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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Opioid Use?

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Opioid Use?

Author: Shernide Delva

As most know by now, the opioid epidemic has reached epic proportions.  In the U.S. alone, more than 15 million people abuse prescription drugs. The leading cause of accidental death in the United States are opioid overdoses, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015.

In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin. When these drugs are abused, they present some of the same risks as heroin on the street. Furthermore, as prescription opioids are regulated, more and more people are turning to heroin making the risk of a fatal overdose even greater.

With all that said, how exactly do opioids affect the body? We wanted to explore several areas of the body and understand how opioid abuse specifically affected each area.  Whether it is prescription drugs or heroin, opioids affect almost every part of your body. Long-term use can lead to permanent damage to your health. Read on further to learn how the body reacts to abuse of opioids. Treatment can put a stop to the risk and address issues that may have already arisen in the body.

The Effects of Opioid Use on the Body:

  1. THE BRAIN

    Painkillers are known to have side effects such as extreme drowsiness which can result in needing stimulant medication to counteract this effect. For example, heroin can elicit profound drowsiness. Abusers frequently experience bouts of ‘nodding off’ as they slip in and out of consciousness. Over time, the use of painkillers results in an increased risk fo major depression. Patients using painkillers for more than six months has a 50 percent greater chance of developing depressive episodes.

  1. THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM

    Opioid overdoses can lead to a condition known as respiratory depression. It essentially means that breathing slows down significantly. The body goes into respiratory arrest and deprives the brain and body tissues of oxygen.

  1. THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

    Opioids affect the muscles of the digestive system making constipation common. This effect is due to the slowing of the digestive transit. The gastrointestinal motility and chronic constipation associated with opioid abuse can lead to more severe conditions such as small bowel obstruction, perforation, and resultant peritonitis. Nausea is very common among opioid users along with sudden, uncontrollable vomiting.

  2. THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

    The chronic use of opioid painkillers can lead to a syndrome that can increase your sensitivity to pain resulting in a condition known as hyperalgesia. Furthermore, opioid use may result in psychomotor impairment and an overall slowing of a person’s physical movements and loss of coordination.

  3. THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

    Opioid use affects the immune system which means you’re more vulnerable to getting illnesses or feeling under the weather. The opioid receptors regulate immunity so long-term opioid abuse can negatively affect this process.

  1. THE LIVER

    Most people are unaware of how many opioid painkillers contain acetaminophen, the same ingredient found in Tylenol. Excessive use of these drugs can cause liver damage from toxicity. Damage to the liver is an undeniable risk to taking excessive amounts of prescription painkillers like Vicodin. When you add alcohol to the mix— as many opioid-dependent users do—it makes a risky situation, even more,

Overall, opioids affect every part of the body, and we did not even mention the psychological impacts of drug abuse. Opioid use disorder wreaks havoc on your life and the life of those around you. Do not wait for the potentially life-altering consequences of opioid abuse to take its toll. Please call to speak to a professional treatment support specialist today. Please call now. 

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Painkiller Tax Proposed By California Legislators to Offset Rehab Costs

Painkiller Tax Proposed By California Legislators to Offset Rehab Costs

Author: Shernide Delva

In order to help offset the sky-rocketing costs of addiction and rehab, a California legislator wants to tax OxyContin, Vicodin and other prescription opioids. Should this be considered throughout the country?

Over the last few years, Los Angeles County has led the state when it comes to opioid drug overdoses. As a result, California lawmaker Kevin McCarty announced a new bill that would implement a 1 cent-per-milligram tax on prescription opioids to help offset the expense of rehab services.

“What we have here is a plan to create a surcharge of opiate sales in California and redirect all those moneys to provided needed services for the communities,” McCarty explained.

In 2014, more than 2,000 people died of opioid overdoses in California. In the United States, 91 people die of opioid-related causes every single day.

With this proposed law, taxes would be placed on opioid prescription wholesales, and could also impact prices for manufactures. However, some are concerned that the cost will be passed down to patients.

Emergency Room physician Dr. Stephen Kishineff was concerned that addicts who buy opioids illegally won’t be the ones shouldering the tax.

“Really the end users are going to pay for it because they’re going to pay for it in higher prescription costs or higher insurance premiums,” said Kishineff.

But he added the intention is good.

“As a society, it’s kind of a nice idea for a tax to be put on something that can be abused in order to help somebody who is abusing it,” Kishineff said.

McCarty estimates minimal impact on consumers, and if any, would be roughly a few dollars a month.

“So we think there is a real nexus between the opioid industry and the problem that we’re seeing out there on the streets. So this ties the two things together to address the problem,” McCarty said.

In the past, similar legislation was proposed at the federal level, but if the new McCarty bill becomes law, California would be the first state to enact such a tax on painkillers.

It is important to note that the funds from this tax would go towards funding rehabilitation services. The tax would be imposed on wholesalers, not at the point of sale, and would require two-thirds approval in the legislature.

“California’s opioid epidemic has cost state taxpayers millions and the lives of too many of our sons and daughters,” McCarty said in a statement. “We must do more to help these individuals find hope and sobriety. This plan will provide counties with critical resources needed to curb the deadly cycle of opioid and heroin addiction in California.”

If passed, the surcharge would raise tens of millions for county drug treatment programs. These funds would help the endless amount of addicts who lack the financial support to seek proper treatment.

Do you think a law like this could be effective?

If so, should other states follow suit? One argument is that a law like this opens the door for other prescriptions drug taxes. It also punishes chronic pain suffers who use painkillers in a safe, non-addictive way.

In the comment section of the article, several people argued against the tax, saying it posed an unfair punishment to honest prescription pain killer patients.

One commented:

“I say this proposal is ridiculous. I don’t use that medicine. I don’t believe people should be taxed because of others irresponsibility. If they want to overdose let them it’s their choice.”

Another commented:

“Rub salt in the wounds why don’t you! Unlike cigarette tax, this med tax would compound an already painful and difficult situation for those who really need it, because of those who really don’t…adding insult to injury!”


Clearly, this is a topic up for serious debate. What we know for sure is that addiction is a serious problem and treatment is necessary to overcome it. If you need help, please reach out to professionals. We are waiting for your call. Call now.

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CVS: Tobacco Sale Ban Is Already Having A Major Impact

CVS: Tobacco Sale Ban Is Already Having A Major Impact

Author: Shernide Delva

A while back, CVS made the bold decision to cease the sale of tobacco products in their stores.   Now, new data reveals their decision to stop selling cigarettes contributed to a drop in tobacco purchases from all retailers.  Furthermore, CVS customers were 38% more likely to stop buying cigarettes, according to research from the American Journal of Public Health.

The analysis comes less than three years after the company stopped selling all tobacco products. The move garnered national attention from public health advocates, doctors, and even the white house.

“After CVS’s tobacco removal, household- and population-level cigarette purchasing declined significantly,” the study concluded.

CVS officially stopped selling tobacco products as of October 1, 2014, at its CVS/pharmacy stores. The decision had the greatest impact on customers who bought cigarettes only at CVS drugstores. Those particular customers were 38% more likely to stop buying cigarettes altogether.

To gather those numbers, the study used household purchasing data to examine American households that stopped buying cigarettes for at least six months during the period of September 2014 to August 2015. The study, written by CVS executives and paid for by the company, was a peer-reviewed article, the journal disclosed.

“When we removed tobacco from our shelves, a significant number of our customers simply stopped buying and hopefully smoking cigarettes altogether instead of just altering their cigarette purchasing habits,” Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Health chief medical officer, said in a statement.

“This research proves that our decision had a powerful public health impact by disrupting access to cigarettes and helping more of our customers on their path to better health.”

The decision by CVS to cut off tobacco sales amounted to a loss of $2 billion in annual sales that existed when it sold cigarettes. Still, the drugstore’s overall sales have been increasing in the last three years thanks to new business from the Affordable Care Act which benefit the pharmacy. CVS is growing significantly as a medical service business.

As for its rivals, the CVS decision has not triggered a trend. None of the other stores such as Wal-Mart, Rite Aid or Walgreens Boots Alliance have followed suit with their own plans to stop selling cigarettes. The pressure from the public and some of their shareholders has not made enough of an impact to change their mind. Walgreens, for example, has instead decided to push more smoking cessation products alongside their tobacco products.

The response from customers in regards to the ban was mixed. Some commended the stand from CVS saying it was a step in the right direction. These days, smoking is banned in restaurants, schools, and even certain parks, so the move did seem to follow the ongoing trend.

On the other hands, many people were outraged at the decision. Some stated it was hypocritical because CVS continues to sell alcohol, candy, and sugary drinks, which can be equally as harmful to the health. Therefore, the argument was made that it is the choice of the customer, not CVS, to decide.

With these recent results, it is evident that CVS may have gotten the result they were hoping for. More outside studies are needed to fully determine the impact the ban had on smoking trends. Still, it sends a message loud and clear that CVS will no longer support tobacco products.

What do you think about the ban? Should other pharmacies follow? In recovery, it is important to take steps to living a healthy life. Perhaps quitting smoking is something you should consider. If you are struggling to quit smoking, or are struggling with any addiction, please call now. We want to help.

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Life-Saving Opioid Overdose Antidote Surges in Price From $690 to $4500

Author: Shernide Delva

Remember a while back when the price for a life-saving HIV/AIDS drug hiked up 5,000 percent? The blame was on Mark Shkreli, a brash pharmaceutical entrepreneur who bought the drug only to turn a profit.

Not long after, we heard about the EpiPen price hike led by Heather Bresh, the CEO of Mylan.  The signature EpiPen saw its price skyrocket to more than $600 for a twin pack. That price is considered outrageous considering the active ingredients in EpiPen cost pennies in comparison.

Needless to say, things are not getting better in the price gouging department.

Another lifesaving drug has gotten a massive price inflation.  The Virginia company Kaleo makes a naloxone injector device that is in high demand due to the opioid epidemic. As a result, the price for a twin pack of the overdose antidote skyrocketed from $690 in 2014 to $4,500!

The product is called Evzio and it is similar to other overdose antidotes. The difference is the product talks users through the entire process. The company says the price is justified because it guides users to reversing an overdose. The product lets the user know how long to leave the needle in which increases effectiveness. In conclusion, they believe the product helps save more lives.

How It All Began

In 2014, Evzio won federal approval, and soon it accounted for nearly 20 percent of naloxone dispensed through retail outlets between 2015 and 2016. Evzio also makes up half of naloxone products prescribed to patients between 40 and 64—the group that comprises the bulk of naloxone users.

The cost of generic, injectable naloxone— which has been on the market since 1971— had already been climbing in price. A 10 ml vial sold by one of the dominant vendors prices at close to $150, more than double its price from a few years ago. That price hike far exceeds the costs of the naloxone chemical, researchers say.

Still, according to experts, the Evzio price surge is considered way out of step with production costs and results in a needless drain on a critical health-care resources:

“There’s absolutely nothing that warrants them charging what they’re charging,” said Leo Beletsky, an associate professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston.

As a response to the controversy, Kaleo is now dispensing its device for free to first responders and drug-addiction programs. The device has been invaluable to patients to combat overdoses, however, at the $4,500 mark, most will not be able to budget for it anymore.

A GROWING MARKET

The opioid crisis has led to more and more experts demanding the expansion of naloxone access. The idea is that increased access to naloxone results in a decrease in overdose fatalities.  Sadly, price gouging will only limit accessibility to the drug.

“There’s a lot of value to this formulation,” said Ravi Gupta, a medical student and lead author of a December op-ed on the pricing issue, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “But it’s not justified. This pricing is not justified.”

For now, those who accept free Evzio devices may soon face withdrawal. Last year, Kaleo’s donation supply was exhausted by July. While the company has added to its donation supply, when they run out, companies will have to pay up.

Policymakers have yet to set strong guidelines when it comes to keeping pricing in line with value. Until that happens, little will change.

“Epi-Pen happened, and everyone was like, ‘Wow, this is terrible, we shouldn’t allow this to happen,’” he said. “And we haven’t done anything about that, and it’s not clear what the solution is. Now, shocker, it’s happening again.”

In conclusion, the price of various life changing drugs continues to spike at alarming rates. Stricter regulations are needed to control unnecessary price gouging. There are lives at stake and price gouging only increases the risk of overdose deaths.

How should this crisis be handled? The best way to reduce overdose deaths is through prevention and treatment. An overdose should not have to be your wake up call to seek help. The risk is too high. Please seek help before your addiction progresses further. Do not wait. Call now.

    CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Could a Joystick Help Alcoholics Avoid Relapse?

Could a Joystick Help Alcoholics Avoid Relapse?

Author: Shernide Delva

Over the holiday season, I acquired a part time job working as a virtual reality demo associate. It was amazing to see the impact gaming software could have on a person’s life. I saw people in wheelchairs enjoy the feeling of entering a different reality. I saw senior citizens enjoy the immersion of climbing a virtual mountain or sculpting a cat. Technology like this helps take our imaginations to a new realm.

Therefore, when I read about a company using a joystick to help with alcoholism, it fascinated me. An ongoing study in Berlin is using joysticks and alcohol-related images to help prevent alcoholic relapse.  Some of the participants have said that the image-related therapy helped keep them sober.

Miriam Sebold is the study’s lead psychologist. In the study, participants viewed images on a computer screen and were told to use a joystick to push alcohol-related images away. They were also instructed to engage the joystick and pull images of water and other non-alcoholic beverages closer to them,

Researcher Hanna Lesch visited Charité University in Berlin, Germany where the ongoing study took place. She described the parameters of the study:

“Every click of a joystick results in a new pair of images,” said Lesch. “Pushing the joystick forward makes an image grow smaller. Pull in toward you, and the image grows. Sebold’s patients react strongly to images of alcohol and that is the basis of her training.”

Images of alcohol can sometimes make an alcoholic vulnerable. In the same way that Pavlov’s dogs reacted to stimuli related to food, alcoholics can react to stimuli related to alcoholic beverages. Non-alcoholics do not respond any differently to a glass of orange soda or a shot of vodka.

Lesch spoke with a study participant named Freddy while she at the facility. Freddy discussed how after his divorce, he began drinking daily—consuming at least two liters of beer and a few shots of hard liquor per day.

“I’ve tried to take a break from it more than a few times,” said Freddy, “but it was two, three days at the most. Then, I did some rehab, and then I did some more rehab. I was even in long-term rehab.”

Time after time, Freddy kept relapsing. Lesch understand that this is one of the “greatest hurdles” in the alcohol treatment world. The attempt to rehabilitate an alcoholic is difficult, and nearly 85% cannot stay away from alcohol.

Sebold elaborated:

“What it really comes down to is that this addiction is such a powerful illness, that again and again, you have these cases where the patients say, ‘I was dry for 10 years, and then I treated myself to a beer because I figured I could treat myself to something.’ Then, they relapse right back into this very strong addiction, where they’re drinking a bottle of vodka every day. These are very strong mechanisms inside their head that they have very little control over.”

To control these thoughts in the brain, they must learn how to rewire their thinking. In the experiment using the joystick, the purpose was to rewire the way the brain reacted to alcohol stimuli. In the case of Freddy, he found that over time, it was effective in reducing the temptation to drink.

Lesch described Freddy’s experience:

“During the training, Freddy noticed no changes in his own behavior, but then, he did. Whenever he saw a bottle of alcohol inside a store, he was reminded of the images he’d seen during the training.”

Freddy found that the test helped him stay away from the dark days of active alcoholism.  He was able to avoid temptation easier, and best of all stay sober.

“Freddy has remained sober and the 64-year-old was proud to say he was even able to land a normal job,” Lesch said.

Now that the joystick experiment has shown positive results, the future for more studies like this is endless. The hope is to use this same procedure for other addictions and compulsions.

“As soon as they find out exactly where and how this therapy affects the human brain,” said Lesch, “the discovery could help lead to the development of new medicinal-based therapies. For Freddy, participating in the study has been worth it. Today, he’s doing his best to avoid even talking about alcohol.”

While this is not the first joystick study ever done, it is a positive contribution to the pursuit of finding proven methods to keep alcoholics from relapsing. What other ways could gaming be utilized to treat addiction?

Alcoholism is a serious disorder and there is temptation everywhere. Alcohol is difficult to avoid in a society that glorifies it as a social tool. However, a person who has alcoholism should avoid alcohol at all costs. Addiction is a serious disease that ruins lives and destroys families. Do not feel defeated. There is a way out. Call now.

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