Tagged With opioid crisis

A recent survey suggests that some people struggling with opioid addiction might be turning to a tragically desperate method to get more prescription painkillers: Hurting their own pets. And veterinarians themselves may be abusing opioids or helping to illegally sell them.

Despite a growing awareness of the dangers and risks of opioid addiction among doctors and patients, the average amount of opioids prescribed to Americans over the past decade has barely budged, suggests a new study published Wednesday in The BMJ. But it's difficult to know just how much this reality accounts for the current, worsening state of the opioid crisis.

People living with opioid addiction are increasingly using the inhalation method to get high, warns a new review published Monday in JAMA Neurology. The technique known as “chasing the dragon”, which involves heating up heroin and inhaling its fumes through a pipe, may be safer in some ways than injection, but it comes with its own set of devastating side effects, including irreversible brain damage and dementia.

Earlier this week, the US National Institutes of Health revealed its new plan to tackle the US opioid crisis, which it dubbed the Helping to End Addiction Long-term, or HEAL, initiative. Among the ideas presented are research programs devoted to better understanding chronic pain, developing new non-opioid painkillers and addiction treatments, and speeding up the clinical trial process to test out these potential drugs.

It's no secret that opioids kill more Americans annually than ever before. But a new study published Friday in JAMA Network Open highlights just how devastating the crisis has been to certain age groups. In 2016, it found, opioid overdoses were responsible for a fifth of all deaths among people in their mid-20s to 30s -- a fivefold increase from 15 years ago.

New research out today in the New England Journal of Medicine highlights yet another impact of the opioid crisis: More people have gotten the organ donations they have needed in recent years because of more deaths caused by drug abuse and overdose. The research also suggests these donated organs aren't any less safe than organs from a person who didn't die of drug overdose. 

Who you are is the result of a complicated interplay between your environment, your genes, and probably a few other factors science has yet to uncover. Genetics influence somewhere around half of a person's "vulnerability to addiction," according to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. Now, as opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels in the US, researchers have shed light on the role one specific gene plays in influencing the risk of opioid addiction.

Starting in 2015, doctors in Massachusetts began noticing a wave of typically young patients coming down with unexplained, sometimes permanent short-term memory loss. The only connection found between these patients was a history of recreational drugs; either heroin or cocaine. But these drugs almost never cause the kind of brain damage that results in amnesia, leading the doctors to believe something else had to explain why so many people were losing their memories at the same time.

One of the white whales of vaccine research - a cure for addiction - is a very small step closer to reality. Last week, researchers working at the Walter Reed Army Center published a study showing that their experimental vaccine was able to block the euphoria-inducing effects of heroin and other commonly abused opioids in mice and rats. Almost as importantly, the vaccine didn't dampen the effects of other related drugs like methadone, which are used (controversially) to wean people off opioid addiction.