In this series, Yahoo News takes a closer look at the current opioid epidemic; its roots and demographics, the increasing acceptance of medication-assisted treatment as a supplement to 12-step programs, and the remaining obstacles to combating widespread addiction. This series also highlights ways in which the current crisis is unexpectedly forcing a larger shift toward treating addiction more like other chronic illnesses.
Before discussing different methods for treating opioid addiction, it’s important to understand how drugs like heroin, OxyContin, Percocet and other prescription pain medications actually affect the brain.
They work on opioid receptors in the brain, which ordinarily are activated by a class of neurotransmitters called endorphins. Heroin and other opioid drugs flood the brain’s opioid receptors, creating a high or euphoric feeling. [Read more]
Now that we’ve established the effects of opioid abuse on the brain, we can better understand how medications like buprenorphine work to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine is what’s known as a partial agonist opioid, meaning it activates people's opioid receptors enough to prevent them from feeling withdrawal, but not enough to get them high. It’s also characterized as “sticky,” because of its ability to latch onto the opioid receptors and block other substances from taking effect. So if you were taking buprenorphine and decided to use heroin, for example, the buprenorphine would prevent the heroin from getting you high. [Read more]
Though the FDA approved buprenorphine back in 2000, most addiction recovery programs, with their abstinence-based treatment models, were slow to adopt it. But the growing number of opioid-related deaths — particularly among addicts who relapsed shortly after completing or dropping out of rehab — has made the drug’s success increasingly impossible to ignore. [Read more]
One needn’t search further than the medicine cabinet to find the biggest culprit in today’s opioid epidemic.
Prescription opioid painkillers, like OxyContin or Vicodin, are intended to treat the kind of pain experienced after surgery or a serious injury, or by cancer patients. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “in recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of prescription opioids for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain, such as back pain or osteoarthritis.” [Read more]
It’s easier to get a prescription for drugs that cause opioid addiction than those proven to treat it
This month, President Obama announced a proposal for $1.1 billion in federal funding to combat the country’s heroin and opioid abuse epidemic—$1 billion of which is to be used in the expansion of access to treatment.
A study published in October 2015 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that despite the drastic rise in fatal opioid deaths over the past 10 years, the number of people receiving treatment for heroin and prescription painkiller abuse had not changed. [Read more]
This month, rapper DMX became the latest person to survive a near-fatal overdose thanks to a lifesaving drug called Narcan.
The 45-year-old New Yorker, whose real name is Earl Simmons, collapsed in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn in Yonkers, N.Y., Monday evening, February 9. According to the New York Post’s Page Six, which first reported the incident, by the time police arrived on the scene, Simmons was without a pulse and had stopped breathing. [Read more]
The epidemic of opioid addiction currently raging in the United States had a precursor in the 1960s and '70s, but with significant differences. The majority of victims back then were African-American, mostly in cities; today they are white, and typically small-town or rural. The culprit then was heroin, a street drug that has been illegal since at least the 1920s, while for the last couple of decades — starting in 1995, when the FDA approved the original, easily crushed and inhaled version of OxyContin — it has been prescription painkillers, a different but no less dangerous form of opioids. [Read more]
Facing an epidemic of overdoses, Obama rejects governors' proposal to limit painkiller prescriptions
Members of the National Governors Association came to Washington for their annual winter meeting with President Obama Monday, armed with a plan to restrict access to prescription painkillers and end the country’s deadly opioid epidemic.
But the proposal, which drew bipartisan support from within the NGA over the weekend, received a less-than-enthusiastic response when presented to the president. [Read more]