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Could Medical Marijuana Reduce Drug Overdose Deaths? Study Says Yes

Could Medical Marijuana Reduce Drug Overdose Deaths? Study Says Yes

By Cheryl Steinberg

A new study reveals that access to medical marijuana appears to already have saved thousands of lives over the past few years by reducing accidental overdose deaths from prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin.

According to the study, states where marijuana has been made medically legal saw, on average, 1,700 fewer deaths per year from prescription drugs than they would have otherwise, before the introduction of medical marijuana.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center. However, the study has its critics, who claim say that it’s flawed, saying that it makes “sweeping” conclusions that are not supported by the data collected.

Medical Marijuana for Pain Management

Federal officials say that prescription narcotics, specifically painkillers, are among the most abused drugs prescription medicines in the U.S., and are responsible for the deaths of more than 15,000 deaths of Americans annually. Those who are proponents of medical marijuana say pot is a far safer and more effective alternative for relieving pain; however, research is still lacking to support their claims. The authors of the study say their research is groundbreaking – indicating that public health officials need to look more closely at the potential benefits of marijuana for treating and managing pain.

“It suggests the potential for many lives to be saved,” said study senior author Colleen L. Barry, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. “We can speculate … that people are completely switching or perhaps supplementing, which allows them to lower the dosage of their prescription opioid.”

Medical Marijuana: Spreading Like Wildfire

Twenty-three states as well as the District of Columbia now permit doctors to prescribe some form of medical marijuana.

In the states that permit medical marijuana, prescription drug overdoses dropped by 25%. Barry admits that the study doesn’t explain why this phenomenon but, raises important questions. What is known, however, is that federal officials are making it harder for patients to legally acquire large qualities of certain opioid drugs like Vicodin and other painkillers. Opiate painkillers are highly addictive, and patients who get hooked build up a tolerance, having to take increasingly higher doses in order to feel the drug’s effects.

“There’s a lot of rethinking about relative harms and relative benefits right now,” Barry said. “Medical marijuana is not susceptible to unintentional overdose … What we don’t know, and that’s because we haven’t had enough research done, is how good of a job medical marijuana does for people with chronic pain.”

Could Medical Marijuana Reduce Drug Overdose Deaths? Study Says Yes

Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University Of Florida College Of Medicine, Kevin Sabet, said he has concerns about the methods used by the study’s authors when collecting and analyzing the data. According to Sabet, they failed to differentiate between states when it came to which had strict and which had lax medical marijuana laws, and didn’t examine emergency-room admission and prescription data. Moreover, he says the researchers failed to see what impact methadone clinics might have had. He said it’s hard to believe there was such an across-the-board reduction in predicted deaths.

“In today’s supercharged discussions, it could be easily misunderstood by people,” he said of the study, which he faulted for drawing distinct conclusions based on limited data. “There may be promise in marijuana-based medications but that’s a lot different than ‘here’s a joint for you to smoke.'”

Although marijuana is becoming legalized, for both medical grade and recreational use, it can still become a problem for some people. Cannabis dependence, abuse, and addiction are real conditions for which more and more people are seeking rehab and treatment. If you or someone you love struggles with marijuana or any other substance, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist today. We’re here around the clock to help.

Living a Double Life: How to Spot a Functional Addict

Living a Double Life: How to Spot a Functional Addict

There’s your ‘typical’ drug addict, the type that’s usually referred to as “junkie,” – you know, the homeless person getting high on the streets, possibly prostituting themselves (male and female) – and then there’s the ‘functional addict.’ This type of drug addict is seemingly “normal.” They have their life together, for the most part. They hold a steady job, have a place to live, have a car…all the typical things that describe a normal, functioning member of society. But the functional addict is really someone who is just good at ‘passing’ for something they’re not. As someone who spent her active addiction as a functional addict, I’m going to share with you some tell-tale signs of someone who’s struggling with substance abuse and addiction: someone who may be merely passing for doing OK.

Here it is: Living a Double Life: How to Spot a Functional Addict

How to Spot a Functional Addict: Physical Signs

Now, the functional addict in your life could be someone as close as a loved one or it might be someone you see on a regular basis, such as a coworker, or even your boss. This first way to spot a functional addict is to look for some obvious and not-so-obvious physical indications, such as changes in their appearance.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul and the functional addict, depending on what they are using, will have certain ‘dead giveaways’ like pinned (or very small) pupils if they are using opiates, such as heroin or prescription painkillers. Or, their eyes might be bloodshot on a daily basis – a possible sign of alcohol abuse or marijuana abuse. Their eyelids might also be quite heavy-looking, as if they are constantly tired. Lastly, the functional addict’s eyes might appear ‘glassy,’ which means that they look like kind of glazed over. They also might seem to have difficulty focusing their eyes.

Another tell-tale physical sign of someone who is living a double life as a functional addict is extreme and rapid weight loss or weight gain, again depending on the substance or substances they are abusing. In my experience as a functioning addict, it was rapid weight loss because I was using opiates (heroin and painkillers), amphetamines (Dexedrine) and stimulants (cocaine and crack). I was in a job that had me in direct contact with the public – I guess you could call it a customer service position. There came a point when my dwindling figure was so noticeable that I was getting a lot of comments from our business’s regular customers regarding my weight. My go-to excuse was that I was “just under a lot of stress lately.” And the truth of the matter was that I really was under a lot of stress, from leading a double life and also with struggling with the misery and brokenness I was feeling on the inside.

Lastly in the physical signs category is any detectable odor such as that of alcohol or else strong mouthwash or mints. A person who is secretly abusing alcohol will either smell like alcohol or these personal hygiene products as a way to mask the odor of the alcohol.  And contrary to a common belief out there, vodka does smell. Many people struggling with alcoholism and who are trying to hide it think that vodka is a ‘safe’ poison drink of choice when it comes to hiding their addiction but it really isn’t.

How to Spot a Functional Addict: Behavioral

This one’s a little trickier than the last category but, someone who is abusing drugs will more than likely be demonstrating behavioral signs of their addiction, too. First, there’s the habitual tardiness and absences – this doesn’t always apply to the functional addict, however. The absences might be due to frequent illness (read: hangovers or being dope sick) or else multiple doctors’ appointments (known as doctor-shopping).

Also, the functional addict might have multiple pill bottles and always seem to be dipping into their purse or locker at work – whatever the case may be – to take their “medicine.” Of course, be careful with this as the person might actually have legitimate health issues and concerns that require the use of medications as well as frequent doctor’s visits in order to monitor whatever condition they have.

Other behaviors of a tell-tale functional addict are that they act secretive, always stealing away for something, disappearing, acting aloof, or being vague about details. The functional addict might also have an unusual or inappropriate wardrobe, for example, they always wear long sleeves, even in the summer. This could be an indication that they are hiding track marks.

How to Spot a Functional Addict: Mood

Again, this category calls for discretion when trying to weed out the functional addict in your life. That’s because someone might have a legitimate mood disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. But, if someone close to you suddenly has a personality shift, and you already suspect drug use, it’s more than possible that this person is an addict in hiding. They might seem erratic, moody, emotional, and react in unexpected ways. Also, if you always feel like you have to walk on eggshells in their presence, this can be an indication of an emotional and psychological consequence they are experiencing as a result of their substance abuse.

This is because of the profound effect that drugs have on the chemistry of the brain. This impact is so dramatic, in fact, that the medical community’s stance on a mental health diagnosis made within 2 years of last drug use could be inaccurate. Considering that bit of information, you can see how someone who is hiding their addiction would emote differently than how they used to.

If you are struggling with an addiction but don’t really realize it because you seem to be doing fine on a daily basis, check in with yourself. Do you feel like you have to use a substance first thing when you wake up or throughout the day just so you can function and feel relatively normal? Are you feeling tired and fed up of this regimen? Or do you know someone who seems to fit the bill of a functional addict? If you said ‘yes’ to any of these and are unsure of what to do next, you can call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 around the clock to speak with an Addiction Specialist who can answer your questions about addiction and what to do next. Remember: you are not alone and help is available. Call today.

12 Ways to Know Your Loved One Has A Problem With Alcohol or Other Drugs

12 Ways to Know Your Loved One Has A Problem With Alcohol or Other Drugs

When it comes to determining whether your loved one has a problem with alcohol or other drugs, there are physical, behavioral, and psychological warning signs of drug abuse to look out for. And, it may also depend on what substance or substances your loved one is abusing as to which signs they might begin to demonstrate. Here are 12 ways to know your loved one has a problem with alcohol or other drugs.

1.)   Personality shift  

If your loved one displays a sudden and unexplained shift in their personality, where they just don’t seem like their usual self, this can be an indication that they are struggling with substance abuse issues. Alcohol and other drugs can have a profound effect on brain chemistry and therefore may alter your loved one’s behavior and overall personality.

2.)   Moody

Your loved has suddenly become irritable, has angry outbursts or laughs or cries for seemingly no reason at all.

3.)   Secretive

If your loved one is secretive about their comings and goings, who they’re spending their time with, and how they’re spending their money (see#4), this can be a solid indication that they are abusing drugs, including alcohol.

4.)   Always asking for money

Or you notice that your money, valuables, prescriptions or prescription drugs are going missing, your loved one might be stealing from you. This can be hard to accept, especially if this person has never displayed behavior like this in the past. It’s important to realize that substance abuse and addiction can have such a powerful hold over someone so as to cause them to things they never would do otherwise.

5.)   Extreme and rapid weight loss/gain

Depending on what substance or substances your loved one is abusing, they will no doubt at some point lose scads of weight or put on a lot of weight.

6.)   Fidgety, scratching a lot (opiates)

Opiates such as prescription painkillers and heroin cause itchiness as a side effect. So, if your loved one is scratching or fidgeting a lot, they could be abusing this class of drugs.

7.)   Sniffling a lot, getting lots of colds/ nosebleeds (cocaine possibly meth)

This comes from insufflating drugs. In other words, if your loved one is snorting or sniffing drugs in a powder form – usually cocaine or crystal meth – then they might develop certain problems with their nose and sinuses.

8.)   Drinks a lot and lies about it or diminishes how much they’re drinking

A tell-tale sign that your loved one is struggling with a drinking problem is if they are untruthful about their drinking habits.

9.)   Drinks alone

Another red flag that your loved one is abusing alcohol is that they are drinking alone and hiding their alcoholic containers – around the house, in the car, etc.

10.)  Lying

Just as with drinking, if your loved one is lying and deceptive about things – even the “small stuff” – this is a strong indication that they have a drug problem.

11.)  Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance

Usually as things progress with matters of substance abuse, the person who struggles will start “letting themselves go” by not taking care of even their most basic personal hygiene and needs, such as brushing their teeth and showering.

12.) Impaired coordination,

If you notice that your loved one seems to have a lot of injuries or accidents, or bruises that they don’t seem to know how they got, this, too, can be a strong indication that they are abusing alcohol or other drugs.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Heroin is Movin’ On Up: New Study Shows 75% Of Heroin Addicts Now Live In Suburban Areas

Heroin is Movin’ On Up: New Study Shows 75% Of Heroin Addicts Now Live In Suburban Areas

We’ve seen plenty of coverage about it in the news – heroin is currently an epidemic in this country and its use is far-reaching, even into areas like middle-class suburbia.

But, now according to HealthDay via WebMD News a study has been conducted, which supports this trend with actual science and statistics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that U.S. sales of prescription narcotics rose 300% in less than a decade, between 1999 and 2008. During the same time period, fatal drug overdoses tripled, a number, which in large part is attributable to prescription painkillers.

According to research published yesterday in JAMA Psychiatry online, heroin use was mainly a problem affecting teens living in poor, urban neighborhoods; it now is more commonly found among whites in their early 20s. That’s to say, the current typical heroin user is a middle-class suburbanite who first began using prescription painkillers.

Lead researcher for the study, Theodore Cicero, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. “There really has been a shift, in just the past five years or so. There’s been a migration (of heroin abuse) to the suburbs.”

Although the current findings came as no surprise, Cicero added that “This is verifying, in a systematic way, what we’ve suspected.”

Before the 1990s, doctors weren’t prescribing powerful opiate narcotics, says Dr. Herbert Kleber, an addiction expert at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. When treating pain became more of a priority, a ‘fifth vital sign’ in medicine, there was a movement toward prescribing these powerful painkillers.

This recent trend of heroin use in the suburbs can be widely attributed to abuse of prescription narcotics such as OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), and fentanyl. When some of the people who were prescribed such medications became addicted, they eventually turned to the cheaper version – heroin, Cicero said.

Heroin is Movin’ On Up: New Study Shows 75% Of Heroin Addicts Now Live In Suburban Areas

The Study

The researchers collected data from a survey conducted on almost 2,800 U.S. patients who were in treatment for heroin abuse. Older patients who had first started using heroin back in the 1960s were mostly men who started using when they were teens and who had gone straight to heroin as their first drug of abuse. Just over half of these patients were white.

Over time, the profile of the American heroin user has morphed, a shift that began during the 1990s. B 2010, about 90% of recently initiated heroin abusers were white, and half were women. The average age of today’s heroin user is 22.9 years old. And, 75% lived in “less urban” areas, according to the study.

Three-quarters of people who began abusing heroin after 2000 started with abusing painkillers before ‘graduating’ to heroin, and spoke of the main attraction to using the illicit substance: It’s cheap and easy to get.

On the street, OxyContin can run up to $80 for a pill – whereas heroin can be as cheap as $6 for a bag, Kleber noted.

In the study, people reported getting heroin from middle-class neighbors or classmates.

Janina Kean, president of the High Watch Recovery Center, a drug rehab facility in Kent, CT said education regarding the disease of addiction is essential. Some heroin abusers in the study said that, at first, they didn’t consider themselves to be addicts because they didn’t fit the image of the stereotypical “junkie.”

“There’s so much stigma around it,” she said. “And stigma is a barrier to treatment.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Rehabs Behaving Badly: Bay Recovery in San Diego

Rehabs Behaving Badly: Bay Recovery in San Diego

San Diego, CA – A doctor at a substance abuse treatment center is in the news – again – for some questionable practices.

Dr. Jerry N. Rand, a treating physician at Bay Recovery Center, who has been under investigation in the past, is currently being investigated for allegedly overprescribing drugs to himself and his patients. The doctor has surrendered his medical license, according to a disciplinary order released by the Medical Board of California.

The order can be seen posted on the agency’s website, which calls for Dr. Jerry N. Rand to surrender his license. Both Rand and his attorney signed the document. There has been no comment from Rand or his attorney.

Bay Recovery Center operates three residential treatment homes in San Diego’s Bay Park neighborhood, as well as an outpatient program.

Carol Sloan, a spokeswoman for Bay Recovery, said, depending on the outcome of the three-day hearing, it will be determined whether Rand’s license will remain suspended.

In the meantime, Bay Recovery can’t treat patients at its residential facilities, however its outpatient services are still in effect.

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After receiving a complaint concerning the death of a patient at one of the homes, state and federal officials raided the facilities at Bay Recovery Center as well as Rand’s home.

Following the raid, California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs temporarily suspended Bay Recovery Center’s license.

Bay Recovery isn’t the only agency feeling the heat; the state department has also come under fire due to its lack of oversight in the matter: Bay Recovery is among a handful of cases involved in a report that was previously published by the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes.

The report found that the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs “consistently failed to catch life-threatening problems” at the named facilities.

In it, other cases involving Dr. Rand and his questionable practices were outlined. Rand was accused with “extreme polypharmacy,” prescribing multiple medications with inadequate care for potential drug interactions, in the case of a 29-year-old woman who drowned in a bathtub in 2008 at the facility. The state medical board alleged that the patient was too sick to be properly treated at Bay Recovery, meaning that her care should have been handled by a facility that was equipped for such care. When it comes to substance abuse treatment, there are times when the professionals at a facility must make a qualified “call” as to whether the care of a patient can be appropriately handled by that facility. Dr. Jerry Rand was the treating physician in this case and denied responsibility for the patient’s death. And then another patient of Bay Recovery died before the state suspended their license.

They say that bad things come in three’s: a 28-year-old man, who had been disoriented and hallucinating for several days, also died while in one of Bay Recovery’s residential treatment centers. The department concluded that Bay Recovery failed to refer the patient to a higher level of care.

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It’s not clear what prescriptions were being abused however some are speculating that the doctor was writing himself as well as the center’s patients painkillers – which is wrong on so many levels. First, physicians cannot prescribe painkillers for themselves or even for their family members. Secondly, and perhaps more obviously, patients seeking help and recovery from substance abuse and addiction in a supposedly credible treatment facility definitely should not be prescribed narcotic painkillers.

Even if the painkiller story is pure conjecture, obviously there was some shady goings-on with the “good doctor,” if his license has been suspended. This sort of thing should not be happening in a treatment facility.

The weird thing is that it was difficult to find information on this breaking story. There was only one article online that this blogger could find. Anything else that came up with “Dr. Jerry N. Rand” was related to the doctor’s profile, such as on sites that assist the public with locating physicians and other professionals.

Interestingly, when visiting the profile site, there’s an option to find out if there were/are any sanctions against a particular provider. And even more interesting, is that there are indeed sanctions against Dr. Rand – a laundry list of sanctions that stretch back to 1973.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Source:

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/Nov/05/bay-recovery-center-doctor-surrenders-medical/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/drug-rehab-deaths-ban-medical-care_n_1858563.html

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