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The Opioid Epidemic Projected to Get a Lot Worse Before it Gets Better

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

Author: Shernide Delva

If you thought all the attention surrounding the opioid epidemic would result in immediate progress, think again.

According to experts, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

But just how bad will it get?

Leading public experts agree the epidemic of people dying from opioids could reach up to a half million over the next decade.

Experts at ten universities were asked to project the death toll from opioid overdoses over the next decade. If the worst-case scenario plays out, by 2027, we could be losing 250 people every day to heroin/painkillers in the United States. Right now, that number is closer to 100 deaths per day.

Even scarier, substances like fentanyl and carfentanil, which are many times stronger than heroin, continue to drive up the death toll.

Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that in 2015, at least 33,000 people died from a fatal opioid overdose. Nearly half of those deaths involved prescription opioids like OxyContin or Percocet.

Still, there is hope that the death toll won’t continue to rise as fast as it currently is. In the best case scenario, STAT predicts 21,300 opioid deaths in 2027 which is lower than 2015 numbers. However, getting to this point will require major investments in evidence-based treatment.

Regardless, all experts agree on one fact: the opioid epidemic will get worse over the next decade before any improvement occurs.

Here are the 10 Opioid Epidemic Scenarios Projected by 2027

  • SCENARIO 1-

    The worst scenario: In this scenario, the death toll projection for 2027 is 93,613, an 183% increase from 2015.

    In this scenario, the drug overdose total will continue to climb at a steady rate as they have for decades. This scenario assumes that opioid deaths will continue to make up roughly the same percentage of all drug deaths.

  • SCENARIO 2-

    In this scenario, the death toll projection for 2027 is 70,239 opioid deaths. This change would be an 112% increase since 2015.

    This scenario assumes that opioid use climbs for the foreseeable future, but it takes into consideration the potential progress from reducing opioid prescriptions and other interventions.

  • SCENARIO 3-

    In this scenario, the forecast for 2027 is 56,118 opioid deaths. This change would be a 70% jump since 2015.

    This scenario assumes that total opioid deaths will rise slightly because of increasing fatal heroin and fentanyl overdoses. The influx of fentanyl and heroin will offset any improvement in prescription opioid abuse.

  • SCENARIO 4-

    In this scenario, the opioid deaths forecast for 2027 is 46,740. This would be a 41% increase since 2015.

    This scenario assumes that the death toll will increase due to fentanyl and lack of naloxone access. The decline of deaths would occur due to fewer doctors overprescribing opioids due to increase awareness.

  • SCENARIO 5-

    In this scenario, the death forecast for 2027 is 45,000. This would be a 36% increase since 2015.

    This scenario assumes an increase due to fentanyl use and a reduction in prescription opioid abuse. After several years, this scenario assumes that doctors will begin to prescribe painkillers more responsibly.

  • SCENARIO 6:

    In this scenario, the opioid death forecast for 2027 is 44,843. This forecasted change would be a 36% increase since 2015.

    This scenario assumes a sharp increase in deaths for the first few years before the effects of interventions and funding through the 21st Century Cures Act kicks into gear, driving the numbers down.

  • SCENARIO 7-

    In this scenario, opioid deaths for 2027 is 40,652. This would be a 23% increase since 2015.

    This scenario assumes opioid deaths will increase until a combination of intervention strategies like increase naloxone access, decreased prescription opioids, and increased treatment access lower fatal overdoses.

  • SCENARIO 8-

    In this scenario, opioid deaths for 2027 is 40,000. This change would be a 21% increase since 2015.

    This scenario assumes that heroin laced with synthetic opioids will cause opioid deaths to rise for several years. This rise will peak and then later decline as drug users either fatally overdose or seek treatment.

  • SCENARIO 9-

    In this scenario, the death forecast for 2027 is 25,000. This is a 24% reduction since 2015.

    This scenario assumes heroin laced with synthetic opioids will result in increased fatal overdoses for several years. Only after this increase will numbers start to decline, as increased naloxone access, addiction treatment, and more supervised injection sites reduce the numbers significantly, resulting in an overall decrease.

  • SCENARIO 10

    – The best scenario: In this scenario, the death forecast for 2027 is 21,300. This is a 36% reduction since 2015.

    This scenario assumes that doctors will prescribe fewer opioids, and states will embrace prescription drug monitoring programs. Insurers will begin to enact reforms to increase treatment access.

Overall, all scenarios projected by experts agree that the opioid epidemic will get worse before it gets better if it gets better at all.

The experts agree that opioid deaths won’t begin to slow down until at least 2020.  It takes time for governmental efforts to kick in and for education and public awareness to result in positive change.

“It took us about 30 years to get into this mess,” said Robert Valuck, a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “I don’t think we’re going to get out of it in two or three.”

The opioid epidemic costs the US economy nearly $80 billion annually, according to federal officials. STAT notes that the US already spends about $36billion on addiction treatment, yet only 10% of the estimated 2.2 million Americans with opioid use disorder ever seek help.

This epidemic is not going off the radar anytime soon. Plenty of people are still deep into their addiction and need treatment immediately. If this sounds like you or someone you know, please call now. We want to help.

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The Connection Between Chronic Pain, Mental Illness and Addiction

The Connection Between Chronic Pain, Mental Illness and Addiction

Author: Shernide Delva

Chronic pain can be extremely difficult to manage. Pain management involves a variety of treatment options, but one area that desperately needs attention is the psychological impact of chronic pain. According to researchers, about half of adults with chronic pain also experience anxiety or mood disorders like depression.

The findings, published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders, highlight the need to offer treatment and resources to those struggling with the psychological impact of chronic pain.

“The dual burden of chronic physical conditions and mood and anxiety disorders is a significant and growing problem,” said Silvia Martins, MD, Ph.D., associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author.

The research examined data to analyze the associations between mood and anxiety disorder and self-reported chronic physical conditions. 5,037 participants in São Paulo, Brazil participated in the interview process.

Among individuals with mood disorders, chronic pain was reported by 50 percent, followed by respiratory disease at 33 percent, cardiovascular disease at 10 percent, arthritis by 9 percent, and diabetes by 7 percent.

Anxiety disorders were also common among those with chronic pain reported at 45 percent, and respiratory at 30 percent, as well as arthritis and cardiovascular disease, each 11 percent.

“These results shed new light on the public health impact of the dual burden of physical and mental illness,” said Dr. Martins. “Chronic disease coupled with a psychiatric disorder is a pressing issue that health providers should consider when designing preventive interventions and treatment services — especially the heavy mental health burden experienced by those with two or more chronic diseases.”

Chronic Pain and Painkiller Addiction

One common treatment for chronic pain is the use of prescription painkillers. Opioids like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet affect specific parts of the brain that reduce the perception of pain. However, along with reducing the perception of pain, these medications also release feel-good chemicals in the brain, often leading to dependence.

With this study, it is clear why chronic pain sufferers are susceptible to opioid dependence due to a variety of factors including the need for feel-good chemicals like dopamine. Chemicals like dopamine and serotonin are lacking in those with depression and anxiety.

Many patients who take prescription painkillers do so without forming any dependence.  In some, opioid use generates negative side effects such as nausea, making them more unwilling to use the drug’s long-term. Still, some individuals are so desperate for pain relief, that they take larger doses than prescribed more frequently. Not long after, a full-blown addiction develops.

It is important to note that there is no way to know whether a prescription painkiller user will develop an addiction to opioids. However, factors like having a family history of addiction, struggling with mood disorders such as depression or anxiety, or experiencing a past trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse all increase the risk. Those who have struggled with previous addiction are at a higher risk as well.

Another dangerous aspect of opioid addiction is that it often leads to heroin use. Health officials confirm that this is not uncommon. Because painkillers are more difficult to obtain and more expensive, many users turn to using heroin. Heroin is in a similar drug classification as opioids and is easy to obtain for cheap on the street.

Overall, this study says a lot about the way mental disorders and addiction often go hand in hand. That’s why so many treatment centers offer a dual diagnosis program. Therefore, if you struggle with mental illness, addiction or both, please call now. We want to help.

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: Selena Gomez Says DBT Changed Her Life

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: The Therapy Selena Gomez Says Changed Her Life

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

Author: Shernide Delva

Recently, a form of therapy has garnered massive media attention. It is known as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT. Even Selena Gomez said it changed her life. Around August of last year, Gomez abruptly ended her Revival tour to recover from “anxiety, panic attacks, and depression,” she states was a result of her lupus condition. She says DBT specifically, allowed her to relearn the coping tools she desperately needed.

But what is DBT?

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy used to treat multiple types of mental health disorders. The theory behind the approach is that certain people are prone to react in an intense manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family or friend relationships. Often, DBT is used to treat patients with borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder.

DBT suggests certain people have a higher sensitivity to emotional stimuli. Their emotions tend to spike more quickly than the average person. Because of this, it takes time for them to recover emotionally after experiencing these spikes in emotions.

For example, people with borderline personality disorder struggle with extreme swings in their emotions. They see the world in black-and-white shades, and always jump from one crisis to another. Those around them do not understand their reactions, so this isolates their behavior even more. They lack the coping strategies of dealing with their high surges in emotion. That’s where DBT comes in. DBT teaches them to handle their emotions better.

DBT in three formats:

  • Support-oriented:

    DBT focuses on helping a person identify their strengths and build on them so they can feel better about themselves and their future.

  • Cognitive-Based:

    DBT helps with identifying the thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder. For example, the need for perfectionism is a common theme in many people’s lives. The need to be perfect may prevent someone from succeeding entirely. Therefore, DBT helps people acquire new ways of thinking that makes life more bearable. Another common emotion is anger. A person may feel if they get angry, it is their fault, and they are a horrible person. DBT teaches that anger is a natural human emotion.

  • Collaborative:

    DBT works in a collaborative environment. Patients are encouraged to work out any relationship conflicts they may have with their therapist and therapists are told to do the same. DBT asks patients to complete homework assignments, role-play and practice coping skills. Then, the individual therapist works one-on-one with the patient to help them master their DBT skills.

Typically, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has two main components:

  1. Individual weekly psychotherapy sessions:

    These emphasize problem-solving behaviors for the past week’s issues and troubles that arose in a person’s life. Any self-injurious or suicidal behaviors take priority, followed by any problems that could interfere with the therapy process. The weekly sessions in DBT focus on decreasing and dealing with post-traumatic stress response from previous trauma and helping a person enhance their self-worth.

  2. Weekly group therapy sessions:

    A trained DBT therapist will lead sessions where people learn skills related to interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance/reality acceptance skills, emotion regulation, and mindfulness skills.

The Four Modules of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Furthermore, there are four modules of dialectical behavioral therapy. They focus on:

  • Emotion Regulation:

    Individuals who are suicidal or borderline struggle with emotional intensity. They benefit in learning how to regulate their emotions. Furthermore, DBT teaches skills for emotional regulation such as:

    • Identifying and labeling emotions
    • Identifying obstacles to changing emotions
    • Reducing vulnerability to “emotion mind.”
    • Increasing positive emotional events
    • Increasing mindfulness to current emotions
    • Taking opposite action
  • Distress Tolerance:

    Lastly, this area approaches mental health by changing distressing events and circumstances. Individuals learn to bear pain skillfully. They learn to accept themselves and the current situation. While the focus is on nonjudgmental thinking, this does not mean they must approve of the reality: “Acceptance of reality is not approval of reality.”

  • Interpersonal Effectiveness:

    This principle focuses on asking what one needs and learning to say no. It also emphasizes coping with interpersonal conflict. Those with borderline personality disorder usually have good interpersonal skills. They may lack the skills necessary for generating or analyzing their personal circumstances. This part of DBT focuses on applying coping skills in their particular situation.

  • Mindfulness:

    In DBT, patients learn the core principles of mindfulness.  The focus is on emphasizing what tasks are necessary to practice core mindfulness skills. Furthermore, this area concentrates on the “how” skills and allows the individual to incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives.


Therapy is an essential tool in early recovery. Whether you are struggling with addiction or mental illness, it is crucial to take the first step in transforming your life. Do not feel ashamed if you are currently battling a mental illness or addiction. Instead, take charge of your life by seeking the assistance of professionals. We are waiting for your call. Do not wait. Call today.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Former NFL Player Shane Olivea Overcame 125 Vicodin-Per-Day Habit

Former NFL Player Shane Olivea Overcame 125 Vicodin-Per-Day Habit

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

Author: Shernide Delva

Former NFL player Shane Olivea opened up to the media about his painkiller addiction. At one point, Olivea states he was taking 125 Vicodin pills per day and spent more than $584,000 fueling his painkiller addiction.

Shane Olivea, who excelled as a college football star at Ohio State University, admits that at the height of his addiction he was taking an astounding 125 Vicodin pills per day. He says that he was high every day after first trying Vicodin at the end of his rookie NFL season with the San Diego Chargers.

To obtain the drugs, Olivea had a variety of sources. On several occasions, he would pay a cab driver $100 to drive to a “pharmacy” in Tijuana.

 “You could buy anything you want if you had cash. I’d go buy a couple hundred Vicodin, or by then I’d progressed to OxyContin.”

Eventually, the disease of addiction progressed into buying more and more.

“It got to the point I would take a pile of 15 Vicodin and would have to take them with chocolate milk. If I did it with water or Gatorade, I’d throw it up,” he said.

After a while, Olivea began to withdraw from teammates and his relationship with coaches and management suffered. In 2007, Olivea was benched late into the season and his weight spiraled up to nearly 390 pounds.

All of his friends and family were worried. As a last resort, the entire family, andhis Chargers teammate Roman Oben came together for an intervention and asked him to seek treatment.

In April 2008, Olivea entered rehab at a California treatment facility. During his initial medical examination, his doctors were stunned.

“[The doctors] looked at me and said, ‘We’ve never seen anybody living with that amount of opioids in you. You’re literally a walking miracle,’” said Olivea. “That was a punch to the gut.”

Starting Over

Later that year, Olivea signed with the New York Giants, however, a back injury eventually ended his career. Despite the setbacks, Olivea has managed to stay sober since his days in treatment. In 2015, he re-enrolled at Ohio State University, and then graduated last December with a degree in the sports industry.

In addition to considering job offers on and off the field, Olivea also wants to use his experience with addiction to mentor players struggling with the physical toll of the game. He wants to ensure others are on the right path.

“If you got it, you can spot it,” Olivea said. “I can spot an addict in a public setting. I know the behavior. I know the tendencies. I know what he’s going to do. I’ll be able to notice somebody going down that slippery path and maybe catch them.”

Fact or Fiction: 125 Vicodin per day?

In delving into this article, I read many comments stating that it was impossible that Olivea consumed that many Vicodin without major health consequences.

Some of the comments via the Daily Mail read:

    • “125 pills per day? Yea, right. That would kill you, I don’t care how big you are.”
    • “I kind of don’t believe 125 a day. You might be able to survive a chronic opioid addiction, but if you took that much acetaminophen – the other ingredient in Vicodin – your liver would give out in short order.”
    • “I don’t believe his story entirely – if he’d taken 125 Vicodin pills a day, his liver would have packed up and he’d have died. You can abuse Vicodin a bunch, but 125 pills a day isn’t abusing it, it’s taking an O/D _every day_.”
      —-

Vicodin is a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is the opioid part of Vicodin while acetaminophen is a less potent pain reliever that increases the effects of hydrocodone. The acetaminophen part is the same chemical found in Tylenol so most of us are familiar with it.

Since Olivea was at a high weight level (peaking at 390 pounds) and had built up a tolerance to the drug, chances are he would be able to handle a higher amount of Vicodin than the average person. However, the astounding amount of 125 pills a day normally would result in an overdose.

Furthermore, large quantities of acetaminophen can easily result in major liver damage. For the average person, even a few days of exceeding the recommended dose of the drug could result in liver damage.  The first signs of an acetaminophen overdose include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, sweating, and weakness.

Furthermore, the 125 Vicodin per day number does seem astounding. Ultimately, whether or not that number is accurate is irrelevant. The takeaway here is that Shane Olivea had a serious addiction to opioids and was able to overcome it through treatment. It is inspiring to see Olivea use his achieved sobriety to help others.  If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, please call now. Do not wait. Call toll-free today.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

After the Naloxone: The Next Step After Overdose Reversal

After the Naloxone: What’s the Next Step?

Author: Shernide Delva

Drug overdoses have skyrocketed across the United States, and as a result, the popularity and accessibility of naloxone have risen as well. Most pharmacies now carry naloxone and even schools are carrying it in the event of an overdose emergency. Nationwide, naloxone is available to emergency departments and paramedics who find they are using the overdose antidote more than ever before.

While the use of naloxone is saving countless lives, one of the major battles first responders are facing is that they often administer naloxone to the same people over and over again. The repeated overdoses have many pondering; Where do we go from here? What is the next step after naloxone?

After the Overdose Reversal

First responders have acknowledged the pattern of repeated overdoses throughout the country. While an overdose often is a turning point for many, for others it is not enough to stop the active addiction. Therefore, in many areas of the country, first responders and community members have launched programs to reach out to those who recently overdosed. These programs aim to offer resources on overdose prevention, mental health counseling and substance use disorder treatment.

In July 2015, the Township of Colerain, Ohio, started a post-naloxone outreach program led by their Director of Public Safety, Daniel Meloy. Ohio has some of the highest rates of drug overdoses in the country. Under the program, representatives from the Colerain Police Department, the Colerain Fire Department, and Addiction Services Council all meet to review overdose reports from the previous week. Then, the representatives, known collectively as the Rapid Response Team, go into their community to visit the homes where the overdoses occurred.

“We knock on doors and ask to speak with either the person who overdosed or any friends or family,” says Shana Merrick, a social worker with Addiction Services Council. “We explain that we are not there to make an arrest, but to offer resources to keep the person healthy, safe and well. Most people open their doors and we talk about their situation and needs.”

In cases where a person lacks medical insurance, these programs help them find insurance. For those who are not eligible for insurance or Medicaid or simply can’t afford insurance, there are dedicated funds to help pay for treatment costs.

“About 80% of the people we see eventually seek some form of treatment,” says Shana. “It’s not always right away, but if we build a relationship over time then they may contact us later on asking for help.”

One of the biggest challenges is treatment capacity. When all beds are full, Shana enrolls people in intensive outpatient programs until a slot opens up at a traditional inpatient program. Some will enroll in medication-assistant treatment programs. Another challenge is staying in touch with people who are transient and may have changed address or phone numbers.

Shana and The Rapid Response Team are fortunate to have a variety of resources available to them to help guide people. Other places are not so fortunate. The Santa Fe Prevention Alliance in New Mexico have  similar post-overdose outreach program but have fewer resources to utilize.

“There aren’t a lot of substance use or mental health treatment services in our area where we can refer people,” says Bernie, who visits people who have recently overdosed each week, along with a paramedic from the Santa Fe Fire Department.

We do offer to help people find treatment facilities if they want, but during most of our visits we work with families to come up with an overdose response plan, offer naloxone and training on how to use it, and brainstorm about how to reduce the risk of another overdose. People are excited and respond well to us. No one has ever refused to let us visit.”

Do These Programs Work?

The purpose of these programs is helping those who have recently overdosed from overdosing again. The vast majority of people are receptive to receiving help. In some cases, they may not want help right away but often reach out in the future.

There is a critical overdose epidemic nationwide, and communities are exploring ways to help past the initial overdose reversal. Post-naloxone programs do offer hope, however they are just one solution to a very complex issue. There is not a quick-fix one-step solution–—not naloxone, not post-overdose outreach programs, not more inpatient treatment, not injected medications that block cravings for opioids—is a magic cure.

A combination of efforts that explore a diverse range of treatment options is key. While saving lives using naloxone is extremely important, the post-naloxone addict needs just as much assistance. What are your thoughts? If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please call now. Do not wait. 

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