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Addiction Archive

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Sex, drugs, and depression: What your doctor needs to know

Published March 22, 2022

For many people, a visit to the doctor causes anxiety, and discussing sensitive subjects like sexual problems, substance use, or mental health issues is even more likely to induce discomfort. But these discussions can be less anxiety-inducing and more productive if people know what to expect.

Thinking of trying Dry January? Steps for success

Published January 3, 2022

Many people have been drinking more since the start of the pandemic. If you want to cut down on your alcohol consumption, or just want to start the new year on a healthy note, consider joining the Dry January challenge. Does a month seem like a long time? Here are steps you can take to improve your chances of success.

Poverty, homelessness, and social stigma make addiction more deadly

Published September 28, 2021

Addiction can affect anyone, but social determinants of health — the factors that influence a person’s circumstances in life — can have a negative impact on a person’s efforts to overcome addiction.  Poverty, employment status, education level, and systemic racism can make it harder for people to reach and maintain recovery.

Right-sizing opioid prescriptions after surgery

Published July 29, 2021
It’s common for doctors to prescribe opioid pain medications for their patients after surgery; however, prescribing large numbers of pills increases the possibility of dependence and overdose. Writing prescriptions for smaller quantities of pills while still monitoring people's pain is one way to reduce the likelihood that a person develops a problem.

Nicotine addiction explained — and how medications can help

Published July 27, 2021
Addiction is now understood to be a neurological disorder that results from changes to the brain’s reward center caused by addictive substances. Ideally, treatment for nicotine addiction combines medication to suppress cravings with counseling to help patients reprogram their behavior.

Common questions about medical cannabis

Published May 28, 2021
While cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, more than two-thirds of US states have made it partly or fully legal for medical purposes. People who decide to use marijuana for a medical condition often have questions about its safety and proper use — the same considerations doctors weigh when determining whether it should be prescribed for a particular patient.

Treatment shows promise for methamphetamine use disorder

Updated April 1, 2021

Research we're watching

While opioid use disorders have gotten a lot of attention in recent years, the number of people dying as a result of methamphetamine use is on the rise. A study published Jan. 14, 2021, in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a combination drug therapy may provide some hope in helping people with this difficult-to-treat disorder.

In the trial, half of the 403 adult volunteers were given a combination of two drugs: naltrexone, which is used to treat both opioid and alcohol use disorders, and bupropion, an antidepressant. The other half of the group received a placebo. The treatment period began in 2017 and ended in 2019. During that time people were given periodic urine tests to gauge whether they used methamphetamines. Those who had at least three of four drug-free tests were defined as having responded to treatment. Researchers found that by weeks five and six, 16.5% of the treatment group had responded to treatment, compared with 3.4% of the control group. By weeks 11 and 12, 11.4% of the treatment group met the urine test criteria for successful treatment, compared with less than 2% of the control group. Most people who received the drug treatment didn't have any serious side effects.

5 action steps for quitting an addiction

Updated January 14, 2021

Because change is so difficult, it's useful to have a guide when attempting to kick an addiction to drugs, alcohol or behavior. Research shows that the following steps can help you move toward your recovery goals. You have the greatest chance of success if you adopt all five steps.

1. Set a quit date. It might be helpful to choose a meaningful date like a special event, birthday, or anniversary.

Opioids after heart surgery: A cautionary tale

Updated October 1, 2020

Research we're watching

A recent study found that nearly one in 10 people who received opioid pain relievers following heart surgery continued to take them for three to six months — a time point when no one should still be experiencing pain from the operation.

The study included nearly 36,000 people with private health insurance who had a coronary artery bypass graft (known as CABG or bypass surgery) or a heart valve replacement between 2003 and 2016. People who were prescribed more than 40 5-mg tablets of oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone, others) or an equivalent amount of a similar drug were at a much higher risk of prolonged opioid use than people who were prescribed lower doses. Other factors that increased a person's odds of taking opioids long-term included having CABG, being female, or having a history of chronic pain or alcoholism.

Another strategy to cope with life’s dark times

Updated August 1, 2020

News briefs

The United States is reporting increasing numbers of "deaths from despair" (suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol poisoning). Antidepressants and psychotherapy are often used to help people who are having a hard time coping with extremely difficult times and who are at risk for dying because of it. A recent Harvard study found that another strategy may also play a part in countering despair: attending religious services. The study, published online May 6, 2020, by JAMA Psychiatry, evaluated self-reported religious service attendance among 110,000 white, middle-aged men and women who were followed for about 30 years. Compared with never attending religious services, going at least once per week was associated with a much lower risk of death from despair: 68% lower for women and 37% lower for men. Researchers say that religious participation — regardless of affiliation — may serve as an antidote to despair and provide a sustained sense of hope, meaning, peace, and positive outlook. Also, faith-based organizations promote social engagement and connectedness and preach against self-injury and substance use. The study was observational and does not prove that regularly going to a religious service prevents death from despair. However, we know from other Harvard research that using religion to cope is associated with improved outcomes for people with severe psychiatric illness. Due to the pandemic, it may be difficult to attend your usual place of worship. Consider attending services via teleconference. If you attend in-person services, wear a mask and try to stay six feet away from others.

Image: © fstop123/Getty Images

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