Each week, the Inside Addiction section of The Recovery Village website features a list of the biggest stories in the world of addiction and mental health. These 10 topics were the most compelling for the week of Aug. 21, 2018.

2017 Marks Another Record Number of Overdose Deaths

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released initial estimates on the number of drug overdose deaths from 2017. According to the report, the number of deaths topped 72,000, a record in the United States. The number of opiate overdoses topped 49,000 while synthetic opiate overdoses, which includes fentanyl, was nearly 30,000.

There is some good news in the report. The CDC announced it will begin releasing monthly overdose reports, and the January 2018 numbers show that the number of opiate overdoses dropped compared to September 2017. [CDC]

Opioid Use Among Pregnant Women Makes Big Jump

The CDC reports that opioid use and addiction among pregnant women has soared since 1999. The use of drugs within this classification, which include Codeine and Oxycodone, has more than quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. Using drugs such as opioids while pregnant can have a severe impact on not only the mother but also the fetus, which could suffer from stillbirth, neonatal abstinence syndrome and other effects. [CDC]

Marijuana Addiction Risk Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Marijuana is considered by many medical experts to be less harmful — and less addictive — than most illicit street drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamine. However, the belief that marijuana is harmless has spread throughout the country, in step with the legalization of recreational use of the drug in numerous states.

The Atlantic’s article “America’s Invisible Pot Addicts” looks at the dangers of consistent marijuana use and the growing accessibility of the drug. Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, was quoted saying that close to 1 in 10 people who smoke marijuana say they experience numerous issues. Humphreys said that these people have trouble quitting and neglect responsibilities. Additional issues include trouble concentrating or staying motivated. [The Atlantic]

New Alcohol Addiction Treatment: Deep Brain Stimulation

Researchers at Stanford University found that deep brain stimulation (DBS) could help people who suffer from alcohol addiction. The findings detail that DBS, which is equal to driving an electrical current through the brain, could help people become less likely to need alcohol to achieve happiness.

“The nucleus accumbens is triggered when patients anticipate a reward or prior to completing a rewarding behavior,” said Allen Ho, a Stanford neurosurgery resident quoted in the report. “By targeting this brain structure with stimulation, we hope to modulate the reward circuit in the brain to help patients resist the temptation to indulge in a binge and other addictive behaviors.” [ZME Science]

Drug Use On the Rise Among Peace Corps Volunteers

The Peace Corps’ inspector general reported a growing number of volunteers in the last few years who have been removed from their positions due to drug use. The number of people, 152, who have been found to have used drugs while serving as volunteers indicates a growing problem for the organization. One Peace Corps volunteer died due to drug use. Seven others were arrested by foreign law-enforcement officers.

“Peace Corps’ efforts to address volunteer drug use have been insufficient, and that drug use continues to pose a serious risk to the integrity and reputation of the Peace Corps,” the report states. [USA Today]

Researchers Tout Ketamine As a Treatment For Depression

Researchers discovered that the anesthetic ketamine can be used to treat for severe depression, which is a potential breakthrough in the medical field.

The Federal Drug Administration has not approved the use of ketamine for depression but that could happen in the future as mental health professionals look to curb the effects of depression, including suicidal thoughts. Studies show that ketamine reduces the number of suicidal thoughts in people who suffer from depression, which equates to nearly 10 percent of American adults.

“There’s still a lot to learn before we can use ketamine on a wide scale,” said Dr. Gerard Sanacora, who directs the Yale Depression Research Program in New Haven, Connecticut. “But it seems to offer real benefits, even targeting suicidal thinking, which could be lifesaving.” [WebMD]

person in hoodie burying head in harms feeling ashamed

ESPN Series Focuses on NBA Players’ Mental Health

The sports media giant ESPN is publishing a series of articles covering mental health issues among National Basketball Association players. Spearheaded by the reporting of long-time NBA writer Jackie MacMullan, the series discusses the ways in which black athletes still struggle with mental illness despite making millions of dollars, the debate about medicating for physical injuries, and the state of mental health treatment in the league. The topic surfaced in the professional sports world in the last few years, particularly after NBA All-Stars Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan opened up publicly about their struggles with mental health disorders. [ESPN]

The Type of Exercise That Helps the Most With Mental Health Is …

Researchers uncovered the physical activities that can help people the most with their mental health. According to the report, participating in team sports helps the most. Cycling was second.

Researchers ranked the exercises based on the number of poor mental-health days reported by the participants in the study. People who played team sports such as soccer, softball or basketball reported 22.3 percent fewer poor mental-health days than those who did not exercise. Those who ran or jogged reported 19 percent fewer poor mental-health days. [Wall Street Journal]

SAMHSA Looking For Improvements To Mental Health Training

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced a new strategy focused on helping people who have a mental illness. SAMHSA said it will prioritize evidence-based psychiatric treatment and create a national system of technical assistance and training for health care providers. Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stated that SAMHSA is creating technology transfer centers that can help medical organizations receive up-to-date training with a focus on serving minorities in all regions of the country. She said this will help health care providers better serve people who struggle with mental health disorders. [Healio Psychiatric Annals]

New Cartoon ‘Addiction’ Looks at Living With a Substance Use Disorder

The Addiction Policy Forum launched a new cartoon series titled “Addiction,” which aims to explain the science behind substance use disorders. The Washington D.C.-based partnership of addiction advocates launched the series July 16 with the first episode “The Hijacker,” which explained how drug use can alter people’s brains in a way that prioritizes acquiring and taking drugs over necessities such as eating or sleeping.

Jessica Hulsey Nickel, the group’s president, said the goal of the series is to address misconceptions about addiction. She added, “There’s so much misinformation about the disease, everything from this being a choice and not a disease, the misunderstanding about how treatment works, misunderstandings about medications, about lengths of treatment and recovery support, how you develop this disease in the first place.” [Chicago Tribune]

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