The number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years, with opioids leading the way as one of the most deadly and addictive substances. Many even consider it a drug overdose epidemic. According to the CDC, there were approximately 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021. In the same year, SAMSHA identified 141,529 unweighted drug-related ER visits from its analysis of 52 hospitals.

If these numbers are anything to go by, it's evident that addiction is a major problem in the US.

And yet, despite this alarming trend, many US hospitals and emergency departments lack dedicated addiction specialists who can help those suffering from substance or opioid use disorder. This is a glaring omission, especially given how critical an early intervention can be for someone in the throes of addiction.

Without access to addiction specialists on staff, people with substance abuse problems may not get the help they need at a crucial juncture. As a result, they may go through multiple hospitals or ER visits. A lucky few will be connected with a treatment facility while they're still at the hospital.

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For everyone else, they walk out with a phone number to call, or often, nothing at all. Once they leave, many of these people go back to their old habits and never make the effort to call the number they've been given. 

There's a clear need for hospitals to do better when it comes to addiction treatment. So why is it that so many don't have addiction specialists on staff?

Hospitals Have Specialists On Call For Lots of Diseases — But Not Addiction. Why Not?

If you go to a hospital with a kidney problem, you'll likely be seen by a nephrologist. If you have a heart condition, you'll be seen by a cardiologist. But if you're struggling with addiction, chances are you won't see an addiction specialist.

Only a few hospitals have someone who specializes in addiction medicine on staff. A majority of hospitals focus on primary care. Addiction is left untreated.

This is a problem because addiction is a disease requiring specialized care. Without access to an addiction specialist in ERs, people with substance use disorder are often left at the mercy of whoever happens to be on call. This could be a general practitioner, an ER doctor, or even a social worker, most of whom have very little training in physiology, medications, and other aspects of treatment.

Reasons Why Hospitals are Slow to Hire Addiction Specialists

For years, addiction prevention and treatment services have been delivered separately from other general and mental health care services. Drug and alcohol abuse has traditionally been viewed as a criminal or social problem. As such, prevention services were not typically considered a responsibility of health care systems. For this reason, those struggling with substance use disorders have had access to only a limited range of treatment options that were generally not covered by insurance. 

In a nutshell, most hospitals don't have specialists because:

For a long time, addiction has not been seen as a medical problem but rather a social or psychological one. Some medical staff still see it as a moral issue and not something that requires formal medical treatment. This attitude can make it hard to justify dedicating staff and resources to addiction treatment.

Additionally, many hospitals are already understaffed and overstretched, so it could be difficult to add another specialist.

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And finally, there's the question of reimbursement. Addiction treatment is notoriously underfunded, and many insurance companies don't cover the cost of specialized care. Hospitals can find it hard to recoup the cost of hiring an addiction specialist.

The Lack of Proper Care Exposes Addiction Patients to Overdose Risk

NPR shared a story of a 63-year-old heroin addict, Marie, who was admitted to Salem Hospital, north of Boston, for COPD. The next day, she was told she was ready for discharge after the doctor had confirmed that her oxygen levels were good. But the woman was experiencing heavy withdrawal symptoms and could not move. She didn't want to leave the hospital but felt like she had no choice.

Sadly, most hospitals would still let her go despite her pain and condition. Sometimes, she'll be issued a list of detox programs or rehab centers to call. But more likely, she'll be sent on her way with no real plan or hope for recovery.

This is a typical story of what's happening in many US hospitals. Marie was lucky to have found a doctor who administered her some medications that helped. But every day, people with addiction walk into ERs across the country only to be discharged without real help or support.

This is dangerous because it increases the likelihood of patients relapsing and overdosing. In fact, research shows that patients have a higher chance of overdosing within a few days or weeks of being discharged from the hospital.

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The Importance of Having an Addiction Specialist in Hospitals

An addiction specialist is a medical professional specifically trained to diagnose and treat patients with substance use disorders. These specialists can provide critical support to patients who walk into the ER for various reasons but have an underlying addiction problem. Salem Hospital is one of the few hospitals that has succeeded in naming addiction as a specialty and hiring people with training in the disease. 

And despite reservations from some staff, the addiction specialists get overwhelmed many days with referrals - a clear sign of the need for their services. The trend is similar in five other Massachusetts hospitals that added addiction specialists in the last three years. These facilities are funded by HEALing Communities study. Addiction specialists can help patients in several ways, including:

Addiction specialists are vital in helping patients get the treatment they need. They can also refer them to a reputable treatment facility for specialized care. Hospitals can provide a much-needed service to their communities by having these professionals on staff.

According to the National Institutes of Health, effective integration of addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery solution across healthcare systems can help address drug abuse and related issues. This is also the most promising way to improve access to and quality of treatment.

People try drugs or alcohol for a variety of reasons, ranging from curiosity or boredom to social pressure or mental health issues.  For some people, trying drugs or alcohol is a one-time event that doesn't lead to further use. For others, though, drug or alcohol use can become a substance use disorder, defined as a chronic and relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. 

But what drives people to try drugs and alcohol in the first place? There are several reasons, but some are more common than others.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is one of the leading causes of drug use among young people. Whether it takes the form of subtle suggestions or outright coercion, peer pressure from family and friends can exert a powerful influence over our decisions and behaviors.

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Teens are especially susceptible to this type of social pressure, and many will start using drugs at an early age to fit in or feel accepted by their friends. Many young people will try out drugs or alcohol without fully understanding the risks involved.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues like anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, and depression, can also lead people to start using drugs or alcohol. Numerous studies have listed mental health issues as one of the main drivers of substance use disorders, and vice versa.

Many people with mental health disorders self-medicate in an attempt to numb the pain or ease the symptoms like excessive fear, worry, mood changes, or even suicidal ideation. Others may use drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with difficult life experiences. This can lead to a spiral of drug addiction and mental health problems that is very difficult to break free from.

Trauma

Trauma, especially early childhood trauma, is a major risk factor for developing substance abuse problems later in life. Traumatic experiences like abuse, neglect, witnessing violence, or losing a loved one can have a profound effect on one's mental and emotional health.

For many people, childhood trauma can be long-lasting and far-reaching, and it's often difficult to overcome the damage done in childhood. They may struggle with mental health issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and depression, and turn to may use substances to try to cope with these problems.

Symptoms of Boredom

Boredom is another common reason people first try drugs or alcohol. Teens and young adults often have a lot of free time and can be easily bored. They may start using drugs or alcohol to pass the time or to make their lives more exciting. This can lead to addiction, as people continue to use drugs or alcohol to escape the boredom of their everyday lives.

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Curiosity

Many young adults first try drugs or alcohol out of curiosity. They may have seen their friends using these substances and want to try them for themselves. Others may be curious about the effects of drugs or alcohol and want to experience them firsthand. It's estimated that over 52% of all high school students try illicit drugs, while over 70% drink alcohol by the time they graduate. 

TV, Movies, Music, and Video Games

Popular culture often glamorizes drug use, and this can influence young people to start using drugs or alcohol. TV shows, movies, music, and video games often depict drug use in a positive light, and this can make it seem like a harmless or even exciting activity. Constant exposure like this normalizes drug use in entertainment culture. As a result, teens assume using illegal, and prescription drugs is a normal lifestyle. 

Rebellion

Many teenagers first start using drugs or alcohol as a way to rebel against their parents or authority figures. They may see drug use as a way to defy the rules and take risks. For example, they may smoke cigarettes to show their independence or hallucinogens to escape to a world they deem more idealistic.

Lack of Proper Information About Drugs or Alcohol

Many people start using drugs or alcohol without knowing much about them. They may believe myths and misconceptions about these substances, which can lead them to underestimate the risks involved. For example, teens might be led to believe that marijuana is medicinal and carries a host of benefits. So, they may be more inclined to start using it without understanding the risks.

Lack of Confidence

People who lack confidence or have low self-esteem are also more likely to start using drugs or alcohol. They may use these substances as a way to boost their confidence or make them feel better about themselves. For example, someone who feels shy in social situations may start drinking alcohol to loosen up and feel more confident.

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The above are some of the main reasons people start using drugs or alcohol. It's important to note that not everyone who tries these substances will become addicted. However, drug and alcohol use can lead to addiction, and it’s often hard to break free from this cycle of abuse.

How to Protect Your Loved One From Addiction

As a parent or guardian, there are a few things you can do to help protect your loved one from addiction:

If you suspect your child is using drugs or alcohol, don't hesitate to reach out for help. There are many physical and mental health care resources available to families struggling with addiction. Early intervention is essential to helping your child get on the path to recovery.

Sleep disorders and addiction share a complex and bidirectional relationship. People who suffer from a sleep disorder may be more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol to try and self-medicate and achieve better sleep. For instance, they may use stimulant drugs to compensate for daytime fatigue caused by lost sleep.

In other cases, they may use drugs because of issues like cognitive impairment. Conversely, people addicted to drugs or alcohol may also suffer from sleep disorders due to the negative effects these substances can have on the body and mind.

There is a strong link between sleep disorders and addiction. A review by the Addiction Science & Clinical Practice found that about 70 % of patients admitted for detox had sleep issues before admission, and 80 % of those with sleep problems connect them to alcohol or illegal drug use.

According to the review, the relationship between the two seems to be bidirectional, with chronic or acute substance use disorders increasing the risk of developing sleeping problems. The review also adds that there's evidence indicating that long-term abstinence from chronic drug or alcohol use can reverse some sleep problems. 

One of the most common ailments related to lack of sleep is depression. If you’re wondering whether or not you or someone you know suffers from depression, one way to learn more is to take a depression test. 

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How substance abuse leads to sleep disorders

Addiction is a brain disease. Chronic alcohol or drug use interferes with the brain, changing its chemistry and circuitry. These changes result in compulsive drug use and sleeping problems. Drug and alcohol use disorders can cause short- and long-term sleep issues like insomnia and sleep apnea. 

Substance abuse also alters how a person through their sleep stages - messing up the rapid and non-rapid eye movement (REM and NREM). Generally, substance abuse can lead to:

Here is a quick look at how different drugs affect sleep.

Marijuana  

Marijuana interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by binding to the cannabinoid receptors responsible for many roles, including regulating the sleep-wake cycle. This explains why more than 40% of those trying to quit marijuana experience sleeping problems. Many others experience sleep difficulty, strange dreams, and nightmares too. 

Opioids 

Opioids like heroin bind to mu-opioid receptors, a body system that’s also responsible for sleep regulation. In fact, the name morphine or morphia, a medical derivative of opium, comes from Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep and dreams. Opioid drugs can induce sleepiness but also derange sleep by increasing transitions between different sleep stages.

Those going through withdrawal from heroin addiction can experience terrible insomnia. Opioids can also regulate respiration and, when taken in high doses, can severely impede breathing during sleep. 

Depressants

Depressants like alcohol may help people fall asleep, but they often lead to disruptions in sleep patterns and can make it difficult to stay asleep. Chronic alcohol use causes:

 

Cocaine and other stimulants

Stimulants like cocaine can make it difficult to fall asleep and cause people to wake up frequently at night. The sleep disturbances like insomnia and hypersomnolence mostly happen during cocaine intoxication and withdrawal. Other stimulants like amphetamine trigger dopamine release.

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During acute administration, they can decrease total sleep time and sleep efficiency and increase sleep latency and the number of awakenings. In the withdrawal phase, there's a drop in sleep latency and a rise in total sleep time and efficiency.

Drug withdrawal and sleep disorders

Withdrawal from drugs can cause sleep disorders like insomnia, or other sleep problems, including restless legs syndrome, strange dreams, or broken sleep. These issues can take a toll on one’s physical and mental health, making a recovery harder. Sleep problems are common when withdrawing from:

How sleep disorders lead to substance abuse

Sleep disorders can also lead to substance abuse. Many people with sleep disorders turn to substances as a way to self-medicate or try and improve their sleep. For example:

 

The dangerous cycle

As discussed earlier, people with sleep may take stimulants like caffeine, cocaine, or nicotine to stay awake during the day and then use alcohol or other drugs to fall asleep at night. Also, those struggling with addiction may disrupt their circadian system and end up with sleep disorders that lead them to use more substances to self-medicated. This can create a dangerous cycle in which they use substances to try and manage their sleep, but the substances themselves make it difficult for them to get the rest they need.

Sleep quality and addiction recovery

People who stop using drugs and alcohol often have better sleep. This happens because they are no longer disturbed by the side effects of those substances. When people get good sleep, they feel better and can concentrate more easily on their addiction recovery.

At the same time, people who sleep better don't need to use substances to cope with their fatigue. So, improving sleep can help break the cycle of addiction.

If you or a family member or someone you know is struggling with a sleep disorder and substance abuse, help is available. There are many treatment options that can address both issues at the same time. With treatment, it is possible to recover from both a sleep disorder and addiction.

As part of an ongoing war on drugs, in November 2020, Oregon became the first state in the US to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs. The measure, known as Measure 110, was widely praised by drug policy reform advocates as a progressive step that would help to reduce the stigma around drug use and provide people with drug addiction problems with much-needed treatment.

Measure 110 made personal possession of methamphetamine, heroin, LSD, oxycodone, and other drugs punishable by a $100 fine rather than jail time. This was in a bid to reduce incarceration rates and redirect funds toward addiction treatment programs. These treatment programs would be funded through marijuana tax revenue and savings from decreased law enforcement costs.

The Oregon Health Authority, one of many behavioral health resource networks, announced on September 22 that it had completed awarding the first two years of funding to nonprofits under Oregon's decriminalization of drugs law.

According to OHA, the first round of grants totaled $302 million. Despite this milestone, experts warned that more than just services would be needed to curb the high rates of drug use and resulting societal costs in the state. Keith Humphreys told the Oregon lawmakers that the state should adjust its permissive approach as it encourages drug use without any deterrent.

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"Because the West Coast has an individualistic culture with a tolerance for substance abuse, social pressures to seek treatment are often minimal," said Keith Humphreys, the Founder, and co-director at the Stanford Network on Addiction Policy.

"So, on the one hand, we have widely available and highly rewarding drugs. On the other hand, little or no pressure to stop using them. Under those conditions, we should expect to see exactly what Oregon is experiencing: extensive drug use, extensive addiction, and not much treatment seeking."  (Source)

According to Humphreys, people struggling with addiction hardly seek treatment without pressure from loved ones, health care providers, or the law. He says this should be a concern because the state has lifted the legal pressure to stop substance abuse and seek treatment. Besides, since many people who struggle with use don't work or keep in touch with loved ones, the pressure to quit might not come from those sources, either. (Source)

M110 allows the law authorities to write $100 tickets for personal possession of small amounts of drugs, and the charged person can just call the Life helpline line and have their ticket removed. It all seems very easy to get away with abusing drugs.

But despite that, many people who are issued these tickets still ignore them, according to Dr. Todd Korthuis, the head of addiction medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. By the end of this summer, 3000 tickets were issued, and only 137 calls were made. Even more disturbing is that most callers were not seeking treatment but only screening for legal reasons. (Source)

Good Intentions Behind the Law

The Oregon voters voted in favor of Measure 110, which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs and redirected 110 funds from law enforcement to addiction treatment. The measure was designed to address the state's public health crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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According to proponents of the measure, it would help to reduce the number of those incarcerated for drug-related offenses and redirect funds to much-needed addiction treatment programs. In addition, by decriminalizing drug possession, the measure will help to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and make it more likely that people will seek treatment. 

When the voters passed the ballot measure, they recognized drug addiction and overdoses are a serious problem in Oregon; and that the state needed to increase access to drug treatment. The health-based approach to drug use problems is not only more humane but also effective and cheaper than criminal punishments. Making people criminals because they abuse drugs or struggle with addiction is costly and life-ruining, making it hard to seek treatment. 

On February 1, 2021, the laws regulating controlled substances' possession changed from felonies to Class E violations. Measure 110 is designed to ensure that anyone who wants access, assessment, treatment, and recovery services for substance use gets it.

By all accounts, Measure 110 was set to reduce the pressure on drug users seeking treatment or help. However, going by statistics, it seems to be failing because Oregon has a nearly 20% surge in overdose deaths in the year that ended in April 2022. And according to Dr. Tod Korthuis, Oregon has one of the highest rates of substance use disorders and mental health disorders. Conversely, it ranks the least for access to treatments in the nation.

Humphreys and Korthuis don't fault Measure 110 for the spiking overdose deaths and other drug-related issues. However, they believe these trends have outpaced the state's addiction treatment system.

What Needs to Be Done

Measure 110 is the first of its kind in the United States. The only other country that has tried it successfully is Portugal, which is often cited as an inspiration. Initially, the country had harsh policies led by the criminal justice system. It needed to try something else. So, in 2001, Portugal took a radical step and became the first country globally to decriminalize the consumption of all drugs. 

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Speaking about what needs to be done, Humphreys mentioned that Portugal puts heavy legal and social pressure on those abusing drugs to get help. And despite the decriminalization of drugs, one can hardly see people openly using or dealing drugs, as in West Coast cities of the US. That's because they close operations and use court pressure to lead them into treatment. 

"I have spent a lot of time in Portugal, and I know the people who designed their policy," Humphreys said. "Please take it from me; Oregon is not following Portugal's example and will not get its results." (Source)

Humphreys further mentioned the need for harm reduction, which emphasizes engaging directly with addicts to prevent overdose, and transmission of infectious disease, improve physical, social, and mental well-being and offer low-threshold options for accessing addiction treatment and other health care. He recommended solutions like making Naloxone (opioid antagonist) more available to reduce overdose deaths. 

Cigarette smoking has been linked to cancer, diabetes, lung disease, COPD, tuberculosis, and other health complications. It's also responsible for over 480,000 deaths annually in the United States. Given the dangers, many people have opted to vape or use e-cigs like JUUL to ease the transition from traditional cigarettes to not smoking at all. But is vaping a safer alternative to smoking?

Several studies have shown that while vaping is less harmful than smoking, it's still not safe. Vaping can damage your lungs and airways and has been linked to cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also found that some vaping products contain harmful chemicals, including metals that can be toxic.

To reduce the number of people affected by these health risks, the FDA is reviewing e-cig products to ensure they are "appropriate for the protection of public health." The manufacturers of vaping products must prove their products are an aid to traditional adult smokers and not appealing to youth and teens. This explains why the FDA has proposed a ban on all JUUL products.

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On July 5, 2022, it issued marketing denial orders (MDOs) to JUUL Labs Inc. for all its products currently marketed in the US. This MDO prevents the company from continuing to sell its products in the American market. JUUL should also remove all of its products from the market or face enforcement action.

The reason is that after reviewing JUUL's premarket tobacco product applications, the FDA established that the application did not have enough evidence to support a finding that the products are "appropriate for the protection of public health." As the FDA puts it, there are scientific issues unique to the JUUL application that warrants additional review.

According to the FDA's news release, the insufficient and conflicting data in some of JUUL's study findings raised concerns that haven't been properly addressed and prevented the FDA from executing a complete toxicological risk assessment of the said products on the JUUL application.

The FDA has yet to receive evidence to suggest that JUULpods or devices are hazardous. However, the underlying factor is that there isn't adequate evidence to support a finding that the products are appropriate for the protection of public health. Besides, there's no way to determine the potential dangers of using JUUL pods with a non-JUUL device or third-party e-liquid pods with a JUUL device.

The FDA is encouraging JUUL users to report any adverse effects they may have experienced after using the product through the Safety Reporting Portal and seek medical help.

A Look into JUUL - What is JUUL?

JUUL is a type of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) that is battery-operated and looks like a USB drive. It was first introduced in 2015 by two Stanford graduates, James Monsees and Adam Bowen, who are also the co-founders of JUUL Labs. The company is based in San Francisco, California.

The vaping device works by heating a nicotine liquid, which creates an aerosol vapor. JUUL says its e-cigarette is a "satisfying alternative" for adult smokers who want to switch from traditional cigarettes. The company also claims its products are not meant for youth or non-smokers, as nicotine can be addictive and harmful. However, their products come in different flavors - like mint, mango, and crème Brulee, which appeals to the younger audience.

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A JUUL pod contains 0.7mL of nicotine liquid, equivalent to a pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs. The JUUL device delivers a high dose of nicotine, which is why it has been criticized for being especially addictive.

Why is Vaping Considered Dangerous?

Vaping is dangerous because it increases your risk of lung cancer, lung infection, and other health problems. It is especially dangerous for young people. The nicotine in e-cigs (e-cigarettes) is highly addictive, and can harm the developing brain. Youth vaping is considered dangerous for several reasons, including:

Vaping is Bad for your Heart and Lungs

Vaping exposes users to a range of harmful chemicals, including nicotine, metals, and other toxins which are harmful to health. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that e-cigarette users had significantly higher markers for heart damage and inflammation levels than non-users.

They also had higher levels of lung inflammation. This suggests that vaping may be harmful to your cardiovascular and respiratory health. It may also increase your risk of developing chronic (long-term) diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

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E-cigs can be Addictive like Traditional Ones

Vaping can be addictive, especially for teens still developing their brains. The nicotine in e-cigarettes can be particularly addicting, and this can lead to health problems down the road.

Vaping Can Act As a Gateway to Smoking

Research has shown that teens who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes in the future. This is likely due to the fact that vaping can act as a gateway to smoking, as it normalizes the behavior and makes it seem less risky. 

E-cigs aren't the Best Smoking Cessation Tool

Electronic cigarettes, or ecigs aren't the best smoking cessation tool. In fact, they may even make it harder to quit smoking in the long run. A recent study found that most people who used e-cigs to quit smoking ended up using both e-cigs and traditional smoking. So if you're trying to kick the habit, it's best to steer clear of e-cigarettes altogether.

The New Generation is Getting Addicted to Nicotine

E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular among young people, who are attracted by the flavors and the perceived lack of health risks. But this means that more young people are taking up smoking and becoming addicted to nicotine. This is a major concern, given the long-term health risks associated with smoking.

Vaping may be harmful to your health, and it's certainly not the best way to quit smoking. And with more young people taking up vaping, we could be facing a public health crisis down the line. If you're struggling with an addiction to nicotine, it's important to get help from a doctor or treatment center. There are many resources available to help you quit, and you don't have to go through it alone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been linked to increased drug overdoses across the United States. In fact, early data suggests that the number of overdose deaths in 2020 was higher than any previous year on record. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 92,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the US between May 2019 and May 2020. The CDC notes that although there was a rising trend in overdose deaths before the onset of the pandemic, the latest numbers show an increase in overdose deaths during the pandemic.

The COVID Pandemic and Opioid Epidemic

The overdose epidemic is a national public health crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has led to widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C, and numbers of deaths.

Overdose deaths from opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and in 2019 alone, over 49,000 people died from an opioid overdose. Synthetic opioids, particularly illicitly manufactured fentanyl, are responsible for the majority of these deaths.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. In 2020, more than 56,000 overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids (other than methadone). This number accounted for 82% of all opioid deaths in that year.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the problem, as social distancing measures and lockdowns have led to increased drug use and overdoses. The pandemic also devastated the US economy, resulting in job losses and financial insecurity. This has led to increased stress and anxiety.

But overdose deaths aren't just limited to opioid use alone. The CDC notes that preliminary data shows increases in overdoses involving stimulants, such as methamphetamine and cocaine. In the 12 months ending in May 2020, there was a significant increase in the number of overdose deaths involving stimulants.

Drivers of Overdose Deaths during the Pandemic

Overdose deaths increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, there were nearly 92,000 overdose deaths involving illicit drugs and prescription opioids. This rise in overdoses is driven by several factors, including:

Increased Stress and Anxiety

Experts believe that the stress and anxiety of the pandemic have a big role in overdose deaths. Many people who struggle with substance abuse use drugs as a way to cope with difficult emotions and situations. The added stress of the pandemic can be overwhelming for someone who is already struggling, leading them to use more drugs than usual. 

Lack of Access to Care

The pandemic has resulted in a decrease in access to treatment and recovery services. With fewer resources available, many people are unable to get the help they need. This can lead to a decline in sobriety and an increase in drug use.

Social Isolation and Loneliness of the Pandemic

The social isolation and loneliness caused by the pandemic can also lead to an increase in drug use. People who struggle with substance abuse often use drugs as a way to cope with negative emotions. The isolation of the pandemic can trigger these emotions, leading to an increase in drug use.

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Poor Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a profound impact on mental health. The CDC reports that adults aged 18-24 experienced the largest increase in mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, during the pandemic. Mental health problems can lead to increased drug use and overdoses.

Disruption in the Supply of Illicit Drugs

The pandemic has also resulted in a disruption in the supply of illicit drugs. The closure of borders and decrease in international travel has made it difficult for drug dealers to get their hands on illicit drugs. This has led to more dangerous substances being sold on the street.

Street drugs can be extremely dangerous for people who use illicit drugs, as it increases the risk of overdose. The disruption of the supply of illicit drugs also increased the price of drugs, which pushed some to cheaper alternatives, which could be more potent.

Racial Disparities in Overdose Deaths

The coronavirus pandemic has also exacerbated racial disparities in drug overdoses. While the number of overdose deaths has increased, the increase has been highest among Black people. In 2020, there was a 44% overdose death rate among black people and 39% for Alaska Native and American Indians. White people had 22%.

The increase in deaths is largely driven by illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Blacks were more likely to die from an overdose involving fentanyl. 

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What can be Done to Prevent Overdose Deaths?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths have been on the rise in the United States for the past two decades. But the numbers increased sharply during the pandemic. The opioid epidemic has had a devastating effect on families and communities across the country, and it is clear that something needs to be done to prevent further tragedy. Here are some things that can be done to prevent overdose deaths:

·      One way to reduce the number of overdose deaths is to increase access to treatment for substance abuse disorders. This includes everything from prevention and early intervention programs to specialized treatment facilities.

·      Additionally, it is important to increase access to naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone is available without a prescription in many states, and it can be administered by family members or bystanders.

By increasing access to treatment and naloxone, we can start to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic and prevent more lives from being lost to overdose.

Get Help for Addiction Treatment

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives of people struggling with addiction. Any ground gained in harm reduction for drug addiction in the last few years was overwhelmed by COVID-19. The isolation and loneliness of the pandemic, as well as the disruption in the supply of illicit drugs, have led to an increase in drug use and overdoses. Racial disparities in overdose deaths have also been exacerbated by the pandemic.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Addiction treatment can save lives.

Poverty is one of the most significant predictors of drug abuse and addiction. Individuals who live in poverty are more likely to turn to drugs to cope with the stress and challenges of their lives. At the same time, drug abuse can lead to further poverty, chronic illness, and mental health problems.

2019 study found that most opioid overdose cases across 17 states were concentrated in zip codes with lower education and median household income as well as higher rates of unemployment and poverty. Another UNODC study dubbed Socioeconomic Characteristics and Drug Use Disorders found that those who belong to disadvantaged groups had the highest relative level of risk of suffering from an addiction. This could be due to homelessness, social exclusion and inequality, and mental health problems that are also synonymous with poverty.

While poverty is not the only factor for substance abuse in the United States, it is certainly important. People living in poverty are more likely to be predisposed to risk factors linked to higher rates of substance abuse. They may also live in poverty-stricken areas often home to illegal drug activity, making drugs more accessible.

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The link between poverty and drug abuse

The link between poverty and drug abuse is complex and multi-layered. Poverty can both lead to drug abuse and be a consequence of it.

How Poverty Leads to Drug Abuse

There are several ways that poverty increases the likelihood of drug abuse. For example, people who grow up in poverty may be more likely to associate with others who use drugs, making them more likely to develop a substance abuse problem. Biological factors are also at play, as people who live in poverty are more likely to experience chronic stress, which can alter brain chemistry and make someone more vulnerable to addiction. Financial issues can be a leading source of stress for many younger adults.

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Here's a quick look at some of the ways poverty can contribute to drug abuse:

How Drug Abuse Can Lead to Poverty

Poverty and drug abuse often go hand-in-hand. Drug use can also lead to poverty in different ways.

  1. First, they can interfere with a person's ability to maintain steady employment. Many employers require drug tests as a condition of employment, and those who use drugs are more likely to lose their jobs or be less productive at work. This can lead to a downward spiral in which someone is unable to keep up with bills or support their family, eventually leading to poverty.
  2. Second, drugs can be expensive. Those who abuse drugs often spend large amounts of money on them, which can strain finances and lead to debt.
  3. Finally, drugs can lead to criminal activity. Those addicted to drugs may resort to stealing or selling drugs to get the money they need to support their habit. This can lead to a criminal record, making it difficult to find stable housing or employment, further exacerbating poverty.
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Promoting Recovery by Treating the Root Causes of Addiction

Individuals struggling with addiction often need help addressing the underlying causes of their drug abuse. This may include treatment for addiction and mental health problems. Treatment facilities should also address underlying issues causing the addiction. This includes things like providing:

Treating the root causes of addiction gives individuals a better chance of achieving long-term recovery. This, in turn, can help break the cycle of poverty and addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to those who need them.

One of the most common questions about drug rehab programs is how long they typically last. The answer to this question depends on various factors, including the type of program and the individual's specific needs.

However, a typical drug rehab program will last somewhere between 30 and 90 days. And while some people only need to go through rehab once, others may require multiple stints to achieve and maintain sobriety. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 40 to 60% of people relapse.

No matter what, though, it's important to remember that there is hope and help available. Drug rehab may not be easy, but it can be incredibly effective at helping people overcome addiction and rebuild their lives.

The Process of Getting Treatment

Addiction is a disease that alters the way the brain functions. It changes the brain's wiring and affects how chemicals are released and received. This can lead to changes in mood, behavior, and physical appearance. Because addiction affects the brain, it can be difficult to overcome without treatment.

Addiction treatment involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support groups. The goal of treatment is to help people stop using drugs, manage their cravings, and avoid relapse. Recovery from addiction is a long process, and it may take some time to achieve long-lasting sobriety.

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Steps of Rehab

Detox

The first step in any rehabilitation program is detoxification or detox. This is a process of ridding the body of toxins that have built up from continued drug or alcohol use. Detox can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is an essential first step in overcoming addiction.

For most people, detox takes between 7 and 10 days. But the length of stay might be longer for more serious drug or alcohol abuse cases. Medical staff closely monitor patients during this time to ensure their safety and comfort.

Average detox duration for various drugs:

Treatment Options

After detox, individuals may participate in an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Inpatient treatment program

Inpatient rehab provides around-the-clock care and support, which can be especially beneficial for those struggling with severe addiction. Treatment typically lasts 28 days, although some programs may be shorter or longer depending on the individual's needs.

Outpatient treatment program

Outpatient treatment programs help people recover from substance abuse disorders without requiring them to stay in rehab. The care is typically less intensive and less expensive than inpatient treatment, making it a good option for people with a strong support system at home. Outpatient treatment programs can last for a few weeks or several months, depending on the individual's needs.

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Addiction recovery may take some time, but it is worth it!

Aftercare

Detox and treatment are important steps in overcoming addiction, but they are only the first steps on a long road to recovery. Aftercare is an essential part of this process, as it helps to keep people on track and prevent them from relapsing.

Aftercare typically includes individual counseling, group therapy, and 12-step programs. An aftercare program provides vital support and accountability. Without aftercare, people are much more likely to relapse.

The length of an aftercare plan will be based on individual needs. Some people are in aftercare for weeks or months, others for a year or more.

How Long Does It Take To Get Over an Addiction?

Most addiction treatment programs follow a similar structure. After an initial assessment, patients typically begin with detoxification and withdrawal management. This is followed by individual and group therapy, which can help patients to understand the root causes of their addiction and develop healthy coping mechanisms. The length of time spent in each phase of treatment will vary depending on the type of substance used and the length of use.

These programs offer a range of benefits, including:

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With the right help, anything is possible!

30-day Programs

30-day addiction treatment programs are typically short-term and involve detoxification, counseling, and support groups. These programs often cost less than long-term ones and are often covered by insurance.

While 30-day programs can be effective for some people, they are not for everyone. People with severe addiction cases may need to spend even longer in addiction treatment. Also, those suffering from health conditions caused by drug or alcohol use may need more advanced care.

60-day Programs

A 60-day addiction program is a long-term program designed to help people overcome their addiction. Studies have shown that many people can build new habits within two months, making 60-day programs more effective at helping people overcome their addiction.

In addition, 60-day programs provide more time for people to receive treatment and support, improving their chances of overcoming addiction. The main downsides with 60-day rehab are cost and that they might not be suitable for those who can't take an extended period of time off from work or school. 

90-day rehab

A 90-day addiction program is a long-term treatment option for those suffering from chronic relapse or severe substance use disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Use, research shows that better outcomes occur with a longer duration of treatment. This means that patients who complete a 90-day program have a significantly higher rate of abstinence than those who only receive shorter-term treatment.

In addition, patients in a 90-day program are more likely to complete other important recovery milestones, such as completing a detoxification program and participating in aftercare. While a 90-day program requires a significant commitment, it can be an essential step on the road to recovery for many patients.

Extended Care Options

Individuals who need extended care options after a 90-day program can join sober living houses that provide additional support. Sober living houses are safe, drug- and alcohol-free environments where one can live with other people in recovery. They can be a great option for those needing extra support and structure while learning to live successfully without drugs or alcohol.

Sober living houses also have staff members who can help with any challenges. Generally, individuals may stay in sober living homes as long as they want, provided they adhere to the house rules.

Get Help Today

Drug rehab programs typically take around 30 to 90 days, but the length of time may vary depending on your specific situation and needs. If you're struggling with addiction and are ready to get help, we can connect you with a quality drug rehab program that meets your unique needs. This could be one of the most important health care decisions you will make in your life. Learn more about your options from our directory.

MDMA, also known as ecstasy or Molly, is a synthetic drug that can produce feelings of increased energy, euphoria, and pleasure. It is often used recreationally, at clubs or parties. However, some may be curious whether it is possible to become addicted to ecstasy, or MDMA. The short answer is yes, it is possible to develop a dependence on MDMA. However, addiction is more likely to occur when the drug is used frequently or in high doses. Besides addiction, high doses of MDMA can cause hyperthermia, dehydration, and heart failure. It can also aggravate pre-existing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Understanding MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)

MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a psychoactive drug with both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the United States, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and is not currently accepted for medical use.

When people refer to either Molly or ecstasy, they're referring to the same chemical: MDMA. MDMA by itself is a white or off-white crystal or powder. Molly is the street name for pure MDMA, while ecstasy refers to MDMA that has been cut with other substances. Ecstasy and Molly can come in pill form, but Molly is most often sold in powder form.

MDMA, in its pure form, is difficult to come by. Dealers often cut MDMA with other drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, ketamine, caffeine, synthetic cathinones, LSD, rat poison, and heroin to strengthen its effects and increase profit margins. Cutting MDMA with these illicit drugs increases the risk of adverse effects and overdose deaths.

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MDMA is primarily used as a party drug due to its ability to induce euphoria, increased emotionality, and increased sensation. So, it's mostly found in house parties, raves, and music festivals. While MDMA is considered a harmless party drug, it can be very dangerous if not used responsibly. According to statistics, the number of emergency room visits increased by 1,200% since ecstasy became popular at all night-raves.

Effects of MDMA

MDMA increases neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain. These brain chemicals are associated with mood, energy, and alertness. They also cause users to become more stimulated and awake. However, MDMA can also have negative side effects, such as:

When combined with a hot environment, physical activity, and other drugs, MDMA can lead to unpredictable and serious physical complications. The drug causes hyperthermia, significant dehydration, or cardiovascular collapse, leading to kidney, liver, or heart failure and even death.

The effects of ecstasy can kick in within 20 minutes and typically last for 3-5 hours but can persist for up to 8 hours. This variation can be due to factors like body weight, the amount used, gender, mode of administration, etc.

MDMA and addiction

One of the most serious risks of MDMA use is addiction. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, it is clear that MDMA can cause changes in brain chemistry that lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior and an inability to control use. 

Although MDMA has been shown to be addictive in animal studies, the degree of self-administration is relatively low compared to other drugs such as cocaine. This suggests that while MDMA may have some potential for addiction, it is not as strong as other substances. 

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Data from animals and humans suggest that regular use of MDMA leads to adaptations in the serotonin and dopamine systems linked to substance use disorder and related behaviors, like increased impulsivity.

Some studies have tried to analyze MDMA dependency or addiction among people with a history of use in the general population. The results of these studies have varied widely, probably due to different population samples and different types of measures used. However, some people who use MDMA do report symptoms of addiction, including:

What Causes MDMA Use Disorder?

MDMA is a stimulant drug with properties similar to other drugs in its class, like cocaine. While research is inconclusive on whether MDMA is addictive, heavy or regular drug use may lead to addiction. Additionally, MDMA is often mixed with other stimulants, increasing the risk of addiction.

The mix of drugs sold as ecstasy may alter how people who take it react to it, making it difficult to predict if someone may develop an addiction. However, what is clear is that regular or heavy drug use can lead to addiction. Therefore, it is important for those who use MDMA to be aware of the risks associated with the drug.

Other Dangers of Using MDMA

Some people might not consider MDMA an addicting drug. Even so, there are still dangers associated with its use.

MDMA is cut with other drugs

When people take MDMA, they risk because the drug is unregulated, and its purity can't be guaranteed. One of the biggest dangers is that it is often cut with other substances, which can be dangerous or even deadly.

For example, one of the most common adulterants is methamphetamine, which can lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as anxiety and paranoia.

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Sometimes, these effects can be so severe that they result in hospitalization or even death. In addition, MDMA is often cut with other substances that may not be immediately harmful but can still cause long-term damage, such as liver damage.

Developing tolerance

MDMA can also cause tolerance. This means that users need to take increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects. Tolerance can lead to physical dependence and addiction. It can also increase the risk of overdose and other health problems. 

Gateway to other drugs

Increasing the dose to achieve the same effect may also lead someone to use other drugs, which can lead to addiction - and potential overdose. Statistics show that 92% of those who start using ecstasy resolve to using amphetamines, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine later on.

Addiction to other drugs

Using other drugs to cope with the mental and physical pain that results from ecstasy can quickly spiral out of control, leading to addiction to other drugs and potentially serious health consequences.

Treating an ecstasy, or MDMA addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to MDMA or any other form of drug abuse, please seek professional help. Treatment options are available, and there is always hope for recovery.

Many people who use stimulants or MDMA report that they grind their teeth during periods of drug use. This phenomenon is known as bruxism and can cause several problems, including headaches, jaw pain, and damage to teeth.

While it's not clear why drugs cause bruxism, it is thought that bruxism occurs due to the effects of drugs on the body's central nervous system. Other theories suggest that it may result from anxiety or other psychological factors.

Regardless of the cause, bruxism can be a dangerous condition, and it is important to seek treatment if you think you may be affected. Your dentist can help identify the signs of bruxism and recommend appropriate treatments. You can keep your teeth healthy and avoid any long-term damage with proper care.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition characterized by the grinding or clenching of teeth. It can occur while a person is awake (awake bruxism) or asleep (sleep bruxism).

Left untreated, bruxism can lead to several serious problems, including jaw pain, headaches, and damage to the teeth. It can also cause sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

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The exact cause of bruxism is not fully understood, but it is thought to be linked to stress or anxiety and drug use.

Bruxism can be caused by medications that act on the nervous system, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and bronchodilators. It can also be a side effect of stimulants, such as caffeine and amphetamines. In some cases, drug-induced bruxism may be caused by illicit drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

Persistent bruxism can lead to jaw muscles and tooth damage, headaches, jaw pain, and temporomandibular joint disorder. It can even affect a person's ability to eat and speak properly in severe cases. Beyond bruxism, drugs can also cause a host of other dental issues due to these reasons:

Drugs That Can Cause You to Grind Your Teeth:

Here are some drugs that can cause bruxism:

MDMA

MDMA is a synthetic drug that produces energizing, mood-lifting, and sometimes hallucinogenic effects. It is best known by its street names "ecstasy" or "molly." MDMA is structurally similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, which may account for its ability to produce various effects.

MDMA causes an increase in the activity of three brain chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Dopamine is involved in the "reward pathway," producing feelings of pleasure. Norepinephrine helps to maintain alertness and focus, while serotonin contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.

These brain chemicals are also responsible for many of the side effects of MDMA use, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, blurred vision, and faintness. One less well-known side effect of MDMA use is bruxism, or teeth grinding.

Research suggests that this may be due to the drug's effects on serotonin levels. Serotonin plays a role in muscle contraction, and an increase in serotonin activity may lead to involuntary muscle spasms, such as teeth grinding. In some cases, bruxism may be severe enough to cause jaw pain or damage to teeth.

Methamphetamine (Meth) 

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is a powerful stimulant drug that can seriously affect the body. One of the most common side effects of meth abuse is bruxism, or teeth grinding. Meth users may grind their teeth involuntarily or consciously, and the condition can cause severe dental problems

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While the exact mechanism is not fully understood, it is believed that meth causes an increase in the release of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure and reward. The resulting spike in dopamine levels can lead to compulsive behaviors like teeth grinding. In addition, meth constricts blood vessels and reduces saliva production, further contributing to dental health problems. 

Heroin

Opioids, including heroin, are known to make you grind your teeth. This may be due to the drug's psychoactive effects, which can produce feelings of anxiety and paranoia. Historical evidence also suggests that bruxism was common among people who used opium in the 19th century.

Opioids work by binding to receptors in the brain, which can alter neurotransmission and lead to changes in muscle tone and behavior. Teeth grinding may be a side effect of this process. Opioids can also cause dry mouth, leading to tooth decay and other oral health problems.

Cocaine

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that has been shown to cause a wide range of physical and mental effects. One of the more commonly reported side effects of cocaine use is that it can make you grind your teeth.

While the exact mechanism is not fully understood, it is thought that the drug alters levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing muscle activity. This can lead to involuntary clenching and grinding of the teeth, which can cause headaches, jaw pain, and dental damage. In some cases, bruxism may also be related to anxiety or psychosis, which are common side effects of cocaine use.

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Treatment Options for Bruxism

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common side effect of stimulant or MDMA use. The constant clenching and grinding can damage the teeth and cause gum inflammation. In severe cases, it can even result in tooth loss.

Luckily, a few things can be done to help alleviate the symptoms of bruxism.

  1. First, you'll need to stop using drugs that cause bruxism. If you are dealing with an MDMA, heroin, or meth addiction, it's best to seek addiction treatment to get off of the drugs.
  2. Stay hydrated and avoid foods that are high in acidity. This will help to protect your teeth from further damage.
  3. Adopt lifestyle changes - reduce stress, cut back on stimulant use, etc.
  4. It is also important to take breaks during extended periods of drug use and avoid using the drug when feeling stressed or anxious.
  5. If bruxism persists, several treatments can be used to reduce the symptoms, including Botox injections, night guards, pacifiers, and bite plates.
  6. Taking these steps makes it possible to minimize the impact of bruxism and protect your teeth and gums.

 

Treatment for Drug Abuse

If you are experiencing teeth grinding due to stimulant or MDMA use, it is important to seek treatment. Teeth grinding can be caused by many things and is often treatable. There are a variety of treatments available depending on the cause of your teeth grinding.

Treatment for drug abuse will also address any associated teeth grinding. If you are concerned about your teeth grinding, please talk to your doctor or addiction specialist. They can help you find the best course of treatment for you.

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