Federal officials are looking into what options may be available besides opioid painkillers.
Original Source: usatoday.com
Federal officials said they are working to get new non-opioid painkillers onto the market, along with opioid treatment drugs, part of the administration’s strategy to address an addiction epidemic that shows no signs of abating.
To those who became addicted after they were prescribed or tried pharmaceutical opioids as teens, the alternatives come too late but are still welcome news.
David Camp struggled with prescription pain pills starting when he was 19 and a college football teammate shared some he got for an injury. Camp, 26, has been in recovery for nearly four years.
“I have been trying to help dozens of friends and family members who struggled with opioid addictions that started from legitimate prescriptions,” said Camp, a client services representative with the drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility Lakeview Health in Jacksonville. Even though opiods only mask the pain, “the euphoria feels like when you’re actually intoxicated.”
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, a physician, talked Tuesday about some of the administration’s strategies that are less sensational than proposing the death penalty for dealers. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar defended Trump’s talk of putting drug dealers and traffickers to death.
“It’s using the authorities we have to the maximum extent possible,” Azar said. “So ‘Katie, bar the door.’ This is a crisis. There are 116 people dying a day.”
The NIH talked for months with more than 30 drug companies about a government partnership to develop the non-opioid alternatives, Collins said.
“We are learning a tremendous amount about what the neurobiology of pain is all about,” he said.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health panel is considering proposals this week to address the opioid crisis, including one that would encourage research on new non-addictive pain medications.
“So many people are dying, there is clearly an urgency to improving the tools that we have to help them,” said psychiatrist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Medication-assisted treatment, prescription drugs that curb cravings for opioids, can improve the chance of recovery, Volkow said. Still, about half of patients will relapse six months after treatment. Developing drugs that increase adherence by reducing how often patients have to take the drugs is one key to bolstering success, Volkow said. Only one treatment may be needed every six months.
Chris Barth, who was on medication-assisted treatment for about 10 years, was first prescribed Percocet at 15 and was addicted off and on for 20 more years. He said his move from an oral medication to one injected monthly into an implant made “a huge difference.”
The administration’s efforts to reduce the “ritual aspect of taking the drug” is “definitely the way to go,” he said.
“The up and down dose swings really messed with my immune/endocrine system,” Barth said. “I was sick all the time.”
Though Camp said he “absolutely agrees” with the research into non-addictive medications, there are already more effective medications than opioids for treating chronic pain.
“Unfortunately, the opioids are an easier solution for the short term for both prescribing doctors and patients because they very effectively mask the feeling of the pain while failing to address the actual problem that causes pain,” Camp said.
That has a particularly dangerous effect on teens, whose “reward” pathways in the brain are more suspceptible to addiction, said Philadelphia primary care doctor Laura Offutt.
“Use of addictive substances before brain development is complete — at around 21 — does seem to increase the risk of addiction in teens and later on in life,” said Offutt, the founder of Teen Health Week, which is marked globally this week.
A visit to Lakeview Health in Jacksonville could easily make one think it’s a high-end fitness center. The inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility offers “multi-modal non-opioid therapy.” In other words, it tries a variety of ways to address patients’ chronic pain without resorting to the opioid painkillers that often lead them to Lakeview in the first place.
Camp said Lakeview’s comprehensive chronic pain treatment includes non-addictive medications, physical therapy, personal training, stress management and “lifestyle adjustment.”
Recognizing that addiction is a medical issue and increasingly common as teens and adults struggle with stress and pain will help.
“All too often, I hear parents remark something along the lines of ‘I know my child would never do drugs’ or ‘I know there is heavy drinking at parties, but I don’t need to worry about my teen doing that,’ ” Offutt said.
“Our communities need to understand that nearly one in three Americans struggle with addiction.”