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.
Towards the end of 2017, The New York Times published an article which reveals some alarming opioid statistics. While most people understand that painkillers and heroin affect people from several walks of life and practically every age group, it’s likely that a significant number of individuals are unaware that opioids are also affecting young adults in college. Just because people can get into prestigious schools, doesn’t mean that they are going to make wise decisions. Prescription opioid misuse falls under such a category.
In fact, between 2001 to 2014, data indicates a six-fold increase in opioid use disorder among people under age 25. In roughly the same timeframe, opioid overdose deaths pretty much doubled for the age group. The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey of college students reveals that 7% misused opioids and the number of Blue Cross Blue Shield opioid-related claims has nearly increased twofold in almost a decade.
The author of College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education (2015), Ryan Craig wrote an op-ed recently appearing in Forbes which displays some interesting observations about opioid use disorder and college students. After speaking with experts, like Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis and others working in the field of addiction, he lays out a pretty concerning picture of prescription drugs use at universities across the country.
Schools Must Confront Opioids
Craig points out that while most colleges have naloxone on campus for use in the event of an overdose, he says that schools are falling short in addressing the underlying issues. He presents “four fundamental elements of college campuses make them suboptimal environments for those struggling with opioids:”
- An anything-goes approach to alcohol and drugs;
- high pressure;
- lack of structure;
- they’re in this environment for at least four years.
Despite the fact that a number of 4-year schools offer students the option of living in sober dorms and some even provide counseling services, Craig believes that such programs don’t go far enough. The author says college programs for people in recovery don’t treat addiction and students spend the majority of their time outside the specialty dorms; he has concluded that if universities are serious about assisting people living with addiction, they must expand their sober programs to include:
- Medical treatment under medical supervision.
- Separation from other students and much more structure – tapering off as students demonstrate success.
- Offer off-ramps leading to good jobs, so students don’t need to spend four years in order to get a win. Most parents of young adults struggling with opioids would trade anything for a clean, employed child; a degree is the least of their concerns. Then provide on-ramps back to degree programs for students who are prepared for the next challenge.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
If you are a college student misusing prescription opioids or heroin, Synergy Group Services can assist you in finding recovery. Please contact Synergy today to discuss making recovery a part of your life. We understand that education is of vital importance to you and your family, treatment will provide you with the skills for completing higher education unhindered by drugs and alcohol.
The use and abuse of opioids in the United States is a public health crisis, most Americans are aware of the severe death toll from the use of this class of drugs. So, it’s probably not a surprise the White House renewed a previous order declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, before it ran out toward the end of last month. Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, writes:
As a result of the continued consequences of the opioid crisis affecting our nation, on this date and after consultation with public health officials as necessary, I, Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pursuant to the authority vested in me under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, do hereby renew, effective January 24, 2018, my October 26, 2017, determination that a public health emergency exists nationwide as a result of the consequences of the opioid crisis.
The use of any type of opioid can lead to addiction, or worse, overdose. Around a hundred Americans perish each day from drugs like OxyContin, fentanyl, and heroin; naloxone can reverse an overdose, but that’s not always the case—especially when fentanyl is involved. In a short time, synthetic opioids became one of the greatest threats to the drug using public. Fentanyl is regularly added to heroin to boost potency, but it’s done without the user’s knowledge; it’s an ignorance that often results in fatal overdose.
Fentanyl On The Mind
Synthetic opioids are great at killing pain in medically supervised environments. However, the influx of the drug into the U.S. from Chinese laboratories is a major concern. A report from the Senate shows that manufacturers of the drug in China market it online and use the USPS to get it to civilians in the U.S. Once here, fentanyl is stamped into pills resembling OxyContin or simply mixed into batches of heroin—a drug that requires no assistance in being deadly.
Even when fentanyl use doesn’t result in an overdose death, it can wreak havoc on people’s health. Researchers from West Virginia University warn that there is an association between fentanyl and severe memory loss, according to Health Day. More than a dozen patients exhibited signs of short-term memory loss after using fentanyl alone or with stimulants. Their brain scans showed lesions on the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for memory.
“They all have difficulty learning new information, and it’s pretty dense,” said Marc Haut, chair of West Virginia University’s department of behavioral medicine and psychiatry. Every day is pretty much a new day for them, and sometimes within a day they can’t maintain information they’ve learned.”
Haut says it’s possible the patients experienced overdose prior to the symptoms of amnesia arising, the article reports. He points out that such individuals do not recover quickly and may not fully regain their short-term memory.
“We talk a lot about people who don’t survive overdoses, but we aren’t talking about people who survive repeated overdoses and the impact that might have on them and their functioning,” Haut said. “If their memory is really compromised, it’s going to be hard for them to learn a new life that doesn’t involve drugs.”
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
Painkillers, synthetic opioids, and heroin carry severe risks; if you are addicted to opioids of any kind, please contact Synergy Group Services. We can help you overcome the cycle of addiction and give you the tools for living a life of lasting addiction recovery.
The United States military is the most powerful in the world, thanks mainly to a definite edge over our adversaries. As a result, the Government can send our troops into traditional conflict with relatively minimal casualties. Unfortunately, it’s the injuries nobody sees that do the most damage, the wounds inflicted on the mind. If a soldier’s invisible injuries are not addressed, many of them will turn to opioids to deal with the pain.
In respect to Veteran’s day, which took place last weekend, it’s vital to discuss the well being of our Veterans. Thousands of young American men and women have come back from the conflict in the Mideast, only to fight an even more significant battle at home. One of the notable differences, of course, is the war that some Veterans fight now is waged on the battlefield of the mind.
America doesn’t have the most exceptional track record when it comes to treating mental illness, like depression and addiction. The military is not much different, with many American heroes left to their own devices in coping with mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who struggle with the condition resort to mind-altering substances to deal, an action which worsens one’s symptoms. In a number of cases, such people are also contending with chronic pain from physical injuries sustained overseas. Physical pain, mental distress, and opioids make for a lethal cocktail.
Opioids Don’t Spare Veterans
Treating your average American’s chronic pain with opioids puts them at high risk of addiction and overdose. Veterans are no different; however, when other forms of mental illness are in the picture the risks are even higher. In fact, opioids have led to more Veteran deaths than all the casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, Reuters reports. Vets are at double the risk of dying from prescription opioid overdose than non-veterans. The suicide rate among Veterans is also 21 percent higher than with people who didn’t serve in the military. It’s no secret that opioids are often used to commit suicide.
“The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid pain-killers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” said Sen. John McCain.
To encourage doctors to prescribe opioids to Vets less often, McCain introduced the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, according to the article. Unfortunately, the bill has stalled in Congress. The need for such measures is urgent. Since March 2017, Veterans Affairs has treated 68,000 vets for opioid use disorder.
“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said recovering addict and former Democratic Congressman, Patrick Kennedy.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
Opioids of any kind carry the risk of addiction and premature death; treatment is a must if recovery is to occur. At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in the treatment of opioid use disorder. We are also equipped to treat the condition when a co-occurring mental illness is involved. Please contact us today.
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.