Saturday, April 20, 2019

Shocking Increase In Opiate Addiction Among Native Americans

Shocking Increase In Opiate Addiction Among Native Americans


If drug and alcohol abuse increased 3,695 percent among our entire population, it would make headlines.

We would see the story on every channel, TV and radio, and we would read about the outrageous drug problem on the front of every newspaper. If addiction increased over 3,000 percent, something would be done, so why isn’t the same true for every group within our society?

shocking increase opiate addiction among Shocking Increase In Opiate Addiction Among Native Americans

Addiction increase among American Indians

Prescription painkiller and heroin addiction gone up that much, 3,695 percent, among American Indians. The numbers come from studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that tracked opiate addiction rates from 1998 to 2011.

Richard Wright, the chairman of the Minnesota American Indian Advisory (MAIA), appreciates the CDC’s published results. Wright has over thirty years of experience working with addicts in various aspects of recovery. He knows that for the specific American Indian population, certain barriers stand in the way of treatment that other cultural groups may not go up against. The MAIA chairman sites that, as a group, American Indians experience insufficient funding and very few culturally-sensitive rehab programs that can provide help that addresses the population’s real problems.

On June 7, Richard Wright organized a lunch discussion that gathered over 30 substance abuse counselors to determine how to “optimize care for opiate-addicted clients” and strategies for helping the caregivers who are treating these particular addicts.

Growing rates among females

The group addressed the issue of the quickly growing rates of opiate addiction among female American Indians. Wright believes that, “Females tend to be more emotionally out there than boys, and to explore their environment in an emotional way. A lot can go wrong to impact how they feel about themselves.” A lot of these girls are self-medicating painful feelings of self-loathing, parental neglect, or sexual violence, and others lack self-worth and are experimenting with friends to the point of personal danger.

Without a counselor or someone to talk to, these young girls are seeking escape from pain and trauma. The availability of prescription drugs adds to the problem. If your parents are taking Vicodin, Percocet, or OxyContin regularly, all you have to do is go into their medicine cabinet and take some. When pills are no longer around that way, you seek pills from your friends or from drug dealers. Worst case scenario, you use heroin until you can get ahold of more prescription pills. One opiate can substitute for any other opiate, and heroin is cheaper, offers a more intense high, and can be found in every city and town across America.

Strategy for treatment

Richard Wright, the Minnesota American Indian Advisory, the CDC, and every substance abuse treatment center and counselor in the country are working on strategies that increase the education, prevention, and intervention measures accessible to American Indians, young people, and addicts everywhere. Law enforcement is also undergoing changes that create ways to keep more people from using and abusing drugs and alcohol.

The shocking increase in opiate addiction among Native Americans is cause for concern, and it is not just that population’s problem. We can all work together to treat those who need help the most.

Kate Green pursues her passion of helping people with drug and alcohol addiction at Balboa Horizons Treatment Services. Read more about opiate deaths in women on her blog.

Photo Credit: Robin Iversen Rönnlund

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Heroin Vaccine May Help Cure Addiction

Heroin Vaccine May Help Cure Addiction


Remember Pac-Man? The little yellow video game guy who goes through a maze gobbling up different colored creatures? And of course, there who could forget about Ms. Pac-Man.

Well, a new heroin vaccine may that may help cure addiction works kind of like Pac-Man, and Ms. Pac-Man. When someone has been using heroin for years and is ready to stop, a vaccine that’s being worked on right now may help that process by working through the body gobbling up the heroin particles, seemingly eliminating them from the user’s body.

The Vaccine

Kim Janda, the study’s senior author, helped come up with the idea for the vaccine, and then the vaccine itself. While he was working on a drug that counteracting drug addiction, at one point he realized how ridiculous it felt to be creating one drug to stop the effects and use of another drug.

Why not create something more like the vaccine for measles that treats the problem, rather than substituting one drug for another? So he and his team did just that.

Pac-Man Like

The Pac-Man-like vaccine works by triggering the body to release heroin-fighting antibodies. When using heroin, the person who has been vaccinated will not get high. Instead, his or her body is gobbling up, or neutralizing, all heroin that is in the bloodstream, before it reaches the brain.

In other words, heroin will no longer feel good to the user; the drug will be metabolized by the vaccine before it is able to do anything positive for the person seeking the high. From there, what’s the point in putting harmful chemicals into your body? There isn’t one, you won’t get high. Pretty cool, right?

Not A Quick Fix

While this sounds like a quick fix, the vaccine is not meant to stand alone. The heroin vaccine may help cure addiction, but there are many other things a heroin addict needs to adopt into his or her life to fully stop using.

The vaccine could be viewed as more of a crutch, or training wheels, during early recovery when relapse is very likely. Knowing that the vaccine has been administered hopefully keeps a newly-clean addict from relapsing, but if that doesn’t work, then the physical interference will (i.e. the addict no longer gets high when using heroin, so a relapse is worthless.)

Why Haven’t We Started Yet

So why aren’t we hearing about people getting vaccinated for heroin addiction? Well, the vaccine has only been tested on rats up to this point. Unfortunately, financial matters have kept the heroin vaccine, that may help cure addiction, from being tested on humans. As you know, the system of a rat is less intricate than that of one of us, so it is unknown how well the results will translate to actual heroin addicts.

What do you think? If the vaccine that causes your body to fight off heroin as if it’s an invader works on people, and can be integrated into substance abuse treatment as a tool for heroin addicts, would you be willing to try it to get yourself, or a loved one, off such a dangerous drug?

Treatment Takes A Lot Of Work

Right now, treatment for heroin addiction takes a lot of work. People who become addicted to the drug, and other opiates like prescription pills (OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco, etc.), have a severly hard time detoxing from the drug and then staying clean. Heroin has a pull on its users unlike many other substances. Through individual and group therapy, plus holistic modalities and individual treatment plans, heroin addicts can recovery and live a successful life without the drug.

Can adding a vaccine only help those people who are working hard to start a new life? More research is needed, but stay tuned! This heroin vaccine may help cure addiction one day.

Marissa Maldonado works in the clinical admission department at Sovereign Health Group, a dual diagnosis treatment center designed to help people with behavioral problems and substance abuse issues.

vaccine Heroin Vaccine May Help Cure Addiction

Photo Credit: Army Medicine (CC BY 2.0)

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