Doctors Don’t Know Everything About Opiate Abuse and Addiction


Painkiller abuse and addiction are becoming larger and larger problems among those who have health insurance and access to regular doctors. The good news is that this access to health care increases the likelihood that their issues with addiction will be identified by a medical professional who can guide them toward treatment. The bad news is that many doctors simply don’t know all that they could about opiate abuse and addiction, which means that they may:

  • Not recognize opiate addiction in patients
  • Misdiagnose opiate abuse as something else
  • Fall victim to “doctor shopping” scams
  • Inadvertently feed someone’s addiction by increasing their opiate dose

This is bad news for patients who may not even recognize that they are living with an opiate addiction without assistance and worse news for those who go to their doctor hoping to get guidance and/or treatment.

Inadvertent Enabling

Many doctors are unaware that diversion of prescription drugs is such a common practice. As a result, they may take claims of chronic pain at face value rather than investigate with medical testing or follow up continually. Too often, addicts get the drugs to fuel their addiction from legitimate providers who believe that they are helping to ease the patient’s chronic pain. They don’t realize when use becomes abuse and then turns into an addiction and inadvertently become enablers instead of healers.

Directed Treatment

When a patient reports an addiction to his medication, his doctor may or may not respond by trying to get him off the drug. Some may simply say that physical dependence can be normal while others may offer to back down the dose or to try a different medication if the patient is unhappy with the results. Even those who recommend drug rehab to address the issue may not be very helpful when it comes to pinpointing which program will provide the best care specific to the patient’s needs.

If opiate addiction is the main issue, it’s important to choose a drug rehab that offers care not just for the physical dependence but also psychotherapeutic treatment for the psychological cravings for the drug, underlying issues that may have driven the addiction in the first place, and chronic or intermittent pain. Not just any drug rehab will do.

Best Course of Action: Immediate Treatment

If you believe that opiate addiction is an issue for someone you love, sending them to the family doctor will do little good. Instead, connect them with a drug rehab program that offers intensive detox and ongoing psychotherapeutic intervention. Call us at Alta Mira now.

Suboxone Diversion: Just Another Problem Associated With Medication-Assisted Treatment

gir looking over shoulder with mirror
Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, is a commonly prescribed drug to treat opiate addiction. It works by “replacing” heroin or opiate painkillers that the patient is addicted to, allowing them to stop the rollercoaster of irregular doses and constant struggle to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

It was thought to be a miracle drug because low-level addicts could take it at home without having to go to the clinic daily as they did with other medications, and it even seemed to provide some antidepressant effects. Overdose-proof, abuse-proof – it seemed like the perfect solution to the opiate addiction problem.

Time revealed, however, that the medication wasn’t as foolproof as it first appeared. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Suboxone is more and more often seized in drug busts as the drug is diverted and abused. In some cases, it is even believed that use of the drug recreationally has been a gateway to the use of substances like heroin and prescription painkillers.

The Benefits

Suboxone has been a lifesaver for addicts who developed a dependence upon a low dose of prescription painkillers through a normal prescription and needed help weaning themselves off. They have a job to go to and cannot go to a clinic daily in order to receive a dose of methadone, so the prescription-based medication fits easily into their schedule.

Some even report that the medication serves as an antidepressant as well, which additionally helps them to stay focused and avoid relapse as they rebuild in sobriety. There are even generic versions of the drug available to keep the cost down.

The Risks

Suboxone is only available to those who have a low-dose opiate addiction. Those who take high doses of heroin or prescription painkillers must first take methadone and then transition to the use of Suboxone later after they have stepped down their dose. Should they attempt to take it on the black market, they often end up using other drugs in addition in order to maintain the “normal” levels of opiates in their systems and stave off withdrawal symptoms. This can lead to abuse of the drug and medical complications.

Other patients who are prescribed the drug may sell their dose on the street if they have no intention of using it to break free from addiction. Their buyers may use the drug recreationally while they use the money to buy heroin.

In 2003, police seizures of the drug numbered about 90 across the country. In 2010, that number had increased to more than 10,500. Additionally, the rate of emergency room visits caused by abuse of the drug increased tenfold between 2005 and 2010, reaching as high as 30,000 in 2010 – more than 50 percent of these visits were caused by nonmedical use of buprenorphine.

True Freedom Through Sobriety

Starting over after opiate addiction is not easy, and the use of medication can just make it more difficult for many patients and prolong the detox period unnecessarily. Learn more about making a clean break when you contact us at Alta Mira today.

Dual Diagnosis Rehab Necessary When Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders Collide


An estimated 7 to 10 percent of the American population struggle with a drug abuse disorder at some point in their lives, according to a study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. Of these, more than half also live with a psychiatric disorder, says the Journal of the American Medical Association. When someone has both a drug abuse issue and a mental health disorder, it’s termed a dual diagnosis, and a new study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry found that when these patients attempt to treat only their drug abuse problem, they often fail in recovery.

The solution? Dual diagnosis rehab.

What’s the Difference?

Standard drug rehab programs may be effective at treating a straightforward drug or alcohol addiction, but when a patient is living with mental health symptoms related to a mood disorder like bipolar disorder or an anxiety disorder of any kind, it can make it that much more difficult to find and maintain balance in one’s life. A dual diagnosis rehab can offer intensive and effective treatment for both the mental health disorder and the substance abuse issue, increasing the chances that the patient will be able to stay sober.

Complicating things are the mental health symptoms. Often, patients will seek out drugs and alcohol to escape their symptoms so when they stop drinking or using drugs, the symptoms can be overwhelming and a trigger for relapse. Without treatment to learn how to manage these issues healthfully, it’s only a matter of time before the patient relapses, usually feeling as if there is no possibility that they can successfully live a sober life due to their inability to manage their mental health disorder.

Other Ways to Improve Success Rates in Recovery

If you are dually diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, you can increase your chances in recovery not only by beginning your journey in a dual diagnosis rehab but also by:

  • Including your closest family members in your recovery
  • Showing up and participating during treatment
  • Following doctors’ orders when it comes to medications and other directives to improve your quality of life in treatment
  • Following up drug rehab with long-term aftercare services that hold you accountable not just for substance abuse recovery but also for mental health treatment choices

At Alta Mira, we offer an intensive treatment program that can help you to address mental health issues as well as substance abuse. We begin with a thorough evaluation and diagnosis, follow up with directed treatment options, and provide continued support in aftercare when you complete the program. Contact us now for more information.

Senior Citizens Using More Opiate Painkillers

Sneiors and Drug Use
The number of prescriptions for addictive painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone in the United States was skyrocketing over the past decade – until it became apparent that overdose deaths and opiate addiction rates were going through the roof as well. Since then, changes have been made that limit the availability of prescriptions to those who would abuse them, and as a result, the rate of painkiller abuse has gone down – except among senior citizens.

Seniors and Addictive Medication

According to a report on Medicare data published in USA Today, the use of sedatives and opiate painkillers is increasing sharply in the over-65 age group – an estimated one in five Americans over 65 has a prescription for a painkiller – and they are experiencing high rates of prescription drug abuse, addiction and medical complications as a result. The study found that:

  • Seniors are using prescription painkillers for longer than they used to.
  • The number of seniors with a prescription for painkillers increased 30 percent between 2007 and 2012.
  • An estimated 8.5 million seniors had an opiate prescription in 2012.
  • Use of the most commonly prescribed opiate medications (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.) increased by an estimated 50 percent.
  • The amount of each medication per patient increased by an average of 15 percent.
  • Prescriptions for sedatives prescribed to reduce anxiety increased by about 25 percent between 2007 and 2012. The average amount of medication prescribed increased by about 10 percent in that time.

The Problem With Addictive Medication

Sedatives and opiate painkillers can make the user hazy as well as reduce their agility and ability to process information. As a result, their chronic use can lead to an increase in:

When the patient uses these kinds of medications in combination, it can increase the chance that he or she will develop these kinds of problems. Michael Von Korff of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle says: “Misuse and abuse of these medicines is not uncommon among the elderly. They do get into trouble with these drugs.”

Early Help Is Key

Paying attention is the first step to recognizing when there may be an issue with your loved one’s use of addictive painkillers and sedatives. Note the length of time that they have used the medications, their response, and whether or not they abuse alcohol or other drugs as well. If you see a problem, don’t wait to intervene. If addiction or willful abuse of their prescriptions is an issue, we can help. Contact us at Alta Mira today.

Google Trends May Be Tracking America’s Interest in Drugs

Alcohol Rehab Success Rate
America’s opinion on whether or not marijuana is dangerous, should be legalized, and their need for treatment for dependence upon the drug is now being tracked in a new and unique way: through an online tool called Google Trends. Others hope to use the tool as well, to track the interest in other drugs.

Why? A study that was presented at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence found that there was a link between the number of marijuana-related searches in a state and the use of the drug among residents.

Twenty marijuana-related search terms were included in the study, like “bong,” “THC,” “blunts,” cannabis,” and of course, “marijuana” and phrases like “smoke weed” or “smoke pot.”

Melissa Krauss was the study co-author. She said: “We looked at regional trends — differences across states in marijuana search terms, and then we compared those with marijuana abuse and dependence rates, people’s perception of availability of marijuana, and their perceptions of marijuana risks.”

Trends in Drug Use

As marijuana becomes legalized for medical use in more and more states, a number of problems are becoming an obvious issue. In the states where it is legal to use the drug:

  • Teens are having an easier time accessing marijuana and more are abusing the drug as a result.
  • More drugged driving accidents are occurring because drivers are under the influence of the drug.
  • More and more people are citing marijuana as their drug of choice when they enter rehab.
  • More people are being admitted to the ER for marijuana-related medical emergencies.

Legislators are trying to manage the problems by adjusting laws. For example, New York just legalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes in the state but put a number of restrictions into place in order to protect residents, including the fact that it can’t be smoked – only vaporized or eaten in the form of marijuana edibles. Other states are working to better define “drugged” driving when it comes to marijuana and put into place other limits that will keep residents safe as well.

Managing Marijuana Use

If your loved one is using marijuana legally or illegally and unable to manage the negative fallout, it may be time to seek help. Here at Alta Mira, we offer an intensive substance abuse and addiction treatment program that can assist your loved one in getting back on track by stopping the use of all drugs and alcohol and learning how to better cope with medical issues, mental health symptoms, and day-to-day stress. Call now to learn more.

Level of Intoxication Positively Associated With Higher Rates of Risky Sex

sad sick girl

Risky sexual behaviors – like unprotected sex or sex with poorly known partners – has long been linked to the abuse of drugs and alcohol. A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that the level of intoxication is further indicative of the likelihood that the drinker will engage in these behaviors. The researchers recommended focusing on the level of intoxication when addressing the potential for risky sexual behaviors that could result in issues like unwanted pregnancy or the contraction of hepatitis C or HIV.

Unsafe sex is only one of a thousand possible dangers that can befall those who drink to excess – health problems, financial issues, relationship stress, etc. – and that risk increases each time the person drinks heavily. Those who struggle with alcoholism, regular abuse of alcohol, and/or binge drinking have an even higher likelihood of falling victim to any one of these problems.

How can you help your loved one avoid the pitfalls of an alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorders

There is a spectrum of disorders that fall under the classification of “alcohol use disorder.” Essentially, any use of alcohol that is problematic for the drinker and that the drinker is unable to control falls into this category. Binge drinking occurs when a woman drinks more than four alcoholic drinks and a man drinks more than five alcoholic beverages in a two-hour period, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Chronic drinking becomes an issue when a woman drinks more than seven drinks per week or a man drinks more than eight on a regular basis. Alcoholism is diagnosed when the person experiences withdrawal symptoms when without drugs or alcohol for any amount of time.

What all these disorders share in common is the risk to the drinker and everyone around him or her – and the fact that they are all treatable at an intensive and personalized rehabilitation program.

Clearing the Slate: Alcohol Rehab

No matter what your loved one’s experience with alcohol, here at Alta Mira we can help him or her to overcome the problem through our comprehensive treatment program. Learn more about our uniquely designed alcohol rehab and the different therapeutic interventions that we have to offer when you contact us at the phone number listed above today. We’re here to help you and your family create the lives that you deserve. Call now!