U.S. Drug overdose deaths are increasing

The second leading cause of accidental death in the US is drug overdose (JAMA 2007). Prescription painkiller overdose deaths (opioid analgesics like OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone) account for nearly half of the 36,450 total fatal overdoses with 15,000 deaths that have claimed a number of celebrity lives including famous actor Heath Ledger (CDC 2011).

With so much concern over illegal drugs, it seems silly not to focus on a problem that is at least as deadly but far more accepted.

Drug overdose deaths increasing quickly

Drug overdoses are normally considered accidental and they're on the riseWe’ve reported on this phenomenon before, so for the regular A3 readers this report might not seem new. But what’s staggering is just how quickly these numbers are moving up.

In 2004 there were 19,838 total accidental overdose deaths, with about 9,000 caused by prescribed drugs, and 8,000 more caused by illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines (Paulozzi, LJ, Budnitz 2006). That signals a near doubling in about 7 years, and when you look at numbers from 1999, we’re talking about triple the accidental drug overdose deaths in just over a decade! Fastest growing cause of death in our country ladies and gentlemen.

SAMHSA Reports that use of prescription pain relievers (opioid analgesics) have increased since 2002 from 360,000 to 754,000 people in 2010. That means that people are twice as likely to use these drugs now, which would be fine if 5% of the users weren’t dying every year.  A study I talked about on ABC’s Good Morning America earlier this year (see here) reported that people taking heavy doses are especially likely to die and that this might be at least partially due to additional opioid use over and above the prescribed regimen.Time to get this under control prescribers!!!

This increase in usage opioid analgesics like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and methadone has made them the some of the most deadly drugs in the USA (Paulozzi, LJ, Budnitz 2006). In 1999 to 2004 prescription overdose related to opioid analgesics increased from 2,900 to at least 7,500, this equates to 160% increase in just 5 years (Paulozzi).

A JAMA study conducted between 1999 to 2004 reported that white women showed a relative increase in unintentional drug related deaths of 136.5% followed by young adults aged 15-24 years (113.3%). But the latest report from the CDC suggest that Men and middle aged individuals are most likely to be affected by this growing epidemic. The bottom line is this problem is either moving around or is universal enough affect essentially every major group of Americans. One of the scariest findings from this most recent CDC study may be the conclusion that states are generally unprepared to deal with this growing epidemic.

What can we do about overdose deaths?

First of all, it is seriously time that we had more consistent state and federal computer systems keeping track of prescriptions for heavily controlled drugs in this country. We can keep track of packages moving across state lines with no problem, why is it so damn hard to watch pills that lead to 35,000 deaths? Most states have them in place but they’re not heavily used and there’s nothing at all that looks at cross federal prescription patterns.

Second, we wrote about some harm-reduction methods to reduce overdose deaths, things like intranasal naloxone, safe injection sites, and more. As far as I’m concerned, we need to get off our national moral horse and start acting responsibly when it comes to saving lives. If we have simple solutions that have been shown to reduce deaths while not increasing abuse, I say let’s implement!!! Anything else is simply wrong.


Paulozzi, LJ, Budnitz, DS, Xi, Y. Increasing deaths from opioid analgesics in the United States. Pharmacoepidemiology Drug Safety 2006; 15: 618-627. (originally published in 2006 and recently updated)

A3 Academy: Low-cost but high-value addiction help!

The A3 Academy will be taking place again this upcoming Tursday- September 29th, 2011 – In West Los Angeles (2001 Barrington Ave., Suite 204)

The topic for this week – This week we will have a process group so come ready to share with everyone in a safe, supportive environment!

Cost – The cost for the class is $30.

Who should come to the A3 Academy?

Education is important in addiction as in any other fieldThe A3 Academy is specifically formulated to fill the void between doing nothing about addiction and formal addiction treatment.

If you’re wondering whether you’re addicted or if know for sure you are but aren’t sure what to do about it, the A3 Academy is for you. If a loved one close to you is suffering with addiction and you don’t know what to do about it and want to talk, learn about options, or just listen to others, the A3 Academy can offer you the addiction help you need. If you’re an addiction professional who wants to learn more about the newest advances in addiction research, come to the A3 Academy. If you’re an addict in recovery post-treatment and just want an informal place for your recovery booster-shot, come to us.

Dr. Jaffe giving one of his talks at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in West Los AngelesDr. Jaffe is going to use the A3 Academy to offer addiction help of all kinds – educational groups, informational sessions, process groups, life planning, mindfulness, nutrition, expert consultation with leading addiction experts from the Los Angeles area and beyond. If it has to do with addiction, we’ll probably cover it.

And Dr. Jaffe is a great speaker – if you’ve never attended one of his lectures, you’ll be sure to enjoy these as he gets to let loose with his knowledge, experience, and passion!

Addiction education is one of the main keys to improving addiction treatment, reducing addiction stigma, and helping those unsure about their own issues around addiction.

For tickets – go HERE or email us at academy@allaboutaddiction.com.


We’re looking forward to seeing you!

The A3 team!

Watch the A3 Academy Class right here:

About Addiction: Alcohol, drugs, marriage, taxes, and teens

You’ve come back and we love it! As a reward, we’re going to give you some of the best information about addiction on the web, free of charge. Really! No, seriously, we’re really happy to have you back learning about addiction here on A3. Now go on.

Alcohol: Marriage, Sports Games, and Price Planning

Science Daily– We have already talked about what alcoholism can do to you body as well as what it can do to your brain on A3. This article highlights what it could do to your marriage, specifically delaying it and possibly causing early separation. Just one more thing to think about for those thinking of tying the knot any time soon.

BBC News-In an effort to reduce crime in England the government wants to set a minimum price for alcohol so that it could no longer be sold at a price that is untaxable. Home Office projections indicate 7000 crimes could be cut in a year. The increase in cost would also result in a benefit to the nation’s health given projections form Sheffield University, which estimated last year that raising the price of alcohol to a minimum of 50p per unit would mean that after a decade there would be almost 3,000 fewer deaths every year and 41,000 fewer cases of chronic illness. The projection are dependent on the notion that price will affect demand and therefore use, something that has been shown to be less true among dependent individuals.

Med – A new study found that alcohol dependence is a strong predictor of early separation in marriage. In addition to this finding the results showed that if an individuals parents were dependent on alcohol  both men and women were more likely to separate early in marriage. This some very early evidence, but more research is being conducted.

Science Daily– Often times sports games are a great way to have fun. However, about eight percent of fans are legally drunk after leaving sports games according to a recent study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER). Researchers administered a breath test and found that 60% of the fans had zero BAC, 40% had a positive BAC, and nearly 8% were legally drunk. This problem could be resolved through better training of alcohol servers, and setting a limit to how much alcohol an individual can purchase, about 74% of the time an intoxicated individual was still able to buy alcohol. That is assuming these people are getting into cars and driving or starting fights… Otherwise, I say let them drink and walk it off.

Drugs: Texting & Fighting Teen Drug Use

News Feed– Restricting texting for teenagers may be a good idea as a new study shows that teens who “hyper-text” ( text more than 120 times a day) are more likely to be sexually active, drink alcohol and do illegal drugs compared to teens that text less. I wonder if they’re also sexting more… maybe while drunk or high. I guess future research should examine negative outcomes in this group – addiction, pregnancy, arrest and so on.

Time– The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has declared Nov. 8–14 National Drug Facts Week, in order to help prevent teen drug problems. The goal of this drug facts week is to present teens with factual information about drugs and drug abuse. Read this article and take NIDA’s Drug IQ Challenge here (warning: the online quiz begins with the loud sound of shattering glass, which may jolt adult nerves). Effective drug prevention requires open and honest communication information about drugs between parents and children.

Who is accountable for the treatment services addicts receive?

It’s not often that I let my opinions out freely rather than letting the data do the talking, but this issue’s been making me mad for a while and now it just has to come out. As part of our work on the A3 rehab-finder we’ve been trying to get some measure of standardization into the system so that when we match those looking for treatment with provides we get a good fit. The problem is that when SAMHSA collects this data there is essentially no oversight whatsoever regarding the services addiction treatment providers report and their actual capabilities for providing those services.

One of the most obvious examples of this has to do with providing services for clients who suffer from both mental health issues and drug and/or alcohol problems. This happens often and SAMHSA has a few specific fields that ask providers if they can handle these more difficult cases. Over 50% of addiction treatment providers claim they can, but since no one ever checks up on them, it’s just their word we’re supposed to count on. Well, as far as at least some of them are concerned, having a psychiatrist come by once a month for a few hours is enough, still other providers offer even less in terms of mental health provisions. Believe it or not, some who claim to offer mental health services do not allow the use of any psychiatric medication… I think that actually qualifies as negligence.

There is some research looking into this sort of stuff, including work from Dartmouth (and Dr. Mark McGovern) using an instrument called the DDCAT (Dual Diagnosis Capacity in Addiction Treatment). Unfortunately, as usual, the findings aren’t making it into the actual field. I think it’s due time that we hold providers accountable and set some sort of standard for each of these services that they claim to provide.

I mean seriously, could you imagine gynecologists being able to provide post-mortem examinations without training? Oh, I guess that’s happening too… Nevermind.

Tying up every loose end – Keeping my head above water

You may have noticed (or maybe not) that I’ve been slacking a little on the writing end of All About Addiction (A3). I love my readers and so I wanted to make sure that you were all in on everything that’s going on so that you don’t feel left out (my wife taught me that!). Now that All About Addiction has expanded beyond the blog that started it all out to include the new Rehab-Finder and everything else the website offers now (like the Resource Page), it takes a lot more work to keep everything moving along, and unfortunately, I can’t afford any help yet so it’s just me and my undergrad crew! Still, when I started this website a few years ago to help those who wanted the most recent scientific information about addiction have easy access to it, I never could have imagined it going this far.

Also, since I’m now officially about one week away from my dissertation defense date (woohoo!!!) the work in that arena is getting more and more focused, which leaves less and less time to focus on other thing. Still, it’s hard for me to express how excited I am to bring the last 7 years of exploration to a close and get started on Phase 2 (or is Phase 15…). I’m guessing that I’ll likely post excerpts from the thesis itself here on A3, as well as probably on WePapers, which is a site my dad helped start that allows people in education to share knowledge (pretty cool!). Speaking of my dad, I really wish he’d made it another 6 months to meet my boy Kai and get to see me finish this Ph.D. thing – I know how much he would have appreciated both. Losing him has definitely given me a better idea of the downside to not believing in reincarnation, life-after-death, and all that other wonderfully optimistic stuff. But I digress.

So between the website expansion, the birth of my son, my dissertation, and that thing we all call sleep I’ve been pretty much maxed out, which explains the serious drop in new content. I promise that once I am officially Dr. Jaffe I’ll have more time to focus on bringing you the kind of groundbreaking addiction-science coverage you’ve come to rely on.

Oh, and if you’re really hungry for more, make sure to check out the piece about A3 (and me) in the UCLA newsroom as well as the upcoming piece in the UCLA paper (the Daily Bruin) about addiction that will feature me in it too. Between those two pieces and the LA Times and Boston Globe pieces I’ve been interviewed for in the past few months, it seems at least someone is paying attention to all the work that has gone into All About Addiction for the past 3 years or so.

For that, my son, my wife, and everything else that’s good – I’m grateful.



UCLA coverage of All About Addiction – Adi in the news

We don’t normally toot our own horn, but this one is big!

If you haven’t yet had a chance to check it out, make sure you read the recent UCLA Newsroom story about Adi Jaffe, A3’s originator, and about All About Addiction.

The story chronicles much of the stuff we’ve already talked about on A3, including Adi’s drug addiction history, his studies about addiction at UCLA, and his dissertation research, which we’re sure he’ll talk about more on here soon.

Also mentioned is the new A3 Rehab-Finder, which we’re certain will soon become one of the most utilized tools to make finding addiction treatment in the U.S. (and around the world?) easier and more efficient.

As a UCLA fan and participant for over 12 years, Adi couldn’t be more excited to have one of the first big stories written about his work published directly on the school’s website. The story’s also been picked up by the general University of California Newsroom and by PhysOrg and a number of other great online resources.

Hard work pays off!!!