Shocking Statistics About Opiate Use

Since 1990, there has been a tenfold increase in prescriptions for opioids in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2007, 3.7 million people filled 21 million legal prescriptions for opioid painkillers, and 5.2 million people over the age of 12 reported using prescription painkillers nonmedically in the previous month, according to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). From 2004 to ’08, emergency-room visits for opioid misuse doubled. At the same time, the drugs have become the stuff of pop culture, gaining cachet in the process. The fictitious Dr. House and Nurse Jackie gobble them like gumdrops, as did the decidedly nonfictional Rush Limbaugh and Heath Ledger. And, like Ledger, some users don’t make it out alive.

In 1990 there were barely 6,000 deaths from accidental drug poisoning in the U.S. By 2007 that number had nearly quintupled, to 27,658. In 15 states and the District of Columbia, unintentional overdoses have, for the first time in modern memory, replaced motor-vehicle incidents as the leading cause of accidental death; and in three more states it’s close to a tie.

More babies born addicted to pain drugs

Florida’s prescription drug epidemic, already responsible for nearly seven deaths a day, is taking its toll on the youngest, most vulnerable in our communities: newborns.

In 2009, nearly 1,000 babies born in Florida hospitals were treated for drug withdrawal syndrome. They’re irritable. They don’t eat well. They can spend days, even weeks, detoxing.

And the number is skyrocketing.

Janet Colbert, a registered nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit at a Broward County hospital, witnesses with alarming frequency the heartbreaking physical trauma these newborns endure.

“I kept seeing the torture these babies are going through,” said Colbert, 59, of Dania Beach. “This one baby, he couldn’t even feed. He was screaming, his face was just quivering so badly he couldn’t even get his face around the nipple to feed — and I just said I have to do something.”

Last spring, Colbert and two other women, also healthcare professionals, founded the STOPP Now organization (Stop the Organized Pull Pushers). They stage monthly protests at certain Broward County pain clinics they consider to be pill mills doling out excessive quantities of narcotic painkillers.

From 2006 to 2009, there was a 173 percent increase in newborns treated at Florida hospitals for drug withdrawal syndrome, according to Agency of Health Care Administration records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

The most recent data show no signs of a slowdown. During the first half of 2010, 635 cases were reported.

While the state records don’t specify which narcotics those babies tested positive for, South and Central Florida doctors say a majority of the withdrawal cases involve prescription drugs.

“We see them here almost daily,” said Dr. Matthew Seibel, a pediatric hospitalist at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. “It is standard operating procedure around here, unfortunately.”

Infants suffer

It used to be that infants born with drug withdrawal symptoms were more likely to be suffering from a crack cocaine addiction.

But doctors, nurses and social workers say cases of “crack babies” are dwindling, while cases of prescription drug dependence are becoming more prevalent.

Colbert, the nurse, said more often than not the babies at her hospital are testing positive for oxycodone and other prescription drugs.

Former state Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Palm Beach County attorney now leading Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s new anti-pill mill initiative, called the newborn drug withdrawal statistics “horrifying.”

“Prescription drug abuse has become the number one public safety threat to Florida,” he said.

State child-welfare officials in Central Florida have taken notice of the surge. The problem was escalating so much in Orange County that in 2008, the local Department of Children and Families office reinstituted its Drug Dependent Newborn unit. It’s the only DCF unit in the state dedicated to serving newborns dependent on drugs.

Last year, the unit received 206 cases.

In South Florida, all the hospitals with delivery rooms see babies born addicted to painkillers, nurses said. Fifty-five were born addicted to some substance — the state doesn’t break out painkillers — in the first half of last year in Broward and Palm Beach counties, up sharply from 29 in all of 2006, state figures show.

From her experience, Colbert said, those numbers sound low. That may be because some doctors classify cases as maternal drug abuse rather than neonatal drug abuse, she said.

Hospitals prefer to keep addicted babies for at least four weeks to gradually wean them off drugs, rather than send them home to detox, said registered nurse Mary Osuch, manager of the neonatal intensive care unit at Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale.

“If we don’t intervene, they are more vulnerable to child abuse because they are inconsolable and the parents can’t take it after a while,” Osuch said.

The drugs steal their appetites and cause stomach cramps. When the babies do eat, they get diarrhea. They don’t rest well. And they are irritable all the time, Osuch said.

“It’s so hard to watch them,” Osuch said. “You can’t console them.”

Typically, NICU doctors give addicted babies the sedative phenobarbital to ease the withdrawal, Osuch said. If that doesn’t work, they use methadone or even morphine. Over days or weeks, they reduce the dosage until the baby is drug free and eating and sleeping normally.

Mothers are steered toward parenting classes, counseling and assistance with scheduling doctors appointments and follow-up care for the newborn.

Mores seek treatment

At the Center for Drug Free Living’s Addictions Receiving Facility near downtown Orlando, the number of people being treated for prescription drug abuse — including pregnant women — is on the rise.

Doctors have treated pregnant women with methadone, often prescribed in place of oxycodone for pain management, since the 1960s.

That method still stands today, because women who abuse drugs like oxycodone cannot go cold-turkey while they are pregnant. Doctors say it’s too stressful on the mother’s body, which imposes stress on the developing baby.

Doctors would rather have a steady level of methadone in the developing baby than a mother who takes other drugs, explained Dr. Stacy E. Seikel, medical director at the center.

“When the mother is in withdrawal, the baby is in withdrawal,” she said. “If the baby is in and out of withdrawal the entire pregnancy … the baby can’t grow and mature well.”

‘Prescription nation’

Officials say the increase in drug-dependent newborns is further evidence of Florida’s — and the nation’s — growing use of prescription drugs.

Drug addicts and dealers from northern states, dubbed “pillbillies,” travel to Florida, where a plethora of pain clinic doctors are willing to dole out addictive, powerful painkillers and sedatives like oxycodone and alprazolam.

From October 2008 to March 2009, 49 of the nation’s top 50 dispensing doctors of oxycodone were in Florida, with the majority concentrated in Broward and Palm Beach counties, a grand jury reported. And according to one national study, the use of prescription pain medication increased 400 percent from 1998 to 2008.

Colbert, the neonatal nurse, says every time she tries to comfort yet another inconsolable newborn through withdrawals, she wonders why politicians allow the abuse to continue.

“It’s like a side effect no one’s seeing,” she said. “Every time we admit another baby like this, I wonder, why isn’t somebody doing something about this.”

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who has been a state leader in the pill mill fight, said he was unaware of this aspect of the prescription drug scourge.

“You don’t realize how there’s that trickle-down effect,” Fasano said. “This is another perfect example of why we have to address this crisis in Florida, this epidemic.”

Why does Florida Gov. Scott oppose prescription drug database?

When Gov. Rick Scott says he wants Florida open for business, who knew that he also meant the deadly pill mills that have ruined so many lives?

Scott’s move to scrap a prescription narcotic database intended to temper the excesses of South Florida’s rogue pain clinics makes no sense.

Unless the governor somehow likes the drug tourism, overdoses and other human wreckage spawned by our pill-friendly culture. Prescription drug abuse is blamed for an estimated seven deaths a day in Florida.

The database can help law enforcement, pharmacists and health officials pinpoint patients who abuse or traffic in powerful pills like oxycodone by getting multiple prescriptions in a short timeframe, a practice known as doctor-shopping.

The Legislature approved the database in 2009, with private grants paying for it.

It was supposed to launch last December, but has been delayed by a dispute involving a contractor who didn’t win the bid.

Forty-two other states have databases.

Now along comes Scott, who took office last month, trying to scuttle Florida’s database before it begins.

And in the cryptic style that’s becoming his trademark, the public can’t get a detailed answer about his rationale.

Last Tuesday, Scott told reporters, “That program has not been working.”

Huh? The program hasn’t even started. He went on to say he was working with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to deal with the pill-mill issue. He didn’t get into specifics.

That was after his spokeswoman said Scott didn’t think the database was a function best performed by government.

Say what? If it’s not government’s role to monitor controlled substances, then why bother monitoring anything? Let’s just do away with driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and concealed weapons permits too, since cars and guns are legal.

The database had support from just about everyone — legislators, law enforcement, responsible doctors and pharmacists and legitimate pain clinics.

And it’s not like it would cost taxpayers anything, since the money is supposed to come from private sources.

Scott baffled everyone with his request to repeal the database, filed in documents with his proposed budget. It follows his decision last month to abolish the office of drug control, whose chief was spearheading the database efforts.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, who saw Scott a few days earlier and emphasized the importance of the database, said he was “very surprised.”

Pain clinics have mushroomed across South Florida in the last decade, with many dispensing prescriptions and drugs to cash-paying customers after cursory exams.

Some customers — known as pillbillies — travel from Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Some Broward and Palm Beach County cities, tired of complaints about the clientele, have put moratoriums on new pain clinics. I know a beauty salon owner who recently moved because she no longer felt safe in a Hollywood strip mall she shared with a pain clinic. Tamarac is trying to shut a pharmacy that has dispensed more than 2.8 million oxycodone pills in two years.

Broward Sheriff’s Office Tamarac district chief Marc Duguay said it’s a public safety issue, even though the pharmacy is not doing anything illegal.

“Tallahassee needs to do something,” Duguay said.

But the governor fiddles while the pill epidemic rages on.

It wasn’t a banner week for Rookie Rick. He played accounting games with his budget numbers, trumpeting a $5 billion reduction while conveniently lopping off hefty items that still exist, like university tuition and court administration fees.

He backed off his ambitious plan to expand private-school vouchers, finally acknowledging it wouldn’t be legal without changing the state constitution.

And he ticked off state workers with proposed job cuts and a pension revamp that would cut into their paychecks, while giving big tax cuts to … wait for it … corporations.

Of all the inscrutable things Scott has done, the database stance is hardest to swallow.

The governor needs to explain himself better.

And if Scott’s notion of hands-off government precludes common-sense measures like a narcotics database, it might be time for all of us Floridians to reach for a prescription pad and some pills. This could be a long four years.

Smile Train

Hi,

We wanted to tell you about one of the hundreds of thousands of children who has been helped by your donations.

Kiiza was brought to us at the age of 13.

He was born to a cattle keeping community in a very poor region of Uganda. His clan believes that a child born with a craniofacial deformity brings a curse to the herd which results in loss of cattle.

Others like him are traditionally buried alive in a heap of cow dung at birth, and never see the light of day.

Luckily he was delivered in hospital, and by the time his clan took a decision about his fate, the health care providers had already assured his mother that Kiiza would grow up like any other boy, if he receives care.

Care, however, didn’t come early since this community lives in the country side. An attempt to send him to school failed because he easily became a laughing stock in class being mocked and ridiculed.

His mother didn’t lose hope for her son. She heard an announcement, inviting all children with this deformity to come in for free surgery sponsored by Smile Train, including a promise to assist with transport. She borrowed money from her neighbors and brought Kiiza in for surgery.

After his free cleft surgery, Kiiza was so full of joy and promised that although he was starting school late in life, he would work hard and become a doctor to help other children with similar problems!

These simple surgeries – that take as little as 45 minutes – are SO important to the millions of children with cleft lips and palates.

From all of us here at Smile Train.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Only a few of the 7 Rapid Detox Centers in the country talk about giving male patients supplemental Testosterone after a detoxification treatment from opiate drugs.

It is not uncommon to see low levels of Testosterone in our male patients. RDD Center does not believe in supplementing Testosterone. We realize that those levels will return back to normal and is part of the healing process of the body once opiate use stops. Turns out, there is a whole list of side effects, serious side effects with testosterone replacement therapy.

This information addresses the untold dangers of exogenous (external and synthetic) Testosterone Replacement Therapy.

One of the most undesirable side effects of exogenous testosterone replacement therapy is the shrinkage of the male genitals, including the testes. The medical term for the condition is “testicular atrophy”.

As a matter of fact, the renowned Mayo Clinic lists the following side effects with exogenous (external and synthetic) testosterone replacement therapy:

  • Causes skin reactions
  • Causes fluid retention
  • Causes baldness
  • Causes or aggravates sleep apnea (brief, repeated cessation of breathing during sleep)
  • Stimulates noncancerous (benign) growth of the prostate and cause or worsen urinary symptoms
  • Stimulates growth of prostate cancer that’s already present
  • Enlarges breasts (gynecomastia)
  • Stimulates growth of breast cancer if that’s already present (rare in males)
  • Causes testicle shrinkage (testicular atrophy)
  • Limits sperm production (infertility)
  • Stimulates excess blood production (polycythemia)

The number of prescriptions for testosterone replacement therapy has increased over the years. The primary reason is we believe the lack of emphasis by doctors and pharmaceutical companies on the negative side effects of the treatment and because of the increase in drug use, typically the levels of Testosterone will show up low in males using opiates.

It seems like the treatment purported to give your manhood back is actually robbing you of it. Once off of opiate drugs the levels will slowly return to normal, typically within a few months. Even if a patient decides to supplement, it should be monitored very closely by your personal physician. This treatment should never be prescribed unless frequent blood work is done to check levels.

The Abuse of Hydrocodone (Vicoden)

The abuse of hydrocodone (Vicoden) is a major problem. Compounding the addiction issue is the toxicity of the acetaminophen contained in the drug. Users consume many times the safe amounts of acetaminophen attempting to experience the euphoric effects of hydrocodone. Acetaminophen is hepato-toxic. It damages the liver, leading to irreversible liver damage and death. The dangers are increased with underlying conditions such as alcoholism, malnourishment or dehydration. These conditions can lower the toxic threshold of the drug. A tolerance is developed; the physical addiction to the hydrocodone in the drug causes the user to require a higher dose to achieve the same effect. This increase in acetaminophen levels leads to acute liver toxicity, causing liver necrosis and cell death. Acetaminophen poisoning is the leading cause of liver damage resulting in liver transplantation in Britain, and has replaced viral hepatitis as the leading cause of acute hepatic failure in the U.S.

Suboxone/Subutex 20 – 30 Times more Powerful Than Morphine

Suboxone/Subutex, which is Buprenorphine, is a controlled schedule III opiate drug which is 20 to 30 times more powerful than morphine (see the letter from the FDA). It is a very common replacement opiate drug that most drug rehab centers across the United States and a few of the 6 rapid detox centers use to maintain an opiate addiction as part of their opiate detox treatment.

This drug causes dependence/addiction very quickly and once a patient is addicted to this drug it is very difficult to “just wean down and get off of it with mild withdrawal” as we have heard many people were told by a physician when they were prescribed this drug. Once a patient is on this drug and they consult with their physician that they want to stop the drug, it is very common that doctors will tell their patients “you will be on this drug the rest of your life” or “you need to stay on it for another year”, etc. Most physicians will not tell their patients the truth about the addictive nature of this drug leading them to believe it is a “MIRACLE DRUG” and is a cure for their opiate addiction when the truth is they are still addicted to an opiate that for most patients is far harder to detox from than a traditional opiate. Suboxone physicians are an advocate of this drug and the ability to have 100 patients at a time on it, with monthly visits ranging in price from $100 to $300 per month make monetary sense for doctors to prescribe this drug.

Even the pharmaceutical company claims the drug has mild withdrawal and is easier to come off of than a traditional opiate, yet the company claims they have never done any studies to determine that. Why is that?

RDD quotes below from the pharmaceutical Professional Prescribing Information for physicians, also known as the insert that comes with each bottle supplied from the company:

Buprenorhine is a partial agonist at the mu-opioid receptor and chronic administration produces dependence of the opioid type, characterized by moderate withdrawal upon abrupt discontinuation or rapid taper. The withdrawal syndrome is milder than seen with full agonists, and may be delayed in onset.

Reducing dosage and stopping treatment:

The decision to discontinue therapy from SUBOXONE or SUBUTEX after a period of maintenance or brief stabilization should be made as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Both gradual and abrupt discontinuation have been used, but no controlled trials have been undertaken to determine the best method of dose taper at the end of treatment.

For most “the end of treatment” never comes without suffering long lasting withdrawals  or “does not come with “mild withdrawal” and again the patient is faced with yet another addiction which can be equally or even more difficult to detox from.

This is reminiscent of the sales tactic the Bayer Pharmaceutical Company used in the late 1800’s when they came up with the “miracle drug” for the cure for morphine addiction, which they named Heroin.

Suboxone Side Effects

I have been on suboxone for the last few years after being addicted to pain pills from my many surgeries. I was never told about the many negative side effects from this drug. After reading about them I realize I suffer from all of them. I went from a happy, confident, popular guy to now having no friends, very depressed, and isolated, basically feeling like hell. I’ve been trying to get off of it for more than 6 months now and every time I stop taking it, the month or two of withdrawal outlasts my will.

I need help to get off of it and if I don’t, my fear is I won’t be alive in a year. It has ruined me in every way; most of all financially. I need advice, please help me.

FDA Approves New Formulation for OxyContin

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved a new formulation of the controlled-release drug OxyContin that has been designed to help discourage misuse and abuse of the medication, including OxyContin addiction.

OxyContin is made to slowly release the potent opioid oxycodone to treat patients who require a continuous, around-the-clock opioid analgesic for management of their moderate to severe pain for an extended period of time. Because of its controlled-release properties, each OxyContin tablet contains a large quantity of oxycodone, which allows patients to take their drug less often. However, people intent on abusing the previous formulation have been able to release high levels of oxycodone all at once, which can result in a fatal overdose and contributes to high rates of OxyContin abuse.

The reformulated OxyContin is intended to prevent the opioid medication from being cut, broken, chewed, crushed or dissolved to release more medication. The new formulation may be an improvement that may result in less risk of overdose due to tampering, and will likely result in less abuse by snorting or injection; but it still can be abused or misused by simply ingesting larger doses than are recommended.

“Although this new formulation of OxyContin may provide only an incremental advantage over the current version of the drug, it is still a step in the right direction,” said Bob Rappaport, M.D., director of the Division of Anesthesia and Analgesia Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“As with all opioids, safety is an important consideration,” he said. “Prescribers and patients need to know that its tamper-resistant properties are limited and need to carefully weigh the benefits and risks of using this medication to treat pain.”

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately half a million people used OxyContin non-medically for the first time in 2008.

The manufacturer of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma L.P., will be required to conduct a postmarket study to collect data on the extent to which the new formulation reduces abuse and misuse of this opioid. The FDA is also requiring a REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) that will include the issuance of a Medication Guide to patients and a requirement for prescriber education regarding the appropriate use of opioid analgesics in the treatment of pain.

Purdue Pharma is based in Stamford, Conn.

The RDD Method® provides relief from those suffering from an OxyContin addiction by providing OxyContin detox. Contact us today.

FDA Press Release from www.fda.gov.

What You Should Know About Opiate Drug Overdoses

When someone overdoses on opiate drugs, speed is the most important factor, even more so than the substance that was overdosed on. This is because the longer a drug overdose victim goes without treatment, the more the drug is absorbed, and the more damage is done. People can
easily die from drug overdoses.

Symptoms

When someone has overdosed on the following Opiates:  Opium; oxycontin, heroin; morphine; Suboxone, Methadone®; codeine, etc.

  • Unconscious
  • Coma
  • Seizing
  • Confused
  • Drowsiness
  • Fainting, dizzy, uncoordinated
  • Slow pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Muscular relaxation
  • Acting strangely, drunk, psychotic
  • Have difficulty breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Slurred speech
  • High or low temperature
  • Enlarged or extra small pupils
  • Reddish face and heavy sweating
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Cool clammy pale skin

Treatment

  • Call 911 immediately
  • If the drug overdose victim is unconscious check vital signs. If you need to, begin CPR (no pulse).
  • If the person is unconscious check the airways and clear them out (remove any pills, vomit, etc)
  • Once the unconscious person  is ‘stable’ place them in the recovery position (lying on their side) and wait for help to arrive while keeping a close eye on them.
  • If you find pills, syringes, medications, bottles & containers (from medications or drugs) or drugs around the person save them and give them to the medics when they arrive. If available, save a sample of the vomit as well.
  • If the person is conscious ask them what happened and most importantly keep them as awake and alert as possible.
  • DO NOT try to induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by a medical professional. The poison control center will tell you what to give and how much to give based on the persons age/weight and other stats.
  • DO NOT give the person anything to eat or drink unless instructed
  • DO NOT leave the person alone
  • Try to figure out the time when the drug was taken and what quantity was taken.