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FDA Calls on Online Companies to Police Opioid Sales

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb this week called on Internet service providers and social media companies to more carefully monitor online sales of opioids.

“We find offers to purchase opioids all over social media and the Internet, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google, Yahoo and Bing,” Gottlieb said at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.

Many illicit drugs that enter the U.S. are bought and sold online, including drugs laced with fentanyl, he said.

Gottlieb plans to meet with leaders of Internet companies and advocacy groups “to identify technology gaps and new solutions,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Such solutions might include search algorithms to alert potential buyers about treatment programs and the deadly risks of opioids.

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FDA to Host Meeting on Patient-Focused Drug Development for Opioid Use Disorder

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will host a public meeting April 17 on patient-focused drug development for opioid use disorder (OUD), in collaboration with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The FDA is also working closely with patient advocacy and community organizations to encourage participation from people with OUD.

The FDA is interested in learning patients’ perspectives on OUD, including the effects on their health and well-being that have the greatest impact on daily life, their experience using prescription medical treatments and other treatments or therapies for OUD, and challenges or barriers to accessing or using medical treatments for the disorder.

The meeting will take place at FDA White Oak Campus, 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Building 31, Room 1503A (Great Room), Silver Spring, Maryland, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Schools Confront Sudden Increase in Easily Concealed Vaping Devices

Middle schools and high schools are struggling to cope with a sudden increase in students using easily concealed vaping devices called Juul, which resembles a flash drive.

Officials at schools across the country say they are concerned these devices are creating a new generation of young people addicted to nicotine, The New York Times reports.

Pods in vaping devices have a higher concentration of nicotine than do individual cigarettes, the article notes.

Vaping devices come in flavors such as fruit or mint. Because they don’t produce a noticeable plume of smoke, some students use them in class.

“I’m afraid that we’re going to be hooking a new generation of kids on nicotine, with potentially unknown risks,” said Dr. Mark L. Rubinstein, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “With cigarettes, we’ve been studying them for many years, we have a pretty good idea of what the risks are. We just don’t know what the risks of inhaling all these flavorings and dyes are, and what we do know is already pretty scary.”

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Nerve Pain Medication Gabapentin Linked With Increasing Overdose Deaths

Public health officials say the nerve pain medication gabapentin is being found in an increasing number of overdose deaths, according to CBS News.

Gabapentin is a non-narcotic drug used to treat seizures and pain associated with shingles.

Doctors have been prescribing it for a growing number of other conditions, as a way to offer pain relief without opioids.

A study published last year found that for people who use heroin, the combination of opioids with gabapentin potentially increases the risk of overdose death.

“Unfortunately, we now need to worry about it because people are abusing it,” Dr. James Patrick Murphy, a pain and addiction specialist in Kentucky, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Alone, it’s not something that will stop your breathing or your heart,” he said. “But if you take it along with a drug like heroin or fentanyl, together it might be enough to make you stop breathing and put you over the edge.

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More Americans Should Carry Naloxone: Surgeon General

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams released a public health advisory Thursday urging more Americans to carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, NPR reports.

Naloxone is already carried by many first responders, such as EMTs and police officers. The Surgeon General is recommending that more people, including people at risk for an opioid overdose, as well as their family and friends, also keep naloxone nearby.

“For patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain, individuals misusing prescription opioids, individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose, knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life,” he said in a statement.

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NIH Announces the HEAL Initiative

In April 2018, NIH launched the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis.

This Initiative will build on extensive, well-established NIH research, including basic science of the complex neurological pathways involved in pain and addiction, implementation science to develop and test treatment models, and research to integrate behavioral interventions with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD).

Successes from this research include the development of the nasal form of naloxone, the most commonly used nasal spray for reversing opioid overdose, the development of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder, and evidence for the use of nondrug and mind/body techniques such as yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and mindfulness meditation to help patients control and manage pain.

Over the past year, NIH has worked with experts from public and private organizations to identify the areas that would benefit from focused efforts by NIH alone or in partnerships with outside organizations.

The NIH HEAL Initiative will bolster research across NIH to:

Prevent Addiction through Enhanced Pain ManagementMore than 25 million Americans suffer from daily chronic pain. NIH will support research to understand how chronic pain develops, making patients susceptible to risks associated with opioid use. NIH will work with partners from the biopharmaceutical industry to develop a data sharing collaborative, new biomarkers for pain, and a clinical trials network for testing new pain therapies. NIH will also enhance the pipeline of treatments for pain and enhance clinical practice for pain management.Improve Treatments for Opioid Misuse Disorder and AddictionMore than 2 million Americans have OUD. Millions more misuse opioids, taking opioid medications longer or in higher doses than prescribed. NIH will support research that can prevent and treat opioid misuse and addiction, and that will help people with OUDs achieve and maintain a meaningful and sustained recovery.Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Opioid Overdoses Clustered in Poor Areas With Few Job Opportunities

Opioid overdoses are clustered in poor areas with few job opportunities, according to a new study.

Researchers found the opioid overdose death rate varied widely by county.

Rates were highest in poorer counties and those with high levels of family distress, as well as areas dependent on mining.

Some rural counties, especially in Appalachia, have the highest opioid overdose death rates in the nation, the study found.

“The drug epidemic is a pressing concern among policymakers, but the media portrayal of the drug overdose epidemic has largely been that it is a national crisis, with the common refrain that ‘addiction does not discriminate,'” lead author Shannon Monnat of Syracuse University in New York told HealthDay. “Failure to consider the substantial geographic variation in drug-related mortality rates may lead to failure to target the hardest-hit areas.”

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National Prevention Week is May 13 – 19, 2018

National Prevention Week is an annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.

The three primary goals of National Prevention Week are to:

Involve communities in raising awareness about behavioral health issues and implementing prevention strategies;Foster partnerships and collaboration with federal agencies and national organizations dedicated to behavioral and public health; andPromote and disseminate quality behavioral health resources and publications.

National Prevention Week is held each year during the third week of May—near the start of summer, an important time for school, communities, and prevention professionals to re-focus on prevention!

Adolescents and full-time college students most often use substances for the first time during June or July, according to SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data on adolescents – 2012 and NSDUH data on full-time college students – 2015.

The timing of National Prevention Week provides an opportunity for schools and organizations to host prevention-themed events before the school year ends, raising awareness about this important issue among students and their families. These are key periods of social transitions, a risk factor for youth substance use, and an opportunity to develop or strengthen the community, school, and family bonds that protect young people from substance use.

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Large Percentage of Deaths by Drug Overdose May be Suicides

Between 25 and 45 percent of deaths by overdose may be suicides, according to the immediate past president of the American Psychiatric Association.

Dr. Maria Oquendo told NBC News the opioid epidemic is occurring at the same time suicides have risen to a 30-year high. One study of overdoses from prescription opioids found almost 54 percent were unintentional. The rest were either suicide attempts or undetermined, the article notes.

Few doctors are looking for a connection between opioid addiction and suicides, Dr. Oquendo said. “They are not monitoring it,” she said. “They are probably not assessing it in the kinds of depths they would need to prevent some of the deaths.”

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Cocaine Laced With Fentanyl Causing Growing Number of Deaths

A growing number of drug overdose deaths are due to cocaine laced with fentanyl, NPR reports.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 7 percent of cocaine seized in New England in 2017 included fentanyl, up from 4 percent the previous year.

In Connecticut, the number of deaths involving fentanyl-laced cocaine has increased 420 percent in the last three years.

Massachusetts officials say an increasing amount of fentanyl-laced cocaine is changing hands on the streets.

The DEA, in its National Drug Threat Assessment, says people typically add fentanyl to cocaine for the purpose of “speedballing,” which combines the rush of cocaine with a drug that depresses the nervous system, such as heroin. Some experts told NPR fentanyl may be mixed with cocaine accidentally during packaging. Others say drug cartels are adding fentanyl to cocaine to expand the market of people who are addicted to opioids.

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Veterans Especially Hard Hit by Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic has taken an especially heavy toll on U.S. veterans, Reuters reports.

Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of opioid painkillers.

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are at the highest risk of opioid addiction, federal data indicates.

Senator John McCain has sponsored the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, which would fund research to help Veterans Administration (VA) doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain. The bill is stalled in Congress, the article notes. “The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid painkillers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” said McCain, a Vietnam veteran.

The VA system has treated 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, according to a department spokesman. The Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has started testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency on opioids, the VA said.

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FDA Issues Advisory About Deadly Risks Associated With Herb Kratom

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers to avoid using the herb kratom, citing 36 known deaths associated with products containing the substance.

Kratom comes from a plant in Southeast Asia. It is used to treat pain, anxiety, depression, and symptoms of opioid withdrawal, The Washington Post reports.

It is also used recreationally, because it produces symptoms such as euphoria, the article notes.

“There is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed health care provider about the product’s dangers, potential side effects or interactions with other drugs.”

The FDA noted that there have been reports of kratom being laced with other opioids like hydrocodone. The use of kratom is also associated with serious side effects like seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms.

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Long-Acting and Daily Medications to Treat Opioid Addiction Found Equally Effective

A new study finds a long-acting medication and a short-term drug that must be taken daily are equally effective in treating opioid addiction.

Researchers at NYU Langone Health found extended-release naltrexone (Vivitrol) was as safe and effective as more commonly prescribed buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone) in curtailing opioid use, relapse, treatment drop-out, and overdose.

The study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was published in The Lancet.

The study is the first major head-to-head comparison of the treatments, according to The Washington Post. Researchers found each treatment had disadvantages. Short-acting medicines must be taken daily for years or even a lifetime. Naltrexone, which is given as a monthly injection, cannot be started until a person is fully detoxified from opioids—which more than 25 percent of the study subjects failed to do.

More than half of the study subjects relapsed at least once, regardless of which treatment they received.

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DEA Rule Allows Criminal Prosecution for Fentanyl Trafficking

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will classify illicit versions of fentanyl at the same level as heroin, Reuters reports.

The action will make it easier for federal prosecutors and agents to prosecute traffickers of all forms of fentanyl-related substances, the agency said.

Legally prescribed fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II drug, which means it is highly addictive but has a medical purpose.

The new DEA order classifies illicit fentanyl as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin. Schedule I drugs are considered addictive, with no medicinal purpose.

The DEA order will last up to two years, with a possibility of a one-year extension if certain conditions are met. In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “By scheduling all fentanyls, we empower our law enforcement officers and prosecutors to take swift and necessary action against those spreading these deadly poisons. I also urge the many members of Congress who clearly share our concern and alarm over fentanyl’s role in our opioid overdose epidemic to do their part by permanently scheduling these lethal substances.”

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Teens Dependent on Marijuana and Alcohol Struggle with Success Later in Life

Teens who are dependent on marijuana and alcohol struggle to achieve hallmarks of adult success, such as graduating from college, getting married, having a full-time job and earning a good salary, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut tracked 1,165 study participants, starting at age 12.

They checked in on them at two-year intervals, until they were between 25 and 34 years old, HealthDay reports. Most of the participants had a grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle with an alcohol problem. Marijuana and alcohol dependence appeared to have a more severe effect on young men.

“Parents should try to delay their children’s onset of use as much as possible,” said researcher Victor Hesselbrock. “If you can push regular use back well into adolescence, the kids do a lot better.”

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

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Millions of Dollars Needed for Trump’s Anti-Opioid Ad Campaign, Advocates Say

The anti-drug ad campaign advocated by President Trump’s opioid commission will need millions of dollars in funding, advocates tell The Hill.

It is not clear how such a campaign would be funded, the article notes.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who chaired the commission, said the campaign should be paid for by the federal government, with private sector partners. The report, released recently, included 56 recommendations, including an aggressive multimedia campaign to fight the opioid epidemic.

An ad campaign must be part of a more comprehensive approach that includes strengthening treatment and changing opioid prescribing patterns, advocates say.

In order to be effective, a campaign must be based on evaluations of what has been effective in the past, and must frequently test the ad’s message with the target audience, they note. “We’ve learned a lot about how to communicate about these issues in the past three decades or so. There’s a lot of really good science on this right now,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, Chief Policy Officer of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

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Combo of Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen as Effective as Opioids for Acute Pain

A study of patients who went to the emergency room suffering from acute pain found those given a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen reported as much pain relief as those who were given opioids.

The 416 patients in the study had acute pain in their shoulders, arms, hips or legs, the Los Angeles Times reports.

About 20 percent of the patients had a bone fracture, the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Other patients had injuries such as a sprained ankle or dislocated shoulder.

Patients were assigned to one of four groups. One group received a combination ibuprofen/acetaminophen tablet (containing the medications found in Advil and Tylenol. The other groups received a drug containing a prescription opioid, such as Percocet (a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen), Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) or Tylenol No. 3 (codeine and acetaminophen).

Patients were asked to rate their pain when they arrived at the hospital and two hours after they received their medication. Those who took the acetaminophen/ibuprofen tablet reported pain relief similar to those who received an opioid.

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Drug Overdose Deaths Rose More Than 17 Percent Last Year: CDC

 Drug overdose deaths increased more than 17 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The overdose death rate rose to almost 20 people per 100,000, up from 16.3 per 100,000 the previous year, The New York Times reports.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50, the CDC found.

Recently, these deaths have been driven by overdoses of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, according to Dr. Robert Anderson, Chief of the CDC mortality statistics branch. “The main message is the drug rate went up a lot again, and of course we’re worried about it,” he said.

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Hospitals Overwhelmed With Treating Diseases Resulting From IV Drug Use

Hospitals are struggling to deal with an overwhelming number of cases of diseases that result from intravenous opioid use, including hepatitis C, endocarditis and the antibiotic-resistant infection MRSA.

Hepatitis C is the most common infectious disease that affects people with opioid use disorder, USA Today reports.

Reported cases of the disease almost tripled between 2010 and 2015.

Endocarditis—a condition in which the heart’s inner lining is inflamed—is a side effect of opioid addiction. Hospitalizations for endocarditis rose almost 50 percent from 2002 to 2012, at an average cost of $50,000 per patient.

MRSA is the second most common co-occurring condition with opioid use disorder, the article notes. The cost of treating the infection is about $60,000 per patient.

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Teens Bring Juul E-Cigarette Device, Which Looks Like USB Flash Drive, to School

School officials report a growing number of teens are bringing a new e-cigarette device called a Juul vaporizer to school.

The device looks like a USB flash drive, and charges when plugged into a laptop, USA Today reports.

Juul is small enough to fit inside an enclosed hand. It comes with pods of e-liquid in sweet flavors such as mango, fruit medley and crème brulee. The devices and flavored pods can be ordered online.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking it to reverse a recent decision to delay the regulation of e-cigarettes popular among teens, such as Juul.

“To know that New York kids are much more likely to be using these new-age e-cig devices, like Juul, is not only concerning, but it could be dangerous,” Schumer said in a statement. “Up until now, the FDA was on track to reign in e-cigs and regulate them like any other tobacco product, but this recent delay, coupled with the new numbers showing a rise in the use of gadgets like Juul, which can fool teachers and be brought to school, demands the FDA smoke out dangerous e-cigs and their mystery chemicals before more New York kids get hooked.”

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Older Men Drink More Regularly, but Younger Men Drink More

Among the 67% of U.S. men who drink alcohol, those aged 50 and older are more likely than those under 50 to say they have imbibed within the last 24 hours, which suggests older men drink more frequently than younger men. However, younger men likely drink more than older men on the occasions when they do consume alcohol.

Men in all age groups drink more often than women do.

U.S. men aged 50 and older report they consumed an average of 5.3 alcoholic drinks over the past seven days, while men aged 18 to 49 had an average of 6.2 drinks. Both older and younger women report drinking fewer than three alcoholic beverages in the last week.

These data come from aggregated results of Gallup's Consumption Habits Survey from 2001-2017, totaling interviews with 11,544 U.S. adults who drink alcohol.

The type of drinks that men and women prefer may at least partly explain the difference in the number of alcoholic beverages they report having. In 2017, men are far more likely to say beer is their alcoholic beverage of choice (62%) than either wine (11%) or liquor (24%). In contrast, women favor wine (50%) over beer (19%) or liquor (28%). Even when accounting for gender and age, individuals who consume beer report drinking more alcoholic beverages than those who prefer wine, underscoring the relationship between one's beverage of choice and total consumption.

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Many Drug Dealers Test Strength of Synthetic Opioids on Customers

Many drug dealers use their customers to test the strength of the synthetic opioids they sell, the Associated Press reports.

They want the drugs to be strong enough to keep their customers coming back, but not strong enough to kill them.

Local dealers take fentanyl made in Chinese labs and use powders such as baby formula to increase its volume and street value.

“It is sick and awful that dealers are treating people this way,” said Bradley Ray, Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, who studies overdose prevention. “It is sad that things have come to this. (Testers’) addictions will push them to take that; they’re not thinking clearly.”

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Hospitals Missing Opportunities to Help Opioid Overdose Survivors

A new study suggests hospitals are missing opportunities to help opioid overdose survivors avoid future overdoses.

The researchers looked at claims data before and after overdoses among Medicaid patients who overdosed on heroin in Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2013, NPR reports.

The filling of opioid prescriptions fell by only 3.5 percent, while medication-assisted treatment rose by only 3.6 percent. Medication-assisted treatment—buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone—is considered the gold standard treatment for opioid addiction, the article notes.

“This is a time when people are vulnerable, potentially frightened by this event that’s just occurred and amenable to advice, referral and treatment recommendations,” said study senior author Julie Donohue of the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s safe to characterize it as a missed opportunity for the health system to respond.”

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President Has Not Yet Taken Action to Declare Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency

Although President Trump announced in August that he was declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, he has not yet taken formal steps to do so, CBS News reports.

If he does officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, then FEMA can make money available to states, the article notes.

States could also request aid, and public health workers could be redeployed to fight the epidemic.

Dr. Cece McNamara Spitznas, who works in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said, “What the powers are related to a national emergency and trying to determine how would that apply in this situation — it requires a lot of specialist eyes to take a look. And a lot of people to sit around and sort of go through exactly what we can do legally, and across all the different parts. I think we’re in that phase of looking at [it] and leaving no stone unturned on what is it that we can possibly do.”

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Fentanyl is a Major Cause of Increase in Heroin-Related Deaths

Half of the increase in deaths involving heroin after 2013 can be attributed to heroin mixed with fentanyl, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 33,000 people died of an opioid overdose in the United States in 2015, HealthDay reports.

Opioid overdoses accounted for 63 percent of drug overdose deaths in the United States that year. Between 2010 and 2015, heroin overdose deaths quadrupled, from 3,036 to 12,989.

A second study by the CDC found about 90 percent of overdose deaths in Ohio early this year involved fentanyl or a chemically related substance. Only 6 percent involved heroin.

Young Men and Women’s Brains DO Not Function the Same after Heavy Alcohol Use

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Alcohol May Affect Brain Function Differently in Men and Women

A new study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference finds that chronic alcohol use affects the brain cells of young men and women differently.

Participants of the preliminary study did not have alcohol use disorder, but were classified as heavy drinkers. All participants were also in their 20s, suggesting that alcohol-related brain changes may not take very long to develop.

The participants included 11 men and 16 women between the ages of 23 and 28 years, who all reported "heavy" drinking patterns over the previous 10 years.

People who reported little or no alcohol use served as controls.

Interestingly, the researchers found differences in the activity of receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA – which plays an important function in regulating anxiety and is thought to play a role in depression."Generally, our work showed that alcohol causes more pronounced changes in both electrical and chemical neurotransmission in men than women," said study author Outi Kaarre in a news article. "There are two types of GABA receptors, A and B. Long-term alcohol use affects neurotransmission through both types in males, but only one type, GABA-A, is affected in females.

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Increasing Availability of Medication-Assisted Treatment Using Buprenorphine

Many people who need treatment for substance use disorders are not receiving it.

Though there are many physicians with waivers to provide buprenorphine for medication-assisted treatment, they tend to be clustered in and around urban centers,leaving many rural counties without access to treatment.

In fact, 60.1 percent of rural counties in the United States lack a physician with a DATA 2000 waiver to prescribe buprenorphine.

To widen the availability of medication-assisted treatment using buprenorphine, the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act authorized SAMHSA to allow nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to apply for waivers to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction.

To receive the DATA 2000 waiver, NPs and PAs must complete 24 hours of training (triple the 8 hours required of physicians). To make training more accessible to NPs and PAs, including those in remote areas, SAMHSA offers the training free through the Providers' Clinical Support System for Medication-Assisted Treatment.

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New Drinking Study Causes Concern

The drinking culture in America is changing…for the worse.

A research study published in JAMA Psychiatry compared two large studies where American adults self-reported their drinking behaviors. The first study was conducted from 2001 to 2002 and compared to a recent study from 2012 to 2013.

Overall, Americans who reported they drank at least once in a year-long period increased by 11 percent. High-risk drinking, meaning drinking four or more beverages per day at least once a week for women and five or more for men, increased by 30 percent. One of the most concerning finds – alcohol use disorders, more commonly referred to as alcoholism, increased by almost 50 percent.

Honing in on gender demographics, women had some of the greatest increases. High-risk consumption increased by 60 percent among them and alcohol use disorder rose 84 percent. In a news article, 2017 National Leadership Forum speaker George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said: “The gap between women and men drinking has decreased. It used to be quite large.” From a cultural standpoint, Koob says he isn’t concerned about the increase in women’s alcohol consumption. However, women are particularly vulnerable to the physiological effects of alcohol, due to biological make-up.

In terms of age, researchers found that adults ages 65 years and older have seen a larger increase in alcohol consumption, with high-risk drinking rising by 65 percent and alcohol use disorders soaring to nearly 107 percent.

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Alcohol Abuse, Mental Health Causes of Avoidable U.S. ER visits

A new study found that 3.5 percent of all emergency department visits in the United States were avoidable and for non-life-threatening conditions.

The study, published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, found the top three discharge diagnoses for hospital emergency departments in the United States were alcohol abuse, dental disorders and mood disorders like anxiety or depression.

Researchers defined avoidable visits as those where there was no requirement of diagnostic or screening services, procedures or medications, with patients being discharged home.Researchers analyzed data from 424 million emergency department visits by patients age 18 to 64 from 2005 to 2011 and found 6.8 percent of all avoidable visits were due to alcohol abuse or mood disorders.

Roughly 3.9 percent of avoidable visits were due to dental disorders of the teeth and jaw. The study found that 16.9 percent of all mood disorder visits were avoidable, 10.4 percent of all alcohol-related visits were avoidable and 4.9 percent of all dental visits were avoidable.

Of all the avoidable visits to the emergency department during the study period, 14 percent were made by ambulance

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September is National Recovery Month

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is sponsoring the 23rd National Recovery Month (Recovery Month).

This long-standing, national observance promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.

The goal is to educate Americans that addiction treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.

Each September, thousands of prevention, treatment, and recovery programs and services around the country celebrate their successes and share them with their neighbors, friends, and colleagues in an effort to educate the public about recovery, how it works, for whom, and why. There are millions of Americans whose lives have been transformed through recovery.

These successes often go unnoticed by the broader population; therefore, Recovery Month provides a vehicle to celebrate these accomplishments.

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Solution for Teen Opioid Crisis may come from Pediatric Primary Care

Despite the fact that recent federal reports found that drug-overdose deaths increased in 2015 among U.S. adolescents aged 15–19, a new primary care pediatric practice model designed to treat teens with substance-use disorder is showing promise.

The nation’s health system is struggling to cope with the toll of substance-use disorder as there are too few pediatric or adolescent medicine physicians specializing in addiction medicine and too few inpatient treatment beds, according to Sharon Levy, MD. She is director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and represents the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) membership on the AMA Opioid Task Force.

One solution that is starting to gain momentum is integrating treatment programs into pediatric primary care, Dr. Levy said in an interview with AMA Wire® and, previously, in an essay she co-wrote for The Lancet.

“Addressing the opioid crisis will require innovative strategies, including some that should prompt dramatic rethinking of the role and training of pediatric generalists,” Dr. Levy and her colleagues wrote. “With its neurobiological, molecular and genetic aspects, addiction is a disorder that falls squarely into the set of common conditions in which pediatric providers should have competency. It is incumbent on providers who care for young people to do their part to address the opioid crisis before more young lives are lost.”

A major component of Dr. Levy’s primary care strategy includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and having prescribers in a practice undergo the eight-hour training course that is required by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) before a health professional can prescribe or dispense buprenorphine. (Find education resources at the AMA Opioid Task Force website.)

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Heavy Drinkers Helped With Very Brief Mindfulness Training

Very brief mindfulness training could help heavy drinkers to start cutting back. So concludes a new study that found that as little as 11 minutes of mindfulness training helped heavy drinkers to reduce their alcohol intake in the following week.

An article in Medical News Today announced that researchers from University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom ran an experiment that compared the effect of "ultra-brief" mindfulness training against relaxation training (the controls).

Lead author Dr. Sunjeev Kamboj, deputy director of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at UCL, says, "We found that a very brief, simple exercise in mindfulness can help drinkers cut back, and the benefits can be seen quite quickly."

Writing in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, he and his colleagues explain that in recent years, there has been much interest in incorporating mindfulness training into psychological treatments for addiction.

Mindfulness training teaches people to heighten their "moment-to-moment awareness" of what is going on in the mind without judging it. Thus, when a craving arises, mindfulness training teaches you how to just observe the sensations, thoughts, and feelings of that moment without evaluating or analyzing them.

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Collaborative Care Shows Promise for Opioid and Alcohol Use Disorders

A NIDA-funded randomized clinical trial found that primary care patients with opioid and alcohol use disorders (OAUD) who were offered a collaborative care intervention were more likely to receive evidence-based treatment and refrain from using opioids and alcohol six months later, compared to patients receiving usual care.

The collaborative care intervention increased both the proportion of patients receiving evidence-based treatment for OAUD (39.0% vs. 16.8%) and the number refraining from opioids or alcohol use at six months. (32.8% vs. 22.3%).

Collaborative care was designed to increase the delivery of either a six-session brief psychotherapy treatment, and/or medication-assisted treatment, with either buprenorphine/naloxone for opioid use disorders or long-acting injectable naltrexone for alcohol use disorders. Usual care participants were given a number for appointment scheduling and a list of community referrals for OAUD treatment.

The authors suggest the findings indicate that treatment for OAUDs can be integrated into primary care settings effectively.

For a copy of the paper go to — "Collaborative Care for Opioid and Alcohol Use Disorders in Primary Care: The SUMMIT Randomized Clinical Trial"— published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Bev Haberle, Executive Director of The Council Of Southeast Pennsylvania In Doylestown, to Retire at End Of Year

 

Beverly Haberle has, for thirty-two years, been the Executive Director of The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc. (formerly Bucks County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.), a non-profit education advocacy association.

And for the past twelve years, Ms. Haberle has been the Project Director for the Pennsylvania Recovery Organization/Achieving Community Together (PRO-ACT), a grass roots organization mobilizing the recovering community family members and other interested advocates.

Ms. Haberle holds a Master’s degree in Human Services, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a Certified Addictions Counselor. Ms. Haberle has been a past member of the Board of Directors for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. and currently sits on a number of Boards and state-wide drug and alcohol coalitions and committees. In addition, Ms. Haberle has been a part time faculty member at Penn State University since 1991. 2011 Elected National Board Member Faces and Voices of Recovery.

As Beverly Haberle is nearing the time to retire from her role as Executive Director of The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc, is embarking on a comprehensive leadership transition.

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Family Physicians Have a Better Chance Treating Substance Use Disorders

AMA Source recently published an article noting that patients with substance use disorders may experience stigma that can interfere with treatment options.

But when substance use disorders are recognized and treated as a chronic disease, that stigma can be reduced.

The article goes on to note that treating patients with substance use disorders in a family medicine setting can be a unique situation because physicians are often treating other members of the patient’s family as well. At first, patients may be reluctant to discuss substance use but once the condition is out in the open, having the family involved can be beneficial.

And since many primary care physicians (especially those in family medicine) know many of their patients very well and have established a long-term relationship. That can be advantageous when a patient begins to show signs of a substance use disorder.

Once the physician and patient have had a conversation about substance use and have determined that it would be best to seek treatment, the primary care setting can be a great place for that treatment to occur. Some patients feel more comfortable when their substance use disorder is treated in the same way as any other medical condition, which can also reduce the stigma.

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Women Who Inject Drugs May Be At Greater Risk of HCV Than Men

There is a clear body of research assessing sex and gender differences in risk behaviors among people who inject drugs, however little or no research has investigated sex differences in hepatitis C (HCV) susceptibility.

A newly published analysis examining data from more than 1800 people suggests that women who inject drugs have a 38% higher risk of contracting HCV than their male counterparts.

Interestingly, while sharing of syringes and other injection equipment is a significant risk factor for HCV, differences in these behaviors did not account for the higher risk among women.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National institutes of Health.

The analysis used data from the International Collaboration of Incident HIV and HCV in Injecting Cohorts, a project of pooled biological and behavioral data from ten prospective cohorts of people who inject drugs, including the United States, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. This study includes data from seven of the 10 cohorts.

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Meth Use Linked to Heightened Stroke Risk in the Young

The stimulant methamphetamine, also popularly known as 'speed,' 'ice' and 'meth,' is linked to a heightened risk of stroke among young people, reveals a review of the available evidence, published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

According to a recent article in Medical News Today, a stroke caused by a bleed into the brain (haemorrhagic) rather than a clot (ischaemic) is the most common type associated with taking this drug, with men twice as likely to succumb as women, the findings show.

Given the often disabling or fatal consequences of a stroke, and the increasing use of methamphetamine among young people, particularly in countries around the Pacific rim, the findings are a cause for concern, warn the researchers.

They base their findings on a comprehensive trawl of research looking at a potential link between methamphetamine use and associated stroke risk in young people (under the age of 45), and published up to February 2017. They found 77 relevant pieces of research out of 370, including epidemiological studies and case report series.

Methamphetamine can be swallowed, inhaled, or injected. Haemorrhagic strokes were equally associated with swallowing the drug and injecting it while inhalation was the most common method of getting high associated with ischaemic stroke.

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Marijuana Use Triples Risk of Death from Hypertension

The risk of death from hypertension is three times greater in adults who use marijuana, compared with nonusers, based on data from a retrospective study of 1,213 adults.

According to an article in Cardiology News, the recent changes in the legalization of marijuana may promote increased recreational use, but data on the long-term effects of marijuana use on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular mortality are limited, wrote Barbara A. Yankey, PhD, of Georgia State University, Atlanta, and her colleagues.

The researchers collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from adults aged 20 years and older who were asked between 2005 and 2006 whether they had ever used marijuana, and those who answered “yes” were defined as users. Data on 686 users and 527 nonusers were combined with the 2011 mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Overall, marijuana users had a 3.42 times greater risk of death from hypertension than did nonusers (95% confidence interval, 1.20-9.79), and the risk increased by 1.04 for each year of use (95% CI, 1.00-1.07). The average duration of marijuana use was 11.5 years. At the time of study entry, the average age of the participants was 38 years, and the average body mass index was 29 kg/m2; 23% of marijuana users and 21% of nonusers had a prior diagnosis of hypertension.

Of the study participants, 20% used marijuana and smoked cigarettes, 16% used marijuana and were past smokers, 5% were past smokers, and 4% only smoked cigarettes. “In our study, increase in risk for hypertension, [heart disease], or cerebrovascular disease mortality associated with cigarette use was not significant,” the researchers wrote. They attributed this factor to the small sample size and noted that the dangers of cigarette smoking to the cardiovascular system are well established.

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IBH Analyzes Surgeon General Report. Has Recommendations.

The following information is available in a report titled “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Health. A New Agenda to Turn Back the Drug Epidemic.”

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health was published in November 2016. Four months later, in March 2017, IBH held a meeting of 25 leaders in addiction treatment, health care, insurance, government and research to discuss the scope and implications of this historic document.

The Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. (IBH) is a 501(c)3 non-profit substance use policy and research organization that was founded in 1978. Non-partisan and non-political, IBH develops new ideas and serves as a force for change.

The former US Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, MD, was an active participant in the meeting. The significance of this new Surgeon General’s Report is analogous to the historic 1964 Surgeon General’s report, Smoking and Health, a document that inspired an extraordinarily successful public health response in the United States that has reduced the rates of cigarette smoking by over 64% and continues its impact even today, more than 50 years following its release.

The two primary objectives of the US Surgeon General’s Report of 2016 are first to provide scientific evidence that shows that in addition to nicotine, other substance misuse and addiction issues (e.g., alcohol, opioids, marijuana, etc.) also are best understood and addressed as public health problems; and second to encourage the inclusion of addiction – its prevention, early recognition and intervention, treatment and active long-term recovery management – into the mainstream of American health care.

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LICADD's 30th Annual Angel Ball - The Discovery of Recovery

A Celebration of Possibility, Hope and Promise

The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) celebrated the 30th Annual Angel Ball.

Over 330 LICADD supporters and friends came together to note a year of milestones in the addiction and recovery arena. The filled to capacity crowd, raised over $300,000 enabling LICADD to continue its important and vital work of service, support, prevention education and advocacy.

At the height of an opioid crisis on Long Island, this successful event was a positive stride in the fight to support those individuals and their families who struggle with substance abuse.

The Angel Ball paid a heart-felt tribute to the late Adele C. Smithers. A good friend and advocate for LICADD, she has been dubbed the "Mother" of research, education, prevention Adele Smithersand recovery in the field of alcohol abuse and drug dependence. Her guidance, leadership and generosity will remain guiding principles for LICADD, as the agency furthers its 61-year mission for years to come.

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Family Can Play Lifesaving Role in Overdoses by Using Naloxone

Family members can be active participants in responding to the overdose epidemic by rescuing loved ones with the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, a new study finds.

Boston University researchers studied almost 41,000 people who underwent naloxone training, and found family members used the antidote in about 20 percent of 4,373 rescue attempts.

Almost all the attempts were successful, HealthDay reports.

“Families are willing participants in this fight against overdose deaths, and more should be done to involve them as allies,” lead researcher Sarah Bagley said.The study appears in Drug and Alcohol Review.

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Police Officer Accidentally Overdoses on Fentanyl While on the Job

A police officer in Ohio accidentally overdosed on fentanyl while on the job, NBC News reports.

He was recovering, but reportedly “still miserable” several days later.

Patrolman Chris Green was at the police station after having searched the car of two suspected drug dealers. A colleague pointed out some white powder on Green’s shirt. Green brushed it off with his bare hand. About an hour later, he passed out. It took four doses of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone (Narcan) to revive him, the article notes.

According to East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane, Green had used gloves and a mask to search the car, but had taken them off before he brushed the powder off. “He did this without thinking,” Lane said. “I’m not sure he even realized this was drugs.”

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Bill to Protect Drug Control Office from Sweeping Budget Cuts Introduced

Two senators have introduced a bill that would protect the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) from sweeping budget cuts proposed by the Trump Administration, according to the Associated Press.

The White House is proposing a cut of 94 percent to ONDCP’s budget, an e-mail to agency employees by Acting Director Richard Baum revealed. He asked employees not to share the information, but the e-mail was quickly leaked. The proposed budget fully eliminates several programs involved in fighting the opioid epidemic.

New Hampshire U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan introduced a bill that would reauthorize the office, increase funding for programs, and streamline ONDCP to ensure efficient use of resources.

“The Trump Administration’s proposal to effectively eliminate the ONDCP is not fiscally responsible, it’s dangerous and would significantly roll back our efforts to stem the tide of this crisis,” Hassan said in a news release.

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Millions of Americans Drink Alcohol at Dangerously High Levels

Nearly 32 million adults in the United States (13 percent of the U.S. population aged 18 and older) consumed more than twice the number of drinks considered binge drinking on at least one occasion, according to a 2013 survey that asked about past-year drinking. This higher level of drinking is associated with increased health and safety risks.

A report of the findings is online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Binge drinking, defined as having four or more drinks on an occasion for women, or five or more drinks on an occasion for men, can produce blood alcohol levels greater than 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit for driving in the United States. Reaching this level is well known to increase the risk of harms to the drinker and others. However, evidence suggests that many people drink far beyond four or five drinks per occasion, defined as extreme binge drinking. The current study analyzed three levels of past-year binge drinking - Levels I, II, and III. These levels were defined as four to seven drinks, eight to 11 drinks, and 12 or more drinks on a single occasion for women; and five to nine drinks, 10-14 drinks, and 15 or more drinks on a single occasion for men.

The researchers found that in the 2012–2013 survey, 39 percent of adult males and 27 percent of adult females reported Level I binge drinking during the previous year. Eleven percent of males reported Level II binge drinking (two times the binge drinking threshold for adult males) at least once in the past year, and 7 percent reported Level III binge drinking (three times the binge threshold) at least once in the past year. Five percent of females reported Level II binge drinking (two times the binge drinking threshold for adult females) at least once in the past year, and 3 percent reported Level III binge drinking (three times the binge threshold) at least once in the past year.

After controlling for age, race, sex, marital status, education, drug use, and smoking, compared to people who did not binge drink, people who drank at the various binge levels were much more likely to experience an alcohol-related emergency department visit; have an alcohol use disorder; be injured because of drinking; be arrested or have legal problems resulting from alcohol use; or be the driver in an alcohol-related traffic crash. Compared to non-binge-drinkers, Level I binge drinkers were 13 times more likely, Level II binge drinkers were 70 times more likely, and Level III binge drinkers were 93 times more likely, to have an alcohol-related emergency department visit.

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Leaked E-mail Indicates White House Proposes Slashing Drug Policy Office Budget

The White House is proposing a cut of 94 percent to the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), according to an e-mail to agency employees by Acting Director Richard Baum.

He asked employees not to share the information, but the e-mail was quickly leaked, NPR reports.

The proposed budget fully eliminates several programs involved in fighting the opioid epidemic, the article notes.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who co-sponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which was signed by President Obama last year, sent a letter to Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney urging the Trump Administration to reconsider cuts to the ONDCP. “We have a heroin and prescription drug crisis in this country, and we should be supporting efforts to reverse this tide, not proposing drastic cuts to those who serve on the front lines of this epidemic,” he said in a statement.

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Colleges Addressing Opioid Crisis With Naloxone and Recovery Programs

Colleges are addressing the opioid crisis by distributing the opioid overdose antidote naloxone and adding on-campus recovery programs, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Students have died from opioid overdoses at many campuses, including Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina; Washington State University and Columbus State Community College in Ohio.

Adapt Pharma announced last month it would offer 40,000 free doses of its brand of naloxone, called Narcan, to colleges nationwide.

So far 60 schools have contacted the company about their offer.

The University of Texas at Austin stocks naloxone at the front desk of residence halls, and Idaho State University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania recently offered naloxone training. Campus Police at the State University of New York at Geneseo have been carrying naloxone since 2014.

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NIAAA Introduces a Strategic Plan for 2017-2011

Alcohol is part of our society. People use it to celebrate, socialize, relax, and enhance the enjoyment of meals. Nearly 90 percent of adults in the United States report that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime, and more than half report drinking in the last month. Although most people drink in moderation, nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults drink in excess of the low-risk guidelines established by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Alcohol misuse has wide-ranging adverse consequences. In the United States, nearly 88,000 people per year die from alcohol-related causes globally, alcohol accounts for 3.3 million deaths—5.9 percent of all deaths—each year. Alcohol misuse also contributes to poor performance at school and work; family problems; unprotected sex and sexually transmitted diseases; violence; memory blackouts; unintentional injuries, accidents, and overdoses; and organ damage and disease. It can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), a serious chronic condition that affects nearly 16 million people in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that alcohol misuse, including AUD, costs the United States $249 billion per year due to health care expenses, lost workplace productivity, crime, property damage, and other outcomes.

NIAAA, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the largest funder of alcohol research in the world. For nearly five decades, NIAAA’s extramural research program has supported a diverse portfolio of innovative investigator-initiated research to elucidate the effects of alcohol on health and reduce the burden of alcohol misuse for individuals at all stages of life. This work is complemented by a robust intramural research program that leverages the state-of-the-art resources available at NIH to advance high-risk, high-reward studies in key areas of alcohol science. In addition, through the Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH (CRAN) initiative, NIAAA is partnering with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Cancer Institute to integrate resources and expertise across NIH to develop a comprehensive, well integrated understanding of substance use, misuse, and addiction that considers the common and distinctive features of addictive substances and substance use disorders (SUDs).

Research supported by NIAAA has spurred tremendous progress in identifying the factors that contribute to alcohol-related problems and the fundamental biological and behavioral mechanisms by which they develop, and it has paved the way for innovative preventive and treatment interventions. Once viewed as a moral failing or character flaw, AUD is now widely regarded as a chronic but treatable brain disease that develops through complex, dynamic interactions among biological, environmental, and developmental factors. This shift in perspective, bolstered by decades of research on the neurobiology of addiction, has helped reduce the stigma associated with AUD and has underscored the need for a multipronged approach to preventing and treating alcohol-related problems, with interventions designed for individuals, families, communities, and society at large.This strategic plan serves as a roadmap for catalyzing continued progress across the spectrum of alcohol research and translating these advances for the benefit of the public. It highlights NIAAA’s research goals in five key areas:

Goal 1: Identify Mechanisms of Alcohol Action, Alcohol-Related Pathology, and RecoveryGoal 2: Improve Diagnosis and Tracking of Alcohol Misuse, Alcohol Use Disorder, and Alcohol-Related ConsequencesGoal 3: Develop and Improve Strategies To Prevent Alcohol Misuse, Alcohol Use Disorder, and Alcohol-Related ConsequencesGoal 4: Develop and Improve Treatments for Alcohol Misuse, Alcohol Use Disorder, Co-Occurring Conditions, and Alcohol-Related ConsequencesGoal 5: Enhance the Public Health Impact of NIAAA-Supported Research

Along with the goals outlined above, NIAAA has identified several cross-cutting research themes, which are woven throughout this strategic plan.

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Bullied Teens More Likely to Smoke, Drink and Use Drugs

Children who are bullied in fifth grade are more likely to become depressed and experiment with drugs and alcohol during their teen years than their peers who weren’t victimized by other kids, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers followed almost 4,300 students starting in fifth grade, when they were around 11 years old. By tenth grade, 24 percent of the teens drank alcohol, 15 percent smoked marijuana and 12 percent used tobacco.

More frequent episodes of physical and emotional bullying in fifth grade were associated with higher odds of depression by seventh grade, which was in turn linked to greater likelihood of substance use later in adolescence, the study found.

"We drew on the self-medication hypothesis when trying to understand why peer victimization may lead to substance use over time," said lead study author Valerie Earnshaw, a human development and family studies researcher at the University of Delaware in Newark.

"This suggests that people use substances to try to relieve painful feelings or control their emotions," Earnshaw said by email. "So, youth who are bullied feel bad, or experience depressive symptoms, and then may use substances to try to feel better."

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DEA brings in record amount of unused prescription drugs on National Prescription Take Back Day

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and more than 4,200 of its law enforcement and community partners collected more unused prescription drugs than at any of the 12 previous National Prescription Drug Take Back Day events.

On Saturday, April 29, the event brought in 900,386 pounds (450 tons) at close to 5,500 sites across the nation. Marking the 13th National Prescription Take Back Day since September 2010, these events have altogether collected 8,103,363 pounds (4,052 tons) of prescription drugs.

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Initiative addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.4 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. The DEA’s Take Back Day events provide an opportunity for Americans to prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths.

"Too often, unused prescription drugs find their way into the wrong hands. That's dangerous and often tragic,” said Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg. “That's why it was great to see thousands of folks from across the country clean out their medicine cabinets and turn in - safely and anonymously - a record amount of prescription drugs."

DEA’s next National Prescription Take Back Day is Saturday, October 28.

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LICADD Installs Hand-Crafted Legacy Tree at Headquarters

The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (LICADD), Long Island's premier provider of substance abuse services and prevention programs, is pleased to announce the installation of a beautiful hand-crafted Legacy Tree at LICADD headquarters in Westbury, NY. LICADD is also a NCADD Affiliate.

A magnificent hand-crafted Living Legacy Tree now adorns the LICADD Executive Offices in Westbury, N.Y. The tree was a brainchild of LICADD staff to honor and memorialize those lost and pay tribute to those dedicated to the field of substance abuse and recovery. Championed by LICADD Board Member, Father Philip Eichner of Kellenberg Memorial High School (KMHS), the tree was designed and created by artisan, Frederick H. Weber of Weber Woods with assistance from the KMHS carpentry department.

The striking Living Legacy Tree was crafted using over fifteen varieties of wood from the United States, Africa and South America, including Cherry, White Oak, Padouk and Purpleheart. The result is a mosaic-like pattern and evokes the feeling of many coming together as one - those who have lost their battle and those who continue the work of recovery and support. The visual message is powerful.

The Living Legacy Tree will feature the tribute: "In special recognition of those who have been touched by addiction." Donors' names or the name of a loved one, friend or relative, will be engraved and placed on the Tree. LICADD is committed to recognizing every contributor of $1,000 or more on the tree. The generosity of donors to the Legacy Tree will go toward funding both Chemical Dependency Interventions for families in the throes of addiction and the Student Assistance Program (SAP) that provides needed prevention education for students in grades K-12. 100% of the proceeds will go directly to LICADD programming to help those challenged with the ravages of addiction and their families. Donors who have made donations of less than $1,000 are invited to consider increasing their gift to participate in this special program.

Over sixty years ago, LICADD founder, R. Brinkley Smithers, surrounded himself with advocates in the medical and spiritual community as well as generous supporters to begin a national movement towards recovery. Today, LICADD is helping more families than ever before. A donation in memory of, in honor of or a tribute to someone is a thoughtful way to recognize a special person in your life. Tax-deductible donations will help others who are suffering while supporting LICADD's mission to provide help and hope for individuals and families consumed by the disease of alcoholism and drug dependence.

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Opioid Epidemic Leads Medical Examiners to Skip Some Autopsies

The nation’s opioid epidemic is causing some medical examiners to skip some autopsies because of a lack of staff, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The shortage of medical examiners is greatest in areas including New England and the Rust Belt, where overdose deaths from heroin and fentanyl have dramatically increased. “It’s a problem for every area of our office, from transporting bodies to doing autopsies to toxicology testing,” said James Gill, Chief Medical Examiner in Connecticut.

The National Association of Medical Examiners recommends autopsies for all overdoses. The group advises pathologists to perform no more than 250 autopsies annually, to avoid exhaustion and mistakes. In many areas hard-hit by the opioid epidemic, pathologists perform an average of 325 autopsies a year.

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BRiDGES Celebrates 30 Years!

On April 25th BRiDGES, the Madison County Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse, Inc., and a NCADD Affiliate celebrated its 30th Anniversary with current and former Board Members, current and former staff (some pictured above), and a crowd of other community partners.

While attendees were talking together, sharing stories and updates, a slide show highlighting current programs and ones from the past played on a screen. The slide show was illustrative of how in thirty years some things have changed significantly while some issues have remained constant- like the struggle of addiction and the promise of recovery.

The keynote speaker, Christine Fix, was engaging and spirited in her message. Ms. Fix has spent her professional career in both the political world and the world of human services. Among other things, she talked about how the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS back in the early 90’s when she was traveling the counties providing education was similar to the stigma with addiction and mental health issues.

Ms. Fix stressed the importance of being clear and honest in our communication with young people, in particular, and how compassion and empathy are critical to being true helpers. Her message was delivered with humor and wisdom.

BRiDGES has remained true to its original mission of providing alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention and education while expanding to include problem gambling and suicide prevention. The focus includes assisting the individual as well as looking at how a community’s norms, laws and regulations affect public health.

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Fentanyl Resistant to Naloxone Causing Overdoses in Western Pennsylvania

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is reporting a strain of fentanyl, resistant to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, has caused several overdose deaths in Western Pennsylvania.

The strain of fentanyl resistant to naloxone is called acryl fentanyl, KDKA reports. “If acryl fentanyl is introduced into the population, it can have devastating effects,” said DEA

Special Agent in Charge, David Battiste. The DEA said acryl fentanyl is being manufactured overseas, smuggled into the United States, and sold mainly on the dark web. It comes in powder form, and looks similar to fentanyl.

“These are dangerous drugs. They’re cut by these dealers who don’t care about anything other than making a profit. It can be cut with anything,” Battiste said.

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Opioid Abuse Drops Among Medicare Patients When Doctors Check Drug History

Opioid abuse has decreased among Medicare recipients in states that require doctors to check patients’ drug history in a prescription drug monitoring database, according to a new study.

While all states have databases to track opioid prescriptions, not all states require healthcare providers to check the databases before writing prescriptions for patients, UPI reports.

The new study found states that required doctors to check the database had a decrease in the number of Medicare recipients who received more than a seven-month supply of opioids in a six-month period.

These states also had a decrease in patients who filled a prescription before the previous one had finished. “Doctor-shopping” in these states decreased by 8 percent in Medicare patients who used opioids.

The states with the largest reductions in rates of opioid abuse had the strictest laws. For example, New York requires doctors to check a patient’s opioid history at each visit, the researchers note in the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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Teen Marijuana-Related Visits to Colorado ER Rose Rapidly After Legalization

A Colorado children’s hospital reports visits by teens to its emergency department and satellite urgent care centers more than quadrupled after the state legalized marijuana, a new study finds.

Researchers examined the hospital’s records for 13- to 21-year-olds between 2005 and 2015.

Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2010 and recreational marijuana in 2014.

The annual number of visits related to marijuana or involving a positive marijuana urine drug screen more than quadrupled, from 146 in 2005 to 639 in 2014, the researchers found.

They will present their research at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco.

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New Dangerous Opioid Mix Called “Gray Death” Blamed for Deaths in Three States

A new combination of opioids, known as “Gray Death,” is being blamed for deaths in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio, the Associated Press reports.

The combination includes heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and a synthetic opioid called U-47700.

“Gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis,” said Deneen Kilcrease, manager of the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Kilcrease said people using the drug are not aware of its ingredients or their concentrations. Simply touching the powder can put a person at risk, she added.

Gray death looks like concrete mix. It varies in consistency from a hard, chunky material to a fine powder, the article notes. It is much more potent than heroin, according to the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. People use the drug by injecting, swallowing, smoking or snorting it.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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The Opioid Epidemic May Be Even Deadlier Than We Think

The opioid epidemic has led to the deadliest drug crisis in US history – even deadlier than the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Drug overdoses now cause more deaths than gun violence and car crashes. They even caused more deaths in 2015 than HIV/AIDS did at the height of the epidemic in 1995.

A new study suggests that we may be underestimating the death toll of the opioid epidemic and current drug crisis. The study, conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), looked at 1,676 deaths in Minnesota’s Unexplained Death surveillance system (UNEX) from 2006 – 2015. The system is meant to refer cases with no clear cause of death to further testing and analysis. In total, 59 of the UNEX deaths, or about 3.5 percent, were linked to opioids. But more than half of these opioid-linked deaths didn’t show up in Minnesota’s official total for opioid related deaths.

It is unclear how widespread of a problem this is in other death surveillance systems and other states, but the study’s findings suggest that the numbers we have so far for opioid deaths are at best a minimum.

Typically, deaths are marked by local coroners or medical examiners through a system; if the medical examiner marks a death as immediately caused by an opioid overdose, the death is eventually added to the US’s total for opioid overdose deaths. But there is no national standard for what counts as an opioid overdose, so it’s left to local medical officials to decide whether a death was caused by an overdose or not. This can get surprisingly tricky – particularly in cases involving multiple conditions or for cases in which someone’s death seemed to be immediately caused by one condition, but that condition had a separate underlying medical issue behind it.

For example, opioids are believed to increase the risk of pneumonia. But if a medical examiner sees that a person died of pneumonia, they might mark the death as caused by pneumonia, even if the opioids were the underlying cause for the death.

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The McShin Foundation Bestows Honors at 13th Annual Spring Awards Banquet

The McShin Foundation hosted its 13th Annual Spring Awards Banquet at the Virginia War Memorial to celebrate the past year of success. John Adams, Republican nominee for Attorney General of Virginia, was the keynote speaker.

As an affiliate of The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard was presented with the Bronze Key Award for his determination to combat the heroin epidemic and his success with the Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (HARP).

In addition to the Bronze Key Award, community awards were given as well. The awardees are as follows:

Staff Member of the Year: Alden GregoryCommunity Service Award: John S. Finn Jr. & Vicki CourrierVolunteer of the Year: Charles Lamphere & Meredith HayesAlumni of the Year: Bob Gray & Arlene Terry

Main story image features Sheriff Karl Leonard and McShin President John Shinholser. Pictured above are McShin President John Shinholser, McShin CEO Honesty Liller, Henrico Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor, Congressman Dave BratIn addition to Sheriff Karl Leonard and John Adams, other event attendees included Virginia House of Delegates members Dave Brat and Betsy Carr, Caroline County Commonwealth Attorney John Mahoney, Henrico Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor and Chesterfield County Captain James Pritchett.

The McShin Foundation was founded in 2004 and is Virginia’s leading non-profit, full-service Recovery Community Organization (RCO), committed to serving individuals and families in their fight against Substance Use Disorders.

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