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Experts Say an Opioid Vaccine Is Far from Becoming Reality

Experts Say an Opioid Vaccine Is Far From Becoming Reality

Author: Shernide Delva

In the past, we’ve talked about the potential of opioid vaccines. These vaccines could have a major impact on lowering a number of opioid overdose deaths. They could completely shift the direction of how we treat opioid addiction. However, is the future of opioids imminent or far, far away?

Sadly, it will be a long time before we see opioid vaccines available for widespread use. Experts all agree that although the future of opioid vaccines looks bright, the process of getting a drug into the market is a lengthy one and we should not hold our breath just yet.

Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price mentioned opioid vaccines as an exciting new development in the war against opioid abuse.

“One of the exciting things that they’re actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is incredibly exciting,” Price said during a briefing about the drug epidemic.

However, experts say it won’t be made public for years… if ever.

The process of a drug going from the research phase to the production phase is a long, tedious process. Opioid addiction vaccines have not even begun human trials yet. Researchers would have to put drugs through phase one, two and three trials before submitting them for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), given that the trials are successful.

“He may be a physician, but he’s not terribly well-informed about addictions,” said Dr. Thomas R. Kosten, a psychiatry professor at the Baylor College of Medicine with a concentration in addiction vaccines. “I can’t imagine the vaccine would be on the market before the Trump administration is over.”

Dr. Kosten knows all about vaccines. He worked on cocaine vaccines for 16 years before deciding that it “just didn’t work well enough” to continue. Today, he is working on a vaccine for fentanyl, an opioid painkiller up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl has been a major culprit for overdose deaths in the current opioid epidemic.

Those who previously used painkillers turn to heroin due to the lower price and easier access. Unfortunately, often heroin is not just heroin and instead is laced with powerful painkillers like fentanyl which make a user much more susceptible to an overdose.

Dr. Kosten hopes his work on the vaccine will pan out, but he wants to ensure people are not holding their breath. These things take time.

“There are no opiate vaccines that have been in people at this point,” said Dr. Kosten.

Even if the vaccine passes trials and goes into full-scale production, it would only be used therapeutically, not as a preventative measure.

“The purpose is not to “mass-immunize a whole bunch of kids,” Dr. Kosten said. “That’s not at all what they’re designed for.”

For now, the vaccine is proving to be effective in animal testing. However, this is not necessarily good news.

“Sometimes, the translation from animals is not necessarily the same in humans. So we have to do the human studies,” said Dr. Ivan Montoya of NIDA’s Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences.

The goal of the vaccine is to allow the body’s own immune system to combat opioids before they can reach the brain and take effect.

“We don’t have to modify the brain to produce the effect,” said Dr. Montoya. “You take advantage of your own immune system and prevent access of the drug to the brain.”

In the future, Dr. Montoya hopes to come up with a vaccine that can block the effects of a wide range of opioids including fentanyl, heroin, and OxyContin.

While the prospect of opioid vaccines sounds promising, we are still far away from this becoming a reality. Therefore, stating vaccines as an exciting solution to the opioid epidemic is a bit of a stretch for now. Instead, the focus should be placed on increasing access to treatment. With the right program, recovery is possible. If you are struggling with substance abuse, call now. Do not wait.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

1 Out of 12 Doctors Get Incentives from Opioid Makers

1 Out of 12 Doctors Get Goodies from Opioid Makers

Author: Shernide Delva

Free lunches?

Airfare?

Complementary drinks?

These are just a few of the incentives doctors have received from prescription opioid companies. Did these goodies get you your last opioid prescription?

Could incentives be responsible for our current opioid epidemic?

That’s exactly what researchers set out to understand.

A recent report confirmed what many have suspected: doctors are receiving incentives from major opioid makers. In fact, one out of every 12 U.S doctors gets money, lunch or something else of value from companies that make opioid drugs, the study concluded.

Furthermore, companies are spending more time and effort marketing opioids to doctors than they are other less addictive painkillers. These finding will help understand why doctors have played such a major role in the opioid addiction crisis.

“A large proportion of physicians received payments — one in 12 physicians overall,” said Dr. Scott Hadland of the Boston Medical Center. “Tens of millions of dollars were transferred for marketing purposes for opioids.”

Dr. Hadland and colleagues went through databases from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government office that oversees public health insurance.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act includes the Physicians Payments Sunshine Act. This act required medical product makers to report any offerings or goodies made to doctors or to teaching hospitals. However, incentives are often disguised as something else.

“In some cases, they are money provided directly to physicians — for example, the speaking fees, the consultant fees and the honoraria. In other cases it is reimbursement for things like travel,” Hadland said.

On average, doctors get a single “payment,” usually a mean worth of $15 about once a year. Still, there are a select few doctors that are reaping the most benefits.

“The top 1 percent of physicians (681 of them) received 82.5 percent of total payments in dollars,” the team wrote in their report, published in the American Journal of Public Health.

These incentives could influence doctors to prescribe opioids to their patients:

“One of the main drivers of the epidemic has been the vast overprescribing of prescription pain medications,” the study notes.

Between 2013 and 2015, the team found 375,266 payments totaling 26 million distributed to more than 68,000 doctors.

While larger fees mostly accounted for speaker fees, more leisurely incentives like food and drink accounted for 94 percent of the payments.

“I do think the practice is exceedingly common. Increasingly, medical schools are restricting the ability of pharma companies to come to speak to medical students and even faculty,” Hadland said.

So what?

With all this said, do small incentives really make a difference? After all, can a doctor really be bought for the price of a boxed lunch?

The research indicates that, yes, these little goodies do influence prescribing. Last year, a study revealed that physicians who accepted even one meal by a drug company were more likely to prescribe a name-brand drug to patients later.

This is not the first time investigations were conducted on possible incentives. After earlier controversies and studies, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America issued a voluntary code of conduct to curb the once widespread practice of handing out free mugs, prescription pads, and other swag covered in drug brand names.

Some cities and states especially hit by the opioid abuse epidemic have even sued drug makers saying their practices have helped fuel the problem. The CDC states doctors have contributed to the addiction crisis by prescribing opioids to too many patients. These prescriptions are often prescribed at high doses for too long which only increases the vulnerability to addiction.

The result is deadly.

There were more than 30,000 fatalities in the United States in 2015, the federal government said.

“I think that first and foremost we have known that one of the main drivers of the epidemic has been the vast overprescribing of prescription pain medications,” said Michael Botticelli, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and now executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at the Boston Medical Center.

According to Botticelli, the answer is independent education, free of the need to promote a specific product.

“At the federal and state level (we may need to) move toward mandatory prescriber education to counteract industry’s influence over prescribing behavior,” he said. “Clearly, guidelines are not enough.”

For a long time, prescribing opioids was one of the first responses to pain management. Now other alternatives are being promoted such as pain management devices and holistic alternatives.

Botticelli agrees that while pain is a major problem, the answer is not more opioids.

“Yes, we want to make sure people’s pain is appropriately treated, but we know that longer and higher doses have significantly added to the addiction problem that we have in the United States,” he continued.

What are your thoughts? Did you know about these incentives? More studies are coming out revealing the back story to what led to the prescription opioid epidemic.

Opioid addiction has become a public health crisis. Now, more than ever is the time to seek treatment. Recovery is possible. You do not have to feel out of control. There is a solution.  If you are struggling with substance abuse, call now. Do not wait. 

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

 

The Dangers of Overconfidence in Addiction Recovery

The Dangers of Being Overconfident in Addiction Recovery

Author: Shernide Delva

Overconfidence in Recovery:

Confidence is supposed to be an excellent quality. We are always told to believe in ourselves in every endeavor we pursue. Whether it is a sport or a school exam, having confidence is touted as the key to success. However, when it comes to addiction recovery, can too much confidence actually become harmful?

Overconfidence Can Lead to Relapse:

The reality is too much confidence is not great in recovery. While it is great to have confidence in your program, it is important to stay humble. The emotions that arise from overconfidence can block underlying issues. Having an overconfident mindset can hinder your recovery process. It is important to make recovery a priority regardless of how much time you have.

Why Overconfidence Encourages Relapse:

  1. Distorted Self-Image: A major part of recovery is staying humble. Overconfidence makes someone believe that they are not as bad as newcomers. They may start to feel they no longer need their program and start to ponder if they are an addict at all. Overconfidence encourages the belief that it is not a huge deal to have a drink or use casually, which is far from true for an addict.
  2. Irrational Thoughts: Overconfidence can lead an addict to believe they deserve certain rewards in conjunction to their success. They might feel they are worthy of a celebration. They quickly convince themselves that one drink is not going to hurt them because they are now “in control” of their addiction. This is risky behavior and can lead someone down a slippery slope.
  3. Complacent Behavior: This is when an addict starts to believe that their addiction is not nearly as bad as they once thought. They start believing that they can now live normally due to the length of time they have been sober. They think they are cured so they slowly stop going to meetings and stop thinking of themselves as an addict. This leads to new addiction or a relapse.

Signs of Overconfidence Include:

  • Rejecting suggestions from others
  • Seeking immediate results
  • Belief in having all the answers
  • Always seeing your situation as unique from everyone else
  • Feeling that you deserve preferential treatment
  • Feeling “healed” or “in control”
  • Always wanting to lead instead of listening

It is crucial to understand that addiction will not simply disappear. Regardless of how long you have been sober, addiction can always creep up again. Addiction is not a curable disease; it is a manageable disease that does not have room for overconfidence.

How We Become Too Confident:

Overconfidence may be a trait acquired in recovery, or it can be a trait a person struggled with before sobriety. In fact, most addicts battle overconfidence their entire life. For example, those times you tried to use and thought no one would notice.

Sadly, this behavior can persist after recovery even after hitting rock bottom. Even those with no history of overconfidence can start to become overzealous in their recovery program. They start to believe that they are above the rest of their friends and family because of the work they have done in their recovery.

Consequences of Overconfidence:

When you act too confident, you hurt yourself and others. You hurt others who are still learning to trust the person you have become. You hurt yourself because overconfidence increases the vulnerability to a relapse. It is important to remember that recovery is something that takes effort every single day. Regardless of how much time you have, stay humble in your program. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Remember to support others struggling, and stay focused on your recovery. Overconfidence is not a quality anyone should strive for. Instead, focus on staying sober every single day. If you are struggling to stay sober, or are currently having issues with substance abuse. Please reach out. We want to help you get back on track.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Are Chronic Pain Patients Unfairly Suffering Due to Stricter Opioid Laws?

Are Chronic Pain Patients Unfairly Suffering Due to Opioid Laws?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

The opioid epidemic continues to worsen year after year. In 2015, painkillers and heroin killed more than 33,000 people, according to the CDC. About half of those overdoses involved prescription pain medication.

New policies and laws introduced in recent years aim to prevent the number of opioid prescriptions distributed. However, these stricter policies come riddled with negative consequences.  For example, chronic pain sufferers are finding it more and more difficult to manage their pain with opioids now that some of these laws have been implemented.

An article in The Tennessean references a woman named Bridget Rewick. Rewick has experienced pain for all of her adult life. At 56 years old, she is on disability. She does not work and worries about the strain on her body from being out. Pain swells through her body causing her to need a cane to walk.

She has avascular necrosis, which means her bone tissues are dying faster than her body can repair it. Rewick uses opioid painkillers to manage her pain.  However, these days, when she goes to the pharmacist, she says she gets looks. She admits she feels judged by the increasingly conscious medical community.

“I am almost afraid to go to the doctor sometimes to say I have pain,” Rewick says. “Because I don’t want be seen as a pill seeker.”

Unfortunately for Rewick, she has more than judgment to worry about.  The recent federal crackdowns on drug abuse have resulted in stricter guidelines on the use of opioids to address chronic pain.

Opioid Limits State by State

In Tennessee, there is now a limit set by the Department of Health on how many daily doses of opioids doctors may prescribe.  New guidelines spell out protocols for giving drugs to women of child-bearing age and establish certification requirements for pain medicine specialist.

Tennessee is not the only state seeing these types of policies. Across the country, new legislatures limit the amount of opioids and range of opioids that can be prescribed. Therefore, chronic pain patients are finding it increasingly difficult to manage their pain, without having to overcome assumptions and red tape.

In fact, some doctors have opted to stop prescribing opioids completely.

This leaves those with legitimate chronic pain with fewer places to turn to. While most chronic pain patients agree that it is absolutely necessary to tackle opioid addiction issues, they still believe there are legitimate pain sufferers who struggle to find relief.

“This epidemic has destroyed people’s lives, and I think the motivation (to regulate) is appropriate,” Rewick says. “But they don’t understand the ramifications of how pain affects people every day. … I am not expecting to be completely without pain, but I have the right to have quality of life.”

In the United States, at least 100 million adults suffer from common chronic pain conditions. Chronic pain is defined as pain lasting longer than 90 days. Chronic pain can range from disease to injury. Sometimes the cause of chronic pain is unknown.

Sadly, chronic pain reduces quality of life and productivity. It disturbs sleep and can lead to anxiety and depression. Chronic pain is the leading cause of long-term disability.

Building Relationships and Trust

Furthermore, it is difficult for doctors to know if a patient is authentic. No one can look a patient and know for sure if their claim of pain is insecure.

Dr. John Guenst, an internal medicine doctor with Saint Thomas Medical Group, sees chronic pain patients all the time. He believes the relationship is the most important factor.

“You have to listen to their story; you have to examine them, you have to start from scratch without your bias and turn over every stone that is reasonable,” he said. “You are giving patients the benefit of the doubt.”

Guenst said his opioid prescription rate “is very low compared to my peers, but I am not afraid to use them.”

Clinics Say No to Opioid Prescriptions?

Still, some medical professionals have decided not to prescribe all-together. Last year, Tennova, one of the largest health systems in Tennessee, decided to no longer prescribe long-term opioid pain medications to patients at two pain management clinics.

This was a response to recent CDC guidelines. Although the guidelines set by the CDC are voluntary, many doctors around the country are adopting them and are weaning patients off opioids or choosing not to prescribe them at all.

These sudden changes come with good intentions; however, it remains a tricky manner. Untreated chronic pain is connected to depression, mental illness, financial problems, and even further substance abuse.

What is the solution to this? Time will tell. However, it is clear this is a serious problem with an even more complicated solution. If you are currently struggling with substance abuse, please call now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

You Won’t Believe Which Jobs Have the Highest Rate of Suicide

You Won't Believe Which Jobs Have the Highest Rate of Suicide

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Have you ever wondered what jobs have the highest suicide rates?

It’s been estimated that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. Where you work plays a role on your mental health. Therefore, if you detest your job, it’s going to impact your mental health negatively.

Here are some CRAZY fast facts about work:

  • Marriages in which one partner spends 10+ hours more than average at work divorce at twice the average rate
  • 25% of employees say work is their main source of stress
  • 40% say their job is “very or extremely stressful”
  • More than 13 million working days are lost every year because of stress-related illnesses.
  • The average American spends over 100 hours commuting
  • Japan has a word for “working to death” called Karoshi. In Japan, 10,000 workers per year drop dead at their desks as a result of working excessively.
  • A report from 2010 noted that half of Americans canceled their vacation plans to work.

Insane right?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are far more suicides seen in certain professions than others.

Can you guess which jobs have the highest rate of suicide?

Believe it or not, the occupation with the highest suicide rates are farmers, lumberjacks, and fisherman. These workers commit suicide at the highest rate, according to the broad federal study.

This CDC report is conceivably the largest U.S study to compare suicide rates among occupations. However, the results are not comprehensive. The study covers 17 states, looking at about 12,300 of the more than 40,000 suicide deaths reported throughout the nation in 2012.

One of the authors of the study, Wendy McIntosh, points to the main takeaway from the study:

“Knowing suicide rates by occupation provides employers and other prevention professionals with an opportunity to focus on suicide prevention programs and messages.”

Overall, studies like this can help guide employers to develop better strategies to improve mental health in the workforce and lower rates of suicide. These plans include providing assistance and workplace programs in place to help managers, and another staff recognizes warning signs.

Because of the limited data, they could only calculate suicide rates for broad occupation categories, not for specific jobs. Therefore, the occupational categories are grouped together, sometimes awkwardly like for the category “athletes and artists.”

Regardless, there are some beneficial insights from this study that can help future employees and employers. For example, jobs that have increase isolation and stress result in higher stress levels and higher suicide rates.

“Occupational groups with higher suicide rates might be at risk for a number of reasons, including job-related isolation and demands, stressful work environments, and work-home imbalance, as well as socioeconomic inequities, including lower income, lower education level, and lack of access to health services,” the CDC said in the report. “Previous research suggests that farmers’ chronic exposure to pesticides might affect the neurologic system and contribute to depressive symptoms.”

Wondering what other jobs have the highest rate of suicide? Let’s take a look.

These 10 occupations have the highest rate of suicide, according to the CDC:

  1. Farmworkers, fishermen, lumberjacks, others in forestry or agriculture (85 suicides per 100,000)
  2. Carpenters, miners, electricians, construction trades (53)
  3. Mechanics and those who do installation, maintenance, repair (48)
  4. Factory and production workers (35)
  5. Architects, engineers (32)
  6. Police, firefighters, corrections workers, others in protective services (31)
  7. Artists, designers, entertainers, athletes, media (24)
  8. Computer programmers, mathematicians, statisticians (23)
  9. Transportation workers (22)
  10. Corporate executives and managers, advertising and public relations (20)

Is your job on the list? If not, your job might have been in the top 15 or top 25. Some jobs that were close runner-ups were lawyers, doctors, scientists, and accountants.

We spend a HUGE amount of our time at work. Suicide is not anything to take lightly. Therefore, it is important to make our mental health our priority along with our career. If you feel overwhelmed at work, please remember to make yourself a priority. If you are struggling with mental illness or addiction, please call now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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