15 arrested in strike against ring smuggling prescriptions to Mexico – The Washington Post

Dealers in Southern California provided hydrocodone prescription drugs to pharmacies in TJ, for resale to primarily American tourists.

Hydrocodone, nearly as powerful as morphine, caused 2,499 deaths in the United States from 1998 to 2002, the most recent data analyzed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA says there were 130 million prescriptions written in 2006, up nearly 50 percent over six years.

APNewsBreak: 15 arrested in strike against ring smuggling prescriptions to Mexico

Inpatient or Outpatient Detox — What’s Best?

In order to understand why outpatient detox for drug addicts and alcoholics rarely gives satisfactory results, we have to review a couple of things about addiction.

Addiction is a compulsion to use a substance or behavior to alter the way we feel. However, it is more than that: it is a physical and emotional way of living our lives that, over time, becomes ingrained and seems to be the normal way to live. Addiction makes changes in our brains that cause us to believe that we need the drug or mood-altering experience — be it a prescription medication like Xanax, an illegal drug such as heroin, multiple sex partners, alcohol (the most commonly-abused drug of all), or something else. We believe that we need it to feel normal, to be comfortable — to live — and every time we try to get the monkey off our backs we have those beliefs reinforced by the discomfort of withdrawal.

Living like this for long periods, we begin to view it as normal. No creature willingly goes from situations that seem normal into those that seem different [Read more…]

Painkillers Aren’t The Only Rx Drugs To Worry About

When we speak of prescription drug abuse, addiction and the complications (including deaths) that accompany their use, we usually talk about Percodan, Percocet, Oxycontin and similar opioid drugs.  There is no question that these are the biggies in terms of unintended consequences — severe dependency, addiction, overdose and death.   There are, however other drugs that are cause for concern amongst professionals and those they treat.

Probably chief among these are the benzodiazepines, which are used for treatment of anxiety, as tranquilizers, to suppress seizures, and for a variety of other purposes.  There is the common perception (even among doctors) that these drugs are not addictive, and that long-term use is perfectly OK.  This is an interesting misconception, since every manufacturer of benzodiazepines provides specific information regarding their use.  This information is always adamant that the drugs should not be used for more than six weeks, except in unique circumstances to treat specific conditions.  We've mentioned before on these pages the need to check out medications with your pharmacist, not just blindly take what the doctor orders, and benzos are a prime example of the reason for that advice.  Benzodiazepines are especially dangerous when use in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs that depress the central nervous system (downers).

Detox from benzodiazepines, which include Ativan, Valium, Xanax, Clonazepam (Klonopin), and about 20 other brands and compounds that are currently available, can take up to three weeks.  Sudden cessation of any of them can be traumatic, causing agitation, sleeplessness, jitters, nausea, and a number of other unpleasant side effects.  Withdrawal from several of the more common benzos can also trigger convulsions.  Chronic use can lead to tolerance, the need for more of the drug to avoid discomfort, and definite addiction.  Some benzos can lead to addiction at low doses, and in far less time than one would imagine.

Ambien (zolpidem) is another common drug that creates dependency problems among both legitimate users and abusers.  Properly prescribed, it is used for short-term adjustment of sleep cycles.  When used for longer periods a dependency on the drug develops rapidly, so that the user becomes unable to fall asleep without it.  Tolerance develops rapidly as well, causing users to need more and more of the drug to get to sleep.  Ambien, at higher doses, often causes severe sleepwalking episodes.  It is not unusual in these episodes for people to seem awake to others, even to drive, but to have no memory of it later.  The safety considerations here should be obvious.

There are a number of other drugs that are easily abused — too many to mention here.  Generally speaking, any substance that can be used for pleasure can cause psychological and/or physical addiction, and often both.  Don't depend on any one person to decide what medications you should be taking.  Doctors have a great deal of information to absorb, and most of them are not trained in pharmacology.  Your pharmacist is your best source.


Oklahoma Linebacker Died of “Mixed Drug Toxicity”

In another tragic example of legitimately prescribed pain medication leading to abuse, it was revealed yesterday that Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box had five different painkillers and a benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug in his body at the time of his death.  Box was exposed to painkillers after multiple surgeries that followed football injuries.

In addition to the dangers of taking painkillers without medical supervision, this illustrates the potential deadly effects of mixing any depressant drug with other depressants.  The synergistic effects of the mixture are often greater than planned.

Oxymorphone — an increasing threat for overdose among drug abusers

Recent reports indicate a rise in the abuse of oxymorphone (Opana® and Opana ER®) a semi-synthetic opiate drug related to Percodan, Percocet and Oxycontin. Like the other opiates, it is used as an analgesic for moderate to severe pain.  However, because of some unusual characteristics of the drug, overdoses and deaths from oxymorphone abuse are on the rise, and likely to continue to increase.

Oxymorphone in varied strengths - USDOJ

Since January of 2008, oxymorphone deaths have been reported in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Washington, Tennessee and Kentucky. Between January and April of 2011, there were nine deaths in Louisville, KY alone. Newport, TN officials reported five fatalities within a three month period in March of 2009. Other deaths may have been oxymorphone-related as well, since toxicology results may not have been available for some victims at the time the reports were made. Like abuse of other prescription opiates, cases seem to be clustered in, but by no means limited to, areas with economic depression and high unemployment, and in areas such as Florida, where prescription drug mills proliferate.

Oxymorphone is known as: blues, biscuits, octagons, stop signs, pink, pink heaven, biscuits, Mrs O, Orgasna IR, OM, Pink O, The O Bomb and a variety of other names. Like other opiate drugs, it causes feelings of euphoria, well-being, increased sociability and similar effects that make it a desirable drug of abuse. The euphoria is usually less intense than with the other opioid drugs, and there is a tendency to take larger doses to obtain the desired level of intoxication. This, along with the fact that the effects of the drug vary widely among individuals due to physical condition, the presence of other drugs, food eaten and other factors, creates a situation where the “right” dose for one person may have little effect on another, while creating extreme intoxication or overdose in a third.

These circumstances are further complicated by the fact that when taken with alcohol, the availability and effects of the drug are nearly doubled — in addition to the added effects of the alcohol itself. These three factors, varying response, relatively low euphoric effect, and the synergistic effect with alcohol, combine to create a “perfect storm” for overdose. This is especially true in those who purposely attempt to enhance the effect of the drug by drinking. Oxymorphone overdose typically involves lethargy, relaxed muscles, respiratory depression and sometimes low blood pressure, progressing to coma, cardiac and respiratory collapse, and death if not treated quickly.

We will be hearing more about Opana® and oxymorphone abuse, addiction and overdose in the coming months. Parents, professionals and law enforcement, in particular, need to be aware of this “new” and deadly trend in illicit drug use.  Even more, we need to be aware that these tragedies are, to a great extent, avoidable. Painkiller abuse and addiction are treatable conditions.  Addiction is a recognized disease that responds well to proper treatment and aftercare.  The ill-conceived “War on Drugs” has diverted billions of dollars into an unproductive endeavor that does nothing to address the root of the problem — the drug users who make dealing profitable.  We need to develop a national policy of education, treatment and rehabilitation, and act as though we mean it.  It would save a lot of money but, more importantly, it would save a lot of lives.

Drug abuse costs rival those of chronic diseases

Drug abuse in the US (not including alcohol) costs the economy $193 billion a year, according to a new report.  That figure equals or exceeds the cost of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Read about it…

Opioids are now the most-prescribed class of drugs in America

Two reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) show a huge shift in the pattern of prescribing by doctors.  They suggest that better training for prescribers and assessment of pain management programs are needed, among other steps to reduce opioid abuse.

The JAMA Research Report shows that there has been a drastic increase in opioid prescriptions while prescriptions for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have gone down. Prescriptions for hydrocodone and oxycodone account for 84.9 percent of opioid prescriptions. Over ten years, there has been a fivefold increase in admissions to substance abuse programs for opioid addiction.

Read the rest…