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Our Practice



Is the opiate epidemic leading to accidental addiction?

Written by Madelyn Huttner, April 26, 2017

Update:Insurance providers refuse to cover medication to help the elderly manage their addiction. 

One in three senior citizens are prescribed opioid pain killer to help them manage their pain associated with aging and degeneration, but unfortunately, many of the elderly become addicted to the prescribed opiate. In fact, 3 percent of the opioid related drug deaths where individuals over the age of 65. Furthermore, it is estimated that 90,000 Medicare patients that are addicted to opiates are at high risk for overdose or misuse. 

If you or a loved with is struggling to manage their pain, or looking for help to break free from opioid medication, call us today to find out more information on NAD+ therapy. 

There is an epidemic taking the world by storm. It doesn’t care who you are. And it targets your brain, your body, your bank account, and your loved ones. Opiate addiction is sweeping the nation. The most unfortunate part of the opiate epidemic is that most users affected began with prescription medications. Of those who became accidentally addicted to opiates in the 2000’s, 75 percent started by taking prescribed opiate. And now they have an “accidental” addiction.

“Accidental” addiction doesn’t necessarily happen to the stereotypical drug user that is uneducated and poor, but takes a hold of CEOs and soccer moms that were prescribed painkillers after routine procedures. Tom, a previous patient of NAD+ therapy, recalls what it was like to be an accidental opiate addict.


“It’s hard to imagine not realizing you are an addict, but I had no idea. Doctor’s didn’t tell me. I was just doing what I thought was the right thing to do. I was just treating my pain. I tried everything, but in this case, opiates seemed to work the best. At some point, however, pain started to come from the opiate itself no longer from the illness. I’m not sure when that transition occurred, it felt exactly the same. I used to carry around this conspicuous bag of pills with me, all these different colors in them. I had everything in there that I needed, and I didn’t think I was an addict. It took two years to realize I was an addict after I was sober.”

 – Tom Ingoglia, recovered opiate addict.

Defining Opioids


Opioids, a class of natural and synthetic drugs that are commonly used to alleviate pain, include drugs such as morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl. The natural source stemming from the poppy plant is referred to as an opiate. Opioids relieve pain by targeting nerve cells in your brain and body, providing an intense euphoric feeling. Most prescribed pain killers are opiate based, and resemble the natural endorphins produced in the body. Opiates are highly addictive due to their ability to flood the brain with dopamine, especially in the reward center called the nucleus accumbens. According to Nora Volkow, the director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a brain disease because of the structural and functional changes that occur. Prolonged use of opiates can cause changes in the brain by inhibiting the brain’s endogenous endorphins and disturbing neurotransmitter balance, leading to withdrawal symptoms.


The Statistics


In 2011, approximately 219 million opiate painkillers were prescribed throughout the nation. By 2012, one third of all opiate prescriptions were more powerful than morphine. This includes fentanyl, a synthetic pain killer that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. It’s no wonder that 2.4 million Americans are dependent on opiates in 2014, and 28,647 deaths were due to overdoses.


Efforts to reduce opioid abuse are often unsuccessful, leading many to use heroin instead. Data from 2002 to 2012 revealed that heroin use was 19 times more among people who had previously used non-medical pain relievers.


Honestly, who could blame them? It’s not easy to come off of opiates “cold turkey”. Opiate withdrawal is one of the toughest detox results because riding out the side effects without medical help is excruciating.


Treatment Options for Opiate Addiction


Treatment of opiate addiction can be approached in three ways:

  • Reduce harm. Replace the painkiller or street opiate with a less harmful prescription, such as methadone or buprenorphine.  This may reduce the risk of overdose and damage to the body. These types of drugs are long-lasting and act as opioid agonists. In fact, buprenorphine was recently able to decrease heroin overdoses by 37 percent in Baltimore.

  • Alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal. Many users are more afraid of the withdrawal symptoms than the addiction itself. Withdrawal symptoms start within six to thirty hours after you stop taking the drug. Drugs such as clonidine alleviate many symptoms of withdrawal.

  • Opioid blockers. Drugs similar to Naltrexone target opiate receptors to prevent the opiate from binding. Naltrexone is often used in opiate overdoses because it reverses the effect of the opiate on the cell. Correct dosing of Naltrexone is extremely important because too much can induce opiate withdrawal in the user if he/she is currently using.  


Additionally, medication assisted treatment (MAT) is the combination of behavioral counseling and prescription medications often used for the process of withdrawal. This approach addresses the physical implications of opiate withdrawal, as well as the mental and emotional factors for a well-rounded approach. MAT has been proven to reduce deaths, criminal activity, and infectious diseases associated with opioid use. It has also been shown to increase social functioning and is especially effective for pregnant users.


Despite the sudden flux of opiate dependencies, inpatient treatment admissions fell by 35 percent between 2002 and 2012. It’s a sad fact that continuing the addiction cycle through street heroin is cheaper than available options for rehabilitation and detoxification. Publicly funded rehabilitation centers typically have a waiting list for treatment and will prescribe replacement drugs. The cost of most public outpatient centers is, on average, $10,000, plus the cost of medication each month. While private inpatient rehabilitation centers offer medically assisted detoxification, the average cost of a 28 day program is $27,399.

Emerging Research


Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California are creating a vaccine that will eliminate heroin from the body. Vaccines can train the immune system to fight off the drug’s effects and may be able to decrease cravings. A second vaccine is being developed at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland that will prevent heroin from entering the brain as well as preventing HIV infection. These potential preventative measures still need to be tested and undergo clinical trials.


Another emerging therapy that has proven to be very effective at detoxifying the body from opioids is IV NAD+ therapy. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is a coenzyme used in almost every cell in your body and is associated with brain restoration. NAD+ is an all-natural solution because it is considered a vitamin. Furthermore this type of therapy has minimal side effects and is able alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Many accidental opiate users, including Rick, are able to detox naturally by using IV NAD+ therapy.

The NAD Treatment Center in San Diego, California also uses innovative technology, such as the Bridge, to alleviate severe withdrawal symptoms. This type of technology uses gentle stimulation of the nerves associated with pain. Read more about this type of therapy on our blog. The Bridge, combined with NAD+ therapy, has had impressive results in eliminating withdrawals and cravings. Reach out to learn more. For additional information, call (844) 623-7587 or visit us online at

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