JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Abuse of opioid painkillers is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S. More than 14,000 people died in 2014 because of it. There is now a big scramble to solve this issue. Some experts say we should treat addiction like a chronic condition by treating addicts with medication. But is solving a drug problem with another drug the solution?
Psychiatrist Amit Vijapura, MD, said, “Physicians like us, we are preventing relapses for the patient, and that is what success is.”
That is what psychiatrist and addiction specialist Doctor Vijapura says about using buprenorphine for opioid addiction. He has patients who have been on this treatment for more than ten years and have not relapsed. It can be prescribed in doctor offices and produces mild opioid effects while easing withdrawal symptoms. This treatment is highly monitored.
Sarah Wilson said, “I went in the next day, and my whole life changed.”
Methadone also helps with addiction. It reduces cravings and lessens withdrawal symptoms. However, there is controversy surrounding it. Methadone can be addictive because it is considered a narcotic. Methadone is also highly regulated and its use has to be monitored by a physician.
Naltrexone is a medication that, unlike the other two prescriptions, is not a narcotic and doesn’t produce any opioid-like effects. It was originally used to treat severe alcoholism, but it is also being used to treat opioid addiction.
September is pain awareness month, and even though these medications are treating the addiction, they are not treating the chronic pain that lead to the addiction. There is research in the works to find out if anti-addiction medications, such as buprenorphine, will help with the chronic pain that preceded the opioid addiction. Talk to your doctor about the other options to treat your pain.
Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Cherry, Field Producer; Brogan Morris, Assistant Producer; and Tony Dastoli, Editor and Videographer.
TREATING ADDICTION WITH DRUGS
EDUCATION: A survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services revealed that 10 percent of all American adults consider themselves as recovering drug or alcohol abuse addicts. Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said, “Everyone at some point is in recovery from something. After hitting the gym you are recovering, after yard work you are recovering and after a not-so-great phone call you are recovering.” Behavioral health specialists from around the world recently gathered in Orlando, Florida at the Florida Premier Behavioral Health Annual Conference: Providing Value in Challenging Times. Pamela Peeke was one speaker at this conference who discussed the role genetics and environment play in addiction. Dr. Peeke said, “In the past it’s been said that DNA is destiny and it’s the Holy Grail for becoming an addict, but it is now much more complex than that.” There are thousands of genes that sit in our bodies inactivated, and the true risk factors are our epigenetics, or how our environment and external factors affect our genes.
THE BRAIN DURING ADDICTION: The feeling of pleasure is created when dopamine links with the D2 receptors in your brain. When you are on a high from drugs, or even food, that feeling of overwhelming pleasure will cause your brain to go into survival mode and shut down the D2 receptors to keep you alive. Dr. Peeke said, “Think about it like eating an apple. You are usually satisfied after one apple, nobody eats an apple and thinks ‘I need 80 more apples,’ but drugs will never give you that fully satisfied feeling because our brains reward system was never meant for drugs.” This is why you crave more and more. But, after too much overwhelming pleasure the brain shuts down your D2 receptors, and what is left? Tolerance. Therefore, Dr. Peeke said, addicts quit feeling pleasure when taking drugs; instead they are scared of the withdrawal.
When an addict enters rehab they feel nothing at first, but then after a few months of no drugs they begin to feel again because the D2 receptors are back. This is also why it is crucial to have a recovery plan in place for months, even after rehab. If a recovering addict takes drugs again after the four months of rehab, they will experience an even better high than the last time because now they have their D2 receptors back.
DETOX: Dr. Peeke said it’s important to have the mind, mouth and muscles all activated in the recovery process:
Mind: She said studies prove things like meditating, yoga and Tai Chi reduces inflammation in the bad genes and keeps them from activating.
Mouth: Nourish the inflamed genes with proper nutrition to reduce the inflammation. Ninety percent of your body’s serotonin, the chemical that allows the brain cells and nervous system cells to communicate, comes from the gut, making it even more important that the gut is clean.
Muscle: Dr. Peeke said get moving! One study showed people over 65 reduced their gene inflammation by 40 percent just by walking.
Dr. Peeke emphasized that although genetics may load the gun, environment and lifestyle pull the trigger. She says, “DNA is no longer destiny. Every thought, every mouthful, every movement changes gene expression, alters destiny and transforms your mind-body.”
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