This Week's News in Substance Use: 4/28/17

Study: Drivers Killed in Crashes More Likely to Be on Drugs Than Alcohol, The Hill

"Drivers who are killed in car crashes are now more likely to be on drugs than alcohol, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

In 2015, the most recent year for which national data were available, drugs were present in 43 percent of drivers who were involved in fatal crashes, compared to 37 percent of drivers who had above the legal limit of alcohol in their system.

Thirty-six percent of drivers who tested positive for drugs had marijuana in their system, while 9 percent tested positive for amphetamines.

In 2005, only 28 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs after dying in a crash."

Can Algorithms Help Kick Addiction? CNN

"Some tech entrepreneurs, many of whom are former addicts, are building businesses focused on addiction prevention and treatment. They believe that algorithms and apps can support addicts and help them relearn healthy behaviors.

Current treatment options largely fall into two buckets: in-patient facilities and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. But after leaving a treatment center, patients get very little followup; and AA, which popularized the 12 step program, is faith-based which doesn't jibe with everyone. A recent survey found that 89% of AA members are white.

'[It] makes no sense that we're using the same [Alcoholics Anonymous] model from 1935,' said entrepreneur Sam Frons."

Spend a Dollar on Drug Treatment, and Save More on Crime Reduction, New York Times

"The burden of substance abuse disorders can fall heavily on the families and friends of those who battle addictions. But society also pays a great deal through increased crime. Treatment programs can reduce those costs.

For at least two decades, we’ve known substance use and crime go hand in hand. More than half of violent offenders and one-third of property offenders say they committed crimes while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that prescription opioid abuse, dependence and overdoses cost the public sector $23 billion a year, with a third of that attributable to crime. An additional $55 billion per year reflects private-sector costs attributable to productivity losses and health care expenses."

See How the Opioid Epidemic Swept Across the United States, STAT News

“The depth of the crisis is clearly visible in new data on drug overdose deaths released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data cover all drugs, not just opioids. But the CDC’s maps vividly depict how the opioid epidemic — prescription drugs, heroin, and, more recently, fentanyl — swept the nation over the past decade.”

Anti-Drug Vaccines Could Be a Game-Changer for People Battling Addiction, NBC News

“Some drugs already exist to help people get off a substance, but most must be taken daily and can have side effects including joint pain, anxiety, and impotence. Addiction vaccines, on the other hand, could work for months — or even years — though they would require multiple boosters.

The latest efforts in the field focus on prescription opioids like fentanyl, but work on addiction vaccines also includes shots for nicotine, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines. Chilean researchers are even working on an addiction vaccine for alcohol. With nearly two decades of research already invested, these efforts may soon pay off for people in recovery.”

Tuition-Free School Helps Teens Fight Opioids and Other Substance Abuse, CBS News

"Each day, 1,100 teens start misusing pain pills, too. Opioids killed 521 teens in 2015, federal data show.

Not enough is known about opioids and teen brains. But getting hooked early is trouble — the vast majority of adults in treatment report they started using as teenagers.

Researchers say young recovering addicts do better at places like Hope, special schools that use peer communities to support sobriety. There are only about three dozen such schools in the U.S., but interest is growing among educators and health officials because of the opioid epidemic."

Opioid Use Soars Among Middle Aged and Elderly, The Wall Street Journal

"Could your doctor be prescribing too many pain pills?

The epidemic of opioid abuse sweeping the U.S. might seem like a distant phenomenon to the average middle-aged patient who is getting a joint replacement, visiting an emergency room or seeking help with persistent pain from a primary-care physician.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans age 45 to 64 accounted for about 44% of deaths from overdoses in 2013 and 2014. And the proportion of adults 50 and older seeking treatment for opioid addiction has increased dramatically in recent decades.

While many deaths and overdoses are linked to illicit street drugs, the CDC reported in December that there is a continuing problem with prescription opioids, a class of narcotic painkillers that can be highly addictive and deadly when misused. Experts say many doctors are uninformed about the risks of opioids and are insufficiently trained in how to prescribe them."