Medical scientists in Boston say early exposure to opioids like methadone, heroin, Subutex and opioid prescription painkillers may lead to permanent genetic changes in some infants, and that these changes could increase babies’ sensitivity to addictive substances later in their lifetimes.
It’s already well known that using opioids while pregnant causes Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) – “cold turkey” withdrawal symptoms – in the newborn infant.
And it’s also well known that some infants have a much worse time of this horrible experience than others.
Scientists have theorized for some time that drug-related genetic changes in the mother or baby may explain why symptoms are more severe in some babies than in others. Now, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) have completed a study that appears to confirm the theory. But it also suggests an even more important theory – inherited genetic potential for addiction.
First of all, it’s known that in opioid users, changes occur to a specific gene called the mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1). Opioid receptors are the targets for opioids in the nervous system, and the OPRM1 gene is considered essential for opioid dependency in adults. The OPRM1 gene also plays an important role in dependence to other drugs of abuse, such as nicotine, cocaine and alcohol.
When opioids or alcohol hit the receptor, the receptor triggers the release of beta-endorphins, which in turn releases dopamine. This is the body’s “feel-good” reward system. The final result is more craving for the drug or alcohol, opening the door to dependence and addiction.
For the study, the researchers examined genetic data from 86 infants whose mothers had taken opioids while pregnant. As expected, some of the infants suffered far worse NAS withdrawal symptoms than the others. Their suffering not only was more intense, the babies also needed more medication than the others and their withdrawal lasted longer.
When the babies’ genetic information was compared, it was found that the infants who suffered severe NAS withdrawal symptoms had high levels of what’s called “DNA methylation” in their bodies. This told the researchers that the OPRM1 gene in those babies had been “silenced” or shut off – the typical effects of dependence. Such changes are also caused by external forces – called “epigenetic” changes – and they’re usually permanent.
What appears to be most interesting to the researchers is the distinct possibility that the change in the infant’s OPRM1 gene was inherited from the mother’s DNA at conception – she passed on the effects of her own opioid abuse to the baby, who was then born with the genetic mutation typical of an opioid, alcohol or cocaine addict.
“What makes these results so intriguing is that these epigenetic* changes could be passed on from mother to child, resulting in these children potentially having future issues and sensitivities around opioid and other addictive substances,” said Elisha Wachman, MD, a staff neonatologist at BMC and assistant professor of pediatrics at BUSM.
This is certainly food for thought for women who use and abuse addictive substances such as opioids. It’s bad enough to think you’ve caused your baby days of extreme discomfort. But it’s quite another thing to realize that your substance abuse might make your child more prone to substance abuse later in his or her life.
Here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we don’t treat pregnant women or babies. This is purely the job of expert neonatologists – specialist pediatricians who care for premature newborns or those with serious illness, including NAS.
What we try to do is to encourage women of child-bearing age to be extra careful to avoid pregnancy while they’re using or abusing any addictive substances. But even more important, we urge them to seek help to get and remain sober.
If you’re dependent or addicted to opioids and could possibly become pregnant, we ask that you make the all-important decision to get here to Novus for a medically supervised detox before you become pregnant. We are experts at providing safer, more comfortable opioid withdrawal for people who want to recover drug-free lives.
* processes by which inheritable modifications in gene function occur without a change in the sequence of the DNA
If you have teenagers in the house, or pre-teens who are on their way to adolescence, this blog is for you. And if you have teens in trouble with substance abuse, or know of any who are, keep reading, because you’re already involved.
Addiction experts and social scientists at Columbia University have reported that substance use and abuse by America’s teenagers should not be taken lightly. Rather than treating it as a harmless phase that all teens go through, it should be at the top of our list of adverse social situations.
The massive, 420-page report from the University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASAColumbia), says it all by its title: Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem. Smoking, drinking, using illegal drugs and misusing prescription drugs “is by any measure a public health problem of epidemic proportion, presenting clear and present danger to millions of America’s teenagers and severe and expensive long-range consequences for our entire population,” the scientists said. Ignoring or minimizing the problem not only adds to the soaring medical costs of substance use and addiction, it puts the future of America at risk, both socially and economically.
The report details the messages that pervade American culture that promote teen substance abuse, and then it examines the results:
- Widespread impairment of physical and mental health among millions of teenagers because of risky substance abuse
- Countless injuries, suicides, homicides and other fatalities related to substance use
- Risky driving, risky sex, and drug-related violence and crime
- The tragic losses of educational and life opportunities for tens of thousands of substance injured and addicted young people
- The terrible impact on families of the loss of sons and daughters to addiction
- The immeasurably negative loss to America’s vital work force
Adolescent substance use is also responsible for “the largest preventable and most costly public health problem in America today” says CASAColumbia. Teen substance abuse itself is costly, but research has shown that almost all adult substance abuse and addiction begins in adolescence:
- Annual costs directly stemming from teen substance use include $68 billion for underage drinking and $14.4 billion for substance-related juvenile justice programs.
- Annual costs to federal, state and local governments for all abuse and addiction are at least $468 billion a year – roughly $1,500 for every single person in America every year – and most of the problems originated in adolescence.
This comprehensive report drew from sources all across the country, including:
- National surveys of 1,000 high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students and 500 school personnel (including teachers, principals, counselors and coaches)
- Analyses of 7 national data sets
- Interviews with approximately 50 leading experts in a broad range of fields related to this report
- 5 focus groups with students, parents and school personnel
- A review of more than 2,000 publications
CASAColumbia say that educators, health professionals and parents need to become more aware of the seriousness of the situation. Everyone needs to learn how to identify at-risk teens, while the health care system needs to provide more and better treatment for kids already in trouble with substance use and abuse. The report is aimed at everyone who has a stake in our future, and is in a position to do something about it:
- Health Care Professionals
- Educators and Community Organizations
The report has a comprehensive list of recommendations for each category of involvement. If you’re in this list, you’re involved. You can download your own copy of the report here.
Here at Novus, we couldn’t agree more with the CASAColumbia recommendations. Novus isn’t an adolescent treatment center, but we do deal with dependence and addiction on a daily basis. And it’s vital to understand that so many adult patients can trace the beginnings of their substance use problems back to their teenage years.
Picture credit: CASAColumbia
Researchers from Wayne State University and Indiana University compared the effects of both types of approach, using volunteers who were both substance dependent and non-substance dependent. The results, published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, clearly showed that substance-dependent people respond more rationally to positive persuasion to avoid risky decisions than they do to negatively framed messages.
The researchers tested both groups of volunteers using the Iowa Gambling Task, which measures the ability to resist making unusually risky decisions while playing a card game.
When the risks involved were posed to the substance-dependent participants in negative terms, their ability to make rational decisions and control risky behavior was markedly reduced. But when positive persuasion was used that emphasized the benefits of avoiding risky decisions, the dependent group made obviously more rational decisions to control risky behavior.
Meanwhile, the non-dependent volunteers made rational, less risky decisions regardless of whether the messages were framed positive or negatively.
To back it all up with physical science, MRI brain scans were taken during the experiments of the areas of the brain which are normally active when people are consciously deciding to limit irrational or impulsive behavior.
When negative persuasion was used, the scans of the dependent individuals revealed a marked reduction of activity, which matched the actual risky decisions the participants were making. But with the positive persuasion, their scans showed normal, rational activity, right while they were making sensible, more rational decisions.
Again, supporting the actual decisions taken during the ‘game,’ the non-dependent group’s brain scans showed completely normal activity whether the messages were couched in positive or negative terms.
Given the life-style that most substance-dependent and addicted people have to endure just to survive, it makes sense that they’re plenty familiar already with all the negative stuff about their addiction – heck, they’re living it every day. And they’ve developed an efficient survival system of their own to deal with all the bad decisions they know they’re making.
Like the airbag in your car, this system is always poised and ready to instantly deploy and absorb any incoming negative energy. Every time you hammer away at them about how bad and wrong they are, how risky and dangerous and harmful their decisions are, how sad and terrible they‘re making everyone else feel – POW! That mental airbag pops open and shields them from the negativity. They’ll say, do or promise anything, and appear any way they think you want them to appear. But it’s just air – it’s the airbag talking, trying to avoid more incoming negativity.
This research proves what the successful addiction treatment experts have been saying for a long time: to persuade someone who’s dependent on drugs or alcohol to stop taking risks with their life, it’s better to be up-beat and positive about the benefits of sobriety. Stressing all the bad things about dependence and addiction just drives the addict further down.
Addicted people are still people, nevertheless. They need to be treated with the same respect and care you’d give anyone – especially someone in trouble. They need to see a hand reaching out to help, not raised to hit. Like everyone else in the world, addicts respond to positive messages; it’s the negative ones they’ve learned, the hard way, not to deal with.
Here at Novus, we don’t just treat substance dependence and then send people on their way. We treat people, helping them find the positive in their lives and eliminate the negative, under their own control. And we often make lifelong friends, too. Don’t hesitate to call Novus if you or someone you love has an addiction problem. We’re always here to help.
Suboxone is one of the pharmaceutical industry’s “blockbuster” drugs that most of America has never heard of. Suboxone has been making $billions ($1.7 billion last year alone) for its maker, Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals of the U.K. Even though it makes more money than Viagra and Adderall, it’s virtually unknown to the general public.
But Suboxone is the trade name for a compound of two generic drugs, buprenorphine and naloxone. These drugs are also money makers in the drug industry. Another brand, Subutex, is just buprenorphine by itself. And if you were to ask around about buprenorphine and naloxone, you’d probably get that same blank, questioning stare from most people.
So why haven’t most Americans heard about Suboxone? Or buprenorphine or naloxone for that matter? And why should we want know about these drugs anyway?
The first question is easy. We haven’t heard about them because they’re used mostly in the specialized treatment of opioid addiction. Buprenorphine was approved by the FDA in 2002 to treat opioid addiction. Buprenorphine is an opioid, but its narcotic and euphoric effects are less than heroin or opioid painkillers. Like methadone, it is prescribed to prevent withdrawal symptoms, while the addict comes off the stronger drug and works towards recovery.
That’s why buprenorphine and naloxone and compounds of the two like Suboxone are well known to addicts. And they’re an integral part of daily life for the addiction treatment community, as well as for law enforcement. If you’re not an opioid addict, or a treatment specialist, or in law enforcement, chances are you won’t hear about them.
Why should we care about these drugs?
The second question, however, is more important: Why should we want to know about them?
That answer is of deadly importance. Suboxone and buprenorphine on its own are being widely abused. Buprenorphine has become a serious player in the illicit narcotic drug underworld. According to the DEA’s national drug testing labs, buprenorphine is in the top three or four most-reported prescription narcotics confiscated by law enforcement across the country. (This includes combination drugs like Suboxone.)
In the Northeastern United States, where oxycodone and OxyContin are miles ahead of all the others, buprenorphine is number two – even ahead of hydrocodone (the biggest killer here in Florida). In the South, buprenorphine is number three and in the Midwest and West it’s number four.
A recent article in the New York Times told the story about a 38-year-old carpenter and rock musician who credits buprenorphine (Suboxone) with his recovery from opioid addiction and an attempted suicide. But the article also detailed the overdose death of a 20-year-old who tried buprenorphine with some friends one night, fell asleep, and never woke up. The young man who provided the buprenorphine is serving a 71-month sentence in a federal prison.
Another article, this one in Louisville’s The Courier-Journal, says prescriptions for Suboxone and its generic equivalents have soared 63 percent in Kentucky in the past year. The problem is that a huge number of those prescriptions are being diverted to the streets. “Suboxone abuse is huge,” a treatment official told the paper.
It’s a similar story across the country. That’s why everyone needs to know more about these drugs. If we see a Suboxone package or buprenorphine bottle where it shouldn’t be – that is, not in a treatment setting – we’ll know to take a closer look at what’s going on with that family member or friend. Suboxone and buprenorphine are not safe drugs to play around with. Not just weekend drug dabblers, but even serious opiate addicts are suffering from Suboxone and buprenorphine abuse.
Naloxone is important because it saves lives
Naloxone, the other Suboxone component, saves lives every day. It interrupts the deadly effects of an opioid overdose, like bringing the dead back to life. It’s in all hospital ERs, it’s carried by emergency responders, and in some cities and states, it’s available to the public.
If there’s an opioid addict or abuser in your family, you must know that the risk of opioid overdose is ever-present. Having a naloxone applicator or syringe handy could save that person’s life.
But an even better idea is to get that friend or family member into recovery before any overdose occurs. Why risk a life when you don’t have to? And if you or someone you love is already in trouble with Suboxone or buprenorphine, Novus is the place to call, because we are experts in handling buprenorphine and suboxone withdrawal and detox.
Call Novus today. We’re here to help.
The several million Americans dependent on narcotic painkillers, along with their families, friends and co-workers, are probably giving a little cheer today at some pretty amazing news. Two California municipalities, Santa Clara County and Orange County, have launched lawsuits against five of the largest narcotic painkiller pharmaceutical companies in the world.
The suit, being brought on behalf of the entire state of California, accuses the drug companies of creating the nation’s prescription drug epidemic by “waging a campaign of deception” to boost sales of their dangerously addictive painkillers.
Named in the suit are:
- Endo Health Solutions Inc.
- Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Purdue Pharma
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Cephalon Inc.
The drugs made or marketed by these companies include most popular brand name painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Opana, Duragesic and others, along with many generic narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and others.
Both Orange and Santa Clara counties say they have been seriously impacted by prescription narcotic overdose deaths, emergency room visits and skyrocketing medical costs. The lawsuit contends that the pharmaceutical companies violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance.
The LA Times said the 100-page lawsuit uses “sweeping language reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry.” The companies employed tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry to “conceal their deceptive marketing and conspiratorial behavior.”
The suit “alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite ‘a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary’”, the Times said. The lawsuit claims that the drug companies’ marketing practices “opened the floodgates” for such drugs and “the result has been catastrophic.” Patients were encouraged to ask doctors for narcotic painkillers to treat common conditions such as headaches, arthritis and back pain. The drug manufacturers promoted narcotic painkillers as safer than they actually are and promised unproven benefits such as improved sleep and quality of life. Such claims are beyond those allowed by the FDA, the suit says. The result, says the suit, is “a population of addicts” which has led to the explosion in heroin abuse and addiction – the same high at a fraction of the cost of illicit prescription painkillers.
The suit also says that in Orange County, there is a painkiller-related death every other day. The county’s district attorney told the Times he sees the suit as a matter of public protection, with the “primary goal to stop the lies about what these drugs do.”
No methadone on the list
In what we see as an oversight, the narcotic painkiller methadone is missing from the list of drugs, along with the various companies that manufacture and market methadone. Also known as Amidone, Dolophine, Heptadon, Methadose, Physeptone, Symoron and many other names, methadone is associated with more deaths than any other narcotic painkiller. Deaths linked to methadone have at least quintupled since 1999, primarily from its use as a painkiller.
At least some of the responsibility for the methadone catastrophe belongs to doctors who prescribed the drug for pain, without properly cautioning patients about its uniquely dangerous characteristics. Methadone lasts much longer in the body than other opiate painkillers, long after the pain relief has faded. Feeling the return of the pain, patients take more methadone. The result is physical overdose and, all too often, sudden death.
But drug companies are also complicit for not ensuring that doctors themselves have been adequately educated about methadone. And we have to say, that responsibility also extends all the way up to the FDA which has allowed this situation to go on for far too long.
Meanwhile, methadone’s widespread use as a treatment for opioid addiction has created a new subclass of “legally” drug-dependent Americans. Unfortunately, many discover, sooner or later, just how tough it can be to get off methadone – even more difficult than the heroin or other narcotic they were previously taking.
Even worse, many of these people can become trapped when their daily methadone dosages become higher than average, something that can happen as time passes. The specialized medical methadone detox program they need for high-dose dependence is frequently difficult to find.
We’re looking forward to seeing what becomes of the California law suit. As one of the nation’s leading drug detox clinics, Novus Medical Detox Center is on the front lines treating all prescription narcotic painkiller dependencies. And Novus is one of the few detox centers in the country able to accept and successfully treat higher-dosage methadone detox patients.
If you or someone you care about is caught in the methadone trap, call us today. We are here to help.
Xanax side effects are much more dangerous than doctors and patients think, says noted doctor
A Duke University professor says that Xanax is much more dangerous than it’s perceived to be. He says that Xanax side effects are so bad that “a careful review of its risks and benefits” might see it taken off the market.
Professor Emeritus Dr. Allen Frances told MedPage Today recently that the side effects of Xanax are “much more subtle and dangerous” than most doctors and patients think. “In combination it can be deadly, and for many people it creates an addiction problem that’s worse than the original condition.”
Dr. Frances added, “I think if there was a careful review of its risks and benefits, it would be taken off the market or it would at least have much more restricted use. If the FDA were to conduct a thorough review of Xanax, it might not be so widely prescribed.”
The side effects of Xanax are too many to list here. But they range from minor discomforts up to slurred speech, loss of coordination, memory problems and hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, liver failure, seizures and potentially fatal allergic reactions. It’s also seriously addictive and requires specialized detox protocols to get off, such as those offered by Novus.
Xanax is a member of the benzodiazepine family of drugs. Benzos, as they’re often called, are enormously popular. And Xanax tops the list in prescriptions, abuse and addiction, trips to the ER, and deaths from opioids-and-Xanax combinations:
- PRESCRIPTIONS: Last year, there were more than 50 million prescriptions written for the alprazolam, the generic version of Xanax. This is more than half the 94 million total prescriptions written for the entire family of more than three dozen benzodiazepines.
- ABUSE AND ADDICTION: Xanax now parallels the abuse levels of opioids – illegal street opioids like heroin, methadone and morphine, and all the prescription painkillers like OxyContin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet, Vicodin and dozens of others. Here at Novus Medical Detox Center we’ve also noticed the up-tick in benzodiazepine abuse and addiction, as more and more patients arrive needing Xanax detox or detox from one of the more than 40 other benzos.
- TRIPS TO THE ER: Researchers at the University of North Texas (UNT) said the number of trips to ERs that involved Xanax rose 170 percent from 2004 to 2008. And in 2010, Xanax emergencies accounted for roughly twice as many as the next most common benzo, Klonopin (clonazepam). There were 152,000 Xanax emergencies, compared with 73,000 for Klonopin. As mentioned above, Xanax side effects can be severe.
- OVERDOSE COMBINATION DEATHS: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a third of all opioid overdose deaths involve benzodiazepines. The latest statistics reveal that adding benzos to opioids increases the risk of death more than 30 percent. And the UNT researchers say that more often than not, the benzodiazepine is Xanax.
Benzos are being combined with opioids for a reason. Opioid addicts and abusers often take Xanax to boost the high from the opioid they are taking. This dangerous practice has trickled down to recreational abusers across the country. And from there, it’s spread to legitimate users of prescription painkillers, who also take Xanax trying to boost the painkilling effect.
In the overdose death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman last month, the New York medical examiner reported that it was much more complex than the simple heroin overdose that everyone was talking about in the media. Hoffman also had benzodiazepines in his system along with the heroin. A quick review of celebrities who have overdosed on opioids show almost all of them also taking benzos, and almost always it’s Xanax.
Xanax is America’s favorite pop-it-any-time-you’re-feelin’-down drug. And almost all prescriptions are coming from the family doctor, not high-priced specialists. Someone better tell these doctors soon what they’re really dealing with, or should we just say dealing – as in, drug dealing. Family and primary care physicians are contributing to a very serious situation, something they should and could do something about.
You can do something about the risks of opioids and benzos too. You can forward this blog to your family and friends, and warn them to avoid Xanax and, if they’re in trouble, get to Novus right away for a benzodiazepine detox.
Find out how the Novus Medical Detox program effectively handles benzo detox abuse and addiction. Call 1-866-631-3905 today and get all your questions answered.
America has been having a “love affair” with tranquilizers for over 50 years. From barbiturates in the early 1950s, like those that killed Marilyn Monroe, to the Miltown tranquilizers of the late 1950s and the more powerful benzodiazepines of the 1960s and 1970s like Librium and Valium, it seemed like everybody wanted some.
People wanted to “take the edge off” and “chill out” and “be cool”, and tranquilizers did the trick and were available everywhere. Most doctors handed them out like M&Ms to almost any patient with a twitch or a whiney complaint. But if you couldn’t get some from the family physician, there were always other family members, friends or co-workers.
Today, the most prevalent “tranq” on the scene is Xanax, the best-selling benzodiazepine in history with twice the number of prescriptions than all the others, a drug worth countless $billions to drugmaker Pfizer.
Well, folks, the honeymoon is over. In fact it’s been over for many years, but too many people haven’t gotten the message.
So here it is:
On their own, benzodiazepines are very addictive and they can really mess you up. Benzo addictions can be very hard to treat. And benzos can cause overdoses and deaths on their own. Many habitual benzodiazepine users and abusers don’t realize they are playing with fire.
Now there’s a new problem, and it’s getting worse. Thousands of Americans are dying every year because they’re using benzos to “boost” the effects of prescription opioid painkillers. They heard about it from somewhere, or they’ve discovered it on their own. Either way, bad idea. Medically and scientifically, a very bad idea – a combination that can very quickly put you down for the count. Combining benzos with painkillers – OxyContin or Vicodin or any opioid – is playing with living lightning.
Everyone knows that America’s other love affair – prescription opioid painkillers – has turned sour and become a dangerous obsession. In the last decade, prescriptions have more than quadrupled, and so have overdoses and deaths. Prescription opioids kill at least 12,000 people a year, without any help from benzodiazepines. Opioids are involved in over 75 percent of all prescription drug overdose deaths.
And when you add the benzodiazepines to the painkillers, deaths rise another 30 percent to over 16,650 in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available. That’s nearly 5,000 people who might still be alive if they hadn’t popped both kinds of pills at once. Plus perhaps similar numbers in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – maybe 15,000 people. Enough for a small American town. Butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, as the child’s rhyme goes.
Death from prescription drugs cares nothing about social position, what you do for a living, if you have any money in the bank, or who your friends are. And the combo of benzos with opioid painkillers just makes things even worse.
If you or someone you care about has any problem at all with opioid painkillers or with benzodiazepines, and especially if they have both drugs on hand, you need to call Novus Medical Detox Center today. Get the facts from one of our expert counselors, and find out why Novus patients are so happy with our medical detox solutions that can almost eliminate withdrawal symptoms.
Find out more about our program by calling 1-866-631-3905 or visiting our main website.
Categories: Drug News