Awareness is key in the fight against prescription drug abuse
By GWEN FLORIO Missoulian
MISSOULA — Allison McKenzie doesn’t consider herself naïve.
When her sons were teenagers, she knew what to look out for.
The slurring and stumbles associated with booze. The reek of pot.
“I was on top of it,” she said.
But when it came to prescription medication, “I had not a clue.”
This is a good article:
McKenzie got a very expensive education — about $80,000 in treatment and rehabilitation since Thanksgiving for two of her sons, now in their 20s, to kick the methadone they were given at a clinic as part of their effort to get out from under opiate addiction.
Discussing her family’s issues publicly is painful, said McKenzie. “But I can’t not say anything because it’s so horrific.” Everybody, she said, needs to know about the danger of prescription medication.
Then she mentioned the Montana Meth Project.
“As soon as those commercials came on TV, they made a huge impact” on the problem, she said of the Meth Project’s graphic and disturbing warnings about the effects of methamphetamine use.
In fact, talk for a few minutes with just about anyone who deals with the problem of prescription drug abuse, and the Meth Project comes up.
Why, wonder doctors and pharmacists and cops and even addicts, isn’t there a similar effort that takes aim at prescription drugs?
“The best way to deal with this silent epidemic is public awareness,” said Dr. Marc Mentel, medical director for the Community Physician Group at Missoula’s Community Medical Center.
Mentel is at the forefront of the Community Safe Prescriber program, a prevention effort that requires physicians to sign contracts with patients for whom they prescribe opiates.
The contracts state that physicians will closely monitor those patients. “They’ll have open discussions, letting (the patients) know that opiates are not a cure. They’ll ask the patients to be responsible and treat these like a gun in the household,” he said.
Physicians who sign on as Community Safe Prescribers receive stickers to place in their offices. “These are providers you can trust,” Mentel said. “We also hope (the stickers) will deter those who are looking for medications” for illegal use.
Even with such precautions, he said, “these are very difficult for patients to wean off. I imagine it’s similar to tobacco. Even six months to a year after (ceasing the medication),” he said, “it’s almost like an itch they have to scratch.”
The prescription drug abuse epidemic is rooted in the best of intentions.
In the late 1990s, physicians were urged — in the interest of their patients’ quality of life – to monitor pain as a vital sign, Mentel said. On a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being unbearable pain, anything above 4 was considered undesirable, he said.
Opiates worked. Prescriptions have increased fivefold since the turn of the century, Mentel said.
“A green light was turned on. A Pandora’s box was opened,” he said.
Not only were more opiates prescribed, more were distributed, he said. “Fifty percent of those (legally prescribed) are handed out to other people,” not necessarily with nefarious intent, he said. “It could be a family member saying, ‘Here, you’ve got a headache?’ ”
The fact that the pills are prescribed to help people can create a false sense of security, he said. “There’s this notion that they’re safe … but they’re probably the deadliest medications out there.”
Only recently did the number of deaths — some 50 a day around the country — associated with opiate overdoses become apparent, he said.
“It’s the collateral damage,” he said, “the price of what we were trying to do.”
In his four years as the Missoula Police Department’s sole officer devoted to prescription drug abuse, Detective Dean Chrestenson said he’s seen too many deaths and near-deaths.
Not all are due solely to the drugs. People combine them — intentionally or not — with alcohol, or they take a mixture of drugs. Caitlin Stanich of Missoula, who died in March at the age of 27, drank heavily and took methadone.
McKenzie feared a similar fate for her sons.
Methadone, dispensed at a Missoula clinic where her sons sought help for their prescription drug habit, turned into an even greater addiction, she said.
“Oh, God, it was hell. It was so hard dealing with them because they were so out of it constantly. I finally contacted several facilities last summer. I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ I could tell the one wasn’t going to be around very long,” she said.
She found spots for them at a Michigan treatment center. Health insurance covered about two-thirds of the cost. Now they’re in sober living centers in other states, and McKenzie realizes that their struggle is far from over.
“The rehab is just the beginning,” she said. “The goal is to stay sober, get a job, be around sober people.” The cost — between $600 and $800 a month in rent — is worth it, she said. “If they came back to their old stomping grounds, they could walk right back into the (methadone) clinic again.”
When prevention fails, private rehab is one, albeit very expensive, option. Others include outpatient treatment, even the courts — and not infrequently, a combination of those.
“The solution has to be not just law enforcement, but the medical people, the prescribers, physicians, pharmacists, counselors, therapists, people themselves,” said Chrestenson.
Around Montana, agencies and treatment centers are evolving quickly to deal with the issue.
Outpatient treatment options include individual counseling or group sessions. Inpatient centers around Montana are few and far between, and in high demand: All 16 beds at the Western Montana Mental Health Center’s new Recovery Center Missoula were filled when it opened last month. Both Great Falls and Billings have long had inpatient centers.
Missoula County Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech, who often sees people when they’re first charged with crimes involving prescription drugs, said such programs probably give addicts their best shot at success. Oftentimes, she said, it can take three or four months for an addict to really be ready, both physically and mentally, not just to get clean but to stay clean.
“It happens all the time in DUI court. The first, second, third months, they’re fighting all the way,” she said.
In fact, the court system can be a useful component of getting people clean.
A new tool aimed at drunken drivers — the 24/7 Sobriety and Accountability Program that requires twice-daily alcohol tests for some people convicted of DUI — can be adapted to the reality of drugged driving, Orzech said.
“We have a patch that people can be ordered to wear that tests for just about everything except alcohol,” said Orzech. “There’s also urinalysis that can happen, and blood tests, which are happening all the time.”
Those blood tests are ordered for some DUI suspects who refuse breath tests. Unlike breath tests, they detect substances other than alcohol.
Involvement in the justice system can, of course, lead to the state Department of Corrections, with its own treatment programs. Five of the DOC’s seven treatment programs target substance abuse as compared to two dealing with alcohol abuse. In the last six years, DOC programs that include drug and alcohol treatment increased 13 percent, even though the overall prison population declined 1 percent, according to the agency’s biannual report released this year. The DOC has added 54 treatment and prerelease beds, according to the report.
Solutions can be as mundane as getting rid of unused opiates prescribed after, say, surgery or an injury. That keeps them from falling into the wrong hands. A surprising amount of drugs that go on to be abused, according to law enforcement officers, are simply snatched from the medicine cabinets of parents, friends and neighbors.
There is a prescription drug drop box at the Law Enforcement Center in Helena that is accessible Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The procedure is anonymous; participants just simply put the bottles into the box.
If you can’t make it to the drop box but still want to get rid of medications, don’t just flush them — that’s bad for the water supply. Instead, throw them away after burying them in a bag filled with coffee grounds or kitty litter to keep them from being pilfered, said Chrestenson.
If you’re still taking such medications, treat them as you would a loaded gun, advised Mentel, the physician.
It all comes back to awareness, said McKenzie, whose sons are in recovery.
“It’s huge. Huge,” she said. “… I don’t think people (who use or abuse such medications) know where they are going to end up, most likely.”
This is great..BUT addiction is as much of a mental addiction. Addiction is both a physical and mental addiction. If the physical dependency can be blocked, the person must still work on the mental. I feel that this is somewhere after detox and within a 30-60 days where they are starting to, very slowly change their habits. so lets say after this “vaccine” they implement recovery to strive for sober living. Every little bit helps.
Vaccine for heroin addiction promising
A vaccine that could help fight heroin addiction shows promise in early tests in rats, researchers report.
A vaccine that targets heroin and its psychoactive breakdown products in the bloodstream may prevent them from reaching the brain, explain scientists from The Scripps Research Institute in US.
“Heroin-addicted rats deprived of the drug will normally resume using it compulsively if they regain access, but our vaccine stops this from happening,” George Koob, chair of the institute’s addiction research group, said.
Initial tests of the vaccine, reported in 2011, showed that it could block some of the acute effects of heroin, such as reducing pain. The new study involved more rigorous tests of the vaccine.
How the study was done
“We gave the vaccine to rats that had already been exposed to heroin, a situation obviously relevant to a human clinical situation,” study first author Joel Schlosburg, a postdoctoral research associate, said in the news release.
The vaccine did not block the effects of methadone, buprenorphine and other drugs that are commonly used to treat heroin addiction.
“It doesn’t affect the opioid system per se, so in principle you could give this vaccine to heroin-dependent people and continue to treat them with standard therapies, too,” Schlosburg said. “Opioid painkillers such as codeine or oxycodone also would continue to work.”
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
If the vaccine proves effective in human clinical trials, the researchers said, it could become a standard part of therapy for heroin addiction, which affects more than 10 million people worldwide. However, results obtained in animal experiments often aren’t attainable in trials with humans.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about heroin.
The best way to dispose of your old medications. As you will read
371 Tons of Rx Medicine Collected from DEA Take-Back Event on April 27
More than 742,000 pounds –371 tons – of prescription (Rx) medications were collected from members of the public at more than 5,800 locations throughout the country for the sixth Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-facilitated National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 27. To date, all six DEA Take-Back events have generated the collection of more than 2.8 million pounds (1,409 tons) of Rx medicines, safely removing them from circulation.
According to recently released data from the 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), one in four teens (24 percent) reports having misused or abused an Rx drug at least once in their lifetime (up from 18 percent in 2008 to 24 percent in 2012), which translates to about 5 million teens. In addition, more than half of teens (56 percent) indicated that it’s easy to get Rx drugs from their parent’s medicine cabinet, and about half of parents (49 percent) say anyone can access their medicine cabinet.
Last Saturday’s drug collection initiative was a collaboration between the DEA and state and local law enforcement. Americans were urged to empty their medicine cabinets, kitchen drawers and bedside tables of Rx drugs that were expired or no longer needed, and bring them to one of thousands of designated disposal sites around the nation to help prevent the abuse and misuse of medicine. Saturday’s event collected 50 percent more pills than the previous one, demonstrating the need for a safe place where Americans can discard unwanted, unused or expired prescription drugs from their homes.
Visit The Medicine Abuse Project online to learn more about how to safely store, safeguard and properly dispose of medicines in your home.
Guess What Kills One Person Every 19 Minutes?
Posted by Joshua Corn
Drugs Kill When it comes “how you’re going to die,” many people fear things like airplane crashes or shark attacks, even though statistics show that deaths from these events are very rare. Conversely, far too many people mistakenly believe that certain common aspects of everyday life are extremely safe — when, in reality, this is often far from the truth.
Once such daily ritual that is far more dangerous than many people believe is taking properly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs. Popping pills on a daily basis to “improve health” has become far too common for many Americans. In fact, according to the CDC, approximately 50% of all Americans take a pharmaceutical drug daily. When you isolate senior citizens, the number shoots up to an astonishing 90%. And perhaps even more troubling, 20% of children take a pharmaceutical drug.
At the same time, statistics are showing that deaths from pharmaceutical drugs are rising at an alarming rate. But don’t take my word for it. Just google the term “pharmaceutical drugs kill” and you’ll see headlines from major news organizations such as Fox and CNN that read:
“Prescription drugs 62,000 times more likely to kill …
“Prescription drugs kill 6200% more Americans …”
“Prescription Drugs Kill 300 Percent More Americans than Illegal Drugs…”
“Prescription drugs are now killing more people than traffic accidents…”
“Prescription Drug Deaths Skyrocket…”
“Prescription drugs kill one person every 19 minutes…”
“Prescription Drugs Now Kill More People Than Heroin And Cocaine Combined…”
Sadly, most people don’t know that properly prescribed prescription drugs kill over 100,000 Americans each year. (This excludes prescription drug abuse, which causes this number to skyrocket even higher.) This is more than or equal to the number of people who die from accidents, Alzheimer’s, influenza and diabetes!
CHMI Works with Partners to Address the Prevalence of Prescription Drug Misuse
Posted on May 06, 2013 by Clinton Foundation | Tags: Clinton Health Matters Initiative, CHMI, Prescription Drug Abuse and Misuse Strategy, NYPD, NYU
Today, President Clinton joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, New York University President John Sexton, and National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow for a panel discussion moderated by Wall Street Journal’s health reporter Melinda Beck on prescription drug abuse. Throughout the discussion, panelists brought to light the number of individuals affected by prescription drug misuse each year and how the issue is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem. In the United States, one person dies every 19 minutes from a drug overdose, a tragedy driven largely by the misuse of prescription painkillers. And, in the last 20 years, the consumption of prescription stimulants increased from 5 million to 45 million.
Throughout the discussion, each panelist highlighted how they are working to address this issue and discussed the many reasons for why prescription drug misuse and abuse is widespread, while also bringing attention to multi-pronged solutions for the issue. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly highlighted how through their Clinton Health Matters Initiative pledge to action, the NYPD will address the problem of drug abuse from the position of enforcement, deterrence, and education. Commissioner Kelly announced that the NYPD will begin reaching out to all colleges and universities across New York City to work with them to increase awareness about prescription drug abuse during freshman orientation. New York University (NYU) President John Sexton highlighted that more than 7 percent of college students across the country in 2012 reported misuse of pain medication, and discussed NYU’s commitment to student health and wellness through the university’s Wellness Exchange program. The program provides a service 7 days a week, 24 hours a day for students to receive advice and support on a range of issues – whether they have anxiety over exams to problems with prescription drugs to thoughts of suicide. Additionally, Dr. Volkow discussed how it is often the lack of knowledge about how prescription drugs – especially when mixed with other drugs from stimulants to depressants – is what jeopardizes people.
During the panel, President Clinton discussed how the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) will work to address the prevalence of prescription drug misuse on university and college campuses as well as emphasize how to reduce the prevalence of this issue in other environments such as demanding workplace settings. President Clinton noted that in just this decade alone, we have the potential to save 10,000 lives.
Over the next 5 years, the Clinton Foundation will work with partners including the NYPD to implement a number of initiatives designed to address the growing health and safety problem of prescription drug abuse. CHMI will also work to help universities foster safer, healthier environments by asking universities across the country to invest in best practices against the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs. CHMI will aim to cut in half the number of young people from 18 to 26-years-old misusing prescription drugs for the first time. Specifically, CHMI will recruit colleges and universities to join a Prescription Safe Campus Initiative (PSCI). Through PSCI, CHMI will build the capacity of student and campus leaders to implement best practice strategies to reduce prescription drug misuse and abuse in areas such as residence halls, campus health centers, campus security and police, employee wellness, student orientation, and athletics programs. Specific strategies will include prevention education programming, student-led awareness campaigns and increased substance abuse and mental health services on participating campuses.
In addition to working with colleges and universities, CHMI will build strategic partnerships with the corporate, non-governmental, philanthropic, and public sectors to address the following priority challenges to ending prescription drug misuse and abuse:
- Engage businesses that host physically demanding professions, such as energy, health care, the military, and transportation to integrate prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment support into workplace wellness efforts.
- Work with the pharmaceutical industry and others to improve supply and affordability of Naloxone/narcan, a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose.
- Engage medical associations, physician groups, retail pharmacy chains and others to expand the reach and improve the effectiveness of prescription drug monitoring programs that help detect and prevent the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.