Drug Addiction Brings Out the Worst

Last modified: July 23, 2014 05:26:05 PM

Addiction produces behavioral, emotional and cognitive changes to patients, that help perpetuate the disease.

People facing drug addiction need all the love and support they can get but, frankly, it can be hard to love an addict. Addiction changes some of the nicest, most successful people into hardened, homeless and hopeless criminals. Sticking by someone you love can be hard when you play second fiddle to a needle or pill.

Addiction makes someone crave drugs and do just about anything to get high, even ripping off the people he loves. At first, the cravings are easy to feed – he just gets a refill from his doctor. Addiction is progressive, which means these cravings get worse, driving the person to take part increasingly in activities that would normally offend or frighten him. He might start stealing from friends or family, for example, or even venturing into buying illegal street drugs.

Using most drugs continually for a long time usually causes the body to grow tolerant of the drug, requiring ever-larger doses to achieve the same effect. As his drug habit grows, so does the cost and his desire. Drug addiction causes financial ruin as the individual tries to keep up with the growing demands of his habit. It is exceptionally difficult to watch your friend become destitute but it is devastating when your spouse, parent, or child brings economic devastation upon your household.

Left unchecked, drug addiction usually results in some form of criminal activity to buy or pay for drugs. Hanging around with criminals can ruin your reputation or even lead to arrest by association – getting caught in the middle of a drug bust or drug deal gone wrong could even be fatal.

Psychoactive drugs get people high and cause other neurological effects that changes how someone thinks, feels, and behaves. At first, he enjoys fuzzy thought processes, feeling exuberant, and having fun. In time, the neurological effects of drug become more permanent and affect his ability to make rational decisions, sort out his emotions, or behave normally. After a while, he begins to consistently make terrible choices, have trouble interacting with others, and react to everyday situations in inappropriate ways. These are not choices or defects in his character – they are side effects of chronic drug use – but they can still make someone unbearable to be around.

The behavioral, emotional, and cognitive changes caused by addiction are not accidental – these alterations serve to perpetuate addiction by first demanding total obedience from the addict then separating him from the people who can save him.

While it may not be easy to love someone struggling with addiction, it is imperative that you try. Russell Brand, international comedian and recovering drug addict, said it best: “The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”

Opioid-induced Constipation

Last modified: September 23, 2013 01:04:08 PM

Approximately 41% of patients receiving opioids for moderate-to-severe pain experienced at least one event of constipation

Opioids, a class of pharmaceuticals that are prescribed for pain relief including morphine, codeine, OxyContin, Vicodin and others, have several negative side effects.  One of the more unpleasant of these side effects is constipation.

Constipation is the very infrequent passing of formed stools, or the hardening of stools that are difficult to pass.  There are several factors which can contribute to the onset of constipation, some of which are a lack of fiber, an inadequate intake of liquids, and a lack of exercise.  Constipation can also be caused by a variety of physical conditions and disease.  However, what often gets ignored is the fact that pain-relief medication based on opioids is also a major contributor to constipation.

Opioid medications in general affect the digestive system in a few ways.  First of all, the opioids slow the digestive system right down; stool simply takes much longer to get through.  The medications cause the small intestine to contract in a non-propulsive way, decreasing the longitudinal propulsive peristalsis which pushes food through the digestive tract.  The food ends up staying in one place.  Furthermore, opioids provoke gastroparesis, a partial paralysis of the stomach.  Food also ends up remaining in the stomach for a much longer period of time.  Digestive secretions are decreased with the ingestion of opioids, which means the urge or need to defecate will be greatly reduced.  It is thought that mu-opioid receptors present in the digestive system, spinal cord and brain are involved with causing constipation.

Symptoms of OIC include abdominal tenderness, hard and dry stools, difficulty and pain while defecating, bloating or bulging in the abdominal area, and a constant feeling of needing to use a toilet.  Other symptoms might include feeling tired, depressed, sick and having no appetite.  To treat OIC, physicians at first may simply recommend lifestyle changes such as a high-fiber diet and increasing water intake along with some exercise.  However, this may not work in all cases and may not even be viable for some patients, so other treatment may be necessary.  Most of the time, doctors will prescribe cathartics and/or laxatives at the same time the opioids are prescribed so that the patient will not suffer the distress of constipation.  The laxatives and cathartics will work to speed up the digestive process, increase intestinal motility and soften stool.

At times, oral medication may not work in the treatment of OIC; suppositories, enemas, rectal irrigation and manual evacuation may be necessary.  British doctors found that a combination therapy worked best for the treatment of OIC; medication and lifestyle changes were both beneficial when treating constipation.   However, some critics do say that the medication will not treat the underlying cause of OIC which is opioid receptor-mediated and needs specific, targeted treatment.  One treatment involves the use of methylnaltrexone, a mu-opioid receptor antagonist which counteracts the constipating effects of opioids without decreasing the opioid’s pain relief ability.

If an opioid medication has been prescribed by a doctor to combat pain, it is a patient’s right and duty to ask as many questions as possible in order to be informed and reduce the risk of developing OIC.

Opioid Receptors: How They Work

Last modified: September 23, 2013 01:03:25 PM

Opioid Receptors: How They Work

In the media, there is a lot of attention paid to prescription drugs like OxyContin and illegal substances like heroin, and the words opioids and opioid receptors get mentioned often.  However, in most cases these terms are not explained and the general public usually has no idea what opioids and opioid receptors are, and people usually don’t know why the opioids are so addictive.

First of all, opioids are semi-synthetic substances derived from the natural alkaloids found in the resin of the opium poppy.  An opiate, a term which is sometimes used as a synonym for opioid, is actually a subgroup within the opioid family.  Opioids are among the world’s oldest known drugs and their use predates the written word.

Opioid drugs, which include medications like Percocet, Vicodin and Oxycodone, alleviate pain all over the body by binding to the opioid receptors which are found in the spinal cord, the brain, and gastrointestinal tract.

What the opioid medications and illegal opioid drugs such as heroin do is interfere with the brain’s task of recognizing discomfort and pain once they get into the blood stream.  What makes these substances so highly addictive is their ability to stimulate the parts of the brain that deal with pleasurable and euphoric emotions; this is the “high” that some opioid users chase after.

There are four major types of opioid receptors; Nociception, delta, kappa, and mu.  All four can be found in the brain, but only mu receptors are found in the gastrointestinal tract and spinal cord as well as the brain.  Researchers believe that the mu receptor is the most important of the opioid receptors because it produces analgesia (pain suppression), reduced gastrointestinal function, respiratory depression, physical dependence and –most importantly for addicts – the feeling of euphoria.

When Opioids are used or abused for a long time, a tolerance for the drug gets developed, and the patient finds the need to ingest higher and higher doses to either achieve the characteristic “high” or pain-numbing effect.  This happens because of a process called endocytosis.  In endocytosis, the cell will internalize the opioid receptor, making far fewer opioid binding sites available on the surface of the cells to accept and receive the drugs.  With few receptors available, the dosage of opioid drugs will need to be ever increasing in order for the user to feel the same “high” or pain-relieving effects.

Withdrawal symptoms are intense and incredibly painful, causing intense suffering for the addict who is trying to kick the habit.  The pain is so terrible that many prefer to stay addicted to avoid the unpleasantness of withdrawal.  A person who is addicted and physically dependent on opioids should always seek professional medical help to deal with the withdrawal and resolve any underlying emotional or mental problems that can lead to a relapse in substance abuse behaviour.

What exactly are “Bath Salts”?

Last modified: September 23, 2013 12:57:28 PM

Synthetic cathinone(MDVP, MEphedrone) are marketed as "bath salts" to evade detection by authorities.

The innocuously named “Bath Salts” is actually very potent, highly addictive street drug which has had an enormous amount of media attention lately due to the psychotic and extremely violent behavior of some of those who use it.  Its euphemistic moniker came about due to the fact that the drug looks like regular, every day Epsom bath salts.

Bath salts usually contain MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, and could also contain methylone or mephedrone, and are usually distributed in a powdered format that can be inhaled, smoked, or injected.  The synthetic drug’s composition can vary widely from batch to batch, making it incredibly difficult for those who need to give a user medical treatment.

MDPV produces an effect very much like that of amphetamines, and it speeds up the central nervous system.  Like amphetamines, there can also be powerful negative effects, like paranoia, hallucinations, and extremely violent behavior.  Other risks include cardiac arrest, kidney failure, and suicide due to psychosis.

This street concoction of MDPV, methylone and mephedrone, according to medical experts at hospitals and treatment centers, is one of the most addictive drugs in existence.  Dr. Heidi-Marie Farinholt of Aberdeen Hospital in Nova Scotia, Canada told CBC news about the drug’s additive qualities.

“It is extremely dangerous. So you take cocaine and multiply it by a factor of 10 and you have this.”

Other names for the drug range from the innocent-sounding ivory wave and vanilla sky to the more sinister monkey dust and hurricane Charlie.

The drug, frustratingly, is like other synthetic drugs in that it is very hard to detect.  It cannot be detected by drug-sniffing dogs or in urine samples.  Further making things difficult for law enforcement is the fact that the drug is almost always labelled as a common every day product, like insect repellent, window cleaner or simply bath salts.

What also makes the drug disturbing is that MDPV is not yet illegal; while methylone and mephedrone are illegal substances, MDPV, at least in Canada, will start to be classed as a schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Drugs and Substances act in the autumn of 2012.  This means it will be illegal and will be in the same category as heroin and cocaine.  In the US, the federal government is always playing a game of “catch-up” with the synthetic drug designers; when one synthetic drug becomes illegal, the manufacturers come up with another formulation to beat the law.

In summary, the drug “bath salts” is one of the most dangerous street drugs available:  it is highly addictive, it causes psychotic episodes, it is difficult to detect and for the moment, it enjoys a quasi-legal status.

Helping an Addict Recover

Last modified: September 23, 2013 12:56:46 PM

a family is too emotionally involved to resist the manipulative behavior which is characteristic of drug and alcohol addicts

One of the most traumatizing situations that can occur in a family is the descent of a loved one into the depths and despair of drug or alcohol addiction.  The addict’s personality changes, the relationship dynamic of the household changes, and the emotional, mental atmosphere of the home changes – all for the worse.  However, we would all do anything possible to help our sibling, child, partner or parent recover; but what happens is that because we don’t really know how to handle the situation, we can turn into the addict’s enablers in an effort to appease him or her into stopping his abusive behavior; or we scream and get angry with our addicted loved one for his or her moral failure.  After all, to many of us who are not health-care professionals, addiction is a weakness and an addict can stop if he or she just wanted to hard enough.

Many families, after realizing that their loved one is an addict and learning the extent of the problem, try to solve the problem “in-house” by themselves will several well intentioned plans that don’t really produce the desired result; in fact, the addiction can become worse.  For example, if an addict claims that he or she is addicted because he or she feels ignored by the family, a sudden dose of attention from everyone will not solve the drug issue.  In fact, in an effort to keep the addict “pleased”, some family members will actually go out and buy the drugs for the addict in an effort to “control the supply” or as “one last hit and that will be it.”  It never works; drug addiction is not a moral failing, it is a complex psychological, emotional and physical situation that can even be classified as a disease.  There are no simple solutions and a family cannot solve the problem by themselves:  they are too emotionally involved to resist the manipulative behavior which is characteristic of drug and alcohol addicts.

Along with the drug addict, there may be other family members who also have emotional and mental issues that can be driving the addict to drugs; healing cannot take place with the addict in isolation.  All family members must take an active part, all family members need professional help in order for the addict to recover.  This is the main reason why families cannot do it alone; guidance from professionals is an necessity.  From professional interventionists to psychiatrists, psychologists and drug rehabilitation doctors, the family must heal as a group to bring about the needed positive lifestyle changes that a drug addict so desperately needs.  For the sake of your loved one who is caught in the grip of drug or alcohol dependency, do not try to solve the problem on your own; get professional help, and the sooner, the better.


Baby Eats Heroin Disguised in Food

Last modified: September 23, 2013 12:56:07 PM

A baby eats heroin that was placed in food; and her drug addicted parents are in jail; they may go to Nevada’s drug court.

A drug-addled Nevada couple are in jail hoping to make bail after their infant daughter ate heroin that was somehow placed inside of a peach she was snacking on.

The girl, who survived the accidental overdose, was shaking, rolling her eyes, and had blue lips; by the time police had arrived on the scene she had become unresponsive.

The parents, who are admitted heroin and meth addicts, are Lorena Vizina, 23, and 25 year-old Justin Robinson.  Both are currently being held on $20,000 USD bond at Washoe County Jail.  They are charged with suspicion of child abuse.

According to mother Vizina, she left the baby in Robinson’s care while she did heroin.  According to Robinson’s statement, he only left the baby alone for a few minutes; when he turned his attention towards her again, he saw that she had powder on her mouth but thought nothing of it.  Robinson waited for 45 minutes before taking any action although the baby was trembling and rolling her eyes to the back of her head; he then decided to take the baby not to a hospital but to her grandparents for advice and if they thought the baby was acting abnormally.

After the arrival of police on the scene, blood tests were performed on the baby which proved that she had ingested morphine and codeine.  Robinson, at first, told the police that his daughter had eaten some medication.  How the heroin got into the baby’s food is still under investigation.

Nevada is a state which has a “drug court” program in which a rehabilitation program is used as an alternative to prison time.  Like California and New Jersey, which also have drug courts with statistics that prove that treatment will work better than hard time served, Nevada also believes treatment is the better option for the addict’s recovery and for the public benefit. The program lasts a year and a person who successfully completes the program can avoid a criminal conviction.  There is also a Dependency Drug Court which helps parents whose addictions are causing the abuse or neglect of their children.  However, it is unknown if Vizina and Robinson will be eligible for these drug court programs as information about their past convictions, if any, has not been published.

At this time, it is assumed that the baby has recovered and will be in the custody of her grandparents.

The Misconceptions of Drug Abuse and Addiction

Last modified: September 23, 2013 12:53:49 PM

Addiction is not an incurable disease. This is a myth that can actually drive an addict further into addiction

In the news lately, there have been many stories concerning the use of opioids or painkillers; while the number of prescription pill addicts has been decreasing due to abuse-proof versions of medications such as OxyContin and Opana, the number of heroin addicts has been increasing.  Many in the medical field feel that this is occurring because those who were formerly addicted to the older versions of the prescribed pills are looking for something to either get them high or to mitigate the symptoms of withdrawal.   What makes this news discouraging to some is that there are more addicts who will need more help, and because of the myths surrounding drug abuse and addiction, friends and loved ones of those addicted may cause more harm than good in their efforts to help.  Here we will dispel some of those myths so that addicted loved ones can get the effective help they need.

Addiction is an incurable disease.  This is a myth that can actually drive an addict further into addiction by the people who are trying to help; an enabler may mistakenly think that supplying an addict with their drug might help them “feel better”.  Addiction is a disease according to many, but it’s not like the addict has no way to improve.  Addiction can be reversed with proper treatment and therapy.

Addiction can be overcome by will power; addicts are simply weak-willed and can quit if they just wanted to.  The brain actually changes and alters after long periods of drug abuse; and with some drugs the brain-altering effect can happen sooner.  The result is intense cravings for the drug, the same sort of craving we get for food when we are hungry or water when we are thirsty.  It becomes very difficult to stop using the drug cold turkey; it would be like not drinking a glass of water after a long, hot, and tiring exercise session.

Recovery will only work if it is voluntary on the part of the addict.  This myth is simply not true; just as many addicts who are forced into rehabilitation therapy by the legal system, family or workplace will recover as those who go willingly.  Addicts who are forced into getting help for their problems are usually glad and want to continue the recovery process once their thinking has become normalized.t

It’s not a good idea to intervene until the addict has lost everything.  Actually, this is one of the most dangerous myths; waiting for someone to hit rock-bottom can be too late as rock bottom can mean the death of the addict.  The earlier an intervention, the better; there is no point waiting.

An addict is hopelessly addicted if treatment doesn’t work the first time.   Addiction is like an obsessive compulsive disease; recovery will, for many addicts, be a process of relapsing and attempting recovery again.  The point is to get back on track and make modifications to the therapy; an addict should never give up giving up drugs.

Treatment to be Given to Drug Offenders in NJ

Last modified: September 23, 2013 12:52:08 PM

NJ Gov. Chris Christie signs bill into law so more non-violent offenders are eligible for treatment in the state’s criminal justice system.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has put his signature on a bill making it a law that the criminal justice system in the state provide treatment for addicted criminal rather than only focus on time served.

The program will be phased in over a five year period, and will make it possible for more non-violent, drug addicted convicts to qualify for the state’s drug court program and get treatment for their substance abuse issues.

According to a statement made by Christie to the media, although the ideology of “The War on Drugs” may have seemed like a viable option in the struggle for sobriety, treatment works better.  He further noted to the media at the Rescue Mission of Trenton, a substance abuse treatment facility in NJ, that locking up drug-abuse convicts will not end the addiction because the underlying issues will not have been addressed.  The offender will most likely partictipate in substance abuse behaviour upon release from prison and engage in other criminal activities, and the offender will simply return to jail again, repeating the cycle.

“This will ensure that people have an opportunity to break the cycle”, said Christie.

The program is currently treating over 4,500 non-violent drug abuse offenders, and over 12,000 have gone through the “drug court” program in the past 10 years.  The numbers are encouraging; only 16 percent of those who graduate from the drug court system get re-arrested within the following three years, and only 8% get convicted of new crimes.  Those who do not participate in the drug court system have a re-arrest rate of 54% and 43% of those arrested get convicted of crimes committed after release.

Christie himself and the NJ Legislature will receive a report once a year on the program to ensure that it is effectively run, as an added layer of supervision.  Included in the report will be information on the costs and revocation, completion, and recidivism rates.

The NJ governor is very confident about the program being a statistical success, but also stated that “every life is precious” and the effort will be worth it if it saves one life.  He further stated that because of his time spent on the board of directors at another treatment facility: “I’m a believer in this because I have seen it myself”.

Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Assemblywoman for Trenton, said the entire public will be better off because of the program.  She also spoke to the media at the Rescue Mission.

“We have too many inappropriate people in prison, and people go in and come out unprepared to back into society because those issues aren’t addressed.”

Methadone: New CDC Report Dispels Some Myths

Last modified: September 23, 2013 12:51:03 PM

CDC report found methadone to be an safe and effective treatment for those addicted to Heroin

For those who help rehabilitate heroin addicts or are the friends and relatives of an opiate addict who has decided to attempt treatment or is currently in a treatment program, there has been some very encouraging news from the medical community dispelling some myths about the use of methadone as a therapeutic tool.

According to doctors and experts at a methadone treatment center in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. have been noting and recording a decrease in the number of methadone overdose deaths.  Their report also dispels the myths and negativity that come part and parcel with the use of methadone as a treatment for heroin (or any other opiate) addiction.

Research, which has been done continuously on the subject for over 60 years, shows that the use of methadone is indeed very effective in treating opiate addiction.  New medications such as Suboxone are also proving to be effective tools in addiction treatment.  The CDC report emphasizes that almost all the deaths cause by methadone overdose were due to its use by chronic pain sufferers as a painkiller, not due to its use to treat those addicted to heroin.  Methadone use in an addiction clinic is strictly regulated in most areas, and almost impossible for an addict to abuse as access is also severely restricted, administered only by highly qualified doctors and nurses.

The report shows undeniable evidence that methadone treatment works and former heroin addicts who take methadone will not go back to the illegal street drugs.  The report shows, over and over, that addicts can go back to a fulfilling lifestyle with employment, reuniting with friends and family, and much improved physical and mental health.

What the CDC report makes crystal-clear is this:  methadone treatment is NOT simply substituting one drug for another.  Methadone is a prescription medication administered by doctors for therapeutic uses and the improvement of health.  One can become physically dependent on methadone after a period of prolonged use; it does not provide the “highs” characteristic of opiates.  It also does not cause addiction, nor does it cause the characteristic behaviors associated with opiate addiction.

Mark Jorrisch, M.D. and Cary Kaplin, MRC, LCAC from the Methadone and Opiate Rehabilitation and Education Center of Kentucky further state in a letter to the Louisville Courier-Journal that while they do not want to give the impression that methadone use in inexperienced hands is safe, methadone works to cure a deadly addiction and has been helping heroin addicts recover in treatment centers for over sixty years.  Hopefully the CDC’s report will eliminate the stigma attached to methadone treatment.

Prescription Drug Abuse in the Workplace On the Rise

Last modified: September 23, 2013 11:49:14 AM

More than 70 percent of substances abusers have a job and the number of people having on-the-job accidents increases at an alarming rate.

It could be your child’s bus driver, the trucker barreling down the turnpike or the doctor in charge of your care. The fact is, many people who take prescription painkillers hold down a job. As the number of people who take these meds increases, so does the number of people having on-the-job accidents. The population is aging. With that comes an inevitable increase in the number of illnesses, injuries and diseases that can cause chronic pain. But young people are affected by painful injuries and conditions too. And let’s not forget the dramatic increase in the last few years in the number of people who are becoming addicted to these drugs. This means that in the course of a typical day, you probably encounter more than one person dependent on prescription opiates.

The American Council for Drug Education says that more than 70 percent of substances abusers have a job. The figure includes both legal and illegal drugs but independent researchers estimate that the number of people holding or looking for a job while taking prescription opiates has increased by 40 percent since 2005, according to news agencies.

Painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Darvocet, Demerol and Vicodin are often prescribed for moderate to severe pain. While they are seen as quite a beneficial pain-fighting tool, they do have a reputation for being habit forming. People who take them routinely for prolonged periods can develop a tolerance. Escalation of use can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. Crime associated with opiate addiction has become rampant. Newspapers in nearly every corner of the country report on the toll that prescription drugs have taken in their communities. Personal theft and pharmacy robberies are on the rise. People are stealing meds from the medicine cabinets of friends and neighbors. The accessibility of these drugs means that virtually anyone can get what they’re looking for at any time. Prescription painkillers are among the most popular drugs on the black market. They are also easy to access on the Internet.

Workplace use of opiates translates into missed days of work and lessened productivity. Accidents are also increasing because of the effect that opiates have. They can produce euphoric feelings, making people feel high. High doses can cause confusion and incoherence. Other side effects include drowsiness. So what’s the solution? There’s no question that impairment on the job is dangerous for everyone. But which is worse, the distraction caused by the torment of pain or the distraction caused by the haze of prescription painkillers? The sad reality is that there’s no easy answer.