Obama Drug Strategy Aims to Change How Americans See Drug Abuse

White HousePresident Obama’s annual drug control strategy, released July 7, targets the rise of heroin but also seeks to portray drug abuse as a disease, not a moral failure.

“When Michael Botticelli, President Obama’s acting “drug czar,” unveiled the administration’s annual drug control strategy on Wednesday morning, he emphasized that “we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of the drug problem.”

The 98-page strategy follows the template of Obama’s previous drug policy statements, but it also raises the alarm on the nation’s growing middle-class problem of opioid addictions, as heroin and painkillers become a suburban and middle-America scourge.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2014/0709/Obama-drug-strategy-aims-to-change-how-Americans-see-drug-abuse

The White House press release on the 2014 strategy can be accessed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/news-releases/2014-national-drug-control-strategy

The strategy can be accessed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ndcs_2014.pdf

See related article – ASAM Applauds ONDCP’s 2014 National Drug Control Strategy: Applauds Focus on Opioid Epidemic available at: http://www.asam.org/magazine/read/article/2014/07/15/asam-applauds-ondcp’s-2014-national-drug-control-strategy-applauds-focus-on-opioid-epidemic

Source: The Christian Science Monitor – July 9, 3024, American Society of Addiction Medicine – July 15, 2014

Feds Seek Ways to Expand Use of Addiction Drug

White House“The government’s top drug abuse experts are struggling to find ways to expand use of a medicine that is considered the best therapy for treating heroin and painkiller addiction.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan on Wednesday pressed officials from the White House, the National Institute of Drug Abuse and other agencies to increase access to buprenorphine, a medication which helps control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It remains underused a decade after its launch.

“As long as we have too few doctors certified to prescribe bupe, we will be missing a major weapon in the fight against the ravages of addiction,” Levin told the forum, which also included patients and non-government medical experts.”

http://bostonherald.com/business/business_markets/2014/06/feds_seek_ways_to_expand_use_of_addiction_drug

Source: BostonHerald.com – June 18, 2014

Pope Francis Opposes Marijuana Legalization, Questions Methadone

Pope Francis said he opposed efforts to legalize marijuana and questioned the use of substitute drugs like methadone to treat heroin addicts.

“Substitute drugs, moreover, aren’t a sufficient therapy, but rather a hidden way to surrender,” Francis said. “I want to emphasize what I’ve said in other occasions. No to every type of drug. Simply no to every type of drug.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-20/pope-francis-opposes-marijuana-legalization-questions-methadone.html

Source: – Bloomberg News.com – June 20, 2014

Blog by William White: Volunteerism and Addiction Treatment

blog1“A 1976 national survey of addiction treatment programs in the United States revealed a workforce of nearly 60,000 workers.  The treatment workforce at that time consisted of 31,000 full-time workers and 15,000 part-time paid workers.  The paid professional workforce included 20,000 counselors, 5,000 nurses, 3,000 social workers, 2,500 psychologists, and a small and slowly growing cadre of physicians.  But what is most striking to me in this survey is the reported presence of more than 1,000 full-time volunteers and 13,000 part-time volunteers. As volunteers disappeared from the addiction treatment milieu during the 1980s and 1990s, the story of their role in early addiction treatment and what they meant to people seeking recovery also disappeared.”

http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/blog/2014/06/volunteerism-and-addiction-treatment.html

Source: WilliamWhitePapers.com – June 14, 2014

Providing Buprenorphine in an Opioid Treatment Program: Challenges and Opportunities

shutterstock_3917107When the federal government said in December of 2012 that opioid treatment programs (OTPs) can dispense take-home doses of buprenorphine with fewer restrictions than are placed on take-home doses for methadone—in particular, no waiting period (http://atforum.com/news/2013/02/otps-can-now-dispense-buprenorphine-take-homes-with-no-waiting-periods/), there was an expectation that patients and treatment providers would be interested in buprenorphine. But there was also a concern that the high cost of buprenorphine compared to methadone would be an obstacle. In addition, states have their own rules that may be stricter than the federal government’s.

It turns out that more than a year later, most OTPs are still not dispensing buprenorphine on a widespread basis, and the main reasons are cost and insurance reimbursement. “I just completed a survey among the State Opioid Treatment Authorities, to find out what they think the impediments are to the use of buprenorphine in their state,” Mark Parrino, MPA, President of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD), told AT Forum in April. “It would seem that the biggest singular impediment is the lack of insurance reimbursement in OTPs.

“California and New York are states with the largest number of certified OTPs; however, California Medicaid does not provide any reimbursement for buprenorphine use in OTPs. At the present time, New York State does not have a current Medicaid reimbursement mechanism for buprenorphine use in their OTPs, although it did have such a reimbursement before the state converted to a new system called APGs [Ambulatory Patient Groups]. I understand that state officials and treatment providers, as organized through COMPA [Committee of Methadone Program Administrators of New York State, Inc.] are working to correct the problem.“

Other states have legislative restrictions for the use of public funds to use buprenorphine in OTPs. Idaho provides a case in point. North Dakota has just released its administrative/licensing regulations for OTPs, and the use of buprenorphine will be required in newly sited OTPs.

Here’s the problem. If buprenorphine is picked up in a pharmacy, the pharmacy benefit covers it. But if it’s dispensed by an OTP, there is no separate reimbursement for the medication—the cost has to come out of the fee the OTP gets for overall treatment. The cost of methadone is far less than the cost of buprenorphine, depending on the formulation.

Private insurance generally doesn’t cover OTP treatment services, in general, so the bulk of the payment falls on Medicaid or on self-pay patients. While there are 49 states that now allow OTPs, only 33 of them allow Medicaid to pay for such treatment, said Mr. Parrino. In the other states, patients have to make out-of-pocket payments. We have also learned that commercial insurance is providing coverage for OTP services but there are a number of restrictions when it comes to paying a claim.

“It’s a state-by-state fight,” he said. “There is no federal fix for this. There are states that have buprenorphine-only OTPs. Ohio provides an illustration where three buprenorphine-only OTPs were approved in 2013. Other states have reported this as well.”

Of course, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would not block states that wanted to reimburse OTPs for dispensing buprenorphine, but CMS has historically not intervened if a state refuses to do so.

In some states, there are still regulatory, bureaucratic barriers that need to be fixed. For example, in many states, before the reimbursement issue can even be addressed, language changes are needed that would allow buprenorphine to be dispensed in an OTP.

In self-pay states, adding the cost of buprenorphine to what patients are already paying would be prohibitive, said Mr. Parrino. In spite of this, some treatment systems such as CRC have indicated that 10 percent of their patient population is currently utilizing buprenorphine through their network of OTPs.

When the rule allowing buprenorphine dispensing was published, Mr. Parrino immediately suggested to states that they look into actions that would encourage the use of buprenorphine. However, he doesn’t think there is necessarily great interest in patients switching from methadone to buprenorphine. “I haven’t heard of any groundswell of patients in an OTP saying ‘Please put me on buprenorphine so I can qualify for take-homes,’” he said.

There’s a lot that isn’t known, especially about the physicians who are prescribing buprenorphine from their offices. “We don’t know how many physicians are monitoring and tracking their patients,” said Mr. Parrino, noting that such monitoring and tracking is done by OTPs through federal and state regulations. But intuitively, he said, it makes some sense that a patient would rather go to an office-based treatment—regardless of whether the medication were methadone (which isn’t allowed to be dispensed or prescribed from an office), or buprenorphine—than to an OTP. “If I’m a patient who can pay for care, do I want to go to an OTP where there’s counseling requirements and toxicology testing, or to a physician where there aren’t any treatment requirements?” he asked rhetorically. “On the other hand, I have been informed that some patients do want such services and access such care through OTPs. It is also important to keep in mind that a number of physicians who have DATA 2000 practices are providing excellent care to patients as well as providing a comprehensive array of services at or through their offices. We just do not have credible data to indicate who is doing what.”

There are approximately 325,000 patients in OTPs at the present time. While it’s not clear how many patients are in ongoing treatment with buprenorphine from office-based physicians, AATOD estimates the number to be between 400,000 and 500,000.The number is based on prescriptions being written, but not necessarily unique patients, said Mr. Parrino.

In Vermont, where more OTPs are opening up, there is a current perceived advantage of having patients medicated on site, even with buprenorphine, because of diversion related issues.

New Jersey

We talked with Ed Higgins, MA, executive director and CEO of JSAS Healthcare Services, an OTP based in Neptune, New Jersey, and the only non-profit OTP in two contiguous counties. The insurance reimbursement problem is a reality, he said. When buprenorphine first came on the market, as Suboxone and Subutex, OTPs made sure it would be covered by Medicaid. And it is—but only as a pharmacy benefit. “I’m not a pharmacy,” said Mr. Higgins. “A Medicaid Rx card won’t work here.” The retail price for a 1-week supply of only 8 milligrams a day of buprenorphine is $50.

So at JSAS, all three physicians are waivered to prescribe buprenorphine. Two of them are American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) physicians. They see patients and write a prescription for buprenorphine, most of which is not reimbursed, said Mr. Higgins. “We can’t bill extra for the induction,” he added. “It’s just a regular Medicaid office visit, and we’re working on 1985 rates.” Only one of our ASAM physicians is currently accepting self-pay patients.

Patients can get buprenorphine from other waived physicians, of course, but Mr. Higgins describes this as the “Wild West,” where patients are charged as much as $350 to $500 for the induction.

Mr. Higgins agrees that the cost of buprenorphine is prohibitive for self-pay patients. And he is curious about the “hundreds of thousands” of patients who enroll in the private-practice model of buprenorphine treatment each year. “This begs for a follow-up study,” he said. “How many of those patients stay in treatment?” There are also questions about dosing: the limit was supposed to be 16 milligrams a day, but there are some patients who require 24 milligrams—although not in his clinic—said Mr. Higgins. “That’s the reality in the private sector.” Some managed care companies are now mandating that patients on buprenorphine be given at least one counseling session a month, he said, while others have no counseling requirement.

Finally, Mr. Higgins said that there are patients who feel better on methadone. But they can’t have the freedom of going to private practitioners, and also be on methadone.

Fewer than 5 percent of the patients at JSAS are on buprenorphine, said Mr. Higgins. “In the world I’d like to live in, we would look at a patient, especially a younger patient, and say, ‘We have some choices for you.’” The OTP could recommend buprenorphine first, and if it doesn’t work, then easily convert to methadone. The problem is that the prices are still too high. There are now five generic forms of buprenorphine, and Mr. Higgins would like to see the manufacturers get together and lower the prices dramatically. “I’m not talking about 10 percent,” he said.

Now, however, the choices just come down to finance. “I can give you 80 milligrams of methadone, and my lowest cost for that is 36 cents. Or you can get a prescription for    16 milligrams of buprenorphine, which is a therapeutic dose, and your weekly cost is going to be approximately $100.”

JSAS gets $120 per month per patient from Medicaid.

 

 

 

Blog By Jana Burson: The COWS Score: How Helpful Is It?

“COWS stands for Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale, and it’s probably the most commonly used tool to determine the degree of opioid withdrawal experienced by the patient. The scale has eleven items related to opioid withdrawal. Some are subjective, like the question about the degree of anxiety or irritability the patient is feeling. Some items are strictly objective, such as pupil size and pulse rate. And some are sort of a combination of objective and subjective, like the question asking about both nausea and vomiting. The patient may report nausea and score points on the scale, and if the patient vomits, this scores more points.

I think it’s a good tool, but has some drawbacks. I use it during dose induction, particularly on a patient new to medication-assisted treatment. Sometimes patients aren’t sure how they’re “supposed” to feel on replacement medication, and a COWS score gives me a better idea of how much withdrawal they are in.”

The blog can be accessed at: http://janaburson.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/the-cows-score-how-helpful-is-it/

Source: JanaBurson.com – May 25, 2014

Pioneer Voices Blog by William White

“When I launched my website in 2010, it seemed a perfect venue to create an archive where interviews could be made available worldwide at the click of a mouse.  Since then, I have more than 100 interviews with addiction treatment and recovery advocacy pioneers.  I would like to call your attention to several of these recently posted interviews.”

  • Dr. Stephanie Covington explores the evolution of her pioneering work in the development of gender-specific treatment and recovery support services in the United States.
  • Karen Moyer and Brian Maus discuss the needs of children affected by addiction and the unique program they have developed to enhance the health and development of such children.
  • A.J. Senerchia is one of the leaders of a new organization, Young People in Recovery (YPR).  Young people are playing an increasingly important role in the new recovery advocacy movement, and the interview with A.J. provides background on YPR and the role of young people in this larger movement.  Very inspiring.
  • Dr. Joan Zweben has made significant contributions to the clinical treatment of addiction.   She was an early voice calling for recovery-oriented psychotherapy within addiction treatment, and she has been one of the pioneers in elevating the quality and recovery orientation of medication-assisted treatment in the U.S.  In this engaging interview, she describes her life and work.

“At the near-end of my career, I have had the pleasure of learning insights gleaned from the lives of these and other pioneers in the addictions field.  What I would have given to have had such access when I began this work in the 1960s.  For those at all stages of your careers, here is such an opportunity.” The 100+ interviews are posted at: http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/leadership_interviews/

Source: WilliamWhitePapers.com – May 24, 2014

Buprenorphine, Methadone and Opiate Replacement Therapy Blog Series from Psychology Today

blog1This three part blog by Joseph Troncale, MD, FASAM, published online on the Psychology Todaywebsite provides a historical overview of opioid addiction and the rise of opioid replacement medication.  The three parts include:

Part 1: Lessons From History – April 30, 2014

Part II: Where the Harrison Act has Brought Us – May 10, 2014

Part III: The Plight of the Opiate Addict from 1914 until Now, and the Rise of Substitution Therapy – May 10, 2014

Dr. Troncale concluded, “There is no perfect drug or therapy, but it is still a certainty that the use of street heroin or synthetic opiates is extremely lethal. I have seen people use NA or AA and get clean, and I have seen people use a combination of buprenorphine or methadone and/or AA and live normal lives. The hope of change is still there. Why people make destructive choices is the question that cannot be explained except by an understanding of the power of the limbic system.”

Source: PsychologyToday.com – April/May 2014

E-mail Communication from AATOD President Mark Parrino on MAT for Opioid Addiction in the Criminal Justice System

AATOD“I am providing a link to an important letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, dated April 10, 2014, which was signed by sixteen US Senators. The Senators are urging the Attorney General to work with all of the branches in the Department of Justice to utilize the federally approved medications to treat opioid addiction “in combination with counseling”. “Specifically, the Department should initiate a multi-state program utilizing anti-addiction medications to support successful reentry into society of opioid addicted offenders from various correctional settings.” I know that you will join me in supporting this approach and clearly the sixteen Senators understand the benefit of providing access to Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid addiction in the Criminal Justice setting.”

The AATOD letter can be accessed at: http://www.aatod.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Letter-to-AG-Holder-on-Prescription-opioid-and-heroin-addiction.pdf

Source: American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence – April 28, 2014

Blog by Jana Burson Methadone and Buprenorphine During Incarceration

jail-cropped“As a health care provider, of course I’m opposed to any refusal to treatment a patient while incarcerated. I think it’s a violation of the 8th Amendment about cruel and unusual punishment, but since I’m no legal scholar, I’ve searched the internet for more information about this situation. I found a great article co-authored by a doctor and a lawyer. They make the point that opioid addiction is a complex illness, and forced withdrawal causes severe physical and psychological suffering. Also, because opioid withdrawal makes people especially vulnerable, they may be coerced into giving testimony that incriminates themselves. They are less able to make decisions.

Prisons are charged to provide as much care as is available to prisoners as general population, yet opioid addicts are denied access to medication-assisted treatments for addiction. These treatments are, as you probably know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, one of the most evidenced-based medical treatments in all of medicine.”

http://janaburson.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/methadone-and-buprenorphine-during-incarceration/

Source: JanaBurson.com – May 11, 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

SAMHSA Blog: Recovery Includes Medical Treatment

samhsa“Within the health domain, clinical treatment plays a critical role in recovery.  Access to safe and effective medications is a vital tool on the path to recovery for many people with mental and/or substance use disorders.  We can think of recovery as a process by which people learn to manage their conditions and lead productive lives.  It is facilitated by working with providers via medications, counseling, rehabilitative services, stress and relapse management, and other services and supports.  Just as with other health conditions, medication is often a key part in achieving positive outcomes. However, medication is not effective for everyone or for every mental health condition, so there needs to be individualized approaches to care and treatment.  The recovery model incorporates all of these variables and provides new hope to many individuals with serious mental illnesses.

To optimize the use of medications to assist recovery, consumers/peers, families, and providers need to be fully informed, engaged, and involved.  SAMHSA has developed evidence-based approaches in areas such as shared decision-making, family psychoeducation, medication treatment, evaluation, and management, and provider training and clinical decision support.”

http://blog.samhsa.gov/2014/05/01/recovery-includes-medical-treatment/#.U3Z6YptALzZ

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration -May 1, 2014

Study Addresses Treatments for Waited-Listed Opioid-Dependent Individuals

waiting line“Addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers – has reached epidemic levels across the country, with treatment waitlists also at an all-time high. However, ensuring timely access to effective treatment – particularly in rural states like Vermont – has become a substantial problem. University of Vermont (UVM) Associate Professor of Psychiatry Stacey Sigmon, Ph.D., has taken a stand to address this issue and has a new grant to support her campaign.

Sigmon’s latest project, funded by a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award, will develop a novel Interim Buprenorphine Treatment (IBT) to help opioid-dependent Vermonters bridge challenging waitlist delays. She’s proposed a treatment “package” of five key components designed to maximize patient access to evidence-based medication for opioid dependence while minimizing common barriers to treatment success, including risks of medication non-adherence, abuse and diversion.”

The five components include:

  • Three months of maintenance therapy using buprenorphine.
  • A, computerized portable device manufactured in Finland called a Med-O-Wheel, which dispenses each day’s dose at a predetermined time, after which all medication is locked away and inaccessible.
  • Clinical support will come from a mobile health platform that uses technology to deliver patient monitoring and support beyond the confines of the medical office.
  • The fourth component involves an automated call-back procedure during which participants are contacted at randomly-determined intervals and directed to visit the clinic for a pill count and urinalysis.
  • Development and provision of an HIV and hepatitis educational intervention delivered via a portable iPad platform.

“These technologies are particularly compatible with rural settings, says Sigmon, where there are multiple burdens – including long distances and transportation barriers – that can make it hard for a patient to come to a treatment center on a daily basis.

Once developed, these treatment components also don’t need to be limited to people on wait lists. In fact, they can also be used to support the physicians with patients already enrolled in a methadone, office-based buprenorphine or pain management clinics,” says Sigmon.”

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-04-treatments-waited-listed-opioid-dependent-individuals.html

Source: MedicalXpress.com – April 10, 2014

Infographic: Benzodiazepine Use and Medication-Assisted Treatment

benzo2The Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA) has prepared an infographic that addresses immediate consequences, long-term effects, and the relationship between benzodiazepine use and medication-assisted recovery.

The infographic is available for free download at: http://iretablog.org/2014/04/10/infographic-benzodiazepine-use-and-medication-assisted-treatment/

Source: The Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions – April 10, 2014

Dr. Jana Burson Blog: Insomnia Medications for Patients in Medication-Assisted Treatment

“In one of my recent blog entries, I talked about some simple measures that can help patients with insomnia, called sleep hygiene. Many times these methods can fix the problem, but other times, patients still can’t sleep well, which interferes with life. In these cases, medications may be of some help.”

The “Z” Medications

“The “Z” group of medications includes zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata), and eszopiclone (Lunesta). These medications, which are not benzodiazepines, have been touted as being safer and less addictive than older benzodiazepines, like temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion) or clonazepam (Klonopin). However, the “Z” medications stimulate the same brain receptors as benzodiazepines, and are all Schedule IV controlled substances, just like benzodiazepines.

I don’t prescribe the “Z” medications for patients on medication-assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine because they can cause overdose deaths in these patients. Also, these medications can give many patients with the disease of addiction the same impulse to misuse their medication. I’ve had patients develop problems with misuse and overuse of these medicines.”

Other Medications

Dr. Burson also discusses clonidine, gabapentin and muscle relaxers.

http://janaburson.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/insomnia-medications-for-patients-in-medication-assisted-treatment/

Source: Dr. Jana Burson – April 12, 2014

States That Don’t Expand Medicaid Leave Millions of Mentally Ill Uninsured: Report

“About 3.7 million Americans, who live in states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, suffer from mental illness, psychological distress or a substance use disorder and don’t have health insurance, according to a recent report.

Twenty-four states have not expanded their Medicaid programs, according to USA Today. In the states that did expand Medicaid, about 3 million people with a mental health or substance use disorder, who were formerly uninsured, now are eligible for coverage. The findings come from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA).”

http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/community-related/states-that-dont-expand-medicaid-leave-millions-of-mentally-ill-uninsured

Source: JoinTogether.org – April 9, 2014

World Health Organization (WHO) Releases Guidelines: Substance Use and Pregnancy

These recently released guidelines contain recommendations on the identification and management of substance use and substance use disorders for health care services which assist women who are pregnant, or have recently had a child, and who use alcohol or drugs or who have a substance use disorder. They have been developed in response to requests from organizations, institutions and individuals for technical guidance on the identification and management of alcohol and other substance use and substance use disorders in pregnant women, with the target of healthy outcomes for both pregnant and their fetus or infant.

http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/pregnancy_guidelines/en/

Source: World Health Organization – March 2014

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

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

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