Original Article by: Brittany Weiner, WSMV NEWS CHANNEL 4
Originally Posted on: January 29, 2019
As our country fights an opioid crisis, prescriptions for another class of drugs are seeing a steep increase, and they too can be dangerous and addictive. A new study just published this month shows between 2003 and 2015 Benzodiazepine prescriptions have doubled, and about half of them are coming from primary care physicians. Women are twice as likely to be prescribed than men.
Benzodiazepines are used for anxiety and insomnia but they can also be prescribed for chronic pain, and those prescriptions are skyrocketing. “Benzodiazepines are a class of medication that have a significant addiction forming liability,” Chief Medical Officer for Cumberland Heights Foundation, Dr. Chapman Sledge said. “If opioid prescribing goes down there’s some concern that Benzodiazepine prescriptions will continue to go up.” Dr. Sledge says many times these drugs are actually prescribed with opioids. “What we usually see if Benzodiazepine dependence in conjunction with opioid dependence or alcohol dependence,” Dr. Sledge said. A combination that can be dangerous and deadly especially if used long-term.
“Benzodiazepines are not benign drugs,” Dr. Sledge said. “There’s good data that suggests the combination of Benzodiazepines and opioids prescribed together increases the risk of death by fourfold.” According to the study long-term use has also increased with continued prescriptions increasing by 50 percent.
In 2017, nearly 70,000 people died from drug-related overdoses, and research shows opioid abuse is more rampant than ever. A report from the National Safety Council says more people died from accidental opioid overdoses than car crashes in 2017.
Cumberland Heights is very in tune with the epidemic and that’s why we created Safe Start, our official response to the opioid crisis. Safe Start is medication-assisted treatment and recommended to anyone diagnosed with a moderate to severe opioid abuse disorder.
Essentially, it’s extended release Naltrexone, a long-acting opioid antagonist used to reduce cravings. Naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids if they are used. Unlike other medications used to treat opioid addiction like methadone, there is no chance of dependency with Naltrexone. Naltrexone can also be an effective treatment for alcohol addiction.
Before the FDA approved Naltrexone for opioid dependence in 2010, they conducted a study dividing opioid addicts, primarily heroin users into two groups going through the same course of treatment. The only difference was one group got extended release Naltrexone and the other group was given placebo. The groups were monitored for 24 weeks. The group that got the Naltrexone injection had 90% abstinence confirmed on urine drug screens compared to 35% abstinence among the group that got the placebo injection. As a secondary measure, the study looked at cravings. Cravings were decreased by 55% in the group that received the extended release Naltrexone injection. In the group that got the placebo, cravings increased.
How it Works
This is how Safe Start looks for a patient coming into Cumberland Heights: Once the patient is evaluated and it is determined Naltrexone would be a good tool for them in their recovery, they will detox in a safe residential setting and then have 7-10 days for the receptors to clear before staff administers Naltrexone.
As they continue with their recovery, and transition out of residential treatment, Cumberland Heights sets them up with a plan that ensures they get their shot every 28 days. Dr. Sledge says it is reasonable to discuss discontinuing Naltrexone after a year if recovery is solid.
Every morning when I drive through Cumberland Heights’ arched gates, I am thankful for the opportunity to help patients and families “recover life.” And every night when I leave, I am reminded to “Let go and let God,” and am grateful for the thousands of little things our staff members do each day as they walk new paths of recovery with our patients.
What our entire Board of Directors and I appreciate most is the generosity of the Cumberland Heights community – donors and volunteers alike – who support our mission. Throughout the pages of this report, you will see how much Cumberland Heights has grown since we started in 1966 with only three patients and a handful of staff.
Everything we accomplish is because of donors like you and the hundreds of others who generously give to Cumberland Heights every year. Thank you for helping change the lives of our current patients, families, alumni and all those who will seek our help in the years to come.
Original By: AMY ESKIND
Posted On: September 25, 2017
The combining of powerful drugs — both purposeful and unintentional — is making Tennessee’s opioid epidemic even more deadly. The latest figures out this month show 2016 was another record year for overdoses in the state — more than 1,600 people died. And experts say risky drug cocktails are compounding the problem.
Emergency responders have answered hundreds of 9-1-1 calls from friends and family members of people who have overdosed. Last year Davidson County lost 261 people to overdose, almost all of them from opiates. On the street, heroin is a cheaper opiate than pills. Many users are looking for whatever will give them the highest high, says recovering addict Mary Barton Lea.
“When I was buying my heroin I said, ‘who’s got the heroin with the fentanyl?’” she says. “That’s the heroin I want.”
“It’s a sleep-like state, it’s a state that you feel secure,” Lea says. “I’ve read — and I tend to agree with this — it’s almost like kissing God, because it takes you to a place you’ve never been before.”
But that incredible high comes with a physical and mental addiction, Lea says.
“When you come down from that state, all your body says is I want to get back there…You get up there quick, but then there’s a crash and the crash is horrible. The crash is you will do anything within your power to get more.”
Serious addicts like Lea may be willing to flirt with death. Others are simply unaware, says Sam MacMaster. He’s the chief clinical officer at JourneyPure, an addiction treatment provider. He warns that no one can be sure what they’re buying in the illegal market.
“You would not be able to tell [by] how it looks at all, and that’s the issue,” MacMaster says. “They believe that they’re purchasing typically heroin or sometimes even a pilled opiate but it’s been cut with fentanyl.”
But some users are buying the laced drugs unknowingly. They may erroneously think it’s stronger because it’s more pure. The next thing they know, they can’t breathe. Then their heart stops.
“If I believe I’m shooting x-amount of heroin, I may in fact be shooting something that is much more potent. And while I may have a sense of what my body can handle, I’ll have no idea what my body can handle in terms of the fentanyl,” MacMaster says.
Some dealers are even lacing their supplies with carfentanil, a veterinary opiate that can knock out a rhino.
But lethal combinations go beyond various opioids. Users have also been adding prescription anxiety medications, such as Xanax, Valium or Klonopin. Not only is that a doubling up on medications that depress the central nervous system, experts worn there can be a multiplier effect. And it’s hitting teens and young adults hard, especially since many of them already have anti-anxiety prescriptions. Others have painkillers, maybe prescribed for an injury.
Cole Szabo, adolescent specialist at Cumberland Heights, says the days when kids stuck to beer and marijuana are gone.
“The benzos and opioids are the new gateway drug,” he says. And it’s in the schools. “You’re seeing Xanax, you’re seeing benzos, you’re seeing hydrocodones, oxycodones, Vicodin – you’re seeing that more. The problem with that is, you’re going to die quickly. It’s a quick death, you’re going down fast.”
If administered in time a nasal spray called Narcan that reverses the effects of opiates can save a life. Emergency responders in Nashville have used it on more than 500 people already this year.
But Narcan has no effect on other drugs like anti-anxiety pills, cocaine, or alcohol, so combination overdoses can still prove lethal. That was unfortunately the case for Max Barry, the son of Nashville’s mayor, who could not be revived with Narcan, and died over the summer in Colorado with much more than opiates in his system.
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