Saturday July 21, 2018

The opiate crisis in the U.S.

In the 1960s and 1970s, heroin began to receive national attention when certain musicians died from overdoses, as well as addiction in soldiers who were Vietnam War veterans.

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Among the drugs that are constantly in the media spotlight for their bad reputation of overdoses is opiates, which include several varieties that are widely popular for their relaxation effects.
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Nobody intends to suffer drug addictions, regardless of what drug it is you are dealing with. Among the drugs that are constantly in the media spotlight for their bad reputation of overdoses is opiates, which include several varieties that are widely popular for their relaxation effects.

Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ – mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers. Contrary to many schools of thought, opiates are very easy to access and attach to, and before you know it, you are on a downward spiral, spending money on purchasing new supplies, and eventually leading to overdose and death.

Opioid abuse, which involves drugs such as heroin, prescription pain relievers as well as synthetic opioids is very serious – it affects diverse sectors of the economy including health – the cost of addiction treatments like opiate detox is about $78.5 billion annually.

This article will seek to examine the rate of opioid crisis, particularly in the U.S. It explores how the drug became a major problem in the consciousness of the American public, as many people suffer addictions to the drug regardless of their age or socio-economic status.

How do opiates work in the body?

Opiates have some of the most cases of addiction due to their accessibility and intense ‘high’ - mostly beginning from something as simple as painkillers.
How Opiate Works in Body

You may wonder what makes opiates so addictive, even when compared to other drugs. The use of opiates is very popular among various individuals and drug addicts because of their high risk involving overdoses and addiction, as well as their wide availability. Many people use them as both recreational drugs and for medical treatments (like anesthesia).

They work by sedating the part of the brain that controls homeostatic activities like breathing, which is the respiratory control part of the medulla oblongata. Therefore, when consumed in high doses, they present high possibilities for respiratory failure, respiratory depression, and death.

The epidemic is on serious levels in recent years, as the U.S. DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) mentions that almost half of opioid fatalities in 2016 were due to prescription opioids. This makes them a greater cause of deaths currently than gun violence and car accidents.

History of opioid problems in the U.S. – a summary

In the 1960s and 1970s, heroin began to receive national attention when certain musicians died from overdoses, as well as addiction in soldiers who were Vietnam War veterans. When these cases began to rise in profile, medical professionals were hesitant to prescribe them to patients, except in the case of pill mills.

However, things took a turn in the 1990s, with pharmaceutical manufacturers assuring the medical community that there would be low cases of addiction to opioid painkillers, resulting in patients receiving these drug prescriptions at higher rates than before.In fact, since the 2010s, the rates of legal prescription opiates is steadily reducing, but overdoses are increasing at very high rates.

Some of the popular opioid drugs include:

Oxycodone

You may wonder what makes opiates so addictive, even when compared to other drugs. The use of opiates is very popular among various individuals and drug addicts because of their high risk involving overdoses and addiction, as well as their wide availability.
Drug Medicines

In America, this happens to be the most popular recreational drug. First available from the late 1930s, the FDA put it under the category of Schedule II drugs (it has a high chance of addiction and abuse).

Recent developments have led to the drug’s removal from sale by the FDA guidelines due to public health concerns. In 2012, the Canadian drug formulary also removed it from their list of legal drugs.

Heroin

This is a sort of clinic that gives patients narcotics without a real medical reason. They are a major cause of the opiate problem, as they are a major supplier chain for black markets that deal with illegal painkillers.
Medicines

Another drug in high circulation (even though it is illegal),many individuals who abuse heroin are actually abusers of prescription opioids previously, making it dangerous to have an addiction to painkillers. Its use has been on the rise for several years, as indications show more than 600,000 Americans consume the drug (in 2009-2011). its use has steadily increased over several years making it hard to keep track over related deaths or rehab treatments.

Fentanyl

This is a more recent opioid painkiller that is synthetic in nature. It happens to be 50-100 times stronger than morphine and 30-50 times stronger than heroin. In fact, doses as little as 2mg are lethal. In fact, the DEA recommends that officers should not touch or smell the drug as it can result in fatalities.

Fentanyl was not common in the past, but nowis a major issue especially with the bigger cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia.

What are Pill mills?

This is a sort of clinic that gives patients narcotics without a real medical reason. They are a major cause of the opiate problem, as they are a major supplier chain for black markets that deal with illegal painkillers. They can charge exorbitant fees for the patients, therefore making large profits for their businesses. Some states such as Florida prohibit the sale of prescription opiates to curb the problem.

Also Read: Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Florida Home Safe from Pests

What is the NIH and HHS doing to address the problem?

It is no secret that the rise in opiate use has become a big problem. However, the U.S. DHIH (Department of Health and Human Services) is focusing the fight against opioids through five pillars, which are:

Improving the understanding of the problem through public health monitoring

Among the major issues that lead to the problem is stigmatization, which leads to avoidance of the issue. However, experience teaches you that avoiding problems is not equal to solving them, and the key to starting the recovery process is to combat the problem head-on.

This also relates to public education and awareness, so that if you see the signs in your loved one or are going through it, you will know what to do before the problem escalates.

Enhancing access to recovery services

Drug use is associated with stigma in many cultures, even within America. It is therefore vital that all agencies involved step up recovery centers to reduce stigma. This also encourages public conversations around the issue and assists you to recover in case you are battling an addiction.

Giving support to addiction and pain research

Drug use for many individuals stems from a painful situation, and they want to seek comfort in drugs, even though it is not healthy. In order to prevent this, more resources need to go to conducting research and seeking methods that help in managing addictions, including opioid withdrawal.

Final thoughts

Opioid use is not only a big issue within the U.S. in terms of health and loss of productivity, but also an increase in fatalities from overdoses is part of it. The problem lies with certain factors helping in its spread and use, such as its easy accessibility. However, concerted effort by all the parties in the case can help curb the issue.

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HIV Drug Is Not Linked to Depression: Study

A new study of a popular HIV drug could ease concerns about its link to depression

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A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb in Uganda's capital, Kampala.
A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb in Uganda's capital, Kampala. VOA

A new study of a popular HIV drug could ease concerns about its link to depression. Researchers in Uganda found that efavirenz, once feared to lead to depression and suicide, did not cause the expected negative side effects in their patients.

Efavirenz is an affordable, once-a-day pill used around the globe to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. It’s “the treatment of choice” in most of the world, according to Africa Health Research Institute’s Mark Siedner, “especially [in] countries that depend on global aid to treat HIV.”

But some fear that efavirenz may come with a cost.

Some studies in the United States and Europe found the drug increased patients’ risk of depression or suicide, although other studies did not.

The mixed results prompted many doctors in the United States to prescribe more expensive but potentially safer drugs.

Siedner wanted to take another look at the risk of depression, this time in an African population. From 2005 until 2015, he and a team of Ugandan and U.S. doctors tracked 694 patients who took either efavirenz or another antiretroviral medication. They regularly asked the patients whether they experienced depression or suicidal thoughts.

No difference

Their analysis, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed there was no difference between the two treatments. Siedner told VOA, “In other words, efavirenz was not associated with a risk of depression. If anything, there seems to be a signal that potentially it was associated with a decreased risk. But it wasn’t a strong enough [signal] for us to say that.”

The authors also reported that of the 17 participants who died in the course of the study, not a single death was a suicide.

Siedner has two possible explanations for why their findings differed from those in Western countries. “One potential cause is that every single ethnic group in the world, of course, is different, and different in many different ways — different socially, different environmentally, and in this case they may be different genetically.” His team is looking at whether the genes that control metabolism of the drug have a role to play in this story.

HIV Aids is a deadly disease.
HIV virus is Not Linked To Depression. Flickr

A second explanation could be the effectiveness of the drug. Because efavirenz is so potent, it could be keeping people healthier than they expected, so patients are less likely to report negative emotions.

The study is important, said Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, because it pushes back against “the initial observation of suicidal ideation and suicide and depression” as caused by efavirenz. He told VOA, “I think now what you’re seeing is that with these conflicting reports, it’s likely someone will come in [with] the proposal to do a randomized study and take a look. So the story isn’t ended with this paper.”

As more research on the safety of efavirenz is conducted, new and cheaper drugs that might replace it are on the horizon. One of them, dolutegravir, might also pose a risk, however. A study in Botswana found dolutegravir was linked to neural tube defects in embryos, meaning it might not be safe for pregnant women. As always, further research is needed to confirm whether this is a common problem or specific to the population studied in Botswana.

Also read: UNAIDS : World Is At A “Defining Moment” In A Battle Against HIV/AIDS

“I think the whole field right now is in a bit of a holding pattern,” Siedner said when asked about dolutegravir and the future of HIV medication. (VOA)