Heroin Use Spikes Among Those Who Abuse Prescription Painkillers

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked at the frequency of nonmedical prescription opioid use and the risk of heroin-related behaviors and found that past-year heroin use rose among individuals taking opioids like oxycontin, and these increases varied by race and ethnicity. The most significant rise in heroin use was among Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, where the rate of heroin use for the latter group increased by 75% in 2008-2011 compared to earlier years.

Findings are published in a sad closed-science way even though funding was provided by National Institute of Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health (grants K01DA030449, R03DA037770, and R01DA037866) the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development (grant HD020667) and Columbia University. I suggest you contact those organizations or Columbia if you want to see what the findings are. They need to learn blocking access to scientific research is wrong and they shouldn’t fund such activity.

Nonmedical prescription opioid use is defined as using a substance that is not prescribed or taking a drug only for the experience or the feeling it caused.

Using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a large nationally representative household sample of 67,500 people, and self-reported heroin use within the last 12 months, the researchers examined the change in patterns of past-year non-prescription drug and heroin use between 2002-2005 and 2008-2011 across racial and ethnic groups. The study also looked at the association between past year frequency of both, heroin-related risk behaviors, and exposure to heroin availability.

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Jon Hamm Exits Rehab for Alcohol Addiction

Jon Hamm is best known for his role as Don Draper on Mad Men. He has recently completed a stay at a rehabilitation center where he sought treatment for alcohol addiction.

Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm at PaleyFest 2014

He reportedly received rehab treatment at the Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut which is affiliated with Yale University.

The hospital describes their addiction treatment program as follows:

The Addiction Program provides a highly structured, intensive program of education, behavioral skill development and increasing psychological awareness. The focus of this abstinence-based program is to help patients identify triggers and learn relapse prevention strategies that will help them remain substance-free.

Treatment for addiction disorders often begins in our inpatient level of care. Patients are admitted for detoxification from alcohol, prescription medication and other substances. Simultaneous treatment of psychiatric symptoms is also provided for mood and other psychiatric disorders as needed. The goals of this phase of treatment are crisis stabilization, symptom reduction and medication management. This phase of care is generally covered by insurance.

After stabilization, the next phase of treatment is our Transitional Living Program. Patients reside on campus as they focus on developing a psychological understanding of their illness and developing new behavioral skills to manage their recovery process. The length of stay for this phase of treatment is 4 weeks, and some patients extend their treatment beyond this minimum. This program is self-pay – a small portion of the program may be covered by insurance. Our staff will help you determine if you have this benefit.

Related: Representative Patrick J. Kennedy Spends a Month in RehabRobert Downey Jr. Rehab SuccessRussell Brand’s Testimony on Dealing with Drug Addiction

Funding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused Policy

Treatment: Effective (But Unpopular) Weapon Against Drugs

Paying for treatment of hard-core drug users is a bone in the throat of middle class taxpayers–and small wonder. Drug abusers are not an appealing group, and the programs themselves largely fail to wean their clients off drugs for good. Nonetheless, say RAND researchers, treatment programs are a sound investment of public funds because they effectively cut consumption–and consumption is what drives the drug trade.

RAND corporation aims to provide policy guidance, driven by data and research, to policy makers. They differ from many others in that they pay more attention to what works than to the interest groups often telling politicians what to do. RAND is willing to take stands that others are not and often propose policies that conflict with the accepted positions held to for decades by interest groups.

When data supports a policy RAND will encourage the use of that policy even if it seems odd – like paying for drug treatment for those breaking the law. Without treatment RAND data shows the government will spend 7 times as much money. But politicians have been resisting spending 1/7 as much money because they fear voters can’t understand that doing so is wise. This is from a 1995 report by RAND:

Treatment is seven times more cost-effective in reducing cocaine consumption than the best supply-control program and could cut consumption by a third if it were extended to all heavy users, according to the study. Such a strategy could also substantially reduce the number of users and the costs they inflict on society through crime and lost productivity.

And RAND doesn’t even factor in the costs of wasted lives, pain and suffering that are aided by good addition treatment help. Some propose we aid drug users with treatment programs because human suffering is something we should reduce when we can. RAND proposes we do so based solely on the hard cash benefits government will gain. It is hard to argue with a program that reduces costs by 86% (6/7).

While we may have made a little progress has been made in getting more funding since 1995, if we have it is a tiny portion of what would be a wise investment. The failure to use addiction treatment progress continues to add to the budget deficits our governments face and the suffering of drug abusers in our society.

Related: Drug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime CostsImproving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin MadisonWhat Should Society Do About Drug Addicts That Are Not Seeking Treatment?

Drug Addictions Often Disappear Over Time

This article includes links to many research studies, some linked to below, for the rest go to the full article.

Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It by Maia Szalavitz

By age 35, half of all people who qualified for active alcoholism or addiction diagnoses during their teens and 20s no longer do.

The average cocaine addiction lasts four years, the average marijuana addiction lasts six years, and the average alcohol addiction is resolved within 15 years. Heroin addictions tend to last as long as alcoholism, but prescription opioid problems, on average, last five years. In these large samples, which are drawn from the general population, only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.

If you start drinking or taking drugs with peers before age 18, you have a 25% chance of becoming addicted, but if your use starts later, the odds drop to 4%. Very few people without a prior history of addiction get hooked later in life, even if they are exposed to drugs like opioid painkillers.

These results can give people hope when they, or loved ones, are suffering from an addiction. Treatment helps sometimes but also fails quite often. Even in the case where things are not looking good, there is hope that eventually things may run there course.

Of course, there is a risk, sadly, that before the addiction ends tragedy will strike. So hopefully we can keep researching methods to better treat addiction. But if things are failing (especially for one you love) there may be light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Related: The Success Rate of AA is Only 5-10%How Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?What Does the Evidence of Treating Alcoholism Show?Combination Strategy to Treat Alcohol Dependence

Vermont to Treat Heroin Abuse as Health Issue Instead of Fighting “War” with Addicts

Vermont Quits War on Drugs to Treat Heroin Abuse as Health Issue

[Governor] Shumlin urged the legislature to approve a new set of drug policies that go beyond the never-ending cat-and-mouse between cops and dealers. Along with a crackdown on traffickers, he proposed rigorous addiction prevention programs in schools and doctors’ offices, as well as more rehabilitation options for addicts. “We must address it as a public health crisis,” Shumlin said, “providing treatment and support rather than simply doling out punishment, claiming victory, and moving on to our next conviction.”

Representative Thomas Burditt… “As everybody knows, the war on drugs is lost, pretty much. It’s time to go down a new road.”

This is one small effort, among many, to find solutions instead of continuing the failed policies used for decades. Sadly those failed policies still dominate the efforts given by governments throughout the USA. The costs to the economy and personal lives of the people is enormous. We need to experiment to find better methods to reduce he harm done to society due to drug addiction.

Related: The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman Highlights the Increased Use of HeroinPrescription Painkillers Kill More People Every Year in USA than Heroin and Cocaine CombinedDrug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime Costs

The Miracle That Saved Robert Downey Jr.

It is nice to read about successes in addressing drug addiction and the damage it causes to people. Robert Downey Jr. continues to provide such an example with his long successful career after years of struggles with drug addiction.

Susan Downey: Iron Woman

For a long time, however, it seemed as if that never-grow-up quality was going to land Robert in an early grave. After sauntering into our hearts as the doomed rich kid Julian in 1987’s Less Than Zero and proving himself a comic genius with his Oscar-nominated performance in 1992’s Chaplin, Robert spent roughly five years (from 1996 to 2001) in a long, heavily publicized death dance with crack cocaine, heroin, gunplay, and prison — at one point, even wandering into a neighbor’s home and passing out in a child’s bedroom. By the time he was released from court-ordered rehab in 2002, he was largely considered unemployable in Hollywood and was able to convince producer Silver to hire him for Gothika only by agreeing to have a good chunk of his salary withheld until the film wrapped.

But Robert was not quite finished with what he refers to as his Darth Vader side. “I did meet Darth Vader, for like a minute,” Susan acknowledges, “right after the movie wrapped, and I said immediately, ‘This isn’t gonna work.’ I made it clear that to stay with me, nothing could happen.”

Something about Susan’s ultimatum clicked. Around July 4, 2003, Robert stopped at a Burger King on the Pacific Coast Highway, threw his drugs in the ocean, and decided that he was done for good. “I think he saw what we had,” Susan says. “There was something magical there, something we couldn’t put our finger on. He always says that we became this third thing when we got together — something that neither of us could have become by ourselves — and I think that’s true.”

Success for one individual don’t easily translate to others. It is normally many individual things that all line up to make it work. Robert had been to rehab before and relapsed. Plenty of addicts get ultimatums and relapse. Plenty of people find love and proceed to mess it up. But in this case Robert was able to make a change and has been able to enjoy great success and happiness.

Related: Robert Downey Jr. Rehab SuccessRobin Williams Reflects on Rehab‘Marcia Brady’ Recovers After Drug Addiction

The Success Rate of AA is Only 5-10%

The treatment of drug addiction continues to be difficult. Even finding data on success rates is hard. And analyzing that data is difficult (the data is not straight forward and leaves open many possible questions or criticisms). This study calls into question the effectiveness of a 12-step recovery method to treat addiction.

With Sobering Science, Doctor Debunks 12-Step Recovery

There is a large body of evidence now looking at AA success rate, and the success rate of AA is between 5 and 10 percent. Most people don’t seem to know that because it’s not widely publicized. … There are some studies that have claimed to show scientifically that AA is useful. These studies are riddled with scientific errors and they say no more than what we knew to begin with, which is that AA has probably the worst success rate in all of medicine.

It’s not only that AA has a 5 to 10 percent success rate; if it was successful and was neutral the rest of the time, we’d say OK. But it’s harmful to the 90 percent who don’t do well. And it’s harmful for several important reasons. One of them is that everyone believes that AA is the right treatment. AA is never wrong, according to AA. If you fail in AA, it’s you that’s failed.

The reason that the 5 to 10 percent do well in AA actually doesn’t have to do with the 12 steps themselves, it has to do with the camaraderie. It’s a supportive organization with people who are on the whole kind to you and it gives you a structure. Some people can make a lot of use of that. And to its credit, AA describes itself as a brotherhood, rather than a treatment.

image of the Sober Truth book cover

Dr. Lance Dodes has written a book looking at the data behind the results of AA. The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry.

Related: Looking at the Evidence of Treating AlcoholismHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?, NIH studyImproving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin, MadisonMethods Used to Treat Addiction

The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman Highlights the Increased Use of Heroin

We lost a great actor with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Once again the danger of drug use has resulted in the loss of life. He sought treatment for his addiction but failed to avoid an untimely death.

photo of Philip Seymour Hoffman by Jean Jacques Georges

Philip Seymour Hoffman at the Paris premiere of The Ides of March in 2011 by photo by Jean Jacques Georges

Hoffman death puts focus on heroin’s comeback

Hoffman, 46, was found on the bathroom floor of his New York City apartment with a syringe in his left arm and glassine bags usually associated with heroin. Police say they are investigating substances found in the apartment to determine which drugs were present, but Hoffman has been open about his drug use, which included prescription pills and heroin, and his decades-long struggle to stay sober.

As authorities crack down on clinics that prescribe pain pills by the thousands and pharmaceutical companies change their formulas so the pills are more difficult to abuse, opiate addicts are turning to cheaper and more-plentiful heroin.

In recent years, the number of people abusing prescription pain pills has dropped steadily as heroin use increased. The number of people 12 and older who regularly abuse OxyContin dropped from 566,000 in 2010 to 358,000 in 2012, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in December. The number of regular heroin users soared from 239,000 in 2010 to 335,000 in 2012, the survey found.

The tragedy caused by the abuse of drugs damages millions every day. We have to do a better job of reducing the damage done to society due to the abuse of drugs. Celebrities shine a light on the problem but it is a widespread problem that has an immense impact throughout society.

Related: Russell brand’s testimony on dealing with drug addictionPrescription painkillers kill more every year in usa than heroin and cocaine combined Eminem’s ‘relapse’ explores his drug addition and rehabilitation

The Causes of Drug Addiction are Complex

image of comic panels from rat addiction experiment

Comic panels, by Stuart McMillen, of the rat park drug addiction experiment, see the full comic.

The causes of drug addiction are not simple. Like many medical issues they are a complex interaction of factors.

Drug addiction: The complex truth by Tom Stafford

Many studies have shown rats and monkeys will neglect food and drink in favour of pressing levers to obtain morphine (the lab form of heroin). With the right experimental set up, some rats will self-administer drugs until they die. At first glance it looks like a simple case of the laboratory animals losing control of their actions to the drugs they need. It’s easy to see in this a frightening scientific fable about the power of these drugs to rob us of our free will.

But there is more to the real scientific story, even if it isn’t widely talked about. The results of a set of little-known experiments carried out more than 30 years ago paint a very different picture, and illustrate how easy it is for neuroscience to be twisted to pander to popular anxieties. The vital missing evidence is a series of studies carried out in the late 1970s in what has become known as “Rat Park”. Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander, at the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, suspected that the preference of rats to morphine over water in previous experiments might be affected by their housing conditions.

Rats are smart, social creatures. Living in a small cage on their own is a form of sensory deprivation. Rat Park was what neuroscientists would call an enriched environment, or – if you prefer to look at it this way – a non-deprived one. In Alexander’s tests, rats reared in cages drank as much as 20 times more morphine than those brought up in Rat Park.

As the article notes more research is needed, but there should be more research into the importance of social environment on drug abuse and drug abuse treatment.

Related: Methods to treat addictionHow effective is drug addiction treatment in the USA?Prescription drug abuse in the USALooking at the evidence of treating alcoholism

Prescription Painkillers Kill More Every Year in USA than Heroin and Cocaine Combined

Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed in the past decade. Every year, nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses involving these drugs—more than those who die from heroin and cocaine combined.

The abuse of prescription painkillers has risen dramatically in the last 15 years; in 1999 4,000 people were killed by these drugs (less than a third of the current numbers of deaths).

Find more information on prescription drug abuse and treatment options from the United States Center for Disease Control.

Related: Prescription Drug Abuse in the USAPrescription Drug Abuse: Pain Killers Can Lead to AdditionDecline in the Misuse of Prescription Drugs in the USA (reported in 2008, was the data accurate?)Brett Favre Overcomes Painkiller Addiction