socialmedia1-150x150The social media sites that young folks so adore also have turned into virtual illicit drug bazaars, helping to explain the exploding problems with the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl and why opioids and overdoses of them have become a leading killer of Americans ages 18 to 45.

During the coronavirus pandemic, especially, and continuing onward, Snapchat, TikTok, and other social media apps, including those that allow users to swap encrypted or disappearing messages, have helped to fuel a burgeoning market in Percocet, Xanax, and other prescription pills, the New York Times has reported. Authorities have warned that those drugs by themselves would be hugely problematic but criminal dealers also have taken to tainting their wares with fentanyl — an easily manufactured opioid that requires only minute doses to provide a big kick, fast addiction, and too easy death. As the newspaper reported:

“Overdoses are now the leading cause of preventable death among people ages 18 to 45, ahead of suicide, traffic accidents, and gun violence, according to federal data. Although experimental drug use by teenagers in the United States has been dropping since 2010, their deaths from fentanyl have skyrocketed, to 884 in 2021, from 253 in 2019, according to a recent study in the journal JAMA. Rates of illicit prescription pill use are now highest among people ages 18 to 25, according to federal data.

hospitalsafetygrafic-300x172Doctors and hospitals must redouble their efforts to protect patients in their care, as the coronavirus pandemic reversed years of safety advances, and these must be restored top to bottom — and more.

This powerful, timely argument has been made in a top medical journal by leading federal regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As the quartet of medical doctors (Lee A. Fleisher, Michelle Schreiber, Denise Cardo, and Arjun Srinivasan) reported:

“The public health emergency has put enormous stress on the health care system and disrupted many normal activities in hospitals and other facilities. Unfortunately, these stressors have caused safety problems for both patients and staff …The fact that the pandemic degraded patient safety so quickly and severely suggests that our health care system lacks a sufficiently resilient safety culture and infrastructure. We believe the pandemic and the breakdown it has caused present an opportunity and an obligation to reevaluate health care safety with an eye toward building a more resilient health care delivery system, capable not only of achieving safer routine care but also of maintaining high safety levels in times of crisis.”

axiosmay22covidpoll-300x187The coronavirus pandemic is surging anew, with federal health officials warning that just under half of Americans live in parts of the country where transmission rates have increased sharply enough that they should return to wearing face masks in public, indoor settings.

Older Americans, officials say, should get a second booster shot if more than four months have passed since their first booster. This is an upgraded recommendation from before, when officials  described the additional shot as an option for those 50 and only encouraged it for those 65 and older.

As for those ages 5 to 11, federal regulators are recommending boosters for this group of kids if at least five months have passed since their last shot. Officials in January had recommended boosters for those ages 12 and older.

babewithbottle-300x293Americans keep suffering the dire consequences of corporations’ relentless pursuit of profits, their stifling of beneficial competition, and their failure to secure the production of their products. These now include desperately needed, specialized baby formula and contrast dyes used in diagnostic imaging studies for seriously ill and injured patients.

A special place in perdition needs to be reserved for those who have put infants at risk of hunger and illness by allowing the feeding crisis to explode and for boobs who are rushing in with finger-snapping, fact-light, and unworkable actions for parents to respond.

Let’s be clear that the formula mess, bad for all families across the country, hits hardest at the working poor and the poor. As the New York Times reported:

howardhospitallogoHospitals have raised major alarms with insurers, businesses, and patients by asserting that spiking costs for medical staff, especially nurses, will lead them to increase their prices in the days ahead by as much as 15%.

This would be a budget-busting move, breaking contracts the caregiving institutions have struck with employers and insurers, leading not only to potential premium shocks but sharply higher charges for patients, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The newspaper noted that the soaring hospital price plans are coming up in negotiations now among chains like HCA Healthcare and Universal Health Services, companies, and insurers, differing markedly from typical discussions on this always tough issue:

Mallinckrodtlogo-300x137Even as the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis worsens and breaks annual records for its resulting death toll, the reckoning for parties blamed for fostering the national nightmare is grinding forward.

A federal judge in Cleveland has begun hearing arguments whether three giant pharmacy chains should be fined billions of dollars after a jury in November found them culpable for damages they caused in two Ohio counties in the opioid mess.

And new disclosures are emerging regarding bankrupt drug maker Mallinckrodt, which federal officials have described as the “the kingpin within the drug cartel” of legitimate companies driving the opioid epidemic.

coronapreventablenpr-300x226President Biden has ordered flags in public buildings across the country to be flown at half staff as the nation officially mourns 1 million American deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic. As he noted in a statement:

“One million empty chairs around the dinner table. Each an irreplaceable loss. Each leaving behind a family, a community, and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic. Jill and I pray for each of them. To those who are grieving and asking yourself how will you go on without him or what will you do without her, I understand. I know the pain of that black hole in your heart. It is unrelenting. But I also know the ones you love are never truly gone. They will always be with you. As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines, and treatments than ever before …”

The milestone that the country likely hit a while ago, a toll that many experts hoped would never be reached has proved hard to grasp for too many people in this country. The coronavirus deaths are the equivalent or exceed the populations of cities like San Jose, Calif., Austin, Tex., or Jacksonville, Fla. The comparisons are inexact and not easy, but with Memorial Day approaching, is it appropriate to note that the U.S. pandemic deaths now roughly equal the nation’s fatalities in the Civil War, World War I and World War II combined?

family-300x241While the nation’s pediatricians have announced an important, high-minded goal of eliminating racial bias in the medical treatment of children, working parents and other full-time caregivers for kids need a different kind of help, too, for a growing, serious problem — burnout.

These seemingly different issues share a common discovery point, rooted in challenges made large by the coronavirus pandemic and the recent unrest over social injustices experienced by communities of color, news media reports say.

Medical practitioners of various kinds, including kids’ specialists, have been forced to reexamine their consciences and beliefs even before but especially after the 2020 death in police custody of George Floyd, the AP reported. For pediatricians and their important practice group, this led to a medical reckoning, valuable to all patients but especially those of color:

lonestartick-300x106To those who don’t consider the summer complete without devouring racks of sizzling barbecued pork ribs or slabs of  charred beef steaks, experts have an odd but true warning: Watch out for the so-called lone star tick.

Amblyomma Americanum, a parasitic species distinguished by a prominent light or white dot on the females’ abdomen, has spread across the southeastern United States and is showing up in increasing numbers in the DMV (the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia), the Washington Post reported.

The bite of the lone star tick is concerning, the newspaper reported, “because  it can produce a severe food allergy in people known as alpha-gal syndrome, which is an allergy to red meat.” [By the way, “alpha gal” is not a reference to a feminist super hero but to a common blood sugar, alpha galactose]. As the news article added:

cabinetdrugcomputertech-300x178Big Pharma has made the nation so pill-obsessed that prescription drugs pose big risks to the safety of the seriously sick and injured and the finances of retirees.

Recent news stories have warned, for example, that:

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