Teens abusing painkillers are more likely to later use heroin

A USC study in the July 8 issue of JAMA Pediatrics shows that teens who use prescription opioids to get high are more likely to start using heroin by high school graduation.

“Prescription opioids and heroin activate the brain’s pleasure circuit in similar ways,” said senior author Adam Leventhal, a professor of preventive medicine and psychology and director of the USC Institute for Addiction Science at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Teens who enjoy the ‘high’ from prescription opioids could be more inclined to seek out other drugs that produce euphoria, including heroin.”

Leventhal said the study, conducted from 2013-2017, is the first to track prescription opioid and heroin use in a group of teens over time. In 2017, 9% of the nation’s 47,600 opioid overdose deaths occurred in people under the age of 25, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to overdose, health risks of heroin use are devastating and include severe addiction, hepatitis C, HIV and other infections.

Full story at Science Daily

Growing opioid epidemic forcing more children into foster care

The opioid epidemic has become so severe it’s considered a national public health emergency. Addiction to prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone and morphine, has contributed to a dramatic rise in overdose deaths and health care costs. What many don’t realize, it’s also associated with an alarming number of children placed into foster care.

In a study published in this month’s issue of Health Affairs, researchers analyzed the association between the rate of opioid prescriptions in Florida and the number of children removed from their homes due to parental neglect.

“Through my experience as a foster parent, I’ve seen first-hand how the foster system has been overwhelmed by children removed from homes where the parents are opioid-dependent,” said lead author Troy Quast, PhD, of the University of South Florida College of Public Health. “My goal in this study was to gain insight into the factors behind this surge.”

Full story at Science Daily

Pre-clinical study suggests path toward non-addictive painkillers

A pre-clinical study led by Indiana University scientists reports a promising step forward in the search for pain relief methods without the addictive side effects behind the country’s current opioid addiction crisis.

The research, which appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry, finds that the use of compounds called positive allosteric modulators, or PAMs, enhances the effect of pain-relief chemicals naturally produced by the body in response to stress or injury. This study also significantly strengthens preliminary evidence about the effectiveness of these compounds first reported at the 2016 Society for Neuroscience Conference in San Diego, California.

“Our study shows that a PAM enhances the effects of these pain-killing chemicals without producing tolerance or decreased effectiveness over time, both of which contribute to addiction in people who use opioid-based pain medications,” said Andrea G. Hohmann, a Linda and Jack Gill Chair of Neuroscience and professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who led the study. “We see this research as an important step forward in the search for new, non-addictive methods to reduce pain.”

Full story at Science Daily

Number of Children and Teens Hospitalized for Opioid Overdoses Almost Tripled

A new study finds the number of young children and teens hospitalized for opioid painkiller overdoses has almost tripled in recent years.

Opioid overdoses increased 205 percent from 1997 to 2012 among children ages 1 to 4, HealthDay reports. Among teens ages 15 to 19, overdoses increased 176 percent.

Full story of children and teen opioid overdoses tripled at drugfree.org

In Many Countries, Difficulty in Accessing Opioid Painkillers Causes Suffering

As the United States tackles the challenge of opioid painkiller addiction, people in many parts of the world are suffering from pain because doctors are reluctant to prescribe opioids.

Opioids are restricted, and often unavailable, in most poor and middle-incomes countries, even for patients with AIDS, terminal cancer or serious war wounds, according to The New York Times.

Many doctors in Russia, India and Mexico are fearful they could be prosecuted or subject to other legal problems if they prescribe opioids, the article notes.

Health officials in Kenya recently authorized the production of morphine after it was revealed that the painkiller was only available in seven of the nation’s 250 public hospitals. The advocacy group Human Rights Watch reported earlier this year that only a small percentage of doctors in Morocco are allowed to prescribe opioid painkillers. The country’s law on controlled substances identifies opioids as poisons.

Full story of countries access to opioid painkillers at drugfree.org