Friday, October 21, 2016

Making Fentanyl Chemicals Controlled Substances

In the United States, we have a number of government agencies in place to make sure that certain chemicals cannot be procured to make dangerous drugs. Even when things slip through the cracks, a number of changes will be made in order to ensure that does not happen again. Yet, the U.S. can only really control what happens within our own borders.

The government has struggled to curb the influx of synthetic drugs, which are made with chemicals that are manufactured in China—a nation that lacks the amount of “red tape” that we see in this country. Meaning, laboratories can make chemicals that will knowingly be used by humans, but unfortunately there will be little, if any, testing to determine if the chemicals are safe. Clearly, these are often far from safe as is evident by the terrifying news stories about the use of synthetic marijuana, sold under the name Spice or K2.

Deadly Fentanyl

Unfortunately, synthetic cannabis may not be the most important thing coming out of China to worry about. One of the many facets of the opioid problem in America today, is synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. It is an extremely potent opioid that can cause severe respiratory depression, and it has been the cause of many an overdose death in the U.S. over the last several years.

While fentanyl is made by pharmaceutical companies to be used in hospital settings for surgical procedures or end of life care, it is being produced in Mexico in clandestine cartel-run laboratories. The fentanyl is either pressed into pills and given misleading labels resembling an OxyContin, or it being mixed into batches of heroin to boost potency. It is worth noting that fentanyl on its own is already 50 times more potent than heroin. Addicts are often times unaware of fentanyl presence in their heroin, which can and does lead to overdose deaths.

Controlling the Flow

In an effort to curb the illicit production of fentanyl, a group of U.S. Senators and the Secretary of State have called upon the United Nations (UN) to add two chemicals used to make fentanyl to their list of controlled substances, The WSJ reports. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, asking that the fentanyl ingredients, NPP and ANPP, be reclassified so that it is harder for them to be exported for illicit purposes.

Interestingly, there are at least 178 suppliers of NPP and 79 suppliers of ANPP globally, according to the article. But, it probably comes as little surprise that more than half of the suppliers can be found in China. These chemicals have no other known use, but for the production of fentanyl. If the UN adds the NPP and ANPP to the list of controlled substances, it would mean that nations would be forced to monitor the export of the chemicals and inform recipient countries of any planned shipments.

“The United States is currently experiencing an epidemic of overdose deaths linked to opioids including fentanyl-laced heroin,” writes Kerry. The U.S. “urgently requests your assistance in expediting this chemical control action.” 

The International Narcotics Control Board, which advises the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs, is reviewing the request. Kerry has asked that a decision be made at the Commission’s next meeting in March 2017.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tattoo Reads Blood Alcohol Content

People consume alcohol for a number of reasons, some of which are not good. When asked why someone drinks, one of the more common responses is that they drink to be more convivial. After a long day or long week, drinking is a typical pastime engaged in around the world. While alcohol in small amounts, used infrequently, is relatively harmless, when a person drinks more than they should, several days a week, use of the substance can get out of hand.

There is not a day that goes by when someone doesn't lose their life from alcohol related injury. Whether the cause be due to long term alcohol use and the insidious effects it has on one’s body, or from making the choice to get behind the wheel or having a collision with someone who opted to drive drunk.

Being under the influence of alcohol can be a tricky matter, especially when you consider that people who are drunk often believe that they are not. The byproduct of such an illusion can be thinking you can drink more when you shouldn’t, or thinking you can drive when you are unable. People who are out partying do not have access to breathalyzers, and even if a person has been tracking how many drinks they have consumed over a given period of time—it is next to impossible to determine one’s own blood alcohol content (BAC).

Having a way to assess one’s true level of drunkenness at a given time, or a way to see how often and how much an individual is consuming over long periods of time, could save lives. Which is why a team of scientists has been working to add to the list of services a smartphone can provide.

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) funded a group of engineers to develop a small device that can be worn on the skin, which sends one’s BAC to a drinker's smartphone. Co-senior author Patrick Mercier, Ph.D. at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering explains:

"Measuring alcohol in sweat has been attempted before, but those technologies took 2-3 hours to measure alcohol levels. Our patch sends alcohol levels to your smartphone in just 8 minutes, making real-time alcohol monitoring possible, practical, and personal." 

The science was published in the journal ACS Sensors. The NIBIB believes that the Wearable Tattoo-Based Iontophoretic-Biosensing System will reduce:
  • Vehicle Crashes
  • Violence
  • Negative Health Effects of Heavy Drinkers
This kind of technology could be a tool used by substance use disorder treatment centers in the future. Addiction professionals would be able to tell when a client has relapsed within minutes of the occurrence, giving them the ability to intervene before the situation gets any worse.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Decriminalizing Personal Drug Use

Government officials and law enforcement agencies have been waging a “war on drugs” since 1971. For over forty years, it goes without saying, not only has the war not been won, it has only served to ruin the lives of millions of Americans. While there is little question over whether or not drugs are bad for people, both highly addictive and can lead to death, one cannot help but ask what good has been accomplished by making a mental illness a crime.

Certainly, there have been a lot of changes made in recent years, from pushing for treatment over jail time for those charged with drug related offenses, as well a number of states changing the mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Yet, the United States has more people locked up in prison and jail cells than any other country, despite the fact that we not only enjoy more freedoms than countries that have significantly higher populations.

Illegal drug manufacturing, distribution and use can have a serious impact on society, and those who make a profit on the destruction of lives should probably be dealt with by the hand of law. However, the vast majority of people in prison are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, typically those whose only crime was having the disease of addiction. To make matters worse, such people are rarely given the tools inside of prison to mitigate the risk of recidivism upon release.

A number of countries have been considering decriminalizing personal drug use, and some have already done so. In the Unites States, we have all witnessed the paradigm shift regarding marijuana, with medical marijuana programs in nearly thirty states and legalization in four. More states are likely to follow suit in November. People using marijuana, for better or worse, do not deserve to be put in jail, which to some people begs the question—should anyone be subject to incarceration for personal drug use? Two major human rights groups would answer that question with an emphatic NO!

In fact, the Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union have released a report calling for the decriminalization of possession and personal use of all illicit drugs, TIME Magazine reports. The organizations argue that the war on drugs failed to minimize drug use, and has:
  • Unjustifiably Ruined Lives
  • Broken Up Families
  • Fueled Racial Discrimination
“Every 25 seconds someone is funneled into the criminal justice system, accused of nothing more than possessing drugs for personal use,” said Tess Borden, the report’s author. “These wide-scale arrests have destroyed countless lives while doing nothing to help people who struggle with dependence.”

Please take a moment to watch the short informational video, below:

If you are having trouble watching the video, please click here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Compulsive Binge Eating Breakthrough

binge eating
Addiction is a disease that typically describes a person who has trouble refraining from using drugs and alcohol. Such people will continue to abuse mind altering substances despite the effects that is has on one’s life. And while it is possible for one to recover from addiction and repair the damage of their past, it can be difficult to achieve recovery without the assistance of an addiction treatment center and/or a 12-Step program of recovery.

It goes without saying that addiction can have fatal outcomes, which can be clearly seen by the staggering overdose death rates in America resulting from the opioid epidemic. Alcohol use disorder can lead to organ failure or making choices that can result in premature death, such as driving under the influence. Without help, drug addicts and alcoholics are at great risk.

While most addiction treatment centers focus primarily on drugs, alcohol and co-occurring mental health disorders, there are a number of other addiction conditions that can negatively impact the course of one’s life and even cut it short, including gambling, sex and eating disorders.

Eating disorders are a form of mental illness that can be especially hard to treat, mostly due to the fact that unlike drugs and alcohol, humans require sustenance to survive. Too little, or too much, food over a long period of time can be deadly. The most common forms of eating disorder are anorexia nervosa, bulimia (binge and purge) and binge eating.

It is not uncommon for people with eating disorders to be in need of treatment, a vital step in the process of learning how to cope with issues without need to restrict or overeat food. Yet, as was mentioned earlier, success rates are not that high, because of the complexity of eating disorders and the lack of science based treatment methods. But, when it comes to binge eating, scientists may have found a way to help those recover who are suffering from the disorder.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have a new target for the treatment of compulsive binge eating disorder, ScienceDaily reports. The findings are especially important because approximately 15 million Americans struggle with binge eating. The research was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Through the activation of a certain class of receptors, Trace Amine-Associated Receptor 1 (TAAR1), which was found to be decreased in binge eating patients, they could restore normal function, according to the article. This allowed patients to make different decisions when it came to compulsive eating.

"Effective therapeutic treatments currently available are very elusive. The results of this study provide a new window toward the development of a new class of drugs with a novel target unexplored until now," said corresponding author Pietro Cottone, PhD, co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders (LAD) and associate professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Overdose Deaths Saving Lives

When taking a close look at the American opioid epidemic, it can be hard to not feel heartache. Millions of people across the country are caught in the grips of addiction, and those who fail to receive treatment are at an ever increasing risk of overdose and potential death with each day that passes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that as many as 78 Americans die from an overdose daily. While there are tools available, such as naloxone, which can reverse the deadly symptoms of an opioid overdose, the lifesaving drug is not always available.

Even when naloxone is on hand at the scene of an overdose, if other drugs such a fentanyl or benzodiazepine sedatives are part of the equation, naloxone may not save an overdose victim’s life. Countless families across the country have lost loved ones to the insidious epidemic tearing through the American heartland, especially in New England and some of the most rural parts of the United States. There are no words that could assuage the pain that families of overdose death victims are experiencing.

It is often said that if there is a silver lining to be found with regard to the epidemic, it would probably have to be the fact that the heavy death toll has the entire nation taking a close hard look at addiction. People are finally realizing that the disease does not merely affect the downtrodden or ethnic minorities, but rather, addiction has the propensity to shine upon us all. This epidemic could not paint that picture any clearer, as young white Americans are dying in the greatest numbers. And it is highly likely that before you finish reading this post, another young American will have succumbed to the disease of addiction.

Another silver lining, perhaps, can be found by way of organ transplants. With young people dying from overdoses in scores, it has created a surge in available, healthy organs, The New York Times reports. The New England Organ Bank points out that 69 New Englanders who passed away from an overdose donated their organs so far this year.

“It’s an unexpected silver lining to what is otherwise a pretty horrendous situation,” said Alexandra K. Glazier, chief executive of the New England Organ Bank, which procures organs for transplant in the six New England states and Bermuda.
CARF - Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation FacilitiesNATSAP | National Association of Therapeutic Schools and ProgramsNBCCNAADAC