Category Archives: Recovery Network

Drugs, Alcohol, Suicide: Deaths of Despair killing Americans at Record Rates

“Despair deaths” from drugs, alcohol and suicide have reached new peaks in the U.S. and are not just killing whites, but spiking in communities of color, as well, according to a new report released Thursday.

More than 142,000 Americans died from drug or alcohol overdoses and from suicide in 2016, an 11 percent increase over 2015, the report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust finds.

“These 142,000 ‘despair deaths’ in 2016 add to the more than one million Americans who died from drugs, alcohol or suicide in the previous decade,” the report reads.

While the increased deaths from opioid overdoses and suicide are well documented, the team that wrote the report say their analysis shows some troubling differences.

“We had been seeing increases in these trends among these individuals who are dying from drugs, alcohol and suicide,” said Ben Miller, a clinical psychologist at the Well Being Trust.

“But between 2015 and 2016 the racial differences popped out. We saw literally a 39 percent increase in deaths of people of color due to drug overdose,” added Miller, formerly of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

“That is unheard of. This stood out like, holy cow what is going on?”

“The substantial rise in deaths in 2016 puts the country past the ‘worst case scenario’ projection trajectory.”

“The substantial rise in deaths in 2016 puts the country past the ‘worst case scenario’ projection trajectory.”
The report found that suicide rates went up 10 percent among blacks from 2015 to 2016 and rose 9 percent among Latinos.

“While drug overdoses were still highest among whites in 2016, there were disproportionally large increases in drug deaths among racial/ethnic minority groups, particularly among black Americans,” the report reads.

“In the previous decade, blacks had relatively low drug overdose rates — averaging 35 percent lower than whites between 2006 and 2015. However, between 2015 and 2016, blacks experienced an alarming increase — of 39 percent — in drug-related deaths.”

The opioid abuse epidemic is so bad that it has hit overall U.S. life expectancy. Life expectancy falls when people start dying at younger ages, and that’s what’s happening in the U.S. with opioid overdoses.

The National Center for Health Statistics has found that 63,600 people died of drug overdoses in 2016, and that in turn drove down overall U.S. life expectancy for the second year in a row.

Related
Teen drug overdoses double in U.S.
Suicide rates have also soared. Sometimes, the causes are clear: just this week Puerto Rico health authorities reported that at least 103 people have committed suicide in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island territory on Sept. 20.

The trends are related, Miller said.

“When we talk about deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide, we recognize that there is a relationship there — that we can’t just look at the issue of suicide in isolation without tackling drugs and alcohol because the data show that they are related,” he said.

And now the epidemic has engulfed Latinos and other minorities across the U.S., the new report finds.

“Latinos and Asian Americans also historically have had relatively low rates of opioid and synthetic opioid drug overdoses and saw disproportionately large increases between 2015 and 2016,” it reads.

Related
Suicide rates soar
“Latinos saw opioid death rates increase 35 percent and synthetic opioids death rates increase 183 percent between 2015 and 2016. Asians saw opioid deaths rates increase 41 percent and synthetic opioids death rates increase 140 percent between 2015 and 2016.”

If deaths continue to increase at the same rate, more than 2 million people could be dying from drug overdoses, suicide and alcohol abuse over the next decade, the report projects.

“The substantial rise in deaths in 2016 puts the country past the ‘worst case scenario’ projection trajectory,” it says. “This would mean more than 287,700 individuals could die from these three causes in the year 2025, double the current number who died in 2016.”

Miller says the country needs a comprehensive approach to treating pain — both physical pain and mental distress.

Related
Alcohol kills six Americans a day
“People will continue to die until we come up with a systematic approach to take care of them,” he said.

“We talk about creating a national resilience strategy. How can we go into communities and see so much more than presence or absence of disease, but begin to take into account the social factors, to actually take care of people’s pain in more comprehensive ways instead of just treating them like a diagnosis or just labeling them as having some problem.”

Mental health reform is an obvious place to start, Miller said, but better strategies are also needed for treating acute and chronic pain.

“There is acute pain, there is chronic pain and sometimes there is this more emotional pain,” Miller said.

“They might be medicating the pain they feel from their family, from their community, from the trauma they suffered.”

Medical Device Helps Heroin Addicts Detox

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved
a “percutaneous nerve field simulator” for use in treating those
addicted to heroin and other opioid drugs.
The United States is currently in the grip of an opioid addiction
epidemic, caused largely by over-prescription of painkillers such
as Oxycontin and Vicodin. As a result, drug overdoses are now the
leading cause of death among under-50s in the US, having overtaken
car accidents and shootings. One reason this problem has proven so
intractable is that for those addicted to opiates, withdrawal symptoms
can be crippling.
The NSS-2 Bridge from Innovative Health Solutions is designed
to make coming off such drugs easier, by vastly reducing those
.ymptoms. The electrical nerve stimulator is placed behind the
t1>atient’s ear, and contains a battery-powered chip that emits
/ electrical pulses to stimulate branches of certain cranial nerves via
diodes that attach to the skin. These pulses are said to offer relief
from withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, gastrointestinal upset,
agitation, insomnia and joint pain. The device, which will only be
available on prescription, can be worn for up to five days, which is
about how long acute physical symptoms of withdrawal usually last.
FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb said: “The FDA is committed
to supporting the development of novel treatments, both drugs and
devices, that can be used to address opioid dependence or addiction,
as well as new, non-addictive treatments for pain that can serve as
alternatives to opioids.”

Moderate Alcohol Consumption as Risk Factor for Adverse Brain Outcomes and Cognitive Decline: Longitudinal Cohort Study

The reported health effects of drinking alcohol are varied, with clear deleterious effects of heavy drinking on the brain, liver, and other organ systems, and some suggestion of benefit at low levels of consumption.

Little previous research has targeted the impact of moderate drinking on the brain, and findings have been inconsistent. The goal of this observational cohort study was to examine the association of moderate alcohol consumption with brain structure and function.
From 1985 to 2015, 550 community dwelling adult participants in the UK Whitehall II cohort imaging substudy underwent repeated measurements of cognitive performance and weekly alcohol intake, as well as multimodal MRI at study endpoint. At baseline, mean age was 43.0 ± 5.4 years, and no participants were alcohol-dependent, on the basis of the CAGE screening questionnaire. Incomplete or poor-quality MRI or clinical data or gross structural abnormality led to exclusion of 23 participants.
In a dose-dependent manner, higher alcohol consumption was associated with increased risk for hippocampal atrophy during the 30-year follow-up, after adjustment for confounding factors that included age, sex, education, social class, physical and social activity, smoking, stroke risk, and medical history.
Compared with abstainers, participants who drank more than 30 units/week had the highest risk (odds ratio [OR], 5.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.8 to 18.6; P ≤ .001). Even moderate drinkers (14 to < 21 units/week in men; 14 units was equivalent to four pints of strong beer or five large glasses of wine) had more than threefold the risk for right-sided hippocampal atrophy compared with abstainers (OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 1.4 to 8.1; P = .007), Light drinking (1 to < 7 units/week) did not protect against hippocampal atrophy. Other risks associated with higher alcohol consumption were differences in corpus callosum microstructure, reduced gray-matter density, reduced white-matter microstructural integrity, and faster decline in lexical fluency, but there were no associations with cross-sectional cognitive performance at the time of MRI or longitudinal changes in semantic fluency or word recall. study limitations include the observational design, which precludes causal inferences; a possible lack of generalizability; and possible bias. However, these limitations are offset by major strengths, including long-term data on alcohol intake, detailed information on confounding variables, a large amount of MRI data, and advanced methods of imaging analysis. The findings suggest that even moderate alcohol drinking is associated with threefold risk for atrophy in the hippocampus (a key region for memory and spatial navigation) and other adverse brain outcomes. Moderate alcohol drinking has not previously been linked to hippocampal atrophy. Associations of alcohol intake with compromised white-matter integrity in this study also suggest potential threats to cognitive efficiency. These findings have important potential public health implications, supporting recent UK guidelines recommending lower alcohol intake and raising concerns regarding current limits recommended in US guidelines. The latter suggest that up to 24.5 units/week is safe for men, but this study showed a threefold increase in risk for hippocampal atrophy at only 14-21 units/week. In this study, nearly one half of the men and one quarter of the women were "moderate" drinkers. This study showed no protective effect of light drinking over abstinence. Earlier reports claiming such a protective effect might have been limited by confounding if light drinking was associated with higher social class or IQ. As life span increases, preserving quality of life will depend on maintaining cognitive function, which declines with increasing age. Alcohol drinking may be a modifiable risk factor for cognitive impairment, if primary prevention efforts begin in early adulthood or sooner. In light of these findings, justifying drinking habits that are regarded as normal or even as beneficial may no longer be rational.

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Recovery Radio Has Joined Stitcher Radio

The Recovery Radio Network has become a partner with Stitcher Radio. As one of the worlds largest podcast aggregators, Stitcher has thousands of podcasts in it’s library and millions of listeners. We are proud to be part of the family. This will make us available to a much larger audience and will simplify people finding us. This move optimizes our stream for mobile platforms and saves us the expense of developing our own app. If you prefer to listen to Recovery Radio on your mobile device I recommend you go to your favorite App store and download the Stitcher App. Once it is installed you can search for “Recovery Radio network” and add it to your list of favorites. This will automatically connect you to the world of Recovery on the Recovery Radio Network and you will receive every new episode directly on your mobile device or your vehicle’s sound system if it came equipped with Stitcher as many new vehicles do. We are excited about this new opportunity and hope it helps us reach even more people.

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Pain Med Prescribing Down Second Year in Row

Acetaminophen/hydrocodone, the opioid pain reliever commonly sold under the brand name Vicodin, was the most dispensed prescription medicine in 2007.
And 2008. And 2009. And every year after through 2013, according to the QuintilesIMS Institute, which tracks medicine use and spending.
Then, in 2014, this staple of the opioid abuse epidemic fell to second place behind levothyroxine, which treats hypothyroidism. By 2016, acetaminophen/hydrocodone was the fourth most prescribed drug in the nation, with the volume of prescriptions down 7.2% from 2015 and 34% from 2012.
This downhill story helps capture a trend for pain medications in general and the clinicians who prescribe them. The volume of dispensed prescriptions for all pain meds has decreased for 2 straight years now, falling 2.7% in 2015, and 1.7% in 2016, QuintilesIMS reports in its annual review of medicine use and spending, which was released today. Pain meds include both narcotic and non-narcotic analgesics as well as muscle relaxants and topical pain treatments.
The study attributes the decline to more controls placed on pain meds in response to the opioid abuse epidemic. These controls include more stringent prescribing guidelines in recent years, particularly a set issued for primary care in March 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC cautioned that opioids are not first-line therapy for chronic pain, and that clinicians initially should consider nonopioid pain relievers and nonmedicine options such as exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy. When clinicians do prescribe opioids, they should start patients off at the lowest dose possible and limit treatment for acute pain to no more than 7 days. In addition, clinicians should monitor patients to ensure the drugs are helping with pain and function without inflicting harm.
“The CDC guidelines have been very powerful in changing physician behavior because they’ve had a larger audience,” said Steven Stanos, DO, president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
Media and political attention paid to the tragedy of opioid overdose deaths also has made physicians more judicious in their prescribing habits, said Dr Stanos, medical director of pain services at the Swedish Health System in Seattle, Washington. At the same time, he said, physicians are catching on to therapies that complement or replace opioids in pain management — everything from counseling and yoga to spinal cord stimulation.
“We’ll continue to see a reduction in opioid prescriptions,” Dr Stanos predicted.