Are You Predisposed to Opioid Addiction?

In the US, there is an epidemic of painkiller and heroin addiction. One biotech company is developing a DNA test that can identify if you are predisposed to opioid addiction.

Pain-Relief Medicinal Risks

When using medication for pain, there is an assortment of side effects that can develop. Too much ibuprofen can cause rashes and stomach bleeding. Too much acetaminophen (especially if taken with alcohol) can cause liver damage. And these are over-the-counter medicines.

Doctors often prescribe opioid-based pharmaceuticals to treat moderate-to-severe pain. The writing of prescriptions was slackly distributed to patients young and old for too many years. In 2014, drug overdoses in America hit an all-time high. And according to the CDC, six out of 10 of those overdoses were opioid-related. Almost 19,000 people died from painkillers—most accidentally.

The Test

A cheek-swab DNA test has been created by a California bioscience lab called Proove. The physical test is combined with a patient questionnaire. One of the lead developers claims the results are about 93% accurate. The results depict a patient’s opioid addiction risk.

Some in the medical field doubt the efficacy of such a test. They believe that a good doctor monitors the patient’s symptoms and response to medication—and that’s the best “biomarker.”

Proponents of the DNA test feel this is advancement towards placing fewer people at risk of opioid addiction. Once the biotech company’s claims are peer-reviewed, more details regarding its success rate will be available.

Why Bother?

As mentioned, the numbers of opioid overdoses are staggering. But another crucial problem is the increase in heroin use. Prescription painkillers become addictive. Many heroin users begin using because it’s a similar high to the opiate-based pills, is cheaper, and more readily available.

We’re not just talking about adults here. Data collected between 2009 and 2013 from a survey of 15,000 high school students in an ongoing nationwide study was analyzed. The findings were that 75% of high school seniors who abuse opioid prescription drugs have used (or are still using) heroin.


If a swab DNA test can tell you if you’re predisposed to opioid addiction, you and your doctor probably won’t want you to take painkillers. There are synthetic prescription alternatives available for short-term use like Tramadol.

There are also non-medicinal pain-relieving options as well. Numerous studies, along with patient testimony, have given Tai Chi, yoga, and acupuncture their due place at the top of “modern” healing practices. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has publicly stated that non-drug approaches to pain management can be significantly beneficial.

In the best of all worlds, you wouldn’t suffer from unmanageable pain. Keeping our bodies healthy and making safe choices can help prevent illness and injury. If, however, you find that pain gets the best of you, give it some worthy thought before taking any opioid-based medicine.


Red Tea Detox
Red Tea Detox

US Attorney Indicts Online Opioid Ring

The Number One cause of death amongst Americans under the age of 50 is drug overdose. Addiction and abuse of pain medication, which includes the synthetic opioid analgesic Fentanyl, has become an epidemic. This past week, the DEA announced that two Chinese nationals have been indicted for illegally manufacturing and distributing this deadly drug into our country.

Fentanyl—What is it Good For?

As of 1012, fentanyl has become the most commonly used synthetic opioid. It a safe and effective pain medication when used as directed. It is most often prescribed as a post-surgical treatment for pain or to manage chronic or severe pain.

Because it is highly addictive, when patients’ prescriptions run out, many will seek other sources for the drugs. That can include online purchasing of illegally manufactured analogues of the painkiller. An analogue is a drug that is chemically similar but can include ingredients that can cause grave effects.

Synthetic Opioid Horror

Again, fentanyl was created to assist with pain management. The pitfalls are that this synthetic opioid is tremendously addictive and extremely potent. Just two milligrams (equivalent to a few grains of salt), can be deadly.

According to law enforcement officials, the drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 20,000 Americans died from fentanyl overdoses.

Where are the Online Opioids Coming From?

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated, “We believe that most, if not all Fentanyl that is distributed here in the U.S. and in Canada, originates in China.” The recent indictment of two Chinese nationals revealed a long investigation into this illegal (and deadly) online business.

Several American citizens (who were already in jail) and two Canadian prisoners worked with the Chinese men to assist with the drug’s distribution. The incarcerated Canadians helped arrange shipments from China. The exportation of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from this particular source began in 2013. They’ve successfully delivered thousands of shipments over the years.

The drugs are sent daily by plane or ship to Mexico. Then, they’re trafficked into the United States. The indictment claims the Chinese men manufactured Fentanyl in at least four different labs in China and then sold it to Americans over the Internet.

What Will Happen Next?

As for the indictment of the foreign manufacturers, it appears to be a step in the right direction. An ironic note worth mentioning, however, is that the U.S. does not have an extradition agreement with China. So, the chance of the criminals getting tried in a court of law here are slim-to-none. The best we can hope for in this situation is the Chinese government takes more action to pursue and shut down these illegal labs and operations.

What Can We Do?

How you choose to handle your medical care is very personal issue. Besides medication, there are many other alternatives for pain care management. Only you and your health care physician will know what’s best for your individual situation.

If you are concerned about opioid use in youngsters (especially your children), it’s important to become informed and educated. What begins with one pain pill can develop into a treacherous addiction to opioids, synthetic opioids, and heroin.

Many experts recommend empowering the youngster so that he/she learns and ultimately makes healthy decisions. What adults can do is:

  • Maintain an open line of communication and trust
  • Avoid lecturing and welcome all types of questions
  • Listen and empathize with the child—let him/her know you are hearing and understanding
  • Remind your children that their bodies and brains are still developing

Other Resources ; they also provide a bilingual toll-free Helpline 1-855-DRUGFREE; they also offer a parent-to-parent support network and a link to a Family Resource Center. is a non-governmental, nonprofit that offers pamphlets about drugs to help educate parents and empower their teens. – a list of drug prevention resources MTF is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and drug use of young Americans. -get updates on current drug use and statistics





The Social Addiction

Too Much Facebook?

It’s so easy to do. Pick up your phone or tablet and surf your Facebook news feed for new posts, videos, and other forms of media and content. But in the amount of time we spend on Facebook on any given day, there are other more useful tasks that we could be doing that can improve our attitude and our health.

Average Addiction

The average person spends approximately 20 minutes each Facebook “session”. In those 20 minutes, several times a day, we could be exercising, reading a book, eating, sleeping or even being a more attentive parent, friend, or spouse.

The First Step

The fact is social media is an addiction—and an unhealthy one at that. We don’t realize how much it consumes our lives, but it does. One of the ways to tell if you have crossed over to the dark side is by your attitude. The next time you reach for your phone think about some other things you could be doing that are more productive or healthier. The first step to conquering an addiction is admitting there is a problem.



Is Fentanyl the New Killer?

A frightening new statistic was revealed recently: Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old. This statement provokes many questions. One of them being, “Is Fentanyl one of the killers?”

Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein shared the data with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). “On an average day, 90 Americans will die from an opioid-related overdose.” He referred to the nearly 60,000 total drug overdose deaths annually as “horrifying.”

Opioids are a Big Problem

For 2017, it is estimated that well over half of the overdose deaths will again be from opioids, both natural and synthetic. Illegal drugs like heroin and opium, as well as prescribed drugs like Hydro- and Oxycodone, Morphine, and most commonly, Fentanyl, are the culprits in this epidemic.

Fentanyl, in particular, is becoming the largest danger to addicts, along with law enforcement and medical personnel alike. This is due to the increased use and abuse of the narcotic by itself, as well as its addition to other commonly abused drugs. Often, cocaine and heroin are combined with fentanyl (sometimes unbeknownst to the user or first responder) with an unpredictable and deadly result.

Fentanyl Facts

Fentanyl is a very potent synthetic opioid analgesic (pain medication), which was first developed in 1959. Similar to morphine, it is 50 to 100 times more potent, though some versions produced can be as much as 100,000 times stronger.  Just 2 milligrams—equivalent to a few grains of salt, can be deadly.

It is most often used as a post-surgical treatment for pain, or to manage chronic or severe pain. In prescription form, it goes by names like Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®.. On the street, illegal forms go by names like Apache, China Girl, China White, TNT, Tango and Cash, and others.

Proper Usage of Fentanyl is Fine

In and of itself, fentanyl is not problematic. In fact, it is an extremely safe and effective pain reliever when used as directed. The creation of the fentanyl patch in the mid-1990’s was seen as a major breakthrough in palliative pain management. It is extremely versatile in both usage and administration, and as of 2102, fentanyl in all forms became the most commonly used synthetic opioid.


It is prescribed and administered in multiple formats:

  • Intravenously, via injection or I.V./catheter
  • Transdermal patches
  • Dissolvable tablets or lozenges
  • As a lollipop
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) or nasal spray

Fentanyl is sometimes used as part of surgical anesthesia and as a spinal or epidural analgesic for many routine medical procedures and is often prescribed to manage pain for cancer patients.

Abuse and Concealment Make it Deadly

Like most “safe” prescription drugs, fentanyl becomes problematic when it is misused. Manufacturers have made it harder to extract or concentrate it from legal prescriptions, but the illegal manufacture of fentanyl is on the rise. Since such a small dose can be deadly, these illicit sources are the cause of most fatalities, as they have no quality control.

Taken alone or mixed with heroin or cocaine, illegally made fentanyl is an extreme danger to the user, as well as anyone else who may come into contact with it. Numerous cases of the general public and first responders accidentally inhaling or otherwise coming into contact with fentanyl are increasing, some with fatal results.

Staying Safe

Overdoses are the killer, but how can they be prevented? Proper usage, storage, and monitoring of prescribed fentanyl products are important, especially around children. Avoiding recreational use of fentanyl, along with cocaine and heroin are critical.

If you or someone you know has an addiction problem, seek treatment, and refrain from touching any unknown powder, residue or container. It could be the last thing you touch. In case of suspected Fentanyl or other opioid overdose:

  • Call 911 Immediately
  • DO NOT touch any paraphernalia, container, or powder on the victim
  • If trained and available, administer Naloxone or Narcan


One group working to stem the tide of opioid abuse is Operation Prevention—a joint effort between the DEA and Discovery Education.  Information can be found here:

Overdoses don’t have to be the number one killer of people under 50. Proper information, education, and coordination with medical and law enforcement professionals can turn the tide.  For more information on drugs, addiction, and solutions for addicts, turn to



Are We Becoming a Nation of Addicts?

We see or hear news stories about addiction almost every day. There are statistics, overdose deaths, DUI arrests, and celebs checking into rehab. Legal prescription and illicit drug use and abuse seem to be at an all-time high, (pardon the pun.) Is the news sensationalized or is it really that grim?

It’s not Just the Pills

Besides substance abuse (alcohol, tobacco and drugs,) addiction comes in other equally harmful forms. Gambling, eating, shopping, porn/sex, and even technology addictions can interfere with or even ruin lives. With so many opportunities for addictive behavior to manifest, odds are that you or someone you know has been touched by addiction. Knowing the enemy is a good first step to fighting back.

What is Addiction?

Simply put, addiction is a chronic disease involving compulsive behavior.  Typically, addicts do not have control over what they are doing due to physical and/or mental dependence. Unlike a habit, which involves choice and an ability to stop, an addict can’t disengage from the behavior, no matter how destructive it might be.

The causes of addiction and factors contributing to it are wide and varied. Genetics, environmental, emotional, circumstantial, mental and physical factors may all play into a person becoming an addict or not. Recent studies have shown that both substance and behavioral/psychological addictions trigger similar “reward” areas of the brain.

By the Numbers—Bad and Good News

Are we at epidemic levels of addiction?  The numbers seem to indicate that possibility in some cases, but not all.

A few discouraging statistics are :

  • Almost 25 million Americans have an addiction, excluding tobacco
  • Both illicit and prescription drug use and abuse is up overall
  • Approximately 100 people die daily from drug overdoses
  • Over 5 million annual ER visits are drug-related
  • Substance abuse costs the economy over $740 billion annually



There is some good news, hidden amongst the bad:

  • More people are seeking and in treatment—700,000 per day
  • Use of cocaine, hallucinogens, PCP, and ecstasy (MDMA) is down
  • Fewer Americans are smoking
  • Alcohol dependence/abuse are down overall

The government doesn’t collect statistics on non-substance addiction. Various estimates indicate that 5.5 million adults have serious or compulsive gambling problems.  Another 18-24 million suffer some form of sex addiction, and anywhere from 3-6% of the current population may have some type of technology addiction.

Opioids and Synthetics—the New Enemy

America appears to have an opioid problem. We are five percent of the global population, yet we consume a whopping 80% of the opioid drugs. Opioids include legal drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, as well as the illegal opium and heroin. Even though prescriptions for opioids are down, use, abuse, and overdoses are up. Long-term use and abuse are on the rise, and it seems there is no end in sight.

The other emerging problem is the abundance of synthetic drugs, often referred to as Spice, Bath Salts, K2, Flakka, and other odd names.  Often available in convenience stores and gas stations, they promise to offer cheap highs similar to illegal drugs.

Most come from China, and none can be effectively regulated by the FDA or DEA, as the names and formulas change too quickly. The one thing they all have in common is that they are far from safe. They offer unpredictable results at best, and in many cases have led to hallucinations, psychotic behavior (including murder) and even death.

Finding Solutions

Addiction in any form is problematic, but rest assured, it can be overcome.  Many forms of rehabilitation and treatment are available.  In most cases, insurance will cover some, if not all of the costs, and low-cost or free options exist.

If you think you or a loved one may have a problem with addiction, the following resources will help you spot the warning signs and seek assistance:

Addiction doesn’t have to control you or someone you know.  Armed with the right tools, the road to recovery can be found.  For more information on addiction, drug use, and rehabilitation search


Most Pressing Health Problem in US May Surprise You

According to the US Surgeon General in his latest report, there are over 20 million Americans suffering from alcohol and drug abuse. That is a larger number than those who have cancer in this country. Alcohol- and drug-use disorder is a tremendous health challenge and requires attention now.

Alert: Substance Abuse Epidemic

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy had some strong feelings and words on the topic of drug and alcohol addiction. He expressed that the word “addiction” carries such stigma that many people avoid getting treatment. There are many people misusing substances and it’s taking a toll.

Murthy reported that 90 percent of those abusing illicit and prescription drugs, as well as alcohol, are not getting treatment. If the figure of those suffering from substance use disorder is over 20 million, that means at least 18 million American are not getting help.

The US Surgeon General believes “it’s time to change how we view addiction.”

The Toll It Takes

Drug and alcohol abuse, for the body of the user, ages exponentially. All major organs become affected: brain, stomach, liver, skin… Life perception becomes distorted. Depression may set in (or get deeper.) Relationships disintegrate; that includes boss, coworkers, spouse, children, parents, friends, and the list goes on.

Financially, the addiction can become a burden, too. Health issues or accidents arising from the addiction increase medical costs. Day-to-day living becomes more consumed by using the substance than just about anything else. We know people experiencing this. Maybe we even do.

The stigma of addiction needs to be removed. In order for people to seek treatment, they have to feel they will not be shamed by reaching out for help.

Is Our Youth at Greatest Risk?

Murthy believes our youth are at greatest risk of succumbing to substance abuse disorder. Adolescence and young adulthood are precarious times, emotional and sometimes fragile. Between the ages of 12 and 22, the risk of becoming addicted is substantial.

Anyone at any age can develop a misuse of substances, but our younger set tends to be more vulnerable. For one, their brains are not fully developed. Decision-making will not always be at its optimum.

The Surgeon General emphasized that if we prevent our youth from experimenting at a young age, it reduces the likelihood of future substance-use disorder.

Treatment in the Near Future

Already there have been some recent changes to government-overseen treatment policy. The US Department of Health and Human Services has expanded training to physician assistants and nurse practitioners. They will soon be able to prescribe buprenorphine, a treatment for opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction is rampant and the numbers continue to grow. More help is on the way…

What Murthy stated about altering the perspective of addiction is a powerful first step. It needs to be moved from a moral realm into a health-social-emotional based arena. He suggests it’s a chronic condition that requires immediate medical and cognitive treatment—as well as compassion.


Screens Are Stealing Your Child’s Empathy

It’s looking as if screen time actually decreases the development of an essential part of our children’s moral fiber. This is not to suggest screens create immoral individuals. However, a new key study shows teen “empathy” is significantly decreased in those who are digital addicts.

Withhold Judgment, Please

As with any “addiction”, the compulsion to do “the thing” (whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, screens, etc.) the participant loses perspective of the obsession. With teens, their brains are not fully developed. They still have several years before they can make “mature” and rational judgments.

What’s happening with electronics is that our children, when spending a large amount of time participating on them, are unaware of what they are missing out on. They, frighteningly, are becoming less empathic. Empathy is a necessary, communal attribute, and it’s still in its development process during the teen years.

What’s Empathy Anyway?

Think of it this way: if you’ve had a baby, pet, or have been around animals, you’ll recognize and understand more simplistically. Empathy is a natural compulsion towards understanding the feelings of others.

When you’re sick or sad, your dog cuddles up next to you or howls because he wants to comfort you and also “feels” your pain. Animals grieve and comfort their own family members because they are naturally empathic.

Humans (most) have a functioning empathy “gene”. Babies cry when mommy cries or stresses. It’s a type of survival instinct that develops through social contact. You’ll see a lot of young children comforting their peers, for example, even if they’ve never met them before.

Here’s the Thing About Empathy

We, as part of the animal kingdom, may be born with the empathy feature, but in humans, it still requires nurturing, practice, and experience to develop fully. Face-to-face experiences are decreased when our kid is on a screen.

When gaming online, facial cues are obsolete.

So when someone gets mad, upset, or feels victorious online, it’s all registered through voice or typing words.  None of these “feelings” are expressed person-to-person. Then when the child is in a group setting (like school or on a team), he will have more difficulty understanding others’ feelings. In turn, he may not understand what others think or feel about him.

Social Skills and The Study

Social skills can be learned, but not necessarily “taught.” We can model behavior, but just telling someone what is socially acceptable is not the same as the person practicing it. Personal interactions are necessary for our children to understand the world a bit better.

Researchers at UCLA discovered that when kids were removed from screens, their ability to be empathic improved. The study asked 11, 12, and 13-year-old kids to look at photos and identify emotional expressions. Half of the group was without electronics for five days (and spent time at an outdoor camp), while the other half went about spending hours each day on their screens.

On the sixth day, all the kids were asked to read other people’s emotions in photos and videos. The group that was off screens could better (significantly) identify others’ feelings. The researchers deduced that kids’ social skills were enhanced when they had face-to-face contact.

Outside Play

No one can deny the health benefits when kids play outside. Exercise and releasing energy is great for everyone. Other studies have proven that outdoor activity can reduce stress and help sleep quality. Click here for more information on kids’ best health practices.