Tag Archives: opioid addiction

Can Psychedelic Medicine Help Opioid Addiction Epidemic ?

  • The Opioid Crisis Has Plagued North America for Decades, and According to the U.S. HHS, it Kills an Estimated 130+ People Per Day in the United States Alone
  • Thanks to Recent Advancements in Psychedelic Medicine, There’s Renewed Hope and Optimism Surrounding the Deadly Epidemic
  • ATAI Life Sciences, DemeRx and MindMed Are Waging War Against Opioid Addiction By Utilizing This One Little-Known Psychedelic Substance

The opioid crisis isn’t making as many headlines these days due to the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has paralyzed much of the global economy and captivated the attention of billions worldwide. While the Coronavirus continues to sweep across the globe, a different type of epidemic continues to ravage America’s communities and families. We’re talking about the Opioid Epidemic.

The U.S. Opioid Epidemic

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the opioid epidemic was the result of gross negligence on the part of pharmaceutical companies, most notably, the now-bankrupt Purdue Pharma. Run by the now-infamous Sackler family, Purdue Pharma was the company responsible for the creation and mass promotion of the opioid pain killer Oxycotin. Certain pharmaceutical firms with Purdue leading the way assured doctors and the medical community that their opioid products were not addictive. This reassurance combined with a massive marketing campaign led to an enormous spike in the number of Oxycodone prescriptions in the U.S. Believing these new pain relievers were non-addictive, opioid use and misuse rates quickly began to soar. The truth is, opioids are highly addictive, and difficult to quit using due to the extreme withdrawal symptoms associated with it.

In 2017, the HHS finally declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency and announced its 5-point plan to combat the crisis.

To put the opioid epidemic into perspective for you, here are some recent statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services:

  • 130+ people died every day from opioid-related drug overdoses during 2018 and 2019
  • 47,600 people died from overdosing on opioids in 2018
  • 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids in 2018
  • 2 million people had an opioid use disorder in 2018
  • 2 million people misused prescription opioids for the first time in 2018

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Read More Stats from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Double Whammy Crises

Corey Davis, a lawyer at Network for Public Health Law, recently said, “We’re now facing two deadly, concurrent declared public health emergencies: the opioid crisis and COVID-19.”

The federal government has loosened some restrictions in regards to social distancing for users of Buprenorphine (Subutex) and Methadone, the two main treatments for opioid addiction that require consistent use to prevent relapse. Opioid users are at high risk of major health conditions due to lifestyle and age (many are over 60), and there are hundreds of thousands of them. What if there was a different way to treat addiction that made opioid users less susceptible to disease and less dependent on the deadly drugs? The psychedelics industry believes it may have the answer.

Psychedelic Medicine is Showing Tremendous Promise

Several companies are working to bring a different approach to opioid addiction through the use of psychedelic medicine. Psychedelics are active compounds that have specific effects on precise parts of the brain–just like pharmaceutical drugs, but due to the U.S. federal government, have been constrained by the very outdated Controlled Substances Act.

One company, in particular, ATAI Life Sciences, has emerged as a driving force behind the psychedelics, inspired fight against addiction. ATAI Life Sciences is a global biotech company founded by scientists and businesspeople who vowed to take a comprehensive approach to dealing with mental health disorders and addiction. The company uses artificial intelligence and computational biophysics to zoom in on promising approaches across their eight portfolio companies: COMPASS PathwaysPerception NeuroscienceDemeRxInnoplexusGABA TherapeuticsEntheogeniX Biosciences and Neuronasal.

DemeRx is one of ATAI’s innovating portfolio companies that’s thinking outside the box as it relates to addiction. The DemeRx website describes the company as “a clinical-stage pharmaceutical development company advancing two lead drug candidates as medication-assisted therapies for opioid addiction.”

Read the full article at TheCannabisInvestor 

United States Opioid Addiction Is Killing Rainforest

The jungles in Guatemala’s northern reaches are some of the most biodiverse forests north of the Amazon. They’re one of the last remaining homes for jaguars, tapirs, and scarlet macaws. And they’re being systematically destroyed.

There are a number of factors that contribute to deforestation in Guatemala, but the impact of drug trafficking has had a measurable effect. Drug traffickers set up shop in the region, grabbing up land and tearing down trees to build landing strips for airplanes, or to set up farms, which they use to launder money. Narco-deforestation, as it’s known, has long been a problem, but America’s opioid epidemic is almost certainly making it worse.

It’s a link that hasn’t yet been made by researchers, but data from conservation, drug policy, and health literature add up to a compelling indication that our addiction to painkillers is playing a role in the destruction of this precious ecosystem.

Widespread addiction to opioid painkillers like OxyContin has expanded the US market for heroin, which is almost identical chemically to prescription opioids. Heroin is also usually cheaper than pills, can be more readily available, and is more potent. With more demand for heroin in the US, drug cartels in Central and South America have even more incentive to continue tearing down the rainforests, and statistics show that deforestation has continued to climb right along pace with our growing appetite for heroin.

I first learned about this connection during a reporting trip to central Guatemala. Fascinated by the networks at play influencing the opioid epidemic in the US, I was curious if it had had any impact in Central America. So one afternoon, while driving to visit some indigenous midwives in the hilly, bucolic Tecpán region, I turned to my interpreter to ask if she knew whether the drug trade had changed at all in recent years.

She nodded emphatically, telling me it’s “gotten worse,” and that drug cartels in the north of the country were “chopping down the rainforest.”

“Is it just cocaine?” I asked her.

“Cocaine,” she acknowledged. “But heroin, too.”

Guatemala’s rainforests are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Image: Walter Rodriguez/Flickr

Between 1990 and 2005, 17 percent of Guatemala’s total forest cover was torn down—a loss of roughly half a million hectares of trees—according to the European Space Agency, which tracks deforestation using satellite imagery. It’s continued at a similar pace since then, particularly in the ecologically vulnerable rainforest areas, where an increase in drug trafficking coincided with as much as 10 percent forest loss between 2006 and 2010, according to study published in Science.

And it’s only getting worse.

“It hasn’t slowed down in the last four years,” said Matthew Taylor, a professor of geography and the environment at the University of Denver, who has studied the impacts of drug trafficking on the environment. “From speaking with my sources and from evidence from being in the field, it’s increasing.”

Though agriculture and logging account for a large portion of this deforestation in Central and South America, the narco-deforestation has played a significant role, too. The actual cultivation of drugs like cocaine and heroin has an impact: The Organization of American States estimates that 2.5 million hectares of Amazonian forest in Peru have been destroyed to grow coca, while more than 1 million hectares of forest in Colombia have been culled to grow illicit drugs, including opium poppies for heroin.

But in Central America, the drug-related deforestation is caused instead by all of the activities surrounding the trafficking side of the supply chain, according to Kendra McSweeney, the study author and a professor of geography at Ohio State University.

“[Traffickers] need a lot of land through which to move drugs,” McSweeney told me. “In order to secure those routes, they like to buy up the land and cut forests for landing planes, landing boats, unloading, reloading, and driving out by car.”

Drug cartels also buy land and cut down forests to establish cattle ranches, which make handy businesses through which to launder money, McSweeney explained. It also gives them a diversification option: If the drug route gets cracked down, they still own the land, which they can sell off for major profits, since the original sale is usually made under duress (you can’t really negotiate real estate prices with a drug cartel).

“These are totally dynamics made in the USA, no question.”

Read the full article on Motherboard