Years ago if you asked the average American what fentanyl was, odds are they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Most would probably assume it was some important medical compound found only in hospitals. It almost sounds like the name of some edgy chemical you’d associate with either Breaking Bad or the Unabomber. Sadly, gone are the days of such blissful ambivalence.
Today, America has a more realistic idea of what fentanyl is.
Most adults and young people have at the very least heard the horror stories about this now intensely infamous drug. If you have a television or a smartphone, odds are you have at least glimpsed the headlines. Because in the last few years the devastation caused by this powerful synthetic drug has spread all over the country, and cost countless lives.
Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, researchers have shown an involvement of fentanyl in opioid overdose deaths has quickly skyrocketed:
- 2010- 14.3% of opioid overdoses involved fentanyl
- 2016- 46% of opioid overdoses involved fentanyl
With nearly half of opioid-related overdoses, fentanyl is now involved in more deaths than:
- Prescription opioids- 40 % in 2016
- Heroin- 36.6 % in 2016
More than one drug is commonly involved in many of these deaths. Therefore, in some cases heroin and fentanyl are both accounted for. However, we can see how fentanyl has a growing presence that can definitely be felt, as dozens of thousands of Americans are dying every year due to exposure to this deadly drug.
So if you’re still unclear as to what exactly fentanyl is, let us look at how to better understand where it comes from and why it is so lethal.
Pain Medication Origins
Some people were indeed ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding fentanyl because it has actually been around for a very long time. The synthetic opioid is used as a pain medication, and in some cases combined with other medications for anesthesia. It has been used for years by hospitals, doctors, and even veterinarians to treat patients and puppies.
- 1960- Fentanyl was first created by Paul Janssen
- 1968- Fentanyl was approved for medical use in the United States
- 2015- 1,600 kilograms/3,500 pounds of fentanyl were used globally
- 2017- Fentanyl was the most widely used synthetic opioid in medicine
On its own, the substance typically looks like a white powder. As a medicine, fentanyl is available in a number of forms, including:
- Skin patch
And it may be hard for some to believe, but it’s true that one of the deadliest chemicals on the street today can actually be found in lollipop form for medical use.
The drug is such an effective painkiller because it is typically considered to be approximately 75% stronger than morphine for a given amount. However, there are fentanyl analogs such as carfentanil (carfentanyl) which can actually be as much as 10,000 times stronger than morphine. When translated to the illicit drug world, that means fentanyl and its derivatives blow heroin out of the water when it comes to potency and risk.
As a medication, fentanyl can be useful in treating chronic pain patients when utilized correctly. Pre-surgical and post-surgical use of powerful pain management medications is sometimes a necessary step to helping patients recover. In fact, fentanyl patches are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, meaning it is considered one of the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.
Black Market Poison
Despite the seemingly altruistic intentions behind the invention of fentanyl, it has been used illicitly since the mid-1970s. Now, there are more than 12 different analogs of fentanyl that have been identified as being illegally made and used recreationally. The synthetic opioid is used through:
- Taken orally
Some people who abuse opioids do seek out fentanyl. Fentanyl is sometimes sold on the black market after being diverted from legitimate medical supplies. Recently drug manufacturers have also been accused of racketeering in order to boost sales of fentanyl. Even the gel from inside the transdermal patches may be ingested or injected. Those fentanyl lollipops have also made their way into the illegal drug trade.
But a large number of people who end up using fentanyl do it unintentionally. It has been used to adulterate or ‘cut’ heroin, and it has been pressed into counterfeit pain pills and sedatives sold on the illicit drug market. More recently there has been a rise in overdose deaths among cocaine users involving the drug, which suggests that fentanyl is being heavily cut into cocaine as well.
So why are dealers using it? To name a few reasons:
- As mentioned before, it is extremely potent
- It is easier to smuggle into the U.S.
- The drug is very cheap to produce
In China, carfentanil was not a controlled substance until March of 2017, meaning it had been legally manufactured and sold over the internet up until barely a year ago.
While it is a profitable move for drug traffickers, it is a life-threatening variable for drug users. Variations of the compound can be so strong they are incredibly poisonous. Simply breathing air with atomized fentanyl in it, or touching a contaminated surface can kill you.
Because of the massive reach of the outbreak, it is important than ever to be aware of the symptoms of fentanyl overdose. These warning signs can include:
- Difficulty thinking, speaking, or walking
- Excessive drowsiness
- Frequent fainting spells (nodding off)
- Throwing up
- Pale face
- Blue- or purple-colored lips, fingernails, or extremities
- Choking sounds
- Pupil size reduced to small black circles in middle of eyes
- Low blood pressure
- Slowed heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Hypoventilation (slow, shallow breathing)
- Respiratory arrest
Adding to the terrible risk of coming into contact with illicit fentanyl or one of its derivatives is that opioid overdose antidotes like naloxone are not as effective when trying to reverse the effects. Sometimes an individual will require multiple doses of naloxone to be revived, ance revived a new overdose can actually occur when the initial dose of naloxone wears off. It is critical that someone who experiences an overdose received medical treatment immediately.
The nation has been caught up in a growing opioid crisis for years now, serving a shock to the healthcare system and public health officials everywhere. As the death toll climbs and more people are suffering and dying every day it is crucial that we raise awareness and take action to address drug abuse and addiction. One of the essential tools to fighting back is effective and innovative treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Why are more kids than ever before overdosing on ADHD drugs in America?
Did you know that the number of U.S. children unnecessarily exposed to powerful medications meant to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has gone through the roof over the past few years? In fact, over a 15-year period, unnecessary exposure to ADHD drugs has increased by more than 60% according to reports!
Study on ADHD Drug Exposure
Recently there was a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics on ADHD drug exposure and reports to poison control centers indicate:
- In the year 2000, there were 7,018 calls to poison control centers related to an ADHD drug
- In 2014, there were 11,486 calls to poison control centers related to an ADHD drug
The study defines “exposure” to an ADHD drug as “unnecessary ingestions, inhalation or absorption” of ADHD medications. This includes when the exposure to the drug is both accidental and on purpose.
The study examined data from approximately 156,000 poison center calls made over the course of 15 years. Another disturbing aspect of the data they collected showed:
- 82% of the calls were “unintentional exposure”
- 18% were “intentional exposure”
When taking a closer look at the ADHD drug exposure statistics, the researchers focused in on four of the most common medications used to treat ADHD, including:
Ritalin was the ADHD drug with the highest number of exposures.
One of the lead authors of the study is Dr. Gary Smith. When discussing the conclusions made during the study, Smith states:
“What we found is that, overall, during that 15 years, there was about a 60% increase in the number of individuals exposed and calls reported to poison control centers regarding these medications.”
Smith also concludes that one of the more troublesome findings in the study is the severity of the exposures among the adolescents due to intentional exposure. So essentially, 18% of the calls coming into poison centers concerning an ADHD drug were due to kids taking the medications on purpose.
The study also compared these medications across three different age groups:
- 0-5 years
- 6-12 years
- 13-19 years
In the 0-5 year age group, they discovered that unintentional exposure was due to “exploratory behaviors”. However, with children 6-12 years old, exposure was due to:
- “Therapeutic errors”
- “Accidentally taking multiple pills”
Sadly, among the group 13-19 years old, more than 50% of exposures to an ADHD drug were intentional. Researchers note that many teenagers will use these stimulants because.
Even worse is, of all the poison center calls, around 10% resulted in a serious medical outcome. 10% may not seem like a lot, in regards to poisoning from medications any number is too many.
Ups and Downs
Smith did note that there were some ups and downs in the trends concerning ADHD and complications from the medications. For instance, the study notes:
- Between 2000 and 2011- ADHD drug exposures increased by 71%
- Between 2011 and 2014- ADHD drug exposures dropped by 6.2%
It is unclear why there was this decrease in ADHD drug exposure rates. However, some believe it may be due to the fact that warnings from the FDA about the adverse side-effects of ADHD medications could play a big part in it.
Another thing that stands out about this study is that we have also seen a steady increase in the rate of ADHD diagnosis. Case in point, according to new reports:
- 14% of all American children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2014
- Between 2005 and 2014 the number of ADHD diagnoses more than doubled
While it is important to note that these medications can be helpful for some, they can also be extremely dangerous. According to Dr. Benjamin Shain of NorthShore University HealthSystem and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine,
“Adverse effects of taking too much stimulant medication include fast heart rate, increased blood pressure, tremors, and agitation. Worse case scenarios include schizophrenic-like psychosis, heart attack, stroke, seizures and death,”
Shain adds that adverse effects are the same if you do or do not have ADHD, or if you take too much of the medication. So people who are prescribed an ADHD drug still run the risk of suffering through some of these side-effects.
Making Safer Choices
At the end of the day, it is all about making safer choices for yourself or your loved one. When it comes to treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, there are other important elements. Various therapies can be helpful in creating a more comprehensive treatment plan, such as:
Ironically, these same therapies are also extremely helpful for those who may find themselves abusing these kinds of prescription medications. People suffering from substance use disorder can benefit greatly from these opportunities.
Because these ADHD drugs are stimulants, they also have a tendency to be abused. Either by those with a medical prescription who use too much of the drug or by those with no medical need who use them for the feelings of energy and focus they get. Again, in the case of prescription stimulant abuse, the beginning of a path to recovery means making safer choices. One of the best choices you can make is to seek professional and effective treatment options.
Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in providing innovative and personalized treatment options to anyone battling with substance abuse or addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Every day, thousands of men and women all over America lose their lives to heroin addiction. In every state, there are families and communities suffering from the loss of friends, neighbors and loved ones. Heroin addiction is more prevalent than ever before in our country.
At the same time, there are people every day trying to give up using heroin and other opioid drugs. Some people try to do it on their own, and very few of them succeed. Many end up relapsing due to the pain of withdrawal and the intense dependence on this life-threatening drug.
But there is hope. With professional help and safe, medically assisted heroin detox many people have the opportunity to build a strong foundation for recovering from their addiction.
Let us look at what you need to know about heroin detox when you reach out to get help.
Heroin Detox: Understanding Drug Dependence
Like most drugs, excessive and prolonged abuse of heroin leads to a medical condition called Substance Use Disorder (SUD). But a crucial part of the development of a SUD is drug dependence, and there are two particular kinds of dependence that people should understand.
This is about how your body adapts to substances. When the cells of your body can’t function without a substance, that is a clear indication of physical dependence. The body gets used to the presence of a chemical over time, so when the chemical is no longer present the body is forced to regulate itself.
The body also stops producing certain chemicals in the brain naturally because it gets them artificially through drugs. However, once you stop using the drugs the body is no longer producing what it needs.
Physical dependency becomes pretty apparent when you try to stop using heroin without any medical help. When you try to stop using abruptly you experience extremely uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms because of the imbalance in the body.
Psychological or emotional dependence is a result of the changes a drug creates in the mind. It is defined as a compulsion or perceived obsession for the substance. So while the individual may not be experiencing intense physical withdrawal, they may be psychologically impaired by the abrupt absence of a substance they have adapted to.
Instead of developing healthy coping skills, most heroin users tend to rely on the drug for dealing with emotional or behavioral issues. If they suddenly remove the drug, they are left defenseless against their issues.
If someone relies heavily on drugs for feelings of pleasure and stimulation, removing the drug may cause them to feel they cannot be happy without it. This is impacted by the drugs chemical interaction with the brain.
And at the end of the day, physical addiction can have psychological side effects, and vice versa. That is why heroin detox should not only offer medical assistance, but also therapeutic resources.
Heroin Detox: Withdrawal Symptoms
Suddenly stopping heroin without any medical assistance is called going “cold turkey” and it throws you almost immediately into withdrawal. “Cold turkey” is not just uncomfortable, it is dangerous. These heroin withdrawals manifest both physically and psychologically, and the symptoms can range in severity and frequency. Some examples of heroin withdrawal symptoms including:
- Extreme anxiety
- Excessive yawning and sneezing
- Runny nose
- Cold sweats
- Cramp-like pains
- Involuntary spasms in the limbs
- Severe muscle and bone aches
Trying to go through withdrawal from heroin without help is extremely difficult. Some people find it impossible due to the severity of their symptoms. Many people find themselves trapped in a cycle or relapse and attempts to recovery because withdrawal symptoms can be so hard to overcome.
This is why heroin detox is so important. This level of care can help ease you off of heroin and other opiates gradually with the use of medications specifically designed to assist with heroin withdrawal symptoms. Having a safe and experienced medical staff makes this process much more manageable. With a physically and emotionally healthy environment, you can start to establish a comprehensive recovery plan.
Heroin Detox: Safe, Medical Care
Heroin detox should always consist of two phases: evaluation and stabilization.
During this first stage of heroin detox, the individual will be given an assessment in order to determine the best course of treatment. It will include obtaining information about:
- What drugs they have been using
- The presence of drugs in their system
- What quantities of drugs have they been using
- How long have they have been using these drugs
- Other medications
- Co-occurring conditions
This is done through a drug screen, along with any further information you provide during the assessment. Because programs for heroin detox are in a medical setting, the results of your drug screen and information disclosed during your assessment are strictly confidential just like any other medical information is.
During a heroin detox program, the stabilization stage will utilize all the information you provide during your initial assessment to design an effective detox plan. Taper medications are often used in order to wean you off of heroin in both a safe and comfortable way. Detoxing from heroin and other narcotic opiates like prescription painkillers should always be done in a professional and effective manner.
There are many kinds of medication designed to help combat opioid addiction. Carefully consider your options with the medical addiction specialist to ensure you are getting the best possible care. Be sure to provide them with accurate health information for the best results.
Quality care during stabilization should also include providing therapeutic resources for the emotional and psychological side effects. Having support for your mental and emotional well-being is also extremely important for relapse prevention. It lays the groundwork for developing healthy and sustainable coping skills. With the right care, you can take this time to design a personalized recovery plan that is right for you and addresses all of your specific needs to help you be more successful in recovery.
Are you struggling with a dependence on heroin? Are you trying to quit but have failed on your own? Consider reaching out to the caring and compassionate professionals of Palm Partners Recovery Center. If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
New legislation being pushed to empower EMTs may soon change the way first responders in California help patient get care while trying to ease the overcrowding of emergency rooms. A bill as proposed will allow paramedics to bring a patient to sobering centers and mental health clinics, instead of taking them to the ER. So should EMTs take patients to these alternative facilities to receive more specific forms of care?
Giving EMTs Options
When dealing with a situation, law enforcement personnel are permitted to transport individuals who are intoxicated or experiencing a mental health crisis to sobering centers or mental health clinics if deemed appropriate. Sometimes this is the best place for a patient, depending on the specific circumstances. However, under current state law in California, Emergency Medical Technicians (or EMTs) and paramedics must bring patients to the emergency room.
Some argue that requiring EMTs and paramedics to transport these patients to the ER is not only contributing to overcrowding in emergency rooms but also it is often not the best place for them. Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is one of many who believes this is a “common sense” option for EMTs. Hahn states,
“The bottom line is that if people like you and I can take an individual to a sobering center or a mental health urgent care center, why can’t a highly trained medical professional do the same?”
Supervisor Janice Hahn has sponsored the new bill, hoping to give EMTs more options that better serve the individual. Hahn states,
“Our mental health urgent care centers and the sobering center at Skid Row were designed to provide humane, compassionate care, tailored to meet the needs of their patients,”
In cases involving law enforcement, this option allows police to choose specialized facilities instead of booking people in jail. This allows for people who may be dealing with alcohol, drugs or mental health issues to sober up and receive on-the-spot treatment without facing charges. According to Hahn, California paramedics and EMTs have their hands tied, and it is impacting hospitals and individuals.
Assembly Bill 1795
The new legislation is Assembly Bill 1795. This proposal would allow local emergency medical services agencies to lay out plans for transporting patients to:
- Designated behavioral health facilities
- Sobering centers that meet specific standards
Keep in mind, these patients will have to meet specific criteria in order to qualify. The bills recently amended language also states:
The bill would authorize a city, county, or city and county to designate, and contract with, a sobering center to receive patients, and would establish sobering center standards.
However, the bills current language also states that patients can instruct EMTs to take them to the emergency room and that it does not authorize them to initiate an involuntary detention of the patient.
This legislation also has support from Assemblyman Mike Gipson. He wrote an op-ed in February for the Compton Herald to support the measure. Gipson states,
“No one will deny that our emergency rooms are drastically over-crowded. Although they may be well-equipped to handle trauma, disasters or emergency physical health conditions—they are not as well-equipped to serve patients who have mental health care needs or substance abuse problems.”
Recently, Hahn herself planned a trip to Sacramento to advocate for the bill. And she isn’t the only one getting behind it. The bill is also co-sponsored by:
- Los Angeles County
- California Hospital Association
- California Ambulance Association
Another supporter of the proposal is Mitch Katz, the director of the county’s Department of Health Services. Katz points out that not only could this give EMTs the power to take patients to a more suitable facility, but that these options can also be much less expensive than taking patients to an emergency room.
While hospitals, EMTs and paramedics are a crucial part of saving lives in cases of overdose and other emergencies, when it comes to getting people a means to effective treatment unique to their needs, there are better options. Giving EMTs a resource to offer substance abuse and mental health treatment options could make a huge difference in the fight against addiction. Anything that connects people with effective treatment is an important step in the right direction.
We want to hear what you think- should EMTs take patients to sobering centers and/or mental health clinics?
Communities in many other parts of the country have begun to work on better ways to connect people struggling with substance abuse or mental health conditions with specialized treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Once upon a time, cosmetic surgery was a little more taboo. With exception to correcting physical deformities, surgery of fashion instead of function was a little less mainstream. Today, it is widely accepted and the doctors highly trained and respected in their field. Over time, as more people have sought cosmetic surgery, another trend has come to the surface- cosmetic surgery addiction.
Often when we talk about addiction, most people instinctively think of the opioid crisis in America. It has become just a prominent issue that it has dominated the conversation when it comes to substance use disorder, treatment programs, and mental health. Yet, there are still other forms of addiction that are affecting a lot of people. Smartphones and tablets have ushered in a discussion on social media addiction, and a handful of scandals have highlighted sex addiction.
So what do we know about cosmetic surgery addiction?
Body dysmorphic disorder
While you may not be likely to become physically addicted to plastic surgery, it is still possible to develop a cosmetic surgery addiction. According to Canice E. Crerand, PhD, psychologist in the division of plastic surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,
“It is more of a psychological issue than a physical addiction.”
The underlying psychological issue is attributed to body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA):
- BDD affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the general population
- That comes out to about 1 in every 50 people
ADAA also states that people with body dysmorphic disorder think about their real or perceived physical flaws for hours each day. Their obsessive thoughts may lead to severe emotional distress and can even interfere with everyday life.
An individual suffering from BDD can dislike any part of their body, but most often they find fault with:
One study actually suggests that 1/3 of patients who receive nose-jobs show symptoms of BDD. Other reports show:
- BDD most often develops in adolescents and teens
- Research shows that it affects men and women almost equally
- BDD occurs in about 2.5%of males in America
- It occurs in about 2.2 % of females in America
- According to the American Psychiatric Association, BDD often begins to occur in adolescents 12-13 years of age
Someone with body dysmorphic disorder can see their flaws as significant and prominent, even if they are barely minor imperfections. Still, body dysmorphic disorder is a condition that can drive people to go under the knife again and again. The desire to fix the perceived ‘defect’ can ultimately create a cosmetic surgery addiction.
Plastic Surgeons and Cosmetic Surgery Addiction
Experts suggest that while plastic surgeons are trained to perform these cosmetic procedures, they should also have the ability to identify cosmetic surgery patients who may develop a cosmetic surgery addiction. So what are some warning signs doctors could be watching for? Crerand said a few examples may be:
- Patients are often unhappy with the results of their cosmetic surgeries and take their frustrations out on surgeons in extreme cases.
- The individual may have very unrealistic expectations about surgery, thinking it will gain them a better job or a better relationship.
- May be satisfied with the requested surgery, but then “suddenly realize” another feature is unacceptable and desire even more procedures.
Crerand also says there are many challenges in trying to determine if someone is suffering from BDD. But many also believe that a cosmetic surgeon has an ethical responsibility to weigh the risks and potential benefits of a surgery. If a plastic surgeon suspects that a patient may have a cosmetic surgery addiction or body dysmorphic disorder, they should refer the patient to a consulting psychologist or psychiatrist.
Another important aspect is that people who have body dysmorphic disorder are likely to have another psychiatric disorder such as:
So someone showing signs of cosmetic surgery addiction may also be suffering from another issue that is causing them to abuse drugs and alcohol as well as put themselves through repeated surgery.
Combination of Addictions
Cosmetic surgery is not the only way that people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder try to ‘fix’ their flaws. Some will turn to very dangerous drugs in hopes of improving their bodies. This self-medicating can also lead to substance use disorder.
According to the Harvard Medical School, men who develop BDD often focus on weight and muscle size. Unfortunately, the disorder prevents them from feeling as though they’ve developed an adequate amount of muscle so they may turn to steroids. Sadly, anabolic steroids are commonly associated with intense addictions that form in an incredibly short amount of time.
Women can also develop body dysmorphic disorder symptoms relating to their muscles. They may also develop preoccupations with their weight and with the size of specific parts of their bodies. This obsession can lead to the use and abuse of stimulant drugs. These substances are known as side effects that reduce the appetite and allow people to skip meals without feeling either hungry or deprived. Stimulants can also leave chemical damage behind, even when the person feels sober. All this chemical damage can cause compulsive use and abuse of drugs.
These are just a few examples of how the same issues that lead to cosmetic surgery addiction can also create serious substance use disorder. This is why dual diagnosis treatment is so important. For people who struggle with co-occurring disorders, the recovery process can be extremely difficult if both issues are not addressed. Having a comprehensive and holistic recovery program with dual diagnosis resources can make all the difference.
For people who may be dealing with cosmetic surgery addiction, there may be a much more serious disorder just beneath the surface. The best option for healthy recovery is a treatment for both. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135