How Alternatives Such as CBD Oil Make an Impact on the Opioid Epidemic

As the opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc on the United States, we take a look at the viability of cannabidiol as an alternative.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40 percent of the opioid-related deaths that occurred in the United States in 2016 involved a prescription opioid. Opioids are a form of medication prescribed by a healthcare professional that are used to treat unrelenting pain, typically caused by an underlying illness or as a result of surgery. With so many patients in the United States abusing their opioid prescriptions, it is hard to comprehend why many doctors nationwide continue to prescribe these highly-addictive pain medications. However, with the easily-accessible nature of these drugs and given the severity of a patient’s pain or suffering, opioids such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone have become a popular choice for both medicinal and recreational use.

Fortunately, alternative, non-addictive forms of pain relief are becoming more frequently prescribed to patients. While Cannabis Sativa still has a negative stigma revolving around it and receives political backlash, the pain relief it provides for users may be enough to help patients shy away from opioid use.

What is Cannabidiol (CBD)?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many compounds created by the Cannabis plant, and it is often recognized alongside Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The difference between these two compounds is that CBD is non-psychoactive, providing the same benefits as THC without the euphoric feeling that THC produces. This has allowed for the legal sale of products such as CBD oil, as it does not contain THC and cannot be abused or cause a dependency.

CBD oil is still a fairly new product, which has limited the scope of existing research into the health benefits of this substance. However, scientists and doctors are starting to introduce this form of pain relief amongst select patients and new data is being continuously gathered as to exactly what benefits CBD oil can provide to patients.

How Does CBD Oil Relieve Pain?

CBD oil is believed to behave the same way that opioids work within a user’s body. By interacting with pain receptors in the brain and the immune system, CBD provides relief from the pain. However, it should be noted that the CBD is not directly causing a patient pain relief. The human body contains an endocannabinoid system, which allows it to regulate substances such as CBD. According to a study conducted by Neurotherapeutics, CBD actually promotes other compounds within the endocannabinoid system from being absorbed, such as anandamide, a compound known for reducing pain. This creates an abundance of anandamide in the body, which results in pain relief.

Evidence of CBD Success

While CBD is a potential alternative to opioid pain relievers, it is also showing success amongst patients who suffer from serious diseases. In a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, 76 patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy resulting in seizures, were given 20-mg of CBD twice a day for 14 weeks. As a result, this group of patients had a 41.9 percent decrease in the number of seizures they experienced.

Epilepsy has shown some of the greatest success for CBD usage out of all diseases that have utilized this treatment method. Many epilepsy patients have to take multiple pills a day to reduce the frequency of their seizures, and some patients even have an implant that sends electrical pulses throughout the body to regulate seizures. For patients with such severe epilepsy, CBD is a breath of fresh air.

While these trial results are very promising, some researchers are still skeptical about its success amongst cancer patients. CBD has not been scientifically proven to reduce the size of cancerous tumors in humans, but studies have shown that it may be effective in treating symptoms and side effects of chemotherapy. For cancers such as mesothelioma, whose treatment options are intensive, this may be a safe and effective way for patients to relieve pain without the health risks of opioids. Aggressively spreading cancers tend to cause a severe amount of pain for the patients, and patients’ overall quality of life will improve if they do not have to worry about becoming dependent on opioids while also receiving treatment for their diseases.

The Future Of CBD

As the stigma associated with Cannabis diminishes and more countries around the world begin to legalize it, more research will be conducted involving CBD as a form of pain relief. Too many people have fallen victim to opioid addiction, and with non-addictive pain management alternatives gaining in popularity, the number of yearly opioid-related deaths is predicted to decrease.

David Haas is a health advocate specializing in mesothelioma. He works to ensure everyone has access to information about the disease and advocates for a complete ban of asbestos in the United States.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

FDA Supports New Steps to Further Nicotine Replacement Therapy Research

Use of FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy products may double the likelihood of a successful attempt to quit smoking.

In a statement released this month from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., it was announced that the agency is taking new steps to support the development of nicotine replacement drug therapies (NRTs) to assist smokers in their efforts to quit.

“As a public health agency, there is no greater impact we can have to improve the health of our nation than to significantly reduce the rate of tobacco-related disease and death. Through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s comprehensive framework for regulating nicotine and tobacco, we’re developing policies that support the possibility of a world where combustible cigarettes could no longer create or sustain addiction. A key part of this framework are steps to pave the way for products that help currently addicted smokers move away from the deadliest form of nicotine delivery,” Gottlieb said in the statement, which was issued on August 3, 2018.

Gottlieb goes on to say that, “The development of novel NRT products, regulated as new drugs, is a critical part of our overall strategy on nicotine.”

The CDC reports that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol, and that 70% of adult smokers in the United States want to quit, with nearly half trying to quit each year and only few succeeding. Research has shown that use of FDA-approved NRT products may double the likelihood of a successful quit attempt.

The FDA’s Nicotine Steering Committee, established in September of 2017, has been evaluating new, evidence-based opportunities to advance NRT products, and last week, the FDA released the first of two draft guidances aimed at supporting the development of novel, inhaled nicotine replacement therapies, similar to current over-the-counter pharmaceutical NRT products, that could be submitted to the FDA for approval as new drugs.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Fund Cancer Detection, Not a “Cure”

Your best weapon to defeat the beast known as cancer is early detection. So, why is funding so focused on finding a “cure,” instead of screening?

by Jason Blackson

There is an inherent misnomer about cancer prevalent in the world that needs to be corrected. Cancer is a disease of the body’s own cells developing a molecular flaw and then replicating out of control. For this, there is no cure. Not in the preventative sense that has led numerous foundations, organizations, and charities to generate billions of dollars over the years under the guise of finding ‘the cure’. An individual’s cancer can be cured, yes, but there will never be a drug or vaccine that could be administered to prevent cancer. Diseases, like the chicken pox or the flu, are foreign entities that enter the body and can be fought off, either by vaccine or the use and aid of medications. Other diseases can be fought off by the immune system, such as bacterial infections. Cancer is not an invasive substance. Cancer is our own cells gone rogue and then convincing our bodies that it belongs there. Because the immune system does not recognize cancerous cells as anything foreign, it will do little, if anything, to fight back. There is no cure to prevent this from happening. That isn’t to say there is no hope. Rather there needs to be a shift in focus, taken away from ‘finding the cure’ and placed on developing more efficient diagnostic testing. Pouring money into research to hit the bullseye at an ever-changing target isn’t the answer. The answer lies in finding these rogue cells, before the race against time begins.

The development of better treatment options has grown, evolved, and advanced in the most remarkable and unforeseeable ways, over the last several decades. While some routes of treatment are still borderline-barbaric, for lack of a better option, new developments, especially immunotherapy, have provided hope for patients with even the most egregious forms of cancer. Their diagnosis isn’t necessarily a death sentence. The problem here being that funding for this type of research is inconsistent. Studies have shown that over the last decade, while public support and research progress remain strong, funding has not increased to compensate for the demands of a pricier financial landscape. The federal government has provided tremendous monetary support for research, but has yet to meet the same level of funding it provided before the last recession. Grants have helped to offset expenditures for many organizations, but the overall tight financial constraints have created challenges in sustaining clinical trials and retaining talented researchers. Additionally, the horrifying and fascinating reality is cancer cells have routinely found ways to evolve and survive many of the implemented therapies. This is because each type of cancer has a unique combination of genetic changes. As the cancer grows, these genetic changes will continue, making each subsequent cell different from its parent cell. Cells within the same tumor have even shown to have different genetic changes. This is one reason why cancers become more difficult to treat over time and also why one therapy regime that works for one patient may not necessarily work for another patient with the same diagnosis. This, of course, is spoken in broad stroke generalizations. There are numerous studies proving the success and survival rates of any combination of therapies, and new research is showing new treatment options to be even more promising. But why is the focus of defeating cancer on the backend, after it has already wreaked havoc on the life of the patient and the lives of the people around the patient? Why is research less focused on the frontend of the disease process and preventing it from developing beyond a few cells?

CBCs, biopsies, colonoscopies, pap tests, and other tests are routinely used in conjunction with known statistics and demographics in screening patients for cancer. Current screening tests are predominantly accurate in the detection of tumors or blood- or bone marrow-based cancers but typically those cells number in the millions before being detected. The human body has trillions of cells and, of those cells, cancer starts in just one. Understanding the nature of that one cancer cell, how it operates, and how it operates differently from normal cells, could help doctors not only detect the cancer earlier, but also help them refine their treatment to be the most efficient. For example, cells from tumors are known to release minute amounts of mutated DNA and abnormal proteins into the blood stream, not unlike normal cells. Researchers in Australia have used this information to develop a test that can detect one mutated fragment of DNA among 10,000 normal DNA fragments. Research from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute, has supported these findings by developing a technique that detects specific mutated DNA sequences. Additionally, a study out of China has identified cancer cells carry sugar molecules on their surfaces that are not found on the surfaces of normal cells. These are characteristics of all tumor cells that, with additional research and test development, can be used to create a screening tool that will detect cancer even before symptoms arise. Not only will this be crucial in increasing the overall survival rate of many types of cancer, a blood analysis test in far less invasive and inherently less expensive than many of the currently used screening tests.

The next step, as with any research study, is proven accuracy with redundancy and time. Much of this early detection research has been reported in the last twelve to eighteen months. Even with the promising accuracy of these tests on subjects within the study, the incidence of cancer developing in the test subjects, in comparison to the control groups, will have to be monitored over the next several years. Meaning, the research and the researchers will need to be funded to conclude their current studies, in addition to refining and improving their work. While no detection test for any malady can guarantee 100% accuracy, there is no reason to believe a cancer screening test could not be close to it. Ideally, equal amounts of money, time and effort could be used for treatment development and early detection test development, but it is realistically implausible. Cancer cells are known to replicate out of control without stopping and will, most likely, go undetected until the patient exhibits symptoms. There needs to be a test to identify these cells before they cause harm, before they create a physical manifestation that will lead to costly, unpleasant, and oftentimes painful treatments to eradicate them. Funding efforts and public perception need to be shifted away from finding a cure to the more feasible prospect of detecting cancer earlier and stopping it from developing into a life-changing beast.

Jason Blackson is a Clinical Laboratory Specialist, who lives in Washington, D.C., and has worked in Cytogenetics for nearly two decades. When he is not busy in the lab, he enjoys traveling the world, especially for concerts, staying fit, and telling what some would consider to be “dad jokes.”

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

‘Battle Metaphors’ Affect Cancer Patients, Medical Experts Say

From fighting to winning, these words can be ‘detrimental’ to someone’s well-being, oncologist says.

from CBC News

Battle, fight, win — you hear these words describe cancer all the time, but medical experts are now re-thinking how we characterize the disease because of the emotional ramifications.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

One Man’s Desperate Quest for a Brutal Surgery

The operation is so terrifying some call it MOAS: the Mother of All Surgeries.

from STAT

The operation is so terrifying some call it MOAS: The Mother of All Surgeries. It can take 16 hours. The risk of complications is high. And after 30 years of research, doctors are still arguing about how well it works.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.