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

American Epidemic of Opioid and Heroin Addiction

Over the past two decades, we’ve been experiencing a steep increase in opioids and heroin abuse. Overdoses have frighteningly become commonplace. The pain-killer drug addiction in America has become so dire that the government now claims it will take action.

White House Words

It appears that a commission has been launched to try and diffuse our rampant drug addiction crisis in this country. President Trump appointed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to chair a special commission. Their efforts will be aimed at battling the epidemic. They expect to work with law enforcement officials on local and state levels. Additionally, the plan is to work along side medical communities as well.

Governor Christie spoke about opioid and heroin use in our country as an epidemic. He also added, “Addiction is a disease. We need to treat it that way and we need to get people the help that they need to renew their lives and help become productive members of society and our families.”

The Rise in Use is a Killer

Between 1999 and 2014, the sale of opioid-based pain prescriptions quadrupled. As you may have read in Dr. Campbell’s newsletters or other GetThrive articles, the effects of this increase has been deadly. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the leading cause of unintentional death amongst Americans is prescription pill and heroin overdose.

Prescription pain killer abusers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin than anyone else—even those addicted to alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine.

Latest Research

A study conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health showed the increased prevalence of heroin use amongst whites. Data was analyzed from surveys, which included over 75,000 participants who had used heroin. In the last decade, the percentage of addicts in the white population has increased significantly more than in non-white populations.

Another important revelation from this research was a definite link between misusing prescription opioids and eventual heroin use. In 2001, approximately 35% of heroin users had originally used prescription pain pills before graduating to heroin. By 2013, the data showed that over 50% of heroin addicts abused opioids prior to using heroin.

Clearly, there exists a need for greater awareness of the potential devastating effects of misusing opioid-based pain pills. Educational campaigns would certainly be beneficial. Hopefully, Washington’s plan to involve itself in battling this epidemic will also affect some success. This is a real problem and exploring alternatives for pain management is a positive action.

Am I Addicted?

If you or any of your loved ones have taken opioid-based medication (such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, or fentanyl), there are signs to observe if you’re concerned about addiction.

-You may be dependent because you feel withdrawal symptoms if you don’t take another pill.

– Even if your drug use is negatively affecting your job and/or relationships, you continue to take it (because the need to take it is controlling you.)

– You have less or no interest in activities you used to greatly enjoy.

– A lot of your money is being redirected to the cost of your medication (or heroin).

– You are committing illegal or unethical acts to get the drugs you need.

There is help if you are concerned for yourself or for another. Reach out to one of the many resources you can find online or through your healthcare provider. There is no shame in asking for assistance. We can all use some help now and then.



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





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



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.


A Vote for Alternate Forms of Pain Management

Earlier this month, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced their plan to reduce opioid manufacturing beginning in 2017. Drug-related overdoses and painkiller addiction rates are the impetus for making the change.

Time for a Change

The sale of opioid-based pain prescriptions quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. In 2012, over 250-million prescriptions were written for painkillers. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the leading cause of unintentional death amongst Americans is prescription pill and heroin overdose.

It is also true that doctors have been careful not to overprescribe in the past couple of years. Originally, the pharmaceutical company claimed that opioid-based medicines were not addictive. Since the drug company lost a major lawsuit and we see the epidemic-numbers of abuse and addiction, the DEA has finally decided to step in. Thankfully, the market is shrinking, and next year, manufacturing of opioids will be reduced by 25%.

Why is This Good?

This type of intervention will encourage doctors and hospitals to find alternate ways to help their patients manage pain. Of course, there will still be instances where oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet, and Fentanyl will be dispensed to make the patient more comfortable, when absolutely necessary—after serious consideration. But for the most part, less availability of the drugs will promote other forms of pain treatment.

A Pioneer in the Pain-Free Field

One Medical Center in New Jersey has already adopted other methods for use in their ER. They use acetaminophen, anti-inflammatory drugs, and also laughing gas. They’ve been using nitrous oxide to treat pain. Their goal is to not use opioid painkillers at all, if possible.

Chairman of emergency medicine, Mark Rosenberg, said, ““All chronic pain starts with acute pain. We also know that all drug abuse starts with the first dose. If we can stop using opioids before we give the first dose, then people won’t become addicted.”

Who’s Not Happy

Pharmaceutical companies aren’t excited by the DEA’s move. In fact, they’ve spent almost $900 million on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past 10 years trying to block the DEA’s intervention.

Drug-abuse experts are a tad concerned because of the potential further rise in heroin addiction. When pain pills become unavailable, addicts tend to move on to heroin; it’s affordable and accessible.

The flip side, however, is that with less opioid pill addiction, the draw to heroin decreases. Prescription pain killer abusers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin than anyone else addicted to alcohol, marijuana, and even cocaine.

Non-Medicinal Treatments

For one, acupuncture is being used more widely for pain management. A practice that’s been around for thousands of years must have some deserved merit. There have also been studies that Yoga and Tai Chi are viable and valuable methods for relieving pain. And, as we’ve read about the hospital in New Jersey, for some of their patients, pain is a laughing matter.

Being informed can help you make a better-suited decision for you, personally, when it comes to pain management.

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