If you are misusing opioids or have an opioid use disorder, we cannot stress enough the importance of seeking addiction treatment. The prospects for people struggling with any form of use disorder are not promising without treatment and a program of recovery; however, for those in the grips of an opioid use disorder, the risks are arguably much higher due to the potential for overdose.
It’s nearly impossible to have a discussion about the American opioid addiction epidemic and not bring up overdose death(s). In the last two decades, researchers have seen a disturbingly exponential rise in premature deaths related to prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
Merely saying that the situation is dire could easily be described as an understatement. While some reports show that prescription opioid overdose deaths are decreasing, heroin and fentanyl-related fatalities are anything but and there is little evidence indicating that that will change. What’s more, there is new evidence of another deadly trend, that of polysubstance use involving the simultaneous use of opiates and benzodiazepine medications.
Mixing Opioids and Benzodiazepines is Deadly
Benzodiazepines or “benzos” are sedatives that people take to address anxiety. Common brand-name medications that doctors prescribe to treat anxiety include Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin. All benzos carry the risk of dependence and subsequent addiction; and, those who become hooked typically require medical supervision when they stop taking the drugs for reasons owing to harmful withdrawal side effects. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal, such as seizures, can be fatal.
While both opioids and benzodiazepines carry inherent risks individually, when they are taken together it is often a recipe for tragedy. Unfortunately, it is a risk that many Americans are, or were, willing to take! A new study published in JAMA Network Open shows that people combining opioids and benzos are five times more likely to overdose. Thirty-percent of all opioid overdose deaths involve benzodiazepines, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
It is worth pointing out that when doctors began prescribing opioids with less discretion, ultimately resulting in an epidemic, they also adopted a more blasé attitude about benzos. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of prescriptions for drugs like Xanax increased 67 percent, according to AJPH. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that in the first decade and a half of the 21st Century, overdose deaths involving benzos increase nearly eight-fold.
Opioid Use Disorder and Benzodiazepine Treatment
When opioids and benzos are used in conjunction with each other, the result is drug synergism. When the side effects of two drugs individually are similar, when used together they work together to produce even stronger feelings of euphoria which is something that many addicts welcome. However, both the drugs in question also cause respiratory depression on their own, when taken together their effects in slowing breathing are exponentially greater or synergistic.
If you are struggling with an opioid use disorder, abuse benzodiazepine, or use both types of drugs at the same time, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.
In the last year, we have all watched the government take a new shape, for better or worse. The new guard has appointed individuals into positions relevant to the field of addiction medicine and treatment. You might be aware that as of September we have a new Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams.
Those of you who weren’t aware of former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s replacement, we will take a moment to share with you his credentials. The 20th Surgeon General of the United States is an anesthesiologist and a vice admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, according to STAT News. He attended medical school at Indiana University School of Medicine and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Adams has the kind of resume that you’d expect from someone serving in the position of Surgeon General. However, it turns out that he also has some personal experiences that can help him address the American opioid addiction epidemic. Adams has a younger brother named Phillip, whose substance use and abuse have severely impacted the entire family. Dr. Adam’s brother is currently serving time in prison just down the road from his office; it’s fair to say that he thinks of the plight of addiction quite often.
Family Addiction Might Change the Discussion
The Surgeon General does not make policy, but they do have a platform and voice that calls for deference. He believes that getting law enforcement and addiction medicine experts to work together on this crisis is critical, the article reports. With that in mind, he shared his thoughts at a recent National Academy of Medicine panel discussion about the opioid epidemic. When a judge opined that it was strange for him to share a stage health experts, Dr. Adams shared:
“The No. 1 touch point for people with addiction is not a physician … it isn’t a medical touch point. It is the law enforcement community,” he said. “This room should be half full from the law enforcement community if we really want to tackle this issue.”
The new Surgeon General seems to think a balance can be struck between law enforcement and public health services to find a solution to the American addiction crisis. He realizes that the criminal justice system has not helped his brother Philip break the cycle of addiction, but believes that at times people must be held accountable for their actions.
“We can’t ignore the fact that there are crimes being committed,” said Dr. Adams. “I’m not saying my brother or anyone else should be absolved of all the crimes and the real harm they’ve done to people. I’m saying the way that you prevent that from continuing to occur is by making sure those folks have access to treatment, so that when they do get out, they don’t go down the same pathway.”
Committing petty crimes is resorted to when addicts can’t support their disease any other way. Once in the system, perpetual cycles of recidivism are commonplace; giving more people access to addiction treatment services would make recidivism be less a reality.
If you are one of the millions of Americans actively caught in the grips of addiction, please contact Synergy Group Services. We can help you break the cycle of self-defeating behavior and lead a productive life in recovery.
The opioid addiction epidemic has left no corner of America untouched. Arguably, the eastern seaboard has been affected most by opioid use disorder, from Florida to Maine and practically every state in between. Prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opiates continue to steal lives on daily basis. Experts predict that more overdose deaths will occur this year than last. With each year that passes, overdose death records get broken.
The New Hampshire Film Festival held last weekend used the opportunity to open discourse about opioid addiction. In a state that has seen devastating overdose death rates, focusing on opioid use disorder makes sense. To give you an idea of how severe the problem is in NH, the state’s chief medical examiner threw in the towel (so to speak), The New York Times reports. In the wake of almost 500 overdose deaths across the state last year, Dr. Thomas A. Andrew announced his resignation. He will enroll in seminary school and plans to minister to young people about addiction.
“After seeing thousands of sudden, unexpected or violent deaths,” Dr. Andrew said, “I have found it impossible not to ponder the spiritual dimension of these events for both the deceased and especially those left behind.”
Films About Addiction and Recovery
Taking advantage of the public attention to film during festival season is vital to this most important cause. At the NH Film Festival, two films were shown in a double feature this year, focused on the opioid addiction epidemic. “The Heroin Effect,” a documentary following the lives of over a dozen recovering addicts in New Hampshire.
“The Heroin Effect follows the stories of those affected by opiate addiction, shows what successful recovery can look like and highlights advocates for a health system that does not discriminate against this treatable disease. The film shows the impact of individual connections with our neighbors who are fighting addiction, and by presenting various informed perspectives, including intimate video journal footage of one man’s thoughts on his own drug use, helps us better understand their humanity.”
“Andy Wooff’s Birthday,” a short documentary about an addict on his birthday. Filmmaker William Bentley’ short film shadows a British heroin user’s attempt to score the drug on his 51st birthday.
“This is an area where it means most because the epidemic is here,” Bentley told WMUR. “The tri-state area, the New England area are really suffering from it, and it means a lot to have people come up to you and talk to you about the film afterwards.”
Opioid Addiction Treatment
There are many ways to address this insidious epidemic; cinema is essential because it gets people talking. Discussing the nature of addiction, treatment, and recovery is vital in encouraging people to seek help.
If you are struggling with opioid addiction, treatment is your best hope for achieving the goal of recovery. Please contact Synergy Group Services today. Whether you live in New Hampshire, Florida, or anywhere else—recovery is your only hope.
“No pathogen, virus or war on this country’s soil has caused the death and destruction as the scourge of opioid addiction,” says Mayor Cary Glickstein of Delray Beach, Florida.
It is hard to argue with the observation made by Mayor Glickstein. City leaders across the country would likely share his sentiments. Now approaching 20 years into the most serious drug addiction epidemic in history, few solutions have borne any fruit. While small strides forward have been made with regard to prescription opioid use, addiction treatment is still lacking.
Across the country, practically every major city has been ravaged by prescription opioid and heroin abuse. When it comes to the former however, lawmakers and citizens are looking for accountability. It is widely agreed upon that the epidemic we face is the direct result of misleading pharmaceutical companies. This is coupled with doctors eager to please patients, with little understanding of the ramifications of overprescribing.
If you have been following the news, of late, state and city leaders have turned their eye on pharmaceutical companies. Claiming that “big pharma” deliberately mislead both doctors and patients. Thus creating the a crisis affecting millions of Americans, including countless loved ones. Using the “big tobacco” lawsuits of the late ‘90’s, companies like, Purdue, et al., have been racked with legal suits. Suits have been filed from Orange County, California to Palm Beach County, Florida. Also, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, New York and the Cherokee Nation are looking for big pharma to cover some of the enormous costs associated with opioid addiction.
Covering the Costs of Opioid Addiction
Across the country, cities have struggled to provide access to addiction treatment services for their thousands of opioid addicts. What services are available, are usually paid for by local government coffers and nonprofits. Emergency departments are treating patients for opioid overdoses in ever increasing numbers. And equipping first responders with naloxone is not cheap, and the price per overdose antidote continues to climb. This is why the City of Delray Beach became the first in Florida to go after the pharmaceutical industry, Palm Beach Post reports. The suit, interestingly, is to help offset the costs related to heroin abuse, which the city claims is a byproduct of the pharmaceutical industries nefarious ways, that is using bogus research to disseminate the idea that opioid addiction is rare, and painkillers like OxyContin are safe.
Anyone living in Florida likely remembers the “pill mill” and “doctor shopping” fiasco affecting the state. Tourists were not just coming for our sunshine; they were coming for easy access to painkillers. The pills were gladly doled out at no-questions-asked pain management clinics (pill mills). Fortunately, the state managed to get a handle on the situation, but it resulted in far greater demand for heroin. Heroin is often cheaper and stronger than prescription opioids, and is commonly cut with the deadly analgesic fentanyl.
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd is representing the city, a national firm with an office in Boca Raton, according to the article. Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp. are among at least eight pharmaceutical companies being sued by Delray Beach. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd are representing the city pro bono, although if they win the suit millions of dollars in damages could be awarded.
“They went out and said that opioids are less than 1 percent addictive. That is obviously not true … ” said Mark J. Dearman, a partner in the firm. “This is a playbook right out of (Big) Tobacco.”
The law firm claims that the financial burden of overdoses has fallen largely on state, county and city governments. There were 690 overdoses is Delray alone last year, the article reports. For every overdose in Delray Beach, it costs about $2,000 for naloxone and the first responders administering the life-saving drug.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
We will continue to follow this important story. If damages are awarded, the money could be used for prevention, public addiction treatment services and the cost of naloxone.
Are you one of the many prescription opioid users who has made the switch to heroin? If so, please reach out to us here at Synergy Group Services to begin the life-saving mission of addiction recovery. The risk of overdose is too great to put off recovery any longer.