This Week's News in Substance Use: 12/8/17

Opioid [Misuse] Should Be Treated as a Disease Not a Moral Failing, Says CEO Who Lost His Son to Addiction, CNBC

“Following [his son] Brian's death, [Gary] Mendell said he found a disconnect between peer-reviewed science on addiction, and the actions that standard recovery programs took to treat patients. Medical journals showed ‘without a doubt’ concrete ways to prevent addiction in teens and improve treatment outcomes, he said.

“Mendell then founded Shatterproof, a nonprofit working to end the stigma of addiction and foster a community of support. The advocacy group provides what it calls evidence-based resources to support prevention, treatment, and recovery.”

The Surgeon General and His Brother: A Family’s Painful Reckoning with Addiction, STAT

“The path that Dr. Jerome Adams took to the office of U.S. surgeon general begins in this southern Maryland town, where crab restaurants dot the rural landscape, where signs warn drivers to watch out for Amish horse-drawn buggies, and where he grew up on a rolling road with three siblings, including a brother five years his junior. Phillip.

“But as Jerome’s career has taken flight — he’s won scholarships for college and medical school, taken charge of a state health department, and ascended to become ‘the nation’s doctor,’ as his job is nicknamed — Phillip’s has been diverted.

“For two decades, the younger Adams has struggled with substance use disorders, the consequence of an untreated mental health issue, his family believes. With his addiction unaddressed, he has cycled in and out of incarceration for years — a living emblem of the intractability and reach of the public health crisis confronting his brother.”

US Approves Monthly Injection for Opioid Addiction, Associated Press

“U.S. health officials on Thursday approved the first injectable form of the leading medication to treat patients recovering from addiction to heroin, prescription painkillers and other opioids. The Food and Drug Administration approved once-a-month Sublocade for adults with opioid use disorder who are already stabilized on addiction medication.

“The monthly injection has the potential to reduce dangerous relapses that occur when patients stop taking the currently available daily medication. But that benefit has not yet been shown in studies and the new drug comes with a hefty price: $1,580 per monthly dose. The older version of the drug, Suboxone, costs $100 a month.”

FDA Showing Support for Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction, The Register-Herald

“The Food and Drug Administration recently announced efforts to promote more widespread availability and acceptance of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction.

“In addition to the approval of a new monthly injectable form of buprenorphine, Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the FDA will work to facilitate the development of new medications and will work to tackle coverage gaps for treatment.

“More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, most involving opioids, and roughly 2.4 million are currently addicted to opioids, according to federal figures.”

Surgeons Try Prescribing Fewer Opioids to Lower Addiction Risk, NPR

“Opioid addiction has been deemed a ‘public health emergency’ by the White House. It's estimated to have claimed 64,000 lives in 2016 alone. And research shows that post-surgical patients are at an increased risk of addiction because of the medicine they receive to help manage pain during recovery.

“To lower the risk, there's a simple remedy: Surgeons should give patients fewer pills after surgery — the time when many people are first introduced to what can be highly addictive painkillers. They should also talk to patients about the proper use of opioids and the associated risks.”

To Fight Opioid Addiction, Scientists See Promise in Sea Snail Venom , National Geographic

“Over the years, many chronic pain sufferers have turned to opioids. These pain-relieving drugs increase dopamine levels in the brain, tricking users into feeling mellow, pleasant highs. The numbing effects of the drug make it highly addictive and lead to [misuse]. Overdoses from opioids cause 91 deaths in the U.S. every day, and the crisis is also hurting babies.

“Thanks to technological advances, we now know more about addiction than ever before. Our bodies produce small doses of their own brand of morphine naturally to combat pain. As far as nature's prescriptions go, snake venom could be as strong as some opiates and there's evidence our ancestors used prehistoric aspirin. Scientists have also turned to zebrafish, who have similar neurological structures to humans, to look for answers about drug addiction. With the sea snail research, Olivera is hoping to develop a pain-relieving drug that isn't addictive like harmful opioids. Looking at sea snails, ‘we think that they have a lot of potential,’ he says.”

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