Articles Posted in Addiction

overdosedeaths1-300x1812017 ends with yet more grim news about the nation’s opioid drug epidemic — not only that its toll keeps rising, it now is afflicting African Americans as never before. They had been less harmed by this crisis but the scourge is spreading to them, notably in spots like the District of Columbia and Baltimore.

Reporters for the New York Times’ “Upshot” feature dove into new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on opioid drug-related deaths. They found the official numbers not only reaffirmed a sharp increase in drug fatalities in 2016 but also showed that “the drug death rate is rising most steeply among blacks, with those between the ages of 45 and 64 among the hardest hit.” As the newspaper reported:

Drug deaths among blacks in urban counties rose by 41 percent in 2016, far outpacing any other racial or ethnic group. In those same counties, the drug death rate among whites rose by 19 percent. The [new CDC] data … suggests that the common perception of the epidemic as an almost entirely white problem rooted in over-prescription of painkillers is no longer accurate, as fentanyl, often stealthily, invades broader swaths of the country and its population.

srdrugs-300x178When families and friends visit Kansas nursing homes, they may be startled to see how listless and lethargic their elderly loved ones may be, especially if the facility residents suffer from dementia. There’s a sad, simple, and likely reason—the seniors may be drugged up with potent anti-psychotics.

The Kansas City Star deserves credit for providing a powerful reminder that nursing homes, not just in the Heartland but nationwide, persist in over-relying on off-label dosing of their sometimes difficult to handle patients with drugs such as olanzapine (more commonly known by the branded product Zyprexa), aripiprazole (Abilify), risperidone (Risperdal), or quetiapine (Seroquel).

As the newspaper reported:

cutting-300x205Teen-aged girls are turning up in increased numbers for emergency treatment at hospitals because they have cut, burned, poisoned, or otherwise tried to harm themselves. This disturbing trend may be linked to the obsession by the young, especially girls ages 10 to 14, with smart phones and their aggressive online, but weak real world, social lives.

The data developed by researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control also provide a serious warning about girls’ struggles to reach maturity because the rise in detected instances of self-harm also may signal increases in suicides—the No. 2 cause of death of young people ages 10 to 14.

Researchers say the negative numbers —most pronounced as an 18.8 percent increase in incidents of self-harm among girls ages 10 to 14 — affected young females most, with young males showing no major changes in comparable cases of cutting, poisoning, burning, or otherwise hurting themselves.

vaper-300x230Big Tobacco not only wrote the playbook on how to deceive the public about the dangers of cigarette smoking, its representatives are adding new pages daily now on how to make electronic or e-cigarettes and so-called vaping seem safe, even when evidence mounts that this isn’t fully true.

It’s good to see that the Verge, an online information site that clearly has a younger audience, has put out a deep dig on the duplicitous campaign by vaping firms to make their “smokeless” products not only seem harmless but cool. They’re doing so, in part, by assailing public health experts who disagree with them, and who find that vaping can be a gateway for the young to cancer-causing cigarette smoking and use of other harmful tobacco products. Big Vape, as Big Tobacco did before, also is bankrolling purported experts and supposed research to make its case that e-cigarettes offer a more healthful alternative to help cigarette smokers lessen their nasty habit.

As the Verge has reported:

alcohol-248x300When topics like booze and health flow together, common sense seems to disappear. So let’s give credit to the context-restoring efforts of Aaron Carroll— a pediatrics faculty member at Indiana University medical school, a health policy researcher, and a writer for the New York Times’ “Upshot” column—and healthnewsreview.org, a health information watch dog site.

Both addressed a “panic” in certain quarters generated by a new caution issued by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists. The respected organization of cancer medical specialists said that even light alcohol consumption can add to drinkers’ cancer risks.

As Carroll summarized the cancer experts warning:

urine-sample-cup-263x300With opioid drugs now the leading cause of death for Americans 50 and younger and killing more than 64,000 people last year, was it inevitable that some shady characters are profiteering off the miseries of those struggling to get off potent painkillers?

And is it predictable that key politicians keep talking big but still haven’t backed up their boasts with the money and means to attack a public health crisis that is claiming more lives than cars or guns and at a faster pace than HIV-AIDS did at the peak of that epidemic?

Americans have plenty cause to be — forgive the vulgar word play — pissed off at the doctors and labs that are raking in profits on urine testing for drugs. This business has exploded but with little or no oversight. As reporters Fred Schulte and Elizabeth Lucas have written:

trumpdrugs-300x177As the Republican-controlled Congress rams through a national budget and a package of changes to the tax system, President Trump and his partisans are staying true to course. They’re determined to slash taxes for the rich, even if they only half-heartedly tackle one of the biggest public health crises in decades, and if they inflict great harms on the health of the poor, sick, young, and old.

In answer to long and increasing criticism, Trump finally declared the opioid drug abuse epidemic a “public health emergency” (with zero new dollars in spending)  but not a “national emergency,” which would have opened the door for millions in new spending.  He scored points with some commentators with his discussion of how alcoholism destroyed his older brother Fred’s life, and, how his brother’s advice and example had kept him from any temptations of substance abuse. (He also reminded critics of ineffectual “Just say no” anti-drug campaigns.)

But for all his pronouncements, the president’s actions fell short of what many anti-drug experts and advocates had hoped would be White House leadership against opioids abuse and overdose deaths, a scourge that has claimed almost 60,000 lives since 2016.

pills-drugs-300x215The epidemic of opioid drug abuse, which increasingly is claiming children’s lives, has plenty of blameworthy causes. Here’s a new one: health insurers which steer patients to cheaper, more addictive painkillers while playing Scrooge for less addictive but pricier alternatives.

Pro Publica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism site, and the New York Times get credit for their expose of  penny-wise and pound-foolish prescription management practices.

By analyzing “Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people in the second quarter of this year,” the news organizations say they saw repeated patterns in which insurers and the spin-off businesses that run their drug payment plans (so-called pharmacy benefit mangers or PBMs) easily and quickly approve opioids for patients in pain, medications that cost relatively little. They throw up all kinds of obstacles, however, to doctors and patients who try to use less potent but more expensive drugs, including patches containing Butrans (a lesser opioid) or lidocaine. They also drag their feet on approving payments for addiction-fighting medications like Suboxone.

Heroin-Fentanyl-vials-NHSPFL-1600x900-300x169A Missouri  Senator has accused Insys Therapeutics, a major drug maker, of conducting a sneaky campaign to get more pain-wracked cancer patients to use its synthetic and super powerful opioid drug, thus helping to fuel the wildfire spread of increasingly lethal and debilitating prescription pain killers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill and investigators from a Senate committee, as well as federal prosecutors, have painted a harsh picture of how Insys created a special unit to boost sales and use of Subsys, its spray form of the potent painkiller fentanyl.

Through an elaborate ruse—which included carefully crafted scripts and bogus phone numbers—Insys workers contacted prescription benefit management (PBM) firms, making them believe they were patients seeking a required pre-approval for their doctors to prescribe them Subsys.

syphillis-150x150The myriad problems tied to the nation’s opioid drug abuse epidemic seem only to worsen and grow more complex by the day. They are, recent news reports say:

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