Addiction

Teen drug use is down: Better parenting, or more smartphones?

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Data from an annual survey show that use of illicit drugs among teenagers is in decline, and has been for some time. It’s possible that this can be partially attributed to the popularity of smartphones.

Parents: As more states legalize marijuana, here’s what you need to know and do

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

As marijuana becomes legal or is decriminalized in more states, teens are less likely to view its use as risky, so parents need to talk with their children about safety, especially if they use it themselves.

A primary care doctor delves into the opioid epidemic

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

A new approach to treating the large numbers of people with opioid use disorder involves using medications to prevent withdrawal symptoms, and has been shown to be safer and more effective than traditional detox treatment, but some question the replacement of one drug with others.

Saving lives by prescribing naloxone with opioid painkillers

Sarah Wakeman, MD, FASAM, Medical Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Substance Use Disorder Initiative

Unintentional opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. These drugs are prescribed to patients to help relieve pain, but overdoses happen because opioids can also depress breathing, sometimes stopping it altogether. But naloxone, also called Narcan, can help reverse the effects of an overdose. If doctors prescribe naloxone at the same time as opioids, overdose deaths may decrease.

Words matter: The language of addiction and life-saving treatments

Sarah Wakeman, MD, FASAM, Medical Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Substance Use Disorder Initiative

The challenges of drug addiction are compounded by stigmatizing language and incorrect perceptions about the medications used in addiction treatment. Viewing addiction as a disease and likening it to other chronic diseases can help remove the negative connotations from the illness.

Fentanyl: The dangers of this potent “man-made” opioid

Sarah Wakeman, MD, FASAM, Medical Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Substance Use Disorder Initiative

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid. It is far more potent — and potentially more dangerous — than heroin and morphine. Overdose deaths related to fentanyl are on the rise. The drug is cheaper than heroin and recently is being used to dilute heroin or substitute for it. Users may be unaware that they are taking this potent drug, or may even seek its intense high. People at risk from using fentanyl can be treated successfully with therapies used for other opioid use disorders, but taking steps to prevent overdose are critical until a person is ready to seek care.

Quitting smoking during the second half of the menstrual cycle may help women kick the habit

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Studies have shown that not only do women have a harder time quitting than men, but they also experience more severe health consequences from smoking. However, new research suggests that it may be easier for women to quit smoking during the second half of their menstrual cycle. During this time, the hormone progesterone is higher, and this appears to aid in quitting and avoiding relapse.

What’s the best way to quit smoking?

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

Quitting smoking can add years to your life. The earlier the better, but the benefits of quitting are real and significant, even if you’re 80. There are several ways to quit and it often takes multiple attempts to become and ex-smoker for good. Research suggests that for some people, quitting “cold turkey” may be the most effective approach.

Opiates no solution to back pain

Steven J. Atlas, MD, MPH

As the treatment for chronic pain morphs into more opiate prescriptions, the rate of addiction and its consequences continues to climb. This doesn’t mean we should stop treating pain or that everyone prescribed opiates will become addicted. But it should give us pause and make us realize that just taking a pill doesn’t fix chronic pain – and doing so cause harm us in the long run.

The opioid crisis and physician burnout: A tale of two epidemics

Steven A. Adelman, MD
Steven A. Adelman, MD, Contributor

Like many of us these days, doctors are feeling the pressure of being asked to do more work in less time. This burnout is a big problem for both doctors and their patients, and it has big consequences — some obvious, some less so. In this post, Dr. Adelman explores the relationship between physician burnout and another big problem facing the country — the opioid epidemic.