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NIDA recently sponsored a contest that asked participants to create infographics conveying such statistics to help educate the public on the perils of drug abuse.
The third place winner was a team from Yale University comprised of Susan Busch, Hongyu Zhang, Stephen McLaughlin, and Rosanna Smith. The team was able to illustrate the “unexpected association” of the abuse of opioids and heroin.
The infographic also showed that while in 2010 only 5% of those who abused pain medications were also using heroin, the number has increased to 14% by 2010.
A recent NBC News report quoted health officials as saying that heroin users might have started abusing drugs through non-medical use of prescription medication.
“The pathway appears to be now moving from the prescription drugs to heroin, a very dangerous development,” Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of NIDA, told NBC.
This is not surprising since opioids have the same addicting effect on the brain as heroin.
Compton said heroin is in fact cheaper than prescription drugs in many parts of the country and a number of those abusing pain killers have moved on to heroin.
It is not surprising that health officials are calling for higher utilization of medication-assisted therapies addressing drug addiction.
Last month, NIDA director Nora Volkow urged healthcare providers and insurance companies to cover drug addiction medication such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.
Nowadays, drug addiction need not only be fought through counseling alone. Many rehabilitation companies like BioCorRx Inc. (BICX, http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=BICX) are tapping medication to help curb addiction and prevent relapse of patients.
“Most programs tend to focus on the psycho-social component of the person’s addiction alone. We feel that dealing with the physical addiction initially is very vital in increasing success rates. Without the intrusive physical cravings, patients are better able to absorb the teachings of the life coaches. Medicines like naltrexone are very effective in virtually eliminating those cravings and we have one of the longest lasting implants in the world to help address the cravings,” said BioCorRx COO Brady Grainier in an interview.
BioCorRx’s dual approach involves the use of a naltrexone implant and life coaching. To address compliance problems, the company’s Start Fresh Program uses implants instead. Naltrexone, in pellet form, is inserted in the lower abdomen part of the body through an outpatient procedure that takes about 20 minutes. The implant releases the drug slowly into the body, making it last for several months.
Because naltrexone blocks the part of the brain that feels pleasure in the use of drugs, the patient is usually able to lose cravings for opioids sometimes just hours after the procedure.
This enables the patients to undergo coaching or counseling and address the psycho-social aspect of their addiction.
Health officials are now hoping that such treatments will be able to stem the country’s problem with opioid abuse. With millions of Americans already dependent on prescription drugs, serious attention should be given before it further causes an increase in heroin use.