A consequence in the worsening opioid epidemic is the rising number of infants born with opioid dependence, also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is a health problem associated with fetal exposure to opioids which can cause excessive crying, rapid breathing, and slow weight gain. Seeking solutions for this issue, lawmakers have imposed reporting requirements for newborns that were exposed to opioids in the mother’s womb. Though NAS is a legitimate concern, these reporting requirements are not having their intended consequence. In fact, they are detrimental to the wellbeing of mothers with addiction and their infants.
Once known as a club drug, MDMA – commonly referred to as Ecstasy or Molly – is being studied as a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that results from a traumatic experience, like experiencing or witnessing an especially life-threatening, horrifying, or dangerous event. In addition to combat veterans, there are several other groups (for example, rape victims and emergency responders) who are at higher risk for this condition. PTSD can be characterized by flashbacks to the traumatic event, frightening thoughts, angry outbursts, and exaggerated feelings of guilt or blame, among other symptoms.
Recently, news stories have focused on how addiction is ravaging families and communities, particularly in rural areas. Around one in five Americans lives in a rural area, defined as a community with fewer than 2,500 people. Rural and urban communities both face the challenges of substance use, overdose, and the opioid epidemic. Although substance use rates in rural areas have kept pace with those in urban areas, rural communities seem to have been hit harder. For example, a recent statistic shows a greater increase in the proportion of babies born addicted to opioids in rural communities than in urban areas.
Latinos are the largest minority group in the U.S., at over 17 percent of the population. It is estimated that, by 2060, this will rise to nearly 29 percent. Immigration to the U.S. is often prompted by the possibility of improved life circumstances, including greater access to jobs, health care, education and other opportunities for their families.
The past few years have seen an explosion in the use of e-cigarettes and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), especially among young people. Since e-cigarettes entered the U.S. market several years ago, the news and information posted online and on social media often contain contradictory and confusing messages about their potential risks and benefits. This has led many cigarette smokers to wonder if e-cigarettes will help them stop smoking and many parents to wonder if e-cigarettes are safe for kids to use.
Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin, has nearly quadrupled. In September, for the first time, the White House designated a Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. As part of this awareness week, President Obama called for expanding access to prevention and treatment services for opioid use disorders.
The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, calls for a wholesale change to the way we address substance use and addiction in our country by treating it as a health issue rather than a moral failing. The blueprint set forth in the report is comprehensive and multi-faceted, but the prominent theme that underlies its findings and recommendations is the importance of research in informing addiction policy, prevention and treatment. This recognition of the critical role that research should play in transforming addiction care will have a profound effect on improving access to treatment and reducing the stigma surrounding addiction that has long served as a barrier to effective prevention, treatment and policy.
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