Poppy Seed Defense: New Test Can Distinguish Heroin Use from Seed Ingestion

“Heroin is one of the most widely used illegal drugs in the world, but drug testing has long been challenged by the difficulty in separating results of illicit heroin users from those who have innocently eaten poppy seeds containing a natural opiate. Research in Drug Testing and Analysis explores a new test which may present a solution to this so-called ‘poppy seed defense.’

The team sought to identify an acetylated derivative which is known to be present in street heroin, but would not be found in either poppy seeds or medicines containing opiates. The authors identified a unique glucuronide metabolite (designated ‘ATM4G’) which could be used as a marker of street heroin use. A high frequency for the presence of ATM4G in urine strongly suggests that detection of this metabolite may offer an important advance in workplace drug testing and forensic toxicology, providing a potential solution to the poppy seed defense.

‘This research report addresses a longstanding analytical problem in forensic toxicology and workplace drug testing, by identifying a urinary marker that differentiates street heroin users from those whom have ingested morphine present in poppy seeds’ said Dr. Andrew Kicman, from the Department of Forensic and Analytical Science at King’s College, London.”

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-01/w-btp010714.php

Source:  Eurekalert.org – January 7, 2014

Among Prescription Painkillers, Drug Abusers Prefer Oxycodone

prescriiption pad“A nationwide survey of opioid drug abusers in rehab indicates that because of the high it produces, the prescription painkiller oxycodone is the most popular drug of choice. Hydrocodone, also prescribed to treat pain, is next in line. In all, some 75 percent of those surveyed rated one of these drugs as their favorite.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Nova Southeastern University in Miami questioned more than 3,500 people in 160 drug-treatment programs across the United States, asking which drugs they abuse and why. Oxycodone was favored by 45 percent, and hydrocodone was preferred by about 30 percent.

Although the drugs are meant to be taken orally, almost 64 percent of oxycodone abusers and just over one-quarter of hydrocodone abusers crushed the tablets and inhaled the drug, while one in five oxycodone abusers reported that they sometimes dissolved the drug in water and injected it. Less than 5 percent reported taking hydrocodone intravenously.

Personality, age and gender all played a role in drug preferences, the research showed. Oxycodone was attractive to those who enjoy taking risks and prefer to inject or snort drugs to get high. Young, male drug users tend to fit that profile.

In contrast, hydrocodone is the more popular choice among women, older people, people who don’t want to inject drugs and those who prefer to deal with a doctor or friend rather than a drug dealer.

The research is published in the current issue of the journal PAIN.

“Opioids are prescribed to treat pain, but their misuse has risen dramatically in recent years,” said principal investigator Theodore J. Cicero, PhD, a Washington University researcher who studies prescription drug abuse. “Our goal is to understand the personal characteristics of people who are susceptible to drug abuse, so we can detect problems ahead of time.”

Among those surveyed, 54 percent said the quality of the high was considered much better for oxycodone, compared with 20 percent who preferred the high they got from hydrocodone.

“Among the reasons addicts prefer oxycodone is that they can get it in pure form,” Cicero said. “Until recently, all drugs with hydrocodone as their active ingredient also contained another product such as acetaminophen, the pain reliever in Tylenol. That turns out to be very important because addicts don’t like acetaminophen.”

Acetaminophen causes considerable irritation when it’s injected, and when taken orally in large amounts, it can cause severe liver damage, he explained.

“Interestingly, addicts, while they’re harming their health in one respect by taking these drugs, report being very concerned about the potentially negative side effects of acetaminophen,” said Cicero, a professor of neuropharmacology in psychiatry.

Those side effects, combined with a preference for the high provided by oxycodone, have led drug abusers to seek out that drug, either on the street or by visiting physicians and attempting to convince doctors that they have pain severe enough to warrant a prescription pain killer.

Cicero is concerned with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent approval of a new, pure form of hydrocodone without acetaminophen, a formulation he expects will be attractive to abusers.

The study also found that even among people in treatment for drug dependence, there seems to be little appetite for moving to stronger prescription narcotics such as fentanyl or various derivatives of morphine.”

The press release can be accessed at: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/26204.aspx

Source: Washington University School of Medicine – November 25, 2013

 

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