The epidemics of prescription opioid and heroin abuse occurring throughout the country may have much to do with the high rates of painkiller prescriptions that currently exist in many states, particularly in the South and Midwest. States with some of the worst problems with heroin use and overdose deaths, like Kentucky, also rank near the top of the list of the most-prescribing states. From local community action to state and national drug policy, different strategies to solve the drug crisis are being pursued, and now a new painkiller is ready to enter the market that may be more resistant to misuse and overdose.
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affordable care act
"There is no illness currently being treated that will be more affected by the Affordable Care Act than addiction, that's because we have a system of treatment that was built for a time when they didn't understand that addiction was an illness."
Dr. Tom McLellan, September 11, 2013
CEO, Treatment Research Institute
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In 2012, the number of adults in the United States suffering from substance abuse—more than 60 million—was greater than the number suffering from cancer and diabetes combined.
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In response to the surging drug epidemics seen across the country, national agencies and health experts are now developing an enhanced system for monitoring drug trends. In August 2014, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will start funding the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS), which will provide more intensive monitoring of local drug use trends and allow experts to act more quickly to address outbreaks of drug abuse before they spread to other areas. The system will also take advantage of social media platforms to provide information and education to people living in areas where addiction outbreaks are occurring.
People in recovery learn to avoid triggers in order to stay sober. That’s because triggers will “activate” the part of the brain called the reward system on which drugs and addiction exert their influence. But a new research study has found that in people with strong addictions, it’s not just the reward system, but other areas having to do with memory, attention, and emotion that become active with exposure to triggers. The University of Texas at Dallas researchers also found that dependent users of marijuana who were exposed to a particular trigger—in this case, drug paraphernalia, or a pipe—showed much more activity in the affected brain regions than casual users, according to a ScienceDaily report.
Kentucky legislators in the House and Senate are reviving proposals to improve addiction treatment coverage and toughen criminal penalties for drug traffickers, according to a report in The Courier Journal. Similar proposals grouped under Senate Bill 5 failed to pass during the 2014 General Assembly, but several lawmakers hope that an agreeable bill can be reached in 2015, if not sooner. The goal of legislating better access to treatment appears to be even more urgent now, as treatment centers across the country are finding that a federal rule is severely limiting their ability to bill Medicaid for residential care.
Addiction researchers and substance use treatment professionals already have a fairly mature understanding of how addiction appears in the brain, knowing that it causes and is reinforced by long-term problems with the regulation of dopamine in the region of the brain known as the reward system. But scientists are still trying to understand the exact mechanism of the brain disease of addiction, so that better medication therapies—even vaccines—might be developed to reverse the condition of addiction. Recently Prof. Scott Steffensen and his colleagues at Brigham Young University published studies that may make clearer just what is going on when a brain transitions to a state of addiction.