Don’t be fooled

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-17/this-drug-could-end-america-s-painkiller-epidemic

The new molecule targets the brain-mediated emotional component of pain. This allows it to kill pain just as well as morphine does, without the side effects of respiratory suppression and dopamine-driven addiction in the brain. (Regular painkillers target both the brain-mediated and reflexive response aspects of pain.) The new drug also causes less constipation and doesn’t affect spinal cord reflexive responses as traditional narcotics do, according to the study. The potential difference in addiction was shown in experiments involving mice…

Manglik estimates that it will take multiple years for the compound to be tested in humans, noting the importance of such trials to learn more about PZM21’s addictive properties and safety. “The real experiment for a lot of these things is going to have to happen in humans,” he said, adding that addiction is “really a human disease.” …

This drug kills pain as well as morphine does? Don’t be fooled…

“brain-mediated emotional component of pain”

I may not be a neurologist, but I can read between the lines. Researchers are trying to go around the main areas of the brain that deal with pain to target the area that deals with the “emotional component” of pain. It’s my understanding that this is how antidepressants can alleviate pain, along with other drugs prescribed off-label for pain, like anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. It’s also similar to drugs used to treat addiction.

On the Wikipedia page for this new drug (PZM21) under “See Also,” I found this (which looks like the same drug):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cebranopadol

Notably, it has also been found to be more potent in models of chronic neuropathic pain than acute nociceptive pain…

As an agonist of the κ-opioid receptor, cebranopadol may have the capacity to produce psychotomimetic effects and other adverse reactions at sufficiently high doses, a property which could potentially limit its practical clinical dosage range…

Google definition: A drug with psychotomimetic actions mimics the symptoms of psychosis, including delusions and/or delirium, as opposed to just hallucinations…

And on the Wikipedia page for cebranopadol, I found a link to norbuprenorphine.

I wish the research community was on the right path in the study of pain, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re following paths dictated by the funding they receive, which is anti-opioid. (In other words, we’re fucked.)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK57254/

(2010) Translational Pain Research: From Mouse to Man.

Chapter 15, Human Brain Imaging Studies of Chronic Pain

The advent of non-invasive human brain imaging technologies provided the opportunity for direct examination of the human brain. This occurred about 15 years ago with the related expectation that we were at the threshold of a revolution in our understanding of chronic pain. This expectation remains largely unfulfilled, although much has been published in the topic. Here we concentrate mainly on our own work in the topic, arguing in general that the subject of brain mechanisms of chronic pain remains in its infancy mainly because of a heavy emphasis in the field on studying nociception rather than chronicity of pain…

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Are Opioids the Next Antidepressant?

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/05/opinion/sunday/are-opioids-the-next-antidepressant.html

Essentially, all the anti-depressants now in use affect a single group of neurotransmitters called monoamines and are likely to treat only specific subtypes of depression. Clinicians and scientists alike are in agreement that other pathways in the brain that control mood need to be explored. The opioids are one such pathway…

Opioids may also hold out hope for a devastating illness formally known as borderline personality disorder. Characterized by severe emotional dysregulation, patients with this disorder have feelings of loneliness, rejection, anger and sadness that can quickly overwhelm them. They struggle to maintain relationships and are terrified of abandonment. They are often substance abusers and — in fact — opioids are frequently their drugs of choice. In one study, 44 percent of patients seeking buprenorphine treatment for their opioid addiction were found to have borderline personality disorder. There are no Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for this illness…

Research looking at opioid receptors in patients with borderline personality disorder in comparison to control subjects has documented abnormalities in these patients’ opioids system. It is a finding that would help explain why many opioid abusers describe the sensation they get from using drugs not as “getting high” but as “getting right,” or as “feeling normal.”

It may seem counterintuitive and even dangerous to be considering the medicinal use of substances that are currently a scourge to our society. Yet opioids have a long history of being used to treat melancholia and other psychological disorders — right up until the 1950s, when the current group of antidepressants were discovered…

Dr. Hypocrisy

Here we have another one-sided article from the New York Times, this one about the abuse of drugs used to treat addiction.

http://www.edsinfo.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/addicted-to-a-treatment-for-addiction/

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/opinion/sunday/addicted-to-a-treatment-for-addiction.html?_r=0

“Let’s be clear,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a longtime Suboxone prescriber in New York and executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. “The real crisis is the severe epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths that’s devastating families across the country.”

And here we have Mr. Kolodny, still trying to convince everyone that drugs like Suboxone aren’t part of the opioid family. As if there aren’t any families that have been devastated by deaths related to the use of bupe, methadone, and Suboxone.

It says a lot about how lazy the media is that it uses “experts” like Kolodny. And they never include important facts about Kolodny, like the criminal investigations into some of his Phoenix Houses. Like how Kolodny started his work with addiction in the New York prison system, specifically with bupe.

And before Kolodny began his work in the prison system, in 1996, France approved bupe (Suboxone) for the treatment of addiction. The current situation in France is that, along with methadone, buprenorphine is the opioid that’s causing the most damage:

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/whats-the-drugopioid-epidemic-look-like-in-france/

Dr. Kolodny ranks anti-Suboxone judges like Judge Moore in a category with climate-change deniers and people who believe vaccines cause autism. “When there’s really dangerous heroin on the streets, I’d rather see Suboxone out there, even if it is being prescribed irresponsibly or is being sold by drug dealers,” he said…

And here we have Mr. Kolodny advocating for the underground Suboxone market, which really makes him look like a drug dealer. I wonder if he gets a percentage of all Suboxone sales… Or maybe he’s been promised a better job with the government or Big Pharma.

Hey, Kolodny, don’t you understand that doctors are drug dealers, too? Do you think the drugs that doctors prescribe never do any damage, never kill anyone? Perhaps you should change your name to Dr. Hypocrisy.

Under comments:

Steven A. King, M.D., Philadelphia, May 29, 2016

The issues of using buprenorphine for opioid use disorders are not as clear cut as the author appears to be making them.

Some of what Judge Moore believes is true and some of what Drs. Volkow and Kolodny say is misleading.

As a physician who specializes in pain management, I know that there are a not insignificant number patients prescribed opioids for legitimate pain complaints who end up abusing and becoming addicted to these, and although it is often reported that we’ve only become recently aware of this in fact there is research going back 25 years demonstrating this.

However, there are no studies showing that either buprenorphine or methadone are appropriate treatments for these patients. As these both provide analgesia equal to the other opioids, if these were the proper treatment for these patients then it would make sense to make them the first line opioids for pain as we would be prescribing the appropriate treatment for the problem at the same time we were prescribing the cause of the problem.

Sorry, bupe and methadone do NOT provide analgesia equal to other opioids. Yes, they help some pain patients, but their strength is more in line with, say, codeine, if that.

I’m not exactly sure what this pain doctor is trying to say, but I think pain patients will increasingly be offered bupe and methadone, whether they’ve been red-flagged for addiction or not.

Chili Peppers Could Free Us From Opioids

Sometimes the media cracks me up, like with this headline. Do you know how long the medical industry has been promising a breakthrough for the treatment of pain with chili peppers? I can’t be sure, but I think it’s decades.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-27/chili-peppers-could-free-us-from-opioids

“When we talk about chronic pain, like chronic low-back pain, physicians feel like they only have one bullet in their toolbox that works for many, many patients,” says Michael Oshinsky, program director for pain and migraine at the National Institutes of Health, about opioids.

Do you think doctors feel that way because it’s true? Like, duh.

The pharma industry has struggled to come up with alternatives. No fewer than 33 experimental medicines for chronic pain went into clinical trials from 2009 to 2015, and all failed, Oshinsky says…

You can’t search for an alternative treatment for pain by trying to circumvent another problem, addiction. (Some people even believe that the quickest way between two points is a straight line.)

It appears that Big Pharma (working with the medical industry) is looking in the wrong direction. Don’t ask me what the right direction is, because I don’t know. But I do know that looking for ways to beat addiction during the treatment of pain is not a direct route to finding new ways to manage pain. Because 90% of people who suffer from pain do not need treatment for addiction.

A brain on chronic pain is not the same as a brain that suffers from addiction and some level of pain. Those who suffer from addiction have different wires crossed. Their brains react differently to opioids. Treating pain with drugs that focus on addiction will only help a very small percentage of pain patients. I think methadone and bupe have been around long enough to prove that fact.

The problem with narcotics is that in treating pain they affect an area of the brain that registers intense pleasure…

What’s the opposite of pleasure? Pain. And just like there are two sides of a coin, the areas of the brain that deal with pleasure and pain are the same ones — the same coin. These areas of the brain do the same work. They work so closely together that some people feel pain just like it’s pleasure, and vice versa. Even the very few people who are unable to feel pain don’t live a life of pleasure.

Centrexion’s drugs are designed to target pain directly, without triggering the brain’s reward system…

So, yeah, try to target pain without going through the pleasure/reward system of the brain… I’m no expert, but I don’t think it’s possible. Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we already have these drugs, like aspirin and NSAIDs, which come with their own risks and lack of effectiveness.

You should eat chili peppers. Not only do they taste good, but they’re good for you. Because they work as an anti-inflammatory, they can relieve pain. Just like aspirin. And by the way, just like decongestants and antihistamines. But these drugs do not target pain directly — they’re not really painkillers.

Progress?

What would progress in the opioid war look like? For the government, progress is a decrease in the supply of opioids, along with the number of doctors prescribing (treating pain). And of course it means a decrease in the number of drug overdoses and deaths. In this Bloomberg article, New Mexico is highlighted as a state that’s making progress, but that’s not the reality.

Unfortunately, any “progress” in the opioid war is bad news for patients.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-23/opioid-crisis-draws-failed-response-from-most-states-group-says

Kentucky, New Mexico, Vermont among states making progress

States were evaluated on six criteria, including the availability of treatment; mandatory education for doctors who prescribe opioids; and access to naloxone, which can reverse the effect of opioids. Michigan, Missouri and Nebraska didn’t meet a single one of the standards, according to a report from the council. Twenty-four other states were labeled as “failing” because they meet just one or two of the six objectives. While Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee and Vermont passed at least five, no state had a perfect score…

Does this look like progress to you?

https://nmhealth.org/publication/view/marketing/2117/

In 2014, there were 540 deaths to drug overdose in New Mexico.

New Mexico has the 2nd highest drug overdose death rate in the U.S.

https://nmhealth.org/publication/view/help/1832/

In 2014, 450 New Mexicans died by suicide (21.1 deaths per 100,000 residents)

The New Mexico suicide rate is more than 50% higher than the United States rate

http://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/resources/ethics/new-mexico-approach-improving-pain-addiction-management

However, New Mexico decided not to establish a “trigger” dosage threshold because of concern that such a policy would interfere with the patient-provider relationship. Instead, the state requires a mandatory continuing medical education course covering both prescription drug abuse prevention and the treatment of pain…

Opioid prescribers are mandated to sign up with the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy prescription monitoring program (PMP) and obtain a patient PMP report for the preceding 12 months when initially prescribing chronic opioid therapy (ie, ≥10 days) and every 6 months thereafter…

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/unm-project-echo-bites-the-dust/

New Mexico is one of 16 states that successfully competed for the four-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant is from a new program called Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States that helps states address the ongoing prescription drug overdose epidemic.

It appears that a bucket load of education and the PDMP were not enough to make a real difference in the number of overdoses in New Mexico. In fact, after a few years of seeing a small decrease in overdoses, the latest statistics show an increase.

Which leaves me to wonder what is being taught in these continuing education classes and seminars on chronic pain and addiction. Since this education is being funded by the government — and disseminated with the help of the medical industry — I assume everyone is learning to comply with the new CDC rules. And treating pain according to the CDC rules is not going to work for very many patients.

http://amarillo.com/news/2016-02-04/new-mexico-lawmakers-look-curb-opioid-addiction

More New Mexicans died in 2014 of drug overdoses than in any other year on record…

Neurologist Joanna Katzman, president of the American Academy of Pain Management and head of the University of New Mexico’s Pain Consultation and Treatment Center, said continued education for medical professionals who prescribe opioids as well as better access to care for patients dealing with chronic pain must still be part of the equation.

“Chronic pain overlaps with addiction. Chronic pain overlaps with mental health,” she said, pointing to higher incidences of depression, anxiety and even suicide. “We need to really think about increasing treatment for chronic pain, increasing access to treatment.”

Dr. Katzman can talk a good game, making it seem like she could be on the side of pain patients. But I can’t imagine that too many pain patients would agree with her view of what constitutes treatment:

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/addiction-clinics-masquerading-as-pain-clinics/

http://santafepreventionalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Michael-Landen-Prescribing-and-Drug-Overdose-Deaths-in-NM-May-7-2016.pdf

Council leading joint process to develop common language for the 7 licensing boards to use in developing their chronic pain management rules by 1/1/17

If you’re a pain patient in New Mexico, you should keep a watch out for these new rules. I assume they will mostly be in line with the new CDC rules, but I also assume that they will include a lot more restrictions on what doctors can prescribe.

I’m sorry, but I think things are about to get a lot worse, not only for patients in New Mexico, but in every state.

Facebook comments that disappear

I use Facebook to make comments, but I’m not that familiar with how the software works. When I made a comment on this Consumer Affairs article through my Facebook account, I expected it to show up in my activity log. But my comment was deleted by Consumer Affairs, so it doesn’t appear in my Facebook account. (I guess everybody hates — and prefers to silence — a critic.)

That doesn’t seem right, but I guess it’s just another reason to dislike Facebook. After all, why would I want to use the same blogging platform as Mark Zuckerberg?

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/study-most-patients-getting-opioids-have-leftover-pills-061516.html

My censored comment:

Most deaths related to an opioid overdose are due to a combination of drugs, not just the opioid. If Consumer Affairs would like to see responsible reporting on the drug war, here’s one (lonely) example:

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2016/jun/08/opioid-epidemic-drug-mix-overdose-death

“Opioid use on its own is not dangerous, and it’s time we stop demonizing it.”

New York (with Bloomberg at the helm) is the poster state for how not to fight the drug war. That state (with help from Kolodny and PFROP) has been at the forefront of restricting access to prescription pain medications and increasing the amount of addiction clinics (along with the use of drugs like methadone, bupe, and Narcan).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/11/new-victims-in-the-war-on_n_2455917.html

And look where New York is at now — they’ve gone from bad to worse.

This study is a day late and a dollar short. The problems with diversion aren’t being caused by patients anymore, and it was only a small percentage of patients who were responsible for diversion anyway. If Consumer Affairs is going to “report” on the drug war, it should include other stories about diversion, like from DEA agents, pharmacies, hospitals, and nurses. The longer the medical industry blames patients, the more guilty it looks.

Finally, a sane voice in the opioid war

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2016/jun/08/opioid-epidemic-drug-mix-overdose-death

Our current obsession with opioids is just the latest trend in a long history of scapegoating single drugs: alcohol in 1830s and 40s, opium in 1870s, marijuana in the 1950s and 60s, crack cocaine in the 1980s and 90s, methamphetamine in the 1990s and early 2000s and now, opioids like heroin, Oxycontin and Fentanyl. The problem of multiple-substance use has remained absent from much of this conversation – and from the education of users and health practitioners – despite the fact that drug mixing is both dangerous and pervasive…

By fixating on fearing opioids, we are missing the more culpable factors that lead some people to keep using drugs despite negative consequences. Opioid use on its own is not dangerous, and it’s time we stop demonizing it. Instead, we must implement a national overdose education strategy targeting the immediate factors of opioid-related overdose: drug mixing and tolerance changes.

Under comments:

cowboy335 2d ago
The thing politicians and others don’t understand. We have a pain epidemic not a drug epidemic. People are in mental and physical pain from life and the controllers of medicene say no. What do you do . Heroin, methadone, vicodan. I am a 64yr old combat Vietnam Vet. I take what I need for pain. I do believe I am old enough and don’t need others to decide for me. That happened when I went to serve in Vietnam. Freedom even if they don’t decide to free me. I have freed myself.

panamadave 2d ago
I am 70 years old and in pain. I really don’t give a damn what some politician wants me to do

Samson151 2d ago
I think the author may have misinterpreted what happens in an OD situation. The user combines an opioid with other CNS depressants in order to overcome his or her greatly elevated tolerance and once again get high. It’s the same motivation that drives addicts to seek out new varieties of heroin laced with fentanyl. It’d be wrong to assume that if we could just convince them to stick to opioids only they’d be fine — they’re not going to do that. From the addict perspective, the opioid is no longer enough…

There are many reasons that pain patients take more than just painkillers, including drugs like muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and blood pressure meds. Suffering from chronic pain is not just about the pain and many patients have comorbid conditions. And all of these additional meds can work in conjunction with painkillers, increasing their effectiveness. Because, let’s face it, opioids can only do so much. And remember, even though opioids work for most people, there are still millions of people who can’t take them.

One of the shortcomings of an opioid is that it treats pain and that’s it. And when there’s pain, there’s usually more to treat than just the pain. But then, most drugs are focused on treating only one condition, just like opioids. Then some people end up taking a bucket full of different drugs to treat each symptom, on the advice of doctors. And this can result in overdose and death, even if it’s only in a very small portion of most patient populations (with the exception of those who suffer from addiction).

When the drug war ends, the overdose and death rate will decrease significantly, but it will never be zero. We’re humans, not robots, and mistakes will be made, both by patients and doctors. But keep in mind that more mistakes are made by doctors — the so-called professionals — than by patients themselves.

This would be a good time to point out one of the benefits of cannabis, in that it treats more than one symptom, no matter what your medical condition. For some patients, it will be able to replace that bucket full of pills, but not for all.