Tag: harm reduction

Which Old Medicine Fights Meth Addiction?

A Meth Addiction Cure?

Meth is a particularly nasty drug to be addicted to. It keeps users up for days, until they’re hallucinating and delirious, and causes rapid and severe side effects. Just look at one of those before and after pictures to gather the true scope of meth addiction.

Well, it looks like there’s hope on the horizon! According to a new study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, an old medication may help those addicted to meth kick the habit once and for all.

naltrexone meth

The med in question is none other than Naltrexone. Not to be confused with naloxone, Naltrexone has been used for years in the treatment of both alcoholism and opioid addiction. Now, according to this new evidence, it boasts some real advantages for those addicted to meth.

Lara Ray, an Associate Professor of Psychology at UCLA, led a team of researchers looking at how Naltrexone impacted meth cravings and if it reduced euphoria associated with using the drug.

Researchers analyzed thirty participants, all of who were weekly meth users, in a hospital setting. Half of those involved received an increasing dose of Naltrexone (25 mg for two days, then 50 mg for two days) and half received a placebo.

During this trial, those receiving Naltrexone reported significantly reduced and less intense meth cravings than those receiving a placebo. At the end of the study, all participants were given meth (sounds crazy, I know). Those on Naltrexone reported less euphoria.

The same experiment was repeated ten days later, except the two groups were swapped. The findings were the same. Those taking Naltrexone were less likely to experience meth cravings and enjoyed the drug much less after taking it.

Don’t confuse naloxone with Naltrexone! Learn the difference today!

Naltrexone: Miracle Pill?

What exactly does this study mean for the future of meth treatment? Well, without becoming overly optimistic, it looks like Naltrexone offers real help to those struggling with stimulants.

This isn’t the first time Naltrexone has impressed researchers. As mentioned above, this small pill has quite a large history. It’s been used to help treat opioid addiction since 1984 and alcoholism since 1994.

Where drug like heroin or oxycodone are concerned, Naltrexone binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This makes it impossible for users to experience euphoria after using opioids, as their receptors are already “filled.” Naltrexone hasn’t been shown to significantly reduce cravings, though there is anecdotal evidence that says it does.

As for alcoholism, well, here’s where Naltrexone really shines. It’s been shown to reduce alcohol cravings and lead to significant periods of abstinence. It’s also effective at reducing alcohol consumption in those who are currently drinking. A 2006 study found that Naltrexone even reduces alcohol relapse without the addition of counseling.

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Other Possible Uses

But wait there’s more! Not only does Naltrexone help treat alcoholism, opioid addiction, and now, potentially, meth addiction, but it has a number of other uses. Bear in mind that the following have been studied far less frequently than the above.

Naltrexone has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of various behavioral addictions. These are things like self-harm, kleptomania, compulsive gambling, pornography addiction, and others.

The jury’s still out on whether Naltrexone can offer meaningful help for these type of harmful behaviors, but various studies do suggest it’s better than nothing.

And then there are Naltrexone’s “off-label” uses. This pill, somewhat of a medical miracle really, has shown promise in reducing symptoms of multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and adverse reactions to the Hepatitis C treatment Interferon.

Is there anything this medication can’t do? Jokes aside, there are some serious limitations to the effectiveness of Naltrexone. Namely, it has to be taken daily, in pill form, or monthly as an injection. This means that if an individual is dead set on using drugs or alcohol, they simply have to “forget” to take a dose.

For this reason, Naltrexone is best used in conjunction with other forms of addiction treatment. Things like therapy, twelve-step involvement, life skills training and others offer a holistic type of recovery. Taken together, Naltrexone and traditional forms of treatment offer a good shot at attaining, and flourishing in, sobriety.

Wait…there’s a heroin addiction vaccine?

Harm Reduction: Helping or Hurting Addicts? – Part Two

Written By: Fiona Stockard

This is part two of our series on harm reduction. Click here to read part one

What is Harm Reduction?

Naloxone Distribution

Naloxone is an “anti-overdose” drug. It’s a remarkably effective way to treat opioid overdoses. Naloxone can completely bring someone out of an overdose within two to eight minutes. In fact, Naloxone is thought to be so beneficial that it’s listed as one of the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines.

naloxone distribution

Trial programs have distributed Naloxone to active addicts, their loved ones, police, and social service agencies. This distribution sometimes takes place at needle exchanges and opioid replacement therapy clinics.

Advocates of Naloxone say it gives addicts, quite literally, a second chance at life. If an addict overdoses on the street, their peers are more likely to give them Naloxone than take them to a hospital. If a police officer witnesses an overdose, either on the street or in jail, it’s quick and easy to give the overdosing individual Naloxone.

Opponents of Naloxone say that, once again, it’s too soft on addicts. They say addicts should be held responsible for their actions, should feel their consequences. They say if an addict overdoses, they should deal with the repercussions.

I think any sane person can agree that Naloxone distribution is a good idea! It gives addicts, and those who deal with addicts frequently, one more tool against an unfortunate and tragic death.

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Safe Injection Sites

Safe injection sites are without a doubt the most controversial form of harm reduction. At their most basic, safe injection sites offer a legally sanctioned clinic for IV users to inject drugs.

safe injection sites
Safe injection sites offer various services already mentioned. They provide access to clean syringes. Their staff is equipped with Naloxone. They offer basic health care assistance and educational classes. They have programs for addicts who’d like to receive treatment. They even have clothes and food for homeless addicts.

Advocates of safe injection sites argue that they offer an invaluable service to addicts. They offer a safe, government sanctioned location to use IV drugs. They’re equipped to combat overdose, infection, abscesses, and other common medical problems. They offer education, medical services, and rehabilitation services.

Opponents of safe injection sites argue this is simply too much. They say it’s not enough to have other options, but now addicts want a place to use illegal drugs with impunity. They say safe injection sites encourage and promote drug use. Basically, they make the same argument they’ve been making all along – that addiction should be treated as a crime, rather than a disease.

It’s worth noting there are no safe injection sites in the US. So far, they’re in various European countries, Australia, and Canada.

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Basic Healthcare Services

Basic healthcare services are exactly what they sound like. They consist of things like: physical exams, HIV and other infectious disease testing, distribution of Naloxone, distribution of contraceptives, distribution of sterile injection supplies, and more.

basic healthcare services

Basic healthcare services are important because many addicts don’t have access to doctors or other forms of primary healthcare. Advocates of harm reduction argue that basic healthcare services are a human right. Everyone, regardless of their addiction(s), should have access to healthcare.

There aren’t many opponents of basic healthcare services. Even among those who contest harm reduction strategies, few think that addicts shouldn’t have access to healthcare.

Learn about a treatment method offering hope for opioid overdoses!

So, Does Harm Reduction Help or Hurt Addicts?

Ultimately, this question can only be answered by the one asking it.

There are a lot of benefits to harm reduction. A lot of benefits. Harm reduction provides addicts with safe injection supplies. It offers many ways to escape the cycle of active addiction. It give addicts access to basic drug education and healthcare services. In the case of Naloxone and safe injection sites, harm reduction even saves lives.

There are also some drawbacks. It can propagate addiction. Addicts may find it easier to rely on harm reduction than to get sober. Note that I said may. This hasn’t been proven. Certainly, addicts need to feel the consequences of their use. That’s the only way we heal.

When weighing the pros and the cons, it’s clear that harm reduction does more good than bad. However, addiction is a complicated disease. What’s good for one addict may be harmful to another.

You have the facts, now you can decide for yourself. Is harm reduction good or bad? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. Having an educated and balanced discussion about harm reduction is the only way we can decide, as a group of sober individuals, if it helps or hurts.

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Harm Reduction: Helping or Hurting Addicts? – Part One

Written By: Fiona Stockard

What is Harm Reduction?

The first time a woman approached me on the street and asked if I wanted clean syringes, I thought I was dreaming. Turns out this wasn’t some addict fantasy or dream, rather I’d just been introduced to harm reduction.

what are needle exchanges?

Harm reduction is an often-controversial type of treatment. At its most basic, harm reduction aims to provide care, and in some cases rehabilitation, to active addicts.

To put it another way, harm reduction operates under the belief that reducing the self and societal damage of addiction is of the utmost importance. Guess what? It is!

Is harm reduction helping or hurting addicts, though? Does it provide much needed support or enable destructive behavior? Let’s explore some common types of harm reduction and see if we can figure out the pros and cons.

Learn the signs and symptoms of prescription painkiller addiction

Needle Exchanges

Needle exchanges are probably the most recognized form of harm reduction. This was my introduction and, I bet, countless other addicts introduction to harm reduction.

what are opioid replacement therapies?

Needle exchanges are places where an addict can go and trade in dirty syringes for clean ones. Advocates say this reduces the spread of blood-borne diseases. This is accomplished by providing access to unused syringes (reducing the chance of sharing needles) and by properly disposing of used syringes (reducing the chance an unlucky person might stick themselves with a discarded needle).

Some needle exchanges are buildings, others are nothing more than vans with a permit and clean needles. The one I went to offered soup, second-hand clothes, and educational classes.

It’s kind of funny actually – I went from college classes about addiction from a sociological perspective, to needle exchange classes about how to avoid contracting HIV. Black humor was always my favorite!

Now that we know the pros of needle exchanges, what’re the cons? Well, opponents of needle exchanges argue they perpetuate addiction. They argue that illegal drugs are, well, illegal and needle exchanges allow illegal behavior to continue. However, a 2001 study done by harm reduction advocates reported needle exchanges reduced the spread of HIV in New York City by as much as 70%. That sounds pretty impressive to me!

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Opioid Replacement Therapies (ORT)

Opioid Replacement Therapy is another well-known form of harm reduction. It’s often called methadone maintenance. This is when opioid addicts are given access to methadone or buprenorphine, in an effort to wean them off street drugs.

alternative forms of addiction treatment?

Before we go any further, there are a few important points to make! To be enrolled in an ORT, you must take drug tests. This ensures participants aren’t abusing heroin, or pain pills, while receiving medication. Also, you go to an ORT clinic to receive medication. Doctors don’t hand out drugs on the street!

Sometimes, ORT clinics offer health and educational services, though this isn’t always the case. Advocates of Opioid Replacement Therapy say it’s a powerful way to wean addicts off of heroin and other illegal opioids.

They cite studies which show between 40% and 60% effectiveness of ORT’s, although this number is often debated. After all, it’s hard to determine what qualifies as effectiveness. Is it a year of abstinence from illegal drugs? Is it steady employment? Is it stable housing? Is it all of these things and more?

Opponents of ORT say it offers addicts a way to beat the system. They say rather than facing the consequences of their actions, addicts are given free drugs. They say ORT’s are too lenient in how they enforce drug screens.

The truth’s probably somewhere between the two. Opioid Replacement Therapies certainly help a lot of suffering addicts. They also offer a way out of active addiction, as opponents say. Isn’t that the goal, though? Don’t we, as recovering addicts and caring normies, want active addicts to get the help they need?

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Does harm reduction help or hurt addicts? Click here to read Harm Reduction: Helping or Hurting Addicts? – Part Two and find out!

What is ORT?: The New Fake Sobriety

Written By: Fiona Stockard

What is Methadone Maintenance?

methadone maintenance

Recovery from active addiction is hard. If you’re sober today, you deserve a high-five and pat on the back. Really though, sobriety is hard. In fact, recovery from active addiction is so hard that sometimes abstinence based recovery takes a backseat to other methods. I’m talking about methadone maintenance and the increasingly popular Suboxone maintenance.

Methadone maintenance is a form of addiction treatment often referred to as ORT, or Opioid Replacement Therapy. When someone receives methadone maintenance, they take regular doses of the synthetic opioid methadone.

Can this drug really end the opioid overdose epidemic?

What is Methadone?

methadone program

Methadone is one of the longest acting opioids. This makes it hard to abuse. Rather than getting people high, methadone saturates the brain’s opioid receptors slowly, over an extended period of time. This doesn’t mean that methadone is abuse-proof.

As a tried and true junkie myself, I can vouch that methadone will get you loaded, but only at first. After the first few times taking it, methadone doesn’t you high. Instead, it stops withdrawal symptoms. This is where ORT becomes incredibly beneficial.

What is Suboxone Maintenance?

Suboxone maintenance is a new type of Opioid Replacement Therapy. This is when the drug buprenorphine is used instead of methadone.

The idea behind methadone and Suboxone maintenance is the same. Some addicts simply don’t respond to abstinence-based treatment. For those unlucky few, ORT offers a way to escape the destructive cycle of active addiction.

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What is Suboxone?

suboxone maintenance

Suboxone is a brand name version of the drug buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an interesting chemical. It’s an opioid agonist and an opioid antagonist. This means that it simultaneously activates and deactivates opioid receptors in the brain.

Much like methadone, rather than getting you high, buprenorphine stops opioid withdrawal from occurring. This makes it a pretty valuable ORT drug.

The truth about cotton fever

What are the Pro’s and Con’s of ORT?

For those addicts who’ve tried repeatedly to get sober, but can’t, ORT is a lifesaver. It offers a way to avoid the illegal lifestyle associated with active addiction. It stops withdrawal symptoms. It allows chronic-relapsers a chance at normality and stability.

That being said, Suboxone and methadone maintenance are pretty controversial. Opponents of ORT argue they enable addicts. They argue that we shouldn’t be handing drugs to addicts. They argue that it’s not real sobriety.

Well, they’re right…sort of. It’s not real sobriety. However, for those who just can’t seem to succeed at traditional addiction treatment, ORT is helpful. It offers an “easier, softer way.” It offers a way for them to avoid the more destructive aspects of active addiction. Plus, if someone going through ORT decides they’d like traditional treatment, clinics often help them find it.

ORT is legal in forty-five states. That’s a lot, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t legal everywhere. While going through ORT, addicts have to go to a clinic to get medication. They’re given regular drug tests and, if they fail, they’re kicked out of the program. They’re also offered support services, like group counseling and twelve-step meetings.

So, no one is handing out drugs on the street. After being in a methadone program for an extended period of time, addicts may be given “take home” doses. This is only offered to those with clean track records, though.

There are pro’s and con’s to Suboxone and methadone maintenance. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Is it a helpful tool or a way to enable addicts?

Learn about other forms of harm reduction

We are here to support you during your time of need and help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Click below to speak to a member of our staff directly.

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