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Stimulants

The Lifetime Burden of Methadone, Buprenorphine Treatment

Posted on May 13, 2015 in Stimulants

Can you fight fire with fire? The use of methadone and buprenorphine to treat heroin addiction can be looked at as an attempt to do just that—giving opioid dependent individuals more opioids as “treatment” for their addiction. However, the reality of the situation is a little more nuanced, with evidence suggesting that the substitute drugs reduce risky behavior and keep individuals off heroin. Doctors around the country are now struggling with the question of whether this seemingly contradictory approach is the best strategy or whether they are simply allowing addiction to continue.   Methadone, Buprenorphine for Opioid Addiction  With the prescription drug epidemic wreaking havoc across the U.S. and increasingly driving users onto the cheaper and more accessible opioid that is heroin, any medicines with the potential to reduce overdose deaths and the burdens of addiction need to be considered. Methadone and buprenorphine accomplish this goal in basically the same way: providing a different source of opioids in a less risky package.   Although both drugs give users a hit of opioids, when taken as directed they don’t lead to euphoric effects, and both drugs have a relatively long “half-life” (the amount of time taken for half of the substance to leave the body) in comparison to heroin. This means that their addictive potential is reduced because the effects last longer and don’t lead to a spike in feel-good neurochemicals. By providing opioids in this way, the medicines reduce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms without producing euphoric effects. In addition, buprenorphine is often combined with naloxone (in the brand-name medication Suboxone)—a substance that blocks the effects of opioids—which becomes active if the medicine is crushed in an attempt to get a faster-acting hit.   Harm Reduction vs. Beating Addiction  The debate about using methadone and buprenorphine to treat heroin addiction ultimately comes down to the choice between reducing harm and beating addiction entirely. These medicines reduce harm because they mean that users don’t need to inject (which, when done with dirty needles, carries risks of conditions such as HIV), and users often replace heroin entirely with the medicines, thereby reducing the risk of overdose and death, as well as reducing criminal activity. According to the CDC, the death rate for opioid-dependent people on methadone maintenance therapy is 70 percent lower than for those not on the therapy. They also appear to reduce risky sexual behaviors and may be cost-effective, but the evidence on these points is conflicting or unreliable.    The big issue, though, is that you’re simply switching addiction from one type of opioid to another. It’s generally recommended that people be on methadone maintenance therapy for a year before attempting to wean themselves off the drug, for example, but in practice this can easily turn into several years. In addition, most patients either drop out, are encouraged to leave or are barred for failing to comply with program regulations within the first year, and the majority of these people relapse to heroin use. Other evidence suggests that most who end up trying to kick the medicines relapse within two years, and high numbers die from suicide or overdose.  Withdrawal may also be a factor even when taking the medicines, according to reports. A Minneapolis StarTribune reader who was addicted to pain meds talks of his burprenorphine-assisted withdrawal: “I was literally in the fetal position for the first week, and [had] the worst flu/hangover feeling for the next two weeks. Only after going back to the doctor for meds to help me withdraw from the Suboxone did I finally start to feel better.”   The Best Way to Get Clean Is Abstinence  There is a place for medicines like methadone and buprenorphine, but it’s a very confined one. They can reduce harm, but they also come with a big downside of continued addiction, so the drugs seem appropriate only when abstinence-based methods have proven to be unsuccessful, and even then the drug therapy should be combined with psychological support. If there is literally no other way to help someone, then allowing the addiction to continue in a less risky way is the most humane approach.   However, the key point is that the best way to get clean is by becoming abstinent. Yes, the withdrawal symptoms will be very unpleasant, but they will pass. Most importantly, abstinence-based approaches help people understand the underlying reasons they choose to use substances, promoting self-understanding and providing them with tools to overcome their triggers and cues to use drugs. In short, abstinence-based approaches treat addiction itself and reduce harm in the process, whereas methadone and buprenorphine reduce harm but allow addiction to continue.

Can you fight fire with fire? The use of methadone and buprenorphine to treat heroin addiction can be looked at as an attempt to do just that—giving opioid dependent individuals more opioids as “treatment” for their addiction. However, the reality of the situation is a little more nuanced, with evidence suggesting that the substitute drugs reduce risky behavior and keep individuals off heroin. Doctors around the country are now struggling with the question of whether this seemingly contradictory approach is the best strategy or whether they are simply allowing addiction to continue.

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Synthetic ‘Spice’ Blamed for Deaths in Russia

Posted on April 2, 2015 in Stimulants

Synthetic ‘Spice’ Blamed for Deaths in RussiaSynthetic marijuana, otherwise known as “spice,” has been a problem in the U.S. for years, but now it’s spreading across the globe. A recent increase in deaths due to spice in Russia is the latest story relating to the “designer” drug. Like in the U.S., assumptions that spice is comparable to marijuana has led many Russian users to think it’s safe, and by the time they find out otherwise, it’s often too late. The government is hoping to take action to reduce abuse of the drug, but the rapidly changing formulas used by illicit chemists make legislating against spice a significant challenge. 

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ADHD Meds May Help Meth Addicts

Posted on February 10, 2015 in Stimulants

ADHD Meds May Help Meth AddictsResearchers in Australia have an exciting new idea: give ADHD medications to methamphetamine (meth) addicts. There are a number of factors that have led doctors and researchers to believe that this could be a valid way to help treat meth addicts by reducing their cravings for the illicit drug. A trial at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney is about to get underway and hopes are high that it will prove successful.

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Meth Makes Comeback in Gay Community

Posted on October 28, 2014 in Stimulants

Meth Makes Comeback in Gay CommunityMethamphetamine, crystal meth or just meth in its illegal street form is a potent stimulant drug. It can be prescribed in rare cases but, for the most part, the side effects and highly addictive nature of the drug keep it from being used for medical purposes. As an illegal drug, meth gives users a potent high, gets them hooked quickly and ruins the mind and body. While it has largely seen a decrease in use across the country, it is making a tragic comeback among gay men.

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Caffeine Addiction Is Real, Researchers Say

Posted on September 22, 2014 in Stimulants

Caffeine Addiction Is Real, Researchers SayMillions of people across the United States have a caffeine habit, relying on coffee, tea, energy drinks or other sources of caffeine to get them going in the morning. Caffeine is an addictive substance, so most people who drink caffeinated beverages on a daily basis will develop a physical dependence on the compound.

The American Medical Association (AMA) states that moderate daily caffeine intake is not a serious health hazard. Many regular caffeine consumers, even those who have become dependent on caffeine, will not experience negative effects unless they find themselves forced to go without their regular cup of joe. When this happens, caffeine dependents will experience mild withdrawal symptoms that may include headaches, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, trouble concentrating and depressive symptoms. 

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Methamphetamine Wreaks Havoc with Users and Their Loved Ones

Posted on August 30, 2014 in Stimulants

Methamphetamine Wreaks Havoc with Users and Their Loved OnesMethamphetamine is unforgiving, in just about every way. The drug is so physically destructive that one public service campaign themed The Faces of Meth features before use and after use photos to show how quickly the drug can destroy a person’s appearance. But the drug does far more than wreck good looks.

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Utah Mom Kills Six Newborns Due to Meth Addiction


Posted on August 27, 2014 in Stimulants

Utah Mom Kills Six Newborns Due to Meth Addiction
Most people appreciate that addiction can drive people to do terrible things, but some stories still hold the power to shock. News has recently emerged that a Utah mother addicted to methamphetamine killed six newborn children over the course of a decade because she was unable to cope with the responsibility they represented. She has admitted to the crimes, and is currently being held on $6-million bail. Her story is a definitive reminder of the lengths some people will go to when they are under the influence of an addiction. 

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Women and Meth

Posted on July 17, 2014 in Stimulants

Women and MethThe crystal meth epidemic that hit rural America years ago may no longer be the biggest story in illicit drugs, but meth has not disappeared. Meth has simply spread out of the country and into the suburbs where more women are getting hooked than ever before. Know the signs of meth use in women, understand the motivations and the risks and be aware of how much damage this drug can do to you or someone you love.

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Which Meth Users Are Most At Risk for Paranoia?

Posted on July 10, 2014 in Stimulants

Which Meth Users Are Most At Risk for Paranoia?Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug of abuse known for its potential to trigger a highly dysfunctional mental state called psychosis in repeated, long-term users. One of the main symptoms of this state is a delusional, sometimes highly paranoid outlook on the real and imagined actions of other people. In a study published in June 2014 in the journal Addiction, a team of researchers from Thailand and the U.S. investigated the factors that appear most often in meth users who develop paranoia. These researchers concluded that some of the factors in question have an environmental or behavioral basis, while others stem from genetic influences.

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Addiction to Methamphetamine

Posted on July 9, 2014 in Stimulants

Addiction to MethamphetamineMethamphetamine, also called meth, crystal meth, ice or glass, is a highly addictive drug that causes numerous health problems. Methamphetamine is a controlled substance and a prescription medication that is used for patients with ADHD and sometimes for obese patients who can’t lose weight any other way. Symptoms of meth use in women and men are not hard to spot. If you suspect someone is abusing this drug, whether from a prescription or an illegal drug dealer, step in before the problem gets out of control.

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