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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

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Struggles with anxiety and substance use problems often occur together, and as the authors of a new study point out, young adults seem especially prone to develop these disorders. Dixon, Stevens and Viana (2014) hoped to clarify the nature of the relationship between anxiety and substance abuse. They accomplished this by investigating whether anxiety sensitivity (AS) had an impact on the relationship between trait anxiety and substance use disorders. (Anxiety sensitivity is a term used to describe an individual’s level of fear about experiencing such anxiety-induced symptoms as increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension and headaches. People with a great deal of anxiety sensitivity typically believe that such symptoms will lead to a terrible physical, social or mental outcome. On the other hand, trait anxiety refers to the characteristic amount of stress that an individual experiences.)

The researchers looked at AS in a large group of young adults (mean age 18.7 years) and did find that for those who had a great deal of anxiety sensitivity, use of illicit substances increased as trait anxiety  increased. This effect seemed most pronounced for those who feared an adverse cognitive or physical impact of their anxiety symptoms. The authors of the study suggested that “interventions should target AS reduction in anxiety-prone individuals to reduce and prevent substance abuse.”

What might these interventions look like?  Dr. Sharon Galor posted a thoughtful and concise description of anxiety sensitivity in which she described the typical approach to treating this problem.  She wrote that:

“During therapy sessions, clients receive psycho- education about anxiety sensitivity and its implications as well as learn to practice relaxation techniques. Furthermore, common CBT techniques of cognitive reconstruction and exposure are applied. Cognitive reconstruction aims to identify, challenge and reconstruct irrational and catastrophic thoughts that raise anxiety i.e. the belief in the high probability and a high catastrophic level of outcome that the physical symptoms can cause. Exposure helps clients to directly face the fear inducing and stressful stimuli, as well as to learn to eliminate safety behaviors.  Repeated exposure produces habituation that gradually reduces anxiety felt from the trigger. It has been found that the combination of these CBT techniques helps to treat anxiety sensitivity successfully.”

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Controversy swirls around the approval of Zohydro, a new narcotic pain reliever manufactured by Zogenix, Inc. Zohydro ER is an opioid containing hydrocodone in capsule form that is intended as an extended-release formula. This means that one pill should last 12 hours, so those suffering from chronic pain don't have to take as many pills throughout the day. Zohydro is also one of the only opioid pain relievers to contain only hydrocodone and no acetaminophen, which can cause liver damage. Zohydro isn't the first opioid created to treat chronic pain, so why all the fuss? 

Reasons for Concern

For one thing, Zohydro packs a bigger punch than its counterparts, containing 50 milligrams of hydrocodone in one capsule as compared to 10 milligrams in one Vicodin pill. This is in part due to the fact that Zohydro is meant to be an extended-release formula as opposed to Vicodin's instant release. 

Another element of this drug that has emergency rooms and physicians on standby is its lack of tamper-resistance. The fear is that people looking for a high will crush the pills and either snort or inject all 50 milligrams at once, sending the entire dose into the bloodstream simultaneously which can lead to overdose and death. 

Other drugs with high doses of opioids meant for extended release like OxyContin have safeguards in place. These pills turn into a jelly-like substance when crushed, making them nearly impossible to use recreationally. It was years before the makers of OxyContin created this tamperproof pill however, and in that time, millions of addicts were created and overdose deaths skyrocketed. Many believe that creating a new hydrocodone medication without these safeguards is inviting another epidemic.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Prescription drugs are simply part of modern life. People who go to the doctor for some type of illness usually expect to walk away with a prescription in return, and they might feel cheated if they don’t get the pills they think they need. At the same time, experts have come to believe that certain types of prescriptions are associated with addiction, and they’ve responded by tightening restrictions and making those drugs just a little harder to get. Manufacturers have done the same.

It might seem like great news, as steps like this have the capability to reduce the suffering of people who might be tempted to abuse prescription drugs. However, the evidence suggests that the link between restrictions and addiction isn’t always straightforward. In fact, tightening restrictions sometimes has completely unexpected, and unwelcome, consequences in terms of addiction.

Regulations Change

While the regulation of any class of prescription drug could help to illustrate this concept, prescription painkillers provide the clearest example of the dangers of shifting regulations. That story begins with a sea change in terms of the number of prescriptions written for this class of drugs.

Between the years of 1997 and 2007, the milligram-per-person rate for this type of drug rose by 402 percent. In addition, pharmacies filled out 48 percent more prescriptions for these painkillers in the same time period. It seems that people developed a love for these medications during this time period, and that love was accompanied by a rising awareness that people were getting these drugs in order to abuse them.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Military personnel have their own subculture and as such are subject to different stressors and issues than those of your average civilian. Combat and wartime deployment are a few of these stressors that may lead active duty and military veterans to seek unhealthy coping methods like drugs and alcohol. The stigmas and zero-tolerance policies that exist also may deter them from seeking the help they need. 

This same zero-tolerance policy may act as a deterrent for illicit drug use among active duty military, as only 2.3 percent of the population used an illicit drug in the last month as opposed to 12 percent of civilians. Prescription drug abuse is, however, much higher in military personnel than the civilian population, most likely due to the rise in the availability and prescriptions of these medications for combat-related injuries and strain from heavy lifting. Alcohol abuse and binge drinking are also much higher in the military population, with nearly half of active duty service members admitting to binge drinking episodes. Combat exposure and wartime situations seem to only increase these statistics.

History of Military Drug Addiction

The United States military is no stranger to substance abuse; in fact, it runs rampant throughout our history. One of the bloodiest wars in American history was that of the Civil War (1861-1865). More than one million Americans were killed and countless others were injured or developed debilitating diseases.

With the advent of the syringe in 1853, the seemingly perfect solution to intense pain and suffering on the front lines was the newly minted opioid pain reliever, morphine. Doctors were injecting it frequently, not realizing its high potential for addiction. Soldiers were addicted to morphine for decades after the war, the addiction being termed “Soldier’s Disease.”

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

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A study  published in the August issue of the journal Addiction and summarized on PsychCentral by Richard Taite looked at the impact of second-hand trauma on later substance abuse.  Researchers looked for  traumatic medical events in the families of  1.4 million children born in Sweden between 1984 and 1995 by examining hospital discharge records. They were able to identify  children who  had  a parent or  a sibling who had been diagnosed with cancer or an immediate family member who suffered an injury which resulted in permanent disability or who had  been a victim of assault or who had died. They then assigned each child a score of 0-4 depending on the amount of secondhand trauma s/he experienced. Then the  researchers turned to medical, legal and pharmacy records to see which of these children  were  diagnosed with substance abuse problems when they reached their 20’s.

The researchers took care to control for other factors that might promote  substance use, such as socioeconomic status, drug use by family members, psychological wellbeing and parents’ educational level. What they found was striking: Children who experienced even one of the four secondhand traumas under study had twice the risk of later drug abuse.  Children who experienced the death of a parent were at greatest risk.  Having a parent or sibling who was the  victim of violent assault was the second most powerful factor. The PsychCentral report points out that “substance abuse was even higher in children whose siblings had experienced trauma than it was in children whose parents had been traumatized”.  The authors of the study had high confidence in their findings since they were able to conduct annual sampling of a national population over a period 16 years and because they had access to multiple data sources in order to identify cases of substance use disorders.

Of course, previous studies have noted the  impact of adverse childhood events (ACEs) on childrens’ emotional development.  As I explained in another post  researchers have found that  people who endure a great deal of toxic stress spend much of their lives in fight, flight or fright.  As the ACEs Too High Newsletter explained in October 2012:

“(These children) respond to the world as a place of constant danger. With their brains overloaded with stress hormones and unable to function appropriately, they can’t focus on learning. They fall behind in school or fail to develop healthy relationships with peers or create problems with teachers and principals because they are unable to trust adults. Some kids do all three. With despair, guilt and frustration pecking away at their psyches, they often find solace in food, alcohol, tobacco, methamphetamines, inappropriate sex, high-risk sports, and/or work and over-achievement. They don’t regard these coping methods as problems. Consciously or unconsciously, they use them as solutions to escape from depression, anxiety, anger, fear and shame. (http://goo.gl/VEl0ez)  (Please continue reading)

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