Entries in Drug Addiction (5)


Cory Monteith's Death Shows Rehab Alone Won't Cure Addiction

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Cory Monteith's death less than three months after finishing a 30-day rehab program has some scratching their heads: Shouldn't rehab have cured the actor of his problem, preventing him from overdosing?

That's not how it works, addiction specialists say.

"People have the impression that treatment is complete when the person is sober. They're not using the drug anymore, so they're all better," said Dr. Stuart Gitlow, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. "In chronic lifelong disease, treatment is never complete. It's not at the point where we can cure it."

Gitlow said addiction is much like any other chronic disease, such as like diabetes, in that it requires lifelong care. But to their detriment, recovering addicts and the people around them don't always realize that.

Even if an addict isn't actively using drugs, that person still has the discomfort associated with addictive disease, Gitlow said. This can be the result of genetic predisposition, but in many cases, drug use permanently damages the brain.

For example, crystal meth causes a surge of dopamine, the chemical responsible for pleasure, but it permanently damages the brain's dopamine receptors. So someone who uses or used meth can't feel pleasure normally.

Cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin alter brain physiology the most, causing addicts to crave them even years into recovery, said psychiatrist Raymond Isackila, who works at University Hospitals in Cleveland. There are anti-craving medications for drugs like heroin, but not for cocaine or meth.

Dr. Paul Rinaldi, who directs the Addiction Institute of New York at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, said people tend to view rehab as the "gold standard" in drug addiction care, but because of that, they don't think much about what should happen afterward.

"It's a lot easier to be in rehab and be clean," he said. "You come home and you're in an environment with triggers that trigger you to use."

Triggers can be internal or external, said Isackila. Internal triggers include feelings of anxiety and depression, while external triggers can simply involve being in the same place or with the same people that an addict used to use drugs with.

Even though time after rehab is important toward recovery, many people never get help at all, doctors said.

Of everyone in the United States with an addiction problem, only 5 percent get professional help, said Dr. Westley Clark, who directs the substance abuse treatment center at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

This is, in part, because treatment is expensive and not covered by all insurance plans. He said he hopes that the Affordable Care Act will make drug treatment more accessible.

The failure of addicts to get treatment also may be the result of stigmas associated with drug use and people's unwillingness to talk about it, Clark said, adding that the secrecy can be like how cancer patients used to hide their illness.

Isackila said the public doesn't always recognize that addiction is a health problem. Gitlow agreed.

"The public still feels addiction is a choice and not an illness," Isackila said. "So there's not a lot of politicians standing up, saying, 'You know what we need?' ... I've never heard it."

"Public expectation seems to be, 'I can get better on my own or I can get better without seeing a physician,'" Gitlow said. "We would never think twice about someone with diabetes having ongoing care from an endocrinologist. ... That's the kind of treatment necessary for someone with chronic life-threatening disease. If you have addictive disease, that's the kind of treatment that's necessary."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Abuse-Proof Prescription Painkillers May Spur Heroin Habit

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The move by drug companies to make abuse-proof prescription painkillers may be inadvertently promoting heroin use, a new study found.

The study of more than 2,500 people with opioid dependence found a 17 percent drop in OxyContin abuse with the 2010 arrival of a formula that's harder to inhale or inject. During the same time period, heroin abuse doubled.

"I think the message we have to take away from this is that there are both anticipated consequences and unanticipated consequences to these new formulas," said Theodore Cicero, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis and lead author of the study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. "Substance abuse is like a balloon: If you press in one spot, it bulges in another."

Unlike its predecessor, the abuse-deterring version of OxyContin turns to gel when crushed, making it harder for people to snort or inject for a rapid high. But nearly a quarter of study participants found a way around the formulation tweak, and 66 percent said they switched to another opioid – usually heroin.

"Most people that I know don't use OxyContin to get high anymore," one participant said, according to the study. "They have moved on to heroin [because] it is easier to use, much cheaper and easily available."

A small bag of heroin – enough for a high – can cost as little as $5, according to Cicero. An 80-milligram dose of OxyContin, on the other hand, can cost up to $80 on the street, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The rationale was if we reduced the supply, it would decrease the demand," Cicero said of national efforts to limit access to prescription painkillers and minimize the potential for abuse. "But what we're seeing is the demand is still there and it's driving the procurement of different drugs."

Different, and potentially more dangerous, that is. Whereas the dose of OxyContin is engraved in the pill, heroin powder is usually cut with other chemicals to bolster dealers' profits.

"When people switch over, they don't really know what they're getting," said Cicero. "They don't know the dose or the purity, so overdoses become quite common."

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OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma said in a statement, "It is unreasonable to expect the reformulation of one medication by one pharmaceutical company would reduce overall opioid abuse. Rather, these data suggest that reformulating all opioid medications over time to incorporate abuse-deterrent properties may help to reduce the overall abuse of this class of medications."

H. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said the shift to heroin use among people with opioid dependence reflects the challenge of obtaining prescription painkillers.

"Our belief is that those coordinated and comprehensive efforts to curtail the problem of prescription drug abuse are having an impact. Now we have to be concerned about the unintentional consequences," he said.

By ramping up public awareness and cracking down on illicit drug use, Clark hopes to see a downtick in prescription drug abuse without an uptick in heroin use.

"We should not attempt to solve one problem by creating another," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cravings for Ice Cream Similar to Those of Drug Addicts, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EUGENE, Ore.) -- Cravings for ice cream can be just as strong to those urges experienced by drug addicts, according to a new study.

Research published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who regularly eat ice cream needed more and more of the cold stuff to get the same "high."  This effect is similar to those who use cocaine and other class-A drugs.

More than 150 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 took part in the study, which required them to scarf down chocolate milkshakes before being interviewed about eating habits and cravings.  Teens also had their brains scanned while looking at ice cream.

This new research supports the previous claim that junk food can become addictive.  According to Oregon Research Institute's Dr. Kyle Burger, a co-author of the study, the brain responds in a certain pattern to high fat and sugar.

"This down-regulation pattern is seen with frequent drug use, where the more an individual uses the drug, the less reward they receive for using it.  This tolerance is thought to increase use, or eating, because the individual [is] trying to achieve the previous level of satisfaction," Dr. Burger told The Telegraph.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teen Drug Use Is Number One Health Problem in US, Study Says

Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ninety percent of drug addictions begin in high school, according to a new study released Wednesday.

Researchers from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, or CASA, found that nine out of 10 American addicts started smoking, drinking or using drugs before the age of 18 and one in four of those people become addicted to some sort of drug.

"We now have enough science to show that adolescent substance use is America's number one public health problem," said Susan Foster, senior investigator of the study. "By recognizing this as a health problem and responding to it, we can actually make the difference by improving the life prospects of teens and saving costs in society."

Adolescence is a critical period of brain development and experts say the teen years put people at increased danger of addiction because their brains are more sensitive to substances and they're more likely to experiment and take risks.

"The brain is still developing up until age 25, so when you put nicotine and psychoactive substances in the body, it's actually messing with the brain as it's developing," said Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of the University of California at San Francisco Center for Tobacco and Research and Education.  "Nicotine tends to be the gateway drug when kids start smoking younger.  They're more likely to become addicted and smoke for a longer period of time."

Glantz continued to say that smoking creates permanent changes in the brain.  When a person quits, some of those changes reverse, but never completely.  Researchers also know that tobacco, alcohol and other drugs act similarly in the brain, so that the use of one substance heightens the risk of dependence on others.

"Addiction is the most costly health problem in America today, and it drives 70 other diseases that require hospitalization," said Foster.  "It drives a host of very costly health and social problems that are largely preventable. We can do something about it."

Foster said preventing teen for substance use begins with screening young people for their mental health and family addiction history.

Society also needs to move away from a culture that glorifies and promotes substance use as a way to relax or have fun and improve accessibility of available treatment, she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


For Young People, Heroin Addiction Is Deadly Cycle

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For young people who fall prey to the drug, the journey to heroin addiction and back again can be a deadly cycle.

"They will do anything they can to get their drug. They become vicious as they progress into their addiction,” said Tom Dietzler, a counselor at Caron Treatment Centers.

According to Dietzler, heroin addiction in young adults is a powerful disease that can cause good kids from loving families to make horrible decisions.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the road to recovery is the process of restructuring an addict’s life so it is no longer centered on the drug. Heroin is characterized by the euphoric high it gives users, followed by an intense physical withdrawal. To avoid the pain of withdrawal, the heroin addict is constantly looking for their next dose.

Dietzler said that parents should not expect their children to be cured quickly once entering drug treatment programs.

"Many parents, when they bring their children here, it is almost like [they expect] a 31-day cure pill," Dietzler said. "Wave a magic wand, Mr. Dietzler, make my son or daughter better."

Dietzler’s advice to families who are dealing with addiction in a loved one is to get help as soon as possible.

"The family often is in just as much denial as the patient is...and if the family doesn't get well, the drug addict doesn't have any motivation to get well."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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