Author Archives: HUGS Recovery, Inc

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Alcohol’s effect on health: Increased risk of cancers, infertility and more

REPOST 02/15/2019 / By Rita Winters.

Before ordering another drink, consider this: The American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) warns us that alcohol can cause a higher risk for seven types of cancers. While it may seem harmless, light to moderate alcohol consumption can cause more than five percent of cancers and deaths from it. Not only that, the researchers at the University of Queensland reported a link between drinking alcohol and lower fertility rates.

No, the amount of alcohol you drink is actually not beneficial to your machismo. Studies show that it actually lowers down your manliness by making you more susceptible to cancer and lower sperm counts. Research on the relationship between cancer and alcohol consumption has been conducted before, but now the researchers at the ASCO stress that it is important to control alcoholic drinking, especially Americans who consume more than the average. Even drinking small amounts heightens the risk of cancer in the throat (esophagus), mouth, colorectal, breast, and liver.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages are at an all-time high. In a survey conducted by JAMA Psychiatry in 2013, 73 percent of Americans consumed alcohol regularly, and almost 13 percent of 73 described their habit as excessive, or binge drinking. The survey also found that 50 percent more people developed a drinking problem from 2001 to 2002.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests limiting alcoholic beverages daily. Women should have no more than eight drinks per week, and men should not exceed 14 a week. The data however, shows that individuals in the U.S. are consuming too much, despite revelations of the negative effects of excessive alcohol ingestion.

The risk of varying cancers depends on your drinking. For mouth cancer, light drinkers have a 1.13 percent chance, moderate drinkers have a 1.83 percent chance, and heavy drinkers have a 5.13 percent chance of developing cancer; esophageal cancer rates for alcohol drinkers are 1.26, 2.23, and 4.94 percent, respectively; liver cancer rates are at 1.00, 1.08, and 2.07 percent respectively; and female breast cancer rates at 1.04, 1.23, and 1.61 percent.

In 2009, there is an estimated 18,200 to 21,300 alcohol-related deaths in the U.S., reported by Noelle LoConte, professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

A common misconception about preconception and pregnancy is that the woman should abstain from alcohol. Research points that it should also be a man’s responsibility, since alcohol has adverse effects on the male reproductive system as well. The National Alcohol and Drug Knowledgebase (NADK) reported that Australian men have high or risky levels of alcohol consumption. Data suggests that males are more likely to consume more than two standard drinks per day, as compared to women. In an experimental study, a single dose of ethanol to the stomach lining of an animal incurred damage to the testis, which harms the cells that are responsible for sperm production. Lab tests on rats showed that these animals who were administered alcohol for ten weeks significantly reduced the concentration of sperm and its mobility. Rats not exposed to alcohol successfully mated and fertilized females of the same species.

Abuse of alcohol consumption in both parents greatly affects neurological, behavioral and biochemical outcomes of the offspring. Excessive drinking can change the environment of the testes, which then alters how the sperm develops and matures. These changes can also be transferred during fertilization, and can alter the molecular makeup of the embryo. Like smoking cigarettes, alcohol is highly encumbering to fetal development. (Related: Smoking causes up to 40% of cancer deaths in the US… so why are cigarettes still sold by pharmacies?)

While debates may arise over whether alcohol itself or its other elements and ingredients are the causes of cancer, reducing consumption or avoiding alcohol altogether is highly suggested. There are other ways to enjoy your company, or spend time with them.

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Jamie Lee Curtis Talks 10-Year Painkiller Addiction ‘No One Knew’ About


The “Halloween” actress has been sober for nearly 20 years.

Jamie Lee Curtis has battled her fair share of monsters on-screen, but it’s overcoming her own personal demons that she’s the most proud of.

The “Halloween” actress has been sober for nearly 20 years, but is looking back on a difficult period of her life when she suffered from an opioid addiction that alienated her from friends and family.

After taking a liking to painkillers following a cosmetic surgery for “hereditary puffy eyes” in her mid-30s, the actress found herself in a downward spiral. She also became dependent on alcohol.

“I was ahead of the curve of the opiate epidemic,” Curtis told People magazine about her struggle with sobriety. “I had a 10-year run, stealing, conniving. No one knew. No one.”

Curtis reached rock bottom when she stole pills from her sister Kelly, also an actress, who was recovering from a broken bone at the time. She later confessed to her sister in a letter she never sent, but now keeps as an emblem to remind of her of how far she’s come.

The “Freaky Friday” star grew up in a family marked by addiction. Her father, actor Tony Curtis famously abusing a variety of substances in his later years, while her brother Nicholas died of a heroin overdose in 1994.

“I’m breaking the cycle that has basically destroyed the lives of generations in my family,” Curtis said. “Getting sober remains my single greatest accomplishment … bigger than my husband, bigger than both of my children and bigger than any work, success, failure. Anything.”

At the time of her own struggles, Curtis was married to actor Christopher Guest, who she says was unaware of her addiction issues until she disclosed them on the day she went to her first recovery meeting.

The couple now share two grown children, Anne and Thomas.

Jamie Lee Curtis and husband Christopher Guest in 2006.

Jamie Lee Curtis and husband Christopher Guest in 2006.

Curtis has previously opened up about how Hollywood’s toxic beauty standards were a “big stimulator” for her drug abuse after a cameraman told her she was developing bags under her eyes.

“I attempted various types of plastic surgery, minutely but enough to stave off this encroaching middle-aged body,” she told More magazine back in 2008. “And everytime I did, something went wrong. I felt misshapen, just not natural anymore … I’d anesthetize myself on a daily basis.”

Curtis has since worked on anti-drug campaigns and is regular attendee at meetings where she counsels other addicts.

“In recovery meetings, anyone who brings up opiates, the entire room will turn and look at me,” she told People. “I’ll be like, ‘Oh here, talk to me. I’m the opiate girl.’”

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SAMHSA: Opioid misuse in older adults on the rise


About 9.5 million adults participated in opioid misuse in the past year in 2014, according to a recent government report.

The CBHSQ Report — prepared by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — also revealed that people 50 and older misused opioids nearly doubling from 1.1 percent in 2002 to 2 percent in 2014.

“Older people are more likely to experience pain and to be prescribed opioids for pain, so that may be why we are seeing the impact of high prescribing rates,” said Kimberly A. Johnson, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA.

Although younger adults, ages 18 to 25, saw a decrease in opioid misuse — from 11.5 percent in 2002 to just over 8 percent in 2014 — they still misuse at much higher rates than older adults.

 “Growth in misuse by younger people preceded this growth in misuse by older people,” she added. “So, it may be that we are seeing a cohort effect of people with previous misuse aging and continuing to misuse prescription pain medication along with other drugs. We know that the baby boomer generation has had higher rates of use than the previous generation their whole lives and they are now the cohort of people that make up most of the population in the older adult category.”

The CBHSQ believes misuse, which pertains to both the nonmedical use of prescription painkillers and heroin, is a critical public health concern.

The report stated that heroin has no accepted medical purpose in the U.S. and is highly unsafe. It added that nonmedical use among older adults is linked with adverse health consequences that include loss of balance resulting in falls, bone fractures, and traffic accidents.

“People should talk to their physician about whether a prescription opioid is necessary or if alternative treatments would suffice,” Johnson said. “They should ask how long they should…

expect to need the opioid and request that the prescription only be for the length of time that it is necessary. Often, thirty-day prescriptions are the norm even when someone may only need it for three days.”

She added that “people should talk with their physician if they have withdrawal symptoms or feel a craving for the medication so that their pain treatment can be adjusted and to be assessed for the development of an opioid use disorder.”

Although the ratio of older adults who misuse opioids is lower in comparison to young adults, the data does confirm an increase in misuse among the older demographic.

Johnson emphasized that “there are effective treatments, and people should talk to their health care provider if they have concerns about themselves or a loved one.”

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Teen Access To Xanax Has Led To A Dangerous New Trend


Many teens are taking Xanax combined with opioids and alcohol.
08/24/2018 12:47 pm ET Updated Aug 24, 2018

BALTIMORE — Teen drug use during the summer often goes unnoticed. It’s when school starts and students nod off in class, exchange pills in the hallways and fail tests that the truth becomes apparent.

This school year, addiction specialists say they’re expecting an onslaught of teens addicted to Xanax and other sedatives in a class of anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines, or “benzos.” Many teens view Xanax as a safer and more plentiful alternative to prescription opioids and heroin — with similar euphoric effects.

But addiction experts warn that the pills kids are taking, often found in their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets, can be just as deadly as opioids, especially when taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol. And it’s much harder to kick the habit.

Like any addictive substance, Xanax when used early increases the risk of addiction later in life. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2016 report on drugs and alcohol, nearly 70 percent of adolescents who try an illicit drug before age 13 will develop an addiction within seven years, compared with 27 percent for those who first try an illicit drug after age 17.

Nationwide, prescription drug abuse among adolescents has dropped dramatically in the last 15 years, according to survey results published in December by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Last year’s results indicate that about 4 percent of high school seniors misused prescription painkillers, a sharp decline from 2004, when nearly 1 in 10 teens misused opioids.

In fact, an increasing percentage of high school kids — at least 26 percent of seniors in 2014, up from 5 percent in 1976 — are abstaining from all substances, including alcohol, marijuana and tobacco, according to an historical analysis of the survey data published in July.

Even so, addiction practitioners say they’re seeing a surge in the number of young patients who are hooked on Xanax. Many take high daily doses of the drug, sometimes in deadly combination with opioids and alcohol.

Addiction treatment centers are “the tip of the spear,” said Sharon Levy, director of adolescent addiction treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the adolescent drug use study. “We see things first. So, I’m not surprised that the spike in Xanax use isn’t reflected in national data yet.”

“Adolescent benzo use has skyrocketed,” Levy said, “and more kids are being admitted to hospitals for benzo withdrawal because the seizures are so dangerous.” At the same time, she said, far fewer kids are seeking treatment for prescription opioid addiction.

“When I ask them if they’re using opioids, they say, ‘No. I wouldn’t touch the stuff.’”

High Doses

Marc Fishman, an addiction psychiatrist and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said benzos are quickly overtaking opioids as the primary prescription drug of abuse among the adolescent patients he sees at Mountain Manor Treatment Centers in Baltimore and other Maryland locations. And many of them are extreme, high-dose users, he said.

Clonazepam (traded as Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are among the class of widely prescribed anti-anxie

The Pew Charitable Trusts
Clonazepam (traded as Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are among the class of widely prescribed anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines. Addiction treatment experts say teens are abusing the drugs and mixing them with opioids and alcohol.
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Like opioids prescribed for pain, benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety eventually stop working, forcing users to take higher and higher doses to get the same effect. Kids who can’t get the pills at home buy them on the dark web or concoct designer versions of benzos in their bathtubs, he said.

People with mental illness are at much higher risk for developing an addiction to opioids, and Fishman said the connection between mental illness and benzos is even stronger.

Three FDA-approved medicines are available to treat the symptoms of opioid addiction: buprenorphine (most often sold as Suboxone), methadone and Vivitrol, a long-acting injectable medicine that blocks the euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol.

But no medicines exist to blunt the withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with benzodiazepine addiction. Instead, patients typically enter residential treatment where a specialist gradually tapers them off the medication. If stopped too quickly, benzodiazepine withdrawal can result in seizures and even death.

For people who overdose on opioids, Narcan is widely available and can easily be administered by first responders, friends and family members to block the deadly respiratory depression of opioids. A similar drug, flumazenil, can block the respiratory depression of benzodiazepines, but it is rarely available outside of hospitals.

Plentiful Supply

The burgeoning abuse of Xanax and other benzodiazepines among high school kids and young adults over the last several years primarily stems from the fact that there are more of the pills out there, Levy argued.

, Valium, Ativan and other benzodiazepines to calm their nerves and promote sleep, “we’re creating these vast reservoirs for kids to find,” she said.

The other problem, she said, is that adolescents think the benzos are safe because their parents use them. Many kids say they don’t take the pills to get high; they take them to feel normal, Levy said. “Some patients even ask me to just prescribe Xanax for them so they don’t have to buy it illegally. They think it’s good for them.”

“That one idea — that something is safe or beneficial or medical — has launched many an epidemic in the past,” Levy said. “So, my colleagues and I are watching this with trepidation.”

Easy to Love

Melissa Ellis, who grew up in Baltimore in what she described as an addiction-prone family, loved Xanax from the first time she tried it. “I noticed this new guy I was dating kept nodding off so I asked him what he was taking. He told me it was Xanax and gave me a handful of bars [the pill form with the highest dose]. I’d never heard of it before. But as soon as I tried it, I knew it was for me.

“It takes away everything you have in your mind that’s bothering you and everything you feel that hurts, and before you know it, those feelings are just gone.”

Melissa was 15 then and just entering high school. Now she’s 24 and struggling to take care of her 3-year-old son. She says she’s determined to beat her addiction to Xanax and be free of all drugs except the depression medicine she’s been taking for more than a decade. Otherwise, she said she could lose her son.

The first time Melissa tried to stop taking Xanax, she was four months pregnant. She managed to get through her pregnancy without relapsing. “But the day after my son was born, I told my friend in the hospital to bring me some. And I started all over again.”

Melissa also started injecting heroin then. “The two drugs are made for each other,” she said. “What one doesn’t have, the other one does. With the dope [heroin], the high doesn’t last as long as Xanax. So, I was more into the Xanax.”

But after she started combining the two, she overdosed, and her mom found her passed out on the floor one day. That’s when she first checked into Mountain Manor.

Melissa detoxed from both drugs, spent two weeks in residential treatment and started taking Suboxone to relieve her opioid cravings. She also attended outpatient classes and stayed sober for a year.

“I got so much closer to my son back then,” she said wistfully. “Everything was better. I was doing so good. But I started hanging out with old friends and I relapsed on Xanax.”

Now, she’s back at Mountain Manor, trying again. She hopes to leave treatment by the end of the week and move into a mother-and-child sober living facility nearby. For now, her mother is taking care of her son.

“It’s really hard,” Melissa says. can cause irritability, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, tremors, nausea and other flu-like symptoms. And unlike opioid withdrawal, which usually lasts for about a week, it can last for months.

“Treatment is scary all around. It’s fine when you’re here. You can’t go down the street and meet your dealer. The scariest part is when you go back out there.”

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Everyone Dealing With Addiction Deserves The Support We’re Showing Demi Lovato


The tidal wave of compassion and support for Demi Lovato in the wake of her apparent drug overdose last month is indicative of society’s long overdue, shifting views on addiction. Social media platforms have been inundated since the singer’s hospitalization with comments acknowledging her strength and admiring her courage. Instead of finger-pointing, demeaning or judging her, Lovato’s fans and fellow entertainers are showering her with love, and her friends and family are standing firmly by her side. We are, in essence, offering her a giant group hug.

All of this is encouraging. However, we have a lot of work to do as a society when it comes to applying this inclusive, compassionate approach to non-celebrity, everyday Americans and families dealing with addiction.

Why? Because isolation kills. As Johann Hari writes in his seminal book, Chasing the Scream, “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection.” Yet we continue to look the other way and deny the obvious truth: Our children, our friends and our family members are being rejected, judged and shamed for the same struggles that celebrities receive endless support for ― and they are dying alone, desperate and afraid.

The statistics are staggering. More than 175 Americans die of drug overdose every day. As USA Today recently pointed out, that amounts to a daily 737 plane crash with no survivors. It’s an epidemic that’s “moving quietly and stealthily across the country, cloaked in stigma and shame,” author Beth Macy writes in her new book, Dopesick.

And no one is immune. In my small corner of Los Angeles over the past four years, a total of nine kids and young adults I’ve known and loved have died of accidental overdoses. Each one, likely driven by shame and self-loathing, was alone at the time of their deaths ― isolated from their families, sober living communities and those who loved them.

In my small corner of Los Angeles over the past four years, a total of nine kids and young adults I’ve known and loved have died of accidental overdoses.

I can’t know exactly how Lovato’s friends and family felt when they got word of her hospitalization, but I can relate to their experience. A few years ago, my then 20-year-old son began waging his own addiction battle. An up-and-coming electronic music producer, he suffered a nonfatal overdose on the night of his very first on-stage performance. I was both surprised and not surprised as I wept on my knees with gratitude that my son survived; the music industry is, and always has been, inextricably tied to substance use.

We praise our favorite artists, admire them and nod to the allure of the altered states that “fuel” their creativity. In other words, for musicians, it’s cool to get high. And if our favorite artists become consumed by addiction, we generally stand by them as fans. Yet when our own fathers, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, daughters, friends, co-workers and teachers struggle with substance abuse, society abandons them and quickly looks the other way.

Thankfully, the tide is turning. Individuals in the music industry are coming out and sharing their stories, like Lovato, Macklemore, J Cole, Eric Clapton, James Taylor and far too many more to list here. Macklemore has said in the past, “I’m not ashamed anymore, and never want to hide who I am because of society’s potential judgment.” These are courageous moves in the right direction, and this kind of leadership is vital; music and musicians carry healing powers to uplift, inspire and unite. Can we harness that power as a society and actually make a difference?

We must. Because if this drug overdose epidemic continues to spread at its current rate, by 2020, 1 million lives could be claimed.


I was both surprised and not surprised as I wept on my knees with gratitude that my son survived; the music industry is, and always has been, inextricably tied to substance use.

In the aftermath of crisis or tragedy, our nation often collectively looks to Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers) for his gentle wisdom: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

It’s time to look for, and support, the helpers ― those individuals and grassroots organizations out in the trenches raising their voices, educating and saving lives. We must become those helpers ourselves and work to change this country’s view of addiction from one of isolation to one of inclusion. If society can create the stigma, then society can begin to erase it.

Whether you believe addiction is a disease, a choice, something rooted in pain or past trauma, or all of the above, those who suffer should be acknowledged ― with dignity. Using the recent outpouring of love and support for Demi Lovato as an example, let’s rise above the noise and offer those dealing with substance abuse the healing power of love, acknowledgment and a promise never to look away.

Barbara Straus Lodge is a co-founder of Above the Noise Foundation, which creates sober music festivals and provides grassroots funding to U.S. cities affected by the addiction epidemic. Rhode Island Recovery Fest 2018, headlined by Macklemore, aims to unite communities, heal families and shift America’s addiction response from one of rejection to one of inclusion. Her writing has appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies, one of which was a finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Awards.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

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Doctors And Policymakers Struggle To Keep Up As Opioid Use Surges Among Women


07/25/2018 02:52 pm ET Updated 17 hours ago  (Repost).

Women are both uniquely susceptible to prescription opioids and face additional structural barriers to accessing addiction treatment.

LAWRENCE, Mass. ― Rachael Pomerleau, 40, had taken opioids before, having had procedures like wisdom teeth removal and gallbladder surgery.

But during the tumultuous two years that her children, now ages 7 and 8, were born, opioids took over her life, she told HuffPost. She was put on bed rest as a result of complications with the pregnancy of her daughter. A few months after her daughter’s birth, she became pregnant with her son. This time, her back and abdominal pain grew so severe that doctors prescribed Vicodin followed by Percocet during her pregnancy ― which wasn’t an unusual prescription for pregnant women at the time, prior to the onset of the opioid epidemic.

“It hurt so bad,” she said. “There were times when I could hardly walk without being in pain.”

When Pomerleau returned from maternity leave for the second time, she said, she lost her job at a local health care services company. And she kept taking opioids ― oxycodone this time ― this time prescribed to her by her primary care doctor.

Women like Pomerleau, who was prescribed opioids in a medical setting and became addicted to them, are a growing demographic in the United States’ opioid epidemic. Although men continue to have higher rates of substance use than women do, the gap between the sexes is narrowing, with prescription opioid overdose deaths rising 583 percent among women between 1999 and 2016, compared to 404 percent among men, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But even as prescription opioid death rates grow among American women, doctors, researchers and policymakers don’t yet understand how to properly screen for or address female opioid users’ unique needs. In an essay published in the most recent issue of the medical journal, The Lancet, two Yale medical researchers warn that America won’t be able to address its raging opioid epidemic if it continues to overlook women’s unique pathways to opioid misuse ― and the factors that hinder their access to treatment.

“The system is evolving — but we’re at a point now where there’s a need to have it do so more rapidly, just based on the sheer volume of women who are being impacted,” said Dr. David Fiellin, who directs Yale’s addiction medicine program and co-authored The Lancet article.

Women Have Unique Exposure To Opioids

There are several factors, both biological and cultural, that differentiate women who use opioids. Population-based studies suggest that women are more sensitive to painful stimuli than men are, putting them at a higher risk for chronic illness that includes pain and making them better candidates for painkillers.

There’s also some evidence that women become addicted to substances more quickly than men do, although the biological mechanism for this phenomenon isn’t understood, said Fiellin.

Women are more likely to have medical interventions than men are, including reproductive and childbirth-related procedures. As a consequence, women are more likely than men to be prescribed opioids in medical settings.

Pregnancy and postpartum pain in particular lead to significant initial exposure to opioids. For example, 1 in 300 women who didn’t previously use opioids and had a cesarean section will become a persistent opioid user, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And two separate studies each published this year in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women were over-prescribed opioids after both vaginal and cesarean births.

Depression and anxiety disorders are also more common among women, as are sexual trauma and partner violence, all of which are risk factors for abusing opioids. Women are also more likely than men to report that they use opioids to cope with negative emotions and pain.

For Pomerleau, physical pain was compounded by an abusive relationship and childhood trauma, she said, that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and anxiety. But her steady access to opioids during and after pregnancy was the ignition that has led to a multi-year struggle with addiction that has included homelessness, loss of custody of her children and struggles to get the resources she needs.

Importance Of Screening At-Risk Women For Opioid Addiction

During the five years after her kids were born, oxycodone and constant pain were the backdrops of Pomerleau’s life. Her tolerance for the pain pills grew and she says she sometimes gave them away to family and friends. Then one day, she came home and realized that sharing her prescription had backfired ― her supply had run out and her doctor wouldn’t prescribe her more pills.

“I got so sick,” she said of the withdrawal that followed. “It was horrible. I had no way of doing anything.” She went to a methadone clinic for help. “There was no other way,” she explained. “My tolerance was like someone who was out doing dope for years.”

It took five years for Pomerleau’s doctors to notice she had a problem.

Her story is sadly representative of what Carolyn Mazure, the director of Women’s Health Research at Yale and the lead Lancet author, has found in her research. She likened the current gender blind spots in opioid use disorders among medical professionals to the way heart disease was approached in the past.

“People thought [cardiovascular disease] was the greatest killer of men, which it is, but they were not aware of the fact that it also was the greatest killer of women,” Mazure said.

As recently as 2005, fewer than 1 in 5 physicians knew that more women die of cardiovascular disease each year than men do, according to a study published in the journal Circulation, a knowledge gap that likely contributed to women arriving later to the ER and experiencing delays in treatment when they had the same cardiovascular symptoms that men did.

That same knowledge gap has created a murky territory for doctors and their female pain patients.

On the one hand, the potential for addiction among women who were prescribed opioids has often been overlooked by medical professionals. On the other, many women report that their doctors aren’t taking their pain seriously nor sufficiently treating it.

“So many people think it’s a cop out,” Pomerleau said of her own ongoing pain. “I have no problem doing whatever the doctor says or suggests. He’s the one that’s supposed to be making the best decisions for me. At the same time, I can’t have this much pain.”

A failure to focus on women can result not only in inappropriate treatment but serious medical misjudgments, according to Mazure and Fiellin, who pointed to a study that found that women in Rhode Island were three times less likely than men to receive the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone in emergency medical settings, a discrepancy which could indicate unrecognized gender bias among emergency medical service providers.

Women-Centered Services Require More Than Treating Addiction

Lawrence, Massachusetts, has uncommonly comprehensive health and homeless services compared to many areas of the country. There’s a mobile health service where Pomerleau, now on a daily methadone dose, has sought care, and a homeless shelter where she lived this spring, before moving in with a friend.

Historically speaking and nationally, however, methadone programs haven’t been particularly friendly to women, Fiellin explained, since they lacked supportive services like screening and counseling for intimate partner violence, job training, childcare and resources for pregnant women, all of which can help retain female clients.

There is a cultural expectation that women are the primary caregivers of children, and a social stigma against mothers with addiction that can cause women to delay treatment, fearing they’ll lose custody of their kids, particularly if they’re pregnant.

To help meet women’s needs, treatment centers might have to spend more time figuring out how women are going to be able to come for treatment if they have kids at home, and talking to them about intimate partner violence if that’s something that worries them, Mazure explained.

That’s the reason women tend to do better at tailored programs that offer women-centered services, like childcare and domestic counseling, she said.

Despite the lifesaving care of her clinic, Pomerleau faces an uphill battle trying to accrue these services for herself. Her days are consumed with efforts to keep her social security benefits intact, court appearances to determine the guardianship of her children and daily treatment.

Until then, her kids are living with her sister in nearby Methuen.

There have been some efforts to focus on women, such as by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has invested in studying pregnant and parenting women with opioid addiction. But as Mazure and Fiellin note in their article, bridging the gap to treat and prevent opioid addiction in women will require significant commitment from researchers, clinicians and policymakers.

In the meantime, women like Pomerleau are caught in the balance.

“I always had an apartment. A nice place to live,” she said, describing how losing housing changed everything for her.

“All I really want is just to have [my kids] back,” she said.

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I Overcame Opioid Addiction – and So Can You


A treatment option that’s effective for one person will never be the answer for everyone.

By Maegan Kenney, ContributorJune 28, 2018, at 6:00 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

I Overcame Opioid Addiction

There is no right way to achieve recovery.

It’s no secret that the United States is in the middle of a full-blown opioid pandemic that’s responsible for killing more than 100 people a day. There’s widespread media, political, legal, social and psychological attention dedicated to this issue, yet people are still suffering.

The painful memories of my own opioid addiction get reignited every time I hear of another fatal overdose. It’s not uncommon for me to find myself sobbing in my car on my way home from work as I become consumed with the pain of complete strangers who continue to be victimized by this crisis: a mother who must bury her child, a child who must force his or her parent into treatment, a client who has relapsed and died or a friend who asks for advice on how to help a loved one.

For years, my father struggled with his own addiction that shattered our family in more ways than one. My community has been ravished by this public health crisis, and it seems like every week, the death toll continues to rise. The breadth of this crisis is all encompassing, aggressive and merciless on its victims. The antiquated beliefs that addicts simply choose this life and that we’re beyond compassion and the opportunity for healing is simply ignorant and insulting.

I have lost more than 40 people in my life to opioid-related overdoses, and not one of those individuals deserved to die. They were sick, suffering and desperate for a human embrace, not a cruel rejection. Sadly, they didn’t survive the grips of their addiction long enough to experience the true freedom of recovery and show the critics what they were made of. Society continues to get robbed of the opportunity of knowing and loving some of the most caring, intelligent, creative, hard working and inspiring human beings to ever gift this planet. For that, I am forever wounded.

I, too, was one of those people whose value as a human being was overshadowed by my sickness. Countless times, I tried to get well and stay well with no success. As a result, my hope of a full recovery diminished with each day that passed. Eventually, I discovered a non-opioid medication called Vivitrol and began treatment after I completed the detoxification process. Vivitrol is a non-addictive, once monthly injection used to treat opioid addiction, which provided me the opportunity to remain opioid-free for approximately 30 days at a time – something I couldn’t have accomplished on my own. As result of receiving treatment and committing to the process of my recovery, my cravings and compulsive thoughts to use opioids began to disappear. I was able to put in the necessary work to sustain long-term success in my recovery and began to recognize the person I once knew – the person who had become a distant memory.

Soon after, I enrolled in a master’s program to become a clinical mental health counselor and started to regain my confidence that my brain, body and soul could be repaired. I began proving to myself that I no longer had to survive a sad, depressed or mundane existence. I learned that I could thrive in this world and achieve my dreams. As a result, I began to feel joy again, and that excited me.

I continued to gain traction in my recovery and decided to pursue another degree, this time in clinical psychology. I am now a third year clinical psychology PsyD student and dedicate my life to helping people who are stuck in the same cycle of torture I experienced. I want others to know how tangible recovery can be for them. The truth is that I’m not special; there’s nothing unique about me that allowed me to turn my life right side up and find my purpose. I want to share my experiences with anyone who will listen with the hope that it could save a life, heal a family or alleviate the anguish of someone’s internal imprisonment. For those who don’t see a way out of the abyss, I share my hope with you until you build your own.

This summer, I celebrate six years of recovery from opioid addiction, and I want to rejoice. I want to wear my sobriety proudly on my sleeve and fully embrace the sweeping movement across the nation to speak up, speak out and recover out loud. Yet, I’m often faced with the overwhelming barriers that we still need to overcome.

It’s essential that we combat the social, personal and institutional stigma that keeps us ill and begin shifting the conversation about addiction treatment to be more accepting and open-minded. I call on all my of my recovery brothers and sisters to end the stigma in our own community so the rest of society can follow suit. It doesn’t matter how we get to the finish line, as long as we do. We need not impose our definitions on one another of what recovery should look like and the way in which one must achieve it. We’re all working towards the same goal – who cares how we get there?

To the incredibly resilient and strong parents, spouses and loved ones doing their best to support people like me, please know that you could never hate us or our disorder more than we do when we’re in active addiction. We are consumed with the shame, guilt and disappointment we feel for hurting you and ourselves, which often emerges after failed attempts at recovery.

A treatment option that is effective for one person will never be the answer for everyone. It’s scientifically impossible. Please have some patience and love us through this process until we figure it out. Most importantly, help us keep fighting.

I encourage everyone to advocate for the proper treatment option that suits you or your loved one best, whatever that may look like. There is no right way to achieve recovery; rather, myriad helpful avenues to explore that can range from medication to mindfulness, and everything in between. Check out some of my favorite recovery resources here:

4 Opioid Drugs Parents Should Have on Their Radar

Maegan Kenney, Contributor

Maegan Kenney recently graduated from a master’s program in clinical mental health counseling a READ MORE  »

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Street drug laced with BUG SPRAY transforms casual users into crazed ZOMBIES

Monday, March 26, 2018 by

In recent weeks, Indianapolis medics have had to deal with around a dozen KD overdoses each day, with some people overdosing repeatedly on the same day. Even for those users who don’t actually overdose on KD its effects are incredibly disturbing and cause what have been described by authorities as “zombie-like” reactions.

Onlookers describe users who become “slow and lethargic,” drool, and lose all motor function or the ability to communicate with others. In short, while in the throes of a high, KD users become totally unaware of and utterly unable to control their actions.

“We find them with their clothes off, eating the grass, pulling dirt out of the ground and trying to put it in their mouth,” Fire Department Captain Chris Major told CBS-affiliate WTTV.

This is perhaps unsurprising considering the ingredients in a typical bug spray like Raid. Inquisitr reported that these sprays generally contain piperonyl butoxide, permethrin, cypermethrin and imiprothrin, among others – all of which are incredibly harmful chemicals. And, when mixed with other ingredients and smoked, this cocktail becomes even more toxic. (Related: Commonly used insecticides impair child brain development even at low exposure levels.)

“You look at what it does to a bug,” firefighter Scott Lebherz told the Indy Star, “and then you got to think what it’s doing to your brain, and your body and everything else.”

Health officials have warned that smoking this drug carries an “extreme risk of fatality,” but users become addicted so quickly that few have heeded the warnings. The fire department reports that the drug is so fast-acting that many overdose victims are found with the drug still in their hands. (Related: Is your insect repellent made from toxic ingredients?)

Men’s Health recently reported:

Bug sprays often have high concentrations of pyrethroids, a pesticide that is meant to knock out or kill bugs like roaches. According to a 2014 study by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, “Animal studies of pyrethroid toxicity have shown hyperglycemia and elevated plasma levels of noradrenaline and adrenaline” — meaning the drug will give users one big adrenaline rush before having a rapid comedown. This quick high can make it highly addictive.

Indianapolis authorities are urgently trying to determine the source of the KD being sold on the city’s streets.

See for more news coverage of zombies. Seriously.

Sources for this article include:

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Medication in Prison Associated with Reductions in Fatal Opioid Overdoses After Release

Science Spotlight

February 14, 2018

Treatment is the KeyTreatment is the Key

A state-led initiative created within the Rhode Island correctional system showed that offering medication to inmates with opioid use disorders reduced fatal overdoses once the inmates were released. The reduction in fatal overdoses was large enough to have a significant effect on the death rate from opioid overdoses statewide. The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Every person entering the Rhode Island correctional system was screened for opioid addiction and those who needed it were provided with evidence-based medication assisted treatment (MAT), which included the drugs methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. In addition, a system of 12 community-based Centers of Excellence in MAT were established to continue MAT therapy and provide support after their release from prison or jail.

In the first six months of 2017, when the program was fully implemented, only nine of 157 fatal overdoses (5.7 percent) in the state occurred among recently released inmates, compared to 14.5 percent of overdose deaths in the first six months of 2016, representing a 60.5 percent reduction in mortality. The authors emphasize that continued study of this program is needed. However, they are encouraged by these early findings, and noted that identification and treatment of opioid use disorder in criminal justice settings with linkage to medication and supportive therapy after release is a promising strategy to rapidly address the high rates of overdose and opioid use disorder in the community.

For a copy of the Research Letter, go to “Postincarceration Fatal Overdoses After Implementing Medications for Addiction Treatment in a Statewide Correctional System,” published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Read more about Treating Opioid Addiction in Criminal Justice Settings.

Drugs and the Brain Wallet Card

For NIDA information about Criminal Justice resources available to those who work with juveniles and adults within the court system, go to NIDA’s Criminal Justice page.

More information can be found in the Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations: A Research-Based Guide.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at or 301-443-6245. Follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

NIDA Press Office

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to Online ordering is available at NIDA’s media guide can be found at, and its easy-to-read website can be found at You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH. . .Turning Discovery Into Health®

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Senate Report: Drugmakers Spent Millions Pushing Opioids in Patient Groups

The report dives into the connections between corporate donations and the advancement of opioids-friendly messaging.

By Katelyn Newman , Digital Producer, Staff Writer |Feb. 13, 2018, at 11:03 a.m.

Senate Report: Drugmakers Spent Millions Pushing Opioids in Patient Groups

Drugmakers have given more than $10 million to patient advocacy groups and affiliated physicians since 2012 to promote opioid use to individuals seeking help for chronic pain management, according to a report released by a U.S. Senator Monday.

Published by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the 23-page report looked into the financial connections between five pharmaceutical companies – Purdue Pharma L.P., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Mylan N.V., Depomed, Inc. and Insys Therapeutics, Inc. – and 14 patient advocacy groups “working on chronic pain and other opioid-related issues” between 2012 and 2017.

“These groups have issued guidelines and policies minimizing the risk of opioid addiction and promoting opioids for chronic pain, lobbied to change laws directed at curbing opioid use, and argued against accountability for physicians and industry executives responsible for overprescription and misbranding,” the report states.

“Notably, a majority of these groups also strongly criticized 2016 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended limits on opioid prescriptions for chronic pain – the first national standards for prescription opioids and a key federal response to the ongoing epidemic,” it continued.

The connection between medical culture with the pharmaceutical industry’s goals means that many of the groups – with the U.S. Pain Foundation receiving the largest amount of payments – may have significantly contributed to the conditions that have led to the U.S. opioid epidemic, the report concludes.

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