Archive for July, 2016

Synthetic marijuana overdose turns dozens into "zombies" in NYC

Posted on: July 18th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Michelle Miller CBS News July 13, 2016, 7:14 PM

NEW YORK — We were reminded again of the nightmare of drug abuse Tuesday when synthetic marijuana seemed to turn people into zombies on a New York City street.

It was a bizarre scene: Dozens of people with blank stares stumbling around a Brooklyn neighborhood. Brian Arthur live-streamed it on Facebook.

“As I was walking up a block, I see anybody laying out on the floor, and everybody’s just stumbling all over the place,” Arthur said. “It looked like a scene out of a zombie movie.”

Emergency workers sent 33 people to area hospitals, saying they appeared to be under the influence of the synthetic drug known as K2 or spice.

Designed to mimic marijuana, the man-made drug has far more powerful effects.

“What K2 does is puts you in a world, a delusional world, have your mind spinning,” said Andrew, who said he’s used synthetic marijuana. “It’s mind altering.”

K2 is made by spraying various legal chemicals onto plants. It’s then ground up and smoked. Many users experience confusion, hallucinations, rapid heart rate and even seizures.

Police say it’s sold at small neighborhood grocery stores. An undercover CBS News producer found it at a Brooklyn corner store last year for $5.

K2 usage is growing nationwide. The CDC reports more than 3,500 calls of synthetic marijuana use to poison centers over a five-month period last year — a 229 percent jump from the year before.

Drug dealers have managed to stay one step ahead of federal law enforcement. No sooner do authorities outlaw one recipe for K2, manufacturers come up with another — making it virtually impossible for the ingredients to be banned.


New Addiction Treatment Brings New System For Doctors To Navigate

Posted on: July 18th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Karen Shakerdge Jul 11, 2016

In a big hotel conference room in Times Square six doctors huddled around a greasy piece of pork. They watched as an addiction medicine specialist, Michael Frost, delicately marked the meat, incised it and implanted four match-sized rods.

“If you can do it well on the pork, you can easily do it on the person,” Frost told his audience.

Frost was training the group of doctors to implant the newly FDA-approved drug Probuphine.

They were learning to implant it in pork so they can later implant it in patients’ arms.

Probuphine is unlike any other addiction treatment on the market. The implant delivers a constant low dose of medication and lasts for six months at a time. It promises to be life-changing for people already stable in recovery using medication-assisted treatment, who would otherwise need a daily dose of its active ingredient buprenorphine or similar drugs to stay free of cravings and withdrawal pains.

“They don’t have to be dependent on taking something everyday. It takes the choice out of that, which can help people protect them for themselves,” says Ella Leers, a doctor who treats substance abuse at the Carnegie Hill Institute in Manhattan.

Although addiction specialists welcome the new drug, at this early stage,  it’s complicated for physicians  to add it  to their repertoire. Because physicians who treat addiction don’t necessarily have experience with surgery or access to sterile spaces, some are having to learn a new skill, and develop new systems.

The FDA approved Probuphine under the condition that physicians are trained and tested before implanting or even prescribing the treatment. There are three kinds of certification: implanter, prescriber or both. If doctors can’t do the implanting themselves, they need to coordinate with another doctor who can.

“Now with Probuphine, we have to take it up to a whole different level because we have to have either agreements with implanters or a room where we can implant. We have to get the equipment. There will be a lot more to do,” says Gloria Baciewicz, chief of addiction psychiatry at the University of Rochester.

Her team was already planning on moving to another space, which will have the facilities they need to conduct minor surgery.

Prescribing Probuphine can also call for a new approach to the counseling and behavioral therapy that is typically recommended for those on medication-assisted treatment.

“If you’re implanting something that can be there for six months you want to make sure that the patients are still coming in to get the other types of support that they can use because of their addiction issues,” says Leers.

There are also several initial questions about insurance coverage: billing codes, reimbursements, pre-authorizations are mostly still up in the air. For now, doctors need to buy the Probuphine kits that run almost $5,000 and then bill patients or insurance companies after.

Braeburn has offered to help physicians verify if an insurance plan would reimburse any of the cost. Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Healthcare approved reimbursement for a few patients already implanted, according to Braeburn.

Despite some of these early obstacles, some doctors welcome the treatment.  At a time when opioid drug overdoses have reached epidemic levels — roughly 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdose according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention — it’s good to have a another way to deliver medication-assisted treatment, says Richard Rosenthal, medical director of addiction psychiatry for the Mt. Sinai Health System. Rosenthal was one of two principal investigators on a  Probuphine clinical trial.

“Everybody is waking up to the fact that we’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic,” says Rosenthal. “There are actually very few medications for addiction of any kind. Given the addiction treatment system in the United States, most of the treatment that’s given is psychosocial. There’s very little use of FDA-approved medications.”

Probuphine made a difference in the life of Scott Jernigan of Jacksonville, Florida. He was in recovery for almost a year taking another medication when he signed up for a Probuphine clinical trial. He said Probuphine freed him from weekly doctor visits and pharmacy runs—and from fears of how sick he’d feel if he missed a dose or forgot his meds.


“[It] meant that I could become more of what my normal is going to be,” Jernigan recalls.

Some specialists recommend patients stay on medication-assisted treatment for years, or even indefinitely. For now, Probuphine can only be prescribed for two runs of six-month use and is meant for people already stable on 8 mg or less of a medication like buprenorphine.

Braeburn, the pharmaceutical company that sells Probuphine, is running more than 200 training sessions across the country this summer in 55 cities.

Braeburn says that so far 10 patients have been implanted by four physicians — three of which are consultants for the company. They continue to hold training sessions around the country and expect to certify 2,000 physicians by the end of the month.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media.

Heroin Overdose Deaths Have Tripled in 5 Years, DEA Says

Posted on: July 8th, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Jack Date and Geneva Sands

Jun 29, 2016, 12:28 PM ET

The Drug Enforcement Administration is out with a new report on heroin use in the United States and the news is grim.

Deaths from heroin overdoses have spiked in recent years, tripling between 2010 to 2014, according to the DEA National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary, released this week.

In 2014, the most recent year of the study, 10,574 people died, compared to 3,036 four years earlier.

The increased demand is being driven by greater availability, as well as prescription drug abusers switching to heroin for the cheaper price tag, according to the DEA.

Other possible reasons for the increase in deaths include an increase in new and inexperienced users, as well the use of highly toxic heroin adulterants such as fentanyl in certain markets, according to the DEA.

DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said last month that the agency is increasingly encountering counterfeit prescription drugs laced with fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives, as well as heroin laced with fentanyl.

“The trafficking of this drug [fentanyl], which is significantly more potent than street level heroin, presents a significant risk of overdose,” he said in his statement to the Judiciary Committee on June 22.

Heroin availability is increasing across the county, but the threat is particularly high in the Northeast and Midwest, where white powder heroin is used, according to the 2016 National Drug Threat Survey.

Over the five-year period covered in the report, the DEA said Mexican traffickers gained a larger share of the most lucrative heroin markets in the United States — Baltimore, Boston and its surrounding cities, Chicago, New York City and the Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Mexican trafficking organizations also moved operations into suburban and rural areas, where they believe they can more easily conceal their activities, the report noted.

What is not seen in these numbers, which end in 2014, is the steep rise in deaths caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. More recent state numbers, however, show an alarming trend.

In Virginia, fentanyl overdose deaths went from 50 in 2012 to 218 in 2015. In New Hampshire, 283 died from fentanyl overdoses in 2015 and authorities expect to smash through that number this year.

However, the numbers do show that starting in late 2013, several states reported spikes in overdose deaths due to fentanyl.

DEA officials say they expect to see the deaths from fentanyl increase and perhaps outpace deaths from heroin. The drug is so deadly that a mere 2 milligrams can be lethal. It is increasingly showing up on American streets not just as an adulterant to heroin but pressed into pills that look identical to prescription painkillers.


Heroin use in U.S. reaches "alarming" 20-year high

Posted on: July 1st, 2016 by sobrietyresources

By Mary Brophy Marcus CBS News June 23, 2016, 5:24 PM

Heroin use has reached the highest level in 20 years in the United States, according to a new global drug report that calls the trend “alarming.”

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime released its World Drug Report 2016 today. The annual report examines the health impact of opiates, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine and other substance abuse around the world.

The report said heroin is the deadliest drug worldwide, and said its increasing use in the U.S. is of particular concern.

There were about one million heroin users in the U.S. as of 2014, almost three times the number in 2003. Deaths related to heroin use have increased five-fold since 2000.

Executive director of the UN Drugs and Crime Office, Yury Fedotov, highlighted the “alarming” rise in heroin use in areas including the U.S., posting on Twitter: “2016 reveals heroin hike in some regions; a drug that kills more people than any other.”

Heroin use and related overdose deaths have also increased sharply over the last two years in some countries in Western and Central Europe.

In other remarks, UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said drug trafficking and organized criminal networks undermine laws, fuel violence and feed corruption.

What’s fueling the trend?

“There have been a lot theories about why heroin use is going up. The biggest theory is that the crackdown on prescription drugs, like Vicodin and OxyContin, were being overprescribed and as prescribers slowed down the prescriptions of these drugs, heroin use went up,” addiction expert Scott Krakower, an assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital, in New Hyde Park, New York, told CBS News.

Unlike OxyContin and other opioid painkillers, heroin is an illegal drug, not available by prescription, and the surge in demand likely drove an increase in supply coming in from other countries.

But Krakower stresses, it’s not other countries that are to blame for drugs in the U.S., it’s economics. “I do know that Mexico and other countries have taken provisions themselves, been on their own missions to stop this.”

The UN report indicated that there was a sharp decline globally in opium production in 2015, but that won’t likely lead to major shortages in the global heroin market for some time due to high opium production levels in previous years.

“The build-up or depletion of previous years’ opium inventories may be used to offset annual changes in production and maintain the supply of heroin to user markets. It may take a period of sustained decline in opium production for the repercussions to be felt in the heroin market,” according to the report.

In February of this year, President Obama asked Congress for $1.1 billion in new funding to address the epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin abuse in this country.

“More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes,” a White House statement noted the time.

In another sign of how serious the problem has become, the National Institutes of Health reported Wednesday that abuse of prescription opioid painkillers in the U.S. has doubled in 10 years.

Nearly 10 million Americans, or 4.1 percent of the adult population, used prescription opioid painkillers for nonmedical reasons in 2012-2013, the NIH said, up from 1.8 percent a decade before.

The UN report also highlighted the problem of heroin abuse in prisons, and recommended exploring alternative measures to conviction or incarceration.

“Heroin is a dangerous, powerful opioid,” Krakower said. “It leads to pretty quick highs. It can easily suppress breathing. Eventually you can die from it.”

He said many addiction centers at home in the U.S. need to shift their approach to drug abuse treatment and offer therapy for mental health conditions as well as addiction.

“There is a biological predisposition to addiction and depression,” he said. “The country itself has not adopted a very good model for handling substance abuse and needs to developing more integrated programs to target both substance abuse and mental health issues.”

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