Prescription drug abuse is one of the biggest threats facing North America today, and another is the epidemic of heroin abuse and overdose deaths in recent years. Many people who start to use heroin do not start with this drug, they begin with prescription opioid use and then progress to heroin as time goes on and the prescription drugs become harder to obtain. When an individual is given opioid medications these can cause a tolerance to develop and the user may start taking more than prescribed or taking doses earlier than directed. Eventually a new prescription is needed, and doctors are becoming more wary of giving out these drugs because they have such a high potential for abuse. This can lead to doctor shopping as the person tries to get a legitimate prescription for the drugs they are seeking.
Over time the prescription drug abuse gets worse, and the opioids may not be available. Purchasing these drugs illegally off the street is the next step, but the high demand means that opioids can be very expensive especially in larger doses when they are even available on the street market. In contrast heroin use is a much less expensive habit, with a packet of the drug selling for as low as $10 in some areas compared to $1-$2 per milligram for oxycontin and other powerful opioids in some areas. A 100 mg oxycontin pill may fetch between $75-$200 while the same strength of heroin costs a small fraction of this price.
Marijuana has been termed a gateway drug by some while being touted as a medical miracle cure by others, depending on who you talk to. New research suggests that marijuana use can increase the risk of substance abuse disorders in people who use this drug though. According to Health Day the study does not show marijuana use associated with a higher risk for the development of anxiety or mood disorders though. Columbia University Medical Center lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson explained that “This new finding raises the possibility that the recent rise in marijuana use may be contributing to the coincident rise in serious harms related to narcotics and other drugs of abuse.” The study involved close to 35,000 adults who were interviewed at 3 year intervals.
During the initial interview for the study on marijuana and substance use disorders close to 1,300 participants reported using marijuana. Three years later around 65% of these individuals had developed at least one form of substance use disorders, while only 20% of the participants who did not use marijuana within the last 12 months developed the same disorders. Individuals who used marijuana at leats one time each month had much higher substance use disorder rates. Olfson did note that there is no cause and effect relationship proven by the study, meaning that it does not definitively prove marijuana use causes other substance use disorders. Olfson said “In the ongoing national debate concerning whether to legalize recreational marijuana, the public and legislators should take into consideration the potential for marijuana use to increase the risk of developing alcohol abuse and other serious drug problems.”
Opioid abuse is on the rise across North America, and recent research shows that common surgical procedures include a standard practice of opioid prescribing. First time opioid exposure after one of these procedures could make some patients more vulnerable to opioid abuse in the future. The suggestion from researchers is that opioid use needs to be monitored more closely for a period of up to a year after many of these common surgical procedures. Early detection can increase the odds of a full recovery, but abuse of these drugs may not be detected right away. Monitoring could prevent the abuse from continuing and provide early treatment resources to patients who end up abusing opioid drugs.
According to the conclusions reached by the researchers who performed the study on common surgical procedures and opioid abuse “Our results have several clinical implications. First, while we found that surgical patients are at an increased risk for chronic opioid use, the overall risk for chronic opioid use remains low among these patients, at less than 0.5 percent for most of the procedures that we examined. Thus, our results should not be taken as advocating that patients forgo surgery out of concerns for chronic opioid use. Rather, our results suggest that primary care clinicians and surgeons should monitor opioid use closely in the postsurgical period.” Some of the common surgeries that were associated with a higher risk for opioid abuse included simple mastectomy, traditional gall bladder surgery, total knee replacements, and total hip replacements.
PTSD symptoms can vary widely for college freshmen who have been diagnosed with this mental health condition after experiencing previous trauma, and University at Buffalo researchers have determined that alcohol use can slow the recovery from PTSD for many students. Young adults who have post traumatic stress disorder start out with a higher risk for problem drinking and other forms of substance abuse, and these behaviors can make any PTSD symptoms worse and set back any recovery that the student has made to this point. University at Buffalo Department of Psychology professor Jennifer Read was one of the authors who published a paper on this research in the Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, and Policy journal.
According to Read “You have a group of young people exposed to some trauma who are away from many of the things that would otherwise provide them with support. Even those who are commuting have still entered into a new way of life.” This can make the PTSD and alcohol use combination even more dangerous. Read also explained that “This is relevant to college administrators for a few different reasons, One is to know that there is a class of students whose symptoms are getting worse or staying bad. While students are first transitioning the symptoms are the most malleable. So early detection and intervention are important. If these people can be identified, then outreach could be provided. It’s encouraging that people with PTSD symptoms are getting better on their own. Resilience is common in human behavior. People can have bad things happen to them, but will most likely be okay. It doesn’t mean they won’t affected, or that they won’t be changed in some way, but they will probably be okay. Drinking affects this. If someone is drinking regularly or excessively, the likelihood is less that they’ll move from a high category to a lower category.”
A recent study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health shows that around 6 million adults in America have experienced marijuana use disorder in the last year alone. What is this though? Is it an addiction to marijuana? Marijuana use disorder is a classified disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and this latest version of the manual combines both marijuana abuse and marijuana dependence into a single classification. The disorder can be rated as being mild, moderate, or even severe. The rating is dependent on the number and severity of the symptoms associated with marijuana abuse and dependence. The DSM-5 lays out 11 symptoms that may be experienced with marijuana use disorder, and an individual must meet at least 2 of the 11 identified symptoms in order to be diagnosed with this condition.
Researchers looked at marijuana use disorder using the criteria and determined that marijuana use is on the rise. When marijuana use and addiction progressed the researchers also found that the frequency of drug use and the associated levels of disability also increased. With more states legalizing medical and even recreational marijuana use some scientists and researchers caution that this could increase the number of marijuana use disorder cases that are seen. According to CUMC Department of Psychiatry professor of epidemiology and lead study author Deborah Hasin, PhD, “An increasing number of American adults do not perceive marijuana use as harmful. While some can use marijuana without harms, other users do experience negative consequences, which can include mental and physical problems, and impaired functioning. This paper helps provide information on some of those risks.”