What Today’s Parents Should Know About the Gateway Drug Theory


While scanning the latest news, it’s easy to feel as if we’ve traveled back in time to the 1980s. “Just say no?” “The war on drugs?” After nearly three decades, there’s still little evidence to suggest these outdated addiction prevention and treatment strategies work, and some evidence even shows that they are counterproductive. Yet, they continue to influence how we both talk about and treat addiction. And just last month, dialogue about the “gateway drug theory” resurfaced in the New York Times, raising the question: is this highly publicized hypothesis, which also originated in the final quarter of the 20th century, grounded in fact or fiction? We answer this question – and more – below. WHAT IS THE GATEWAY DRUG THEORY?First popularized in the 1980s, the gateway drug theory purports that adolescent use of tobacco, alcohol or marijuana increases an individual’s risk of using and/or developing addiction to other licit and...

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Opioid Public Health Emergency Renewed for Another 90 Days


The Trump Administration renewed the order declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency on January 22, a day before the 90-day mandate was set to expire, ABC News reports. The Department of Health and Human Services has not said whether the public health emergency will be renewed every 90 days, the article notes. In October, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. The order waives regulations and gives states more flexibility in how they use federal funds to combat the crisis. Under a public health emergency, states could temporarily shift federal grant funds from a wide range of public health issues—such as HIV, diabetes and maternal care—to fund opioid treatment programs. A public health emergency is not as sweeping as a national emergency, which would give the president even more power to waive privacy laws and Medicaid regulations, the article notes.

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Fear Factor: Do Scare Tactics Keep Teens from Using Drugs


Thinking back to your middle school or high school health classes, you may recall photographs of lungs blackened by cigarette tar or videos of teenagers dropping out of school, fighting with friends and family, or even dying because of their errant drug and alcohol use. Exposing children and teenagers to the most damaging consequences of these behaviors has long been a mainstay in America’s addiction prevention strategy – but that poses the question: do scare tactics work? There is evidence to suggest that scaring people can help them adopt or avoid certain behaviors – this is especially true when the proposed negative outcome is paired with an “efficacy method” or something people can do to eradicate the fear. It also tends to work better when it comes to: One-time only or infrequent prevention behaviors, e.g., going to the dentist for a checkupBehaviors that detect a health problem, e.g., having a suspicious...

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FDA Asks Makers of Anti-Diarrhea Drug to Change Packaging to Curb Abuse


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week asked the makers of the over-the-counter anti-diarrhea drug loperamide (Imodium A-D) to change the way they package their products, in an effort to reduce abuse. Some people take extremely high doses of loperamide in an attempt to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms or to achieve euphoric effects of opioid use, the FDA said in a statement. Loperamide is safe when used at recommended doses, The Washington Post reports. But when it is taken at extremely high doses, the drug can cause dangerous, irregular heartbeats. The FDA is asking manufacturers to redesign their packages so they contain only enough medication for short-term use. The agency is also asking for “unit dose packaging,” such as blister packs that require a person to unpeel each dose separately.

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Illicit Fentanyl Use Linked to Cases of Amnesia


More than a dozen people who used fentanyl, either alone or in combination with stimulants, have suffered severe memory loss, researchers from West Virginia University report. These cases involved severe short-term memory loss, HealthDay reports. Imaging scans revealed the patients had lesions on the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory. The patients did not recovery quickly, and may never fully regain their short-term memory, according to lead researcher Marc Haut. “They all have difficulty learning new information, and it’s pretty dense,” Haut said. “Every day is pretty much a new day for them, and sometimes within a day they can’t maintain information they’ve learned.” He added, “Based upon the imaging, I would be surprised if they didn’t have at least some significant memory problems permanently.” The findings are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine

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Prime Time Viewing: How Today’s Top Television Shows Portray Addiction and Substance Use


In addition to making the headlines of major newspapers from across the country, addiction is also gaining traction on the silver screen. This season, many of our favorite TV shows are addressing substance use disorders and risky drinking or drug use. However, they often sacrifice precision for plot points. Here, we’ve provided some suggested reading to accompany three of television’s most talked about shows and help set the record straight. If you’re watching THIS IS US…In season 2, episode 12, America’s favorite family sat down for a family therapy session to address character Kevin Pearson’s addiction (played by Justin Hartley). The session begins tensely as the therapist interrogates Kevin’s mother (played by Mandy Moore) and it escalates into a full-blown confrontation between brothers Kevin and Randall Pearson (played by Sterling K. Brown). While there are many flaws in how the dramatic scene portrayed family therapy, our expert, Aaron Hogue, Ph.D., Director...

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Advocacy Groups Oppose Trump Administration Cuts to Drug Policy Office


More than 150 organizations working to fight the opioid epidemic are opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), The Hill reports. The groups, led by the Addiction Policy Forum, sent a letter to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is leading the administration’s response to the opioid crisis. Groups that signed the letter include those involved in prevention, treatment, recovery and criminal justice, the article notes. Last month, CBS News reported the Trump Administration is planning to cut more than $340 million from ONDCP’s budget. The administration will eliminate the agency’s grant-making capabilities. Two grant programs–the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas and Drug-Free Communities–would be relocated to, and managed by, the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services. “Not only would such a move drastically weaken these vitally important programs, and force them to compete for priority, direction, and funding...

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Governors Call for More Money and Coordination to Fight Opioid Epidemic


The National Governors Association called on President Trump and Congress to provide more funds and coordination to fight the opioid epidemic. The governors are asking for a federal requirement that opioid prescribers undergo training, Time reports. The group says health care professionals who prescribe opioids should register to use state databases that monitor controlled substance prescriptions. They are also seeking increased access to the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, and asked that Medicare cover methadone treatment for senior citizens. “The opioid and heroin epidemic knows no boundaries, and governors across the country are keenly aware of the challenges it poses for our communities and the growing need for comprehensive, bipartisan solutions to help end the epidemic,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said in a news release. “The recommendations the National Governors Association is releasing today build on existing efforts to increase federal funding and access to treatment, improve training and education standards, and...

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Member of President’s Opioid Commission Calls Group’s Work “Charade” and “Sham”


Former Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy, a member of President Trump’s Opioid Commission, said the Republican-led Congress has turned the group’s work into a “charade” and a “sham,” CNN reports. Kennedy, one of six members appointed to the bipartisan commission, noted the president declared the opioid epidemic a 90-day public health emergency in October, but did not make funding available. “This and the administration’s other efforts to address the epidemic are tantamount to reshuffling chairs on the Titanic,” Kennedy said. “The emergency declaration has accomplished little because there’s no funding behind it. You can’t expect to stem the tide of a public health crisis that is claiming over 64,000 lives per year without putting your money where your mouth is.” The public health emergency was set to expire on January 23, but Acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan renewed the national public health emergency for another...

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Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Now Eligible to Prescribe Buprenorphine


Nurse practitioners and physician assistants will now be eligible to prescribe and dispense the opioid addiction treatment buprenorphine from their office, Reuters reports. The Drug Enforcement Administration said the change will make it easier for residents of underserved areas to receive treatment for opioid addiction. The new rule is a result of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), passed in 2016. The law expanded access to substance use treatment services and overdose reversal medications by extending the privilege of prescribing buprenorphine in office-based settings to qualifying nurse practitioners and physician assistants. CARA requires that nurse practitioners and physician assistants complete 24 hours of training to be eligible to prescribe buprenorphine. “This action reflects this work and the ongoing need to further expand access to the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder,” David Fiellin, Professor of Medicine, Emergency Medicine and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine, told Reuters.

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