Archive for September, 2012

CDC Says Methadone Accounts For 30% Of Painkiller Deaths

Wednesday, Sep. 19th 2012

Shocking CDC Report

The use of methadone accounted for more than 30% of all United States deaths from prescription painkillers according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Meanwhile, methadone only makes up approximately 2% of the nation’s pain prescriptions. So clearly, there is something very dangerous and deadly about the drug if it can account for that many fatalities with an extremely small user base. An interesting fact to note, this is the drug that people are prescribed when they are trying to stay off heroin, does that seem strange to anyone else? That is not the only problem, not only is this dangerous drug used for opiate drug detox, but is also being used as a prescription pain reliever which is unbelievable!

Dangers Of Methadone

There are a number of dangers associated with the use of this drug. These are just a few of the more problematic ones:

  • No room for error – When you look at the difference between a dangerous dose of methadone and a prescribed dose, you will see that the difference between the two is very small. This means that it is easy for someone to overdose on the drug accidently.
  • Special risks – Unlike many of the other painkillers on the market, methadone comes with special risks. If a person takes the drug more than three times each day, it will build up in their system. This will lead to dangerously slowed breathing.
  • Heart’s rhythm – There have been studies that have proven that methadone can seriously disrupt the heart’s rhythm.
  • Other medications – When used with other prescription painkillers or tranquilizers, the drug can be particularly risky.

The Financial Problem

As previously mentioned, another reason that the number of deaths attributed to methadone are on a rise is that it is being prescribed more often. CDC officials are letting physicians know that safer alternatives are available; CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden even admitted that the number of people prescribed methadone for pain management has increased drastically. What might the reason be that this dangerous substance is being prescribed even though the number of deaths attributed to the drug is skyrocketing? Is it better than other drugs? Does it have magical healing abilities that other medications don’t? No, the reason behind insurers and hospitals wanting to prescribe methadone over other medication is, cost.

That’s right; even though there is clear evidence that methadone is more dangerous than these other drugs, is dangerously addictive with incredibly difficult withdrawal symptoms and after federal efforts to tell healthcare providers about the risks, there is no decrease in methadone prescriptions for pain management. Even if we look at the economic cost as a benefit, it is still a penny wise and dollar foolish. The number of people who have visited the emergency room, the number of people struggling with a newfound addiction and the number of people that have lost their lives could have all been avoided. Even if the insurance company or the hospitals manage to save a few pennies, the societal cost is much higher.

Replacing Heroin With Methadone

Most people think of methadone when they think about opiate drug detox. However, the problem is that methadone is nothing more than a source of income for people who are not interested in providing actual treatment, but would rather keep someone complacent. These individuals have to visit those methadone clinics every day to get their dose.

These individuals are getting enough to where they don’t suffer withdrawal symptoms, but how many people struggling with addiction are using to “avoid withdrawal symptoms?” Most people who struggle with drug addiction use because they want to feel the thrill of the drug, or they want to numb the pain that they may otherwise feel, whether it be physical or emotional. Prescribing methadone in a ‘maintenance’ amount is not going to keep the majority of these individuals from committing crimes to pay for more drugs and it is not going to stop them acquiring more narcotics through illegal means.

A number of reports from people who have been addicted, signify that withdrawing from methadone is more difficult than withdrawing from any other opioid – including morphine and heroin. People that have experienced the symptoms say that they feel horrific pain down into their bones and have difficulty getting rest, sleep and even come down with heavy flu-like symptoms.

Knowing that, knowing how dangerous methadone can be and realizing that it doesn’t provide a suitable alternative for heroin addiction, why is it still being used? Again, it comes down to cost. It is much cheaper to give someone methadone and send them on their merry way than it is to have them stay at any inpatient, residential treatment centers. It is much easier to tell them to come back tomorrow for their dose than it is to get to the underlying problem, why this person turned to drugs in the first place.

Drug Replacement Therapy

There are a number of clinics that administer methadone and try to provide counseling at the same time in the hopes of trying to deal with addiction. However, it should be noted that a patient here is still being fed the addictive mentality while they are being counseled for that very problem. How can a person get used to living a ‘normal’, fulfilling life when they have to make daily trips to the methadone clinic? This is not helping someone learn to deal with addiction and make better choices in the future, this is about replacing an illegal drug that benefits drug dealers and criminal organizations, with a legal one that benefits these clinics and pharmaceutical companies.

The Truth Behind The Drug

Until society as a whole demands medical treatment that respects everyone, not just those that have the finances to pay for it, clinics and hospitals will attempt to save money where possible by providing the cheapest alternative, even if it comes with deadly side effects. Though there may be a handful of cases of individuals for whom methadone treatment may be acceptable, these are long-term users who have damaged their physical or mental well-being and would not survive without the drug. For the majority of people, drug replacement is equal to putting a bucket outside during a rainstorm; it is there to show that people are trying but not actually doing something to stop it. It is shameful but true that we still need to have this discussion.

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Latest Athlete Drug Violation Raises Questions

Friday, Sep. 7th 2012

Casualty Of Substance Abuse In Sports
It seems that it is virtually impossible to turn on the television, change to whatever your favorite sports program might be and avoid hearing more news about another athlete receiving a suspension or a fine for using a banned substance. Chicago Bears defensive tackle Nate Collins is the latest player caught with a banned substance. Because Collins violated the substance abuse policy of the National Football League, he will miss the first game of the regular season. However, according to a league statement, Collins is allowed to participate in preseason and offseason games and practices.

Even though the league did not release the substance in question, the punishment does raise a few questions. Why is the substance abuse policy such that suspending a player for a single game, though hefty of a pay cut it may represent, enough to punish a player for their drug use? If Nate Collins does not end up becoming injured or violate the substance abuse policy again, there are at least fifteen more games to play. If the NFL expects its audience to believe that the league considers these violations as serious, it is ludicrous that this type of infraction only costs the player a single game. In that regard, the risk/reward when it comes to being caught when abusing a performance-enhancing drug almost seems worthwhile to the athlete.

The Slippery Slope

One of the more common justifications among fans when discussing athletes that use a banned substance is that the athlete was merely “leveling the playing field.” After all, many sports fans have become so jaded with athletes that many fans assume that the vast majority of them are using some type of performance enhancing drug anyway. It is important to remember that this has nothing to do with leveling the playing field. It has to do with gaining an unfair advantage. If one athlete finds that taking 20 cc’s of some type of designer injectable steroid works wonders, the vicious cycle represented in ‘simply leveling the playing field’ means that soon athletes will be injecting 30, 40, or 50 cc’s. Even though there have been a handful of athletes that claim they had no idea what they were taking, it is important that the audience never forgets what this type of infraction was – a planned and deliberate action that was only used to gain an unfair advantage over their competition.

The Athlete As A Role Model

For many in sports, especially amongst male high school athletes, these professional athletes are their role model. This means the actions that these athletes take have a major influence on how those young adults behave. The young adults emulate their role model’s style of play, they emulate their training regimen and the athletes’ choice to take performance enhancing drugs does affect these young men as well. For many young, aspiring athletes, steroids are becoming an inevitability. Steroids are something that they believe they have to use in order to be considered a top athlete. These young men assume that because their role models do it, it gives them permission to use the same type of drugs those athletes use.

So what is the answer? What could be done to provide a better influence to young adults everywhere?

  • To start, the punishment should fit the crime. The NFL will sometime fine an athlete enough money to cost them a week’s salary for excessive celebration. Even though the punishments are different, the financial results can be the same. Harsher punishments for banned substances should be automatic, even on a first offense. Make it clear that cheaters don’t prosper. In Major League Baseball, the first offense for a failed drug test is a 50 game suspension. Considering that there are 180+ games in the baseball season, this means that the player is out approximately 1/3rd of the season. That seems like more of a deterrent than 1/16th of the season, which is the case of the NFL. Furthermore, if the player is caught by Major League Baseball twice more, they are given a lifetime suspension.
  • There needs to be more testing throughout the season. Cheating during the preseason and regular season should not be an option. If the chances of being caught increase exponentially and the punishment is severe enough, the risk/reward ratio for using performance-enhancing drugs goes up. If a player feels that they have an approximate 4% chance of being caught, but know they would drastically improve their performance on the field, it is a risk that seems worth taking. If they know that the risk of being tested after each game is 50%…suddenly the risk seems far greater.

Setting The Right Example

It is important to remember that youth can be very impressionable. A number of studies show that when children have good role models in their life that set forth clear expectations, the likelihood of them abusing drugs or alcohol is drastically reduced. It is a simple reason why many children use athletes as role models? It is because these athletes win and success is attractive to anyone of any age.

When children are playing in the park shooting a basketball they are not pretending to be the second round draft-pick that only gets time off the bench, they pretend to be the super star athlete. If you asked many young adults why a certain athlete is their favorite, their answer will not be “because they have a masterful swing of the bat” or “because the arch on his three pointers is unlike anything you see in basketball” – it is likely to be somewhere along the line of – “because he is the best.”

When impressionable young adults look at athletes, they often have a tendency to ignore the negative and only focus on the positive. As parents and other influential individuals in a child’s life, it is important to discuss and promote positive role models but the NFL needs to do their part as well. If they want to continue promoting football as a family activity, marketing jerseys to children, they need to do their part when it comes to sending the right message. Having football players in public service announcements claiming kids should ‘say no to drugs’ means very little if the NFL turns a somewhat blind eye to its own substance abuse policy.

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