Articles Posted in Addiction

avgames-300x174Electronic devices can pose risks to the health and well-being of global users: Specifically, some preoccupied players now officially may be deemed video game addicts, says WHO.

WHO, of course, is the well-respected World Health Organization, which just made  “gaming disorder” a part of its International Classification of Diseases, a key compendium of medical conditions. The ICD, the Los Angeles Times reported, is important because

[It] gives medical professionals around the world a single standard for identifying a problematic medical or behavioral issue and accepting it as a disorder worthy of attention and treatment. Despite differing languages and social, cultural and medical traditions, the WHO’s 191 member nations recognize these common definitions of diseases. In addition, the classification codes are the foundation for health insurance billing in the United States. The absence of a diagnostic code makes it difficult for a healthcare professional to treat a patient and then get paid for that treatment.

pills-300x200Patients, doctors, and pharmacists may want to be more wary about more than 200 commonly prescribed drugs that not only treat an array of medical conditions but also carry depression and suicide risk as side effects. More than a third of Americans take the medications, and they report higher depression rates than those who don’t, with their risks increasing as they add in more of these drugs, a new study finds.

The medications, researchers said, are seemingly ubiquitous, and polypharmacy ── patients taking multiple drugs for different conditions at the same time ── with the depression- and suicide-risk meds is frequent in an alarming fashion.  As NPR, the New York Times, and the news site Vox reported, the drugs include:

  • Certain types of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to treat acid reflux. These are sold, by prescription and over the counter, under brand names like Prilosec and Zantac.

ecigopposticker-300x300San Francisco voters, upholding their elected leaders’ enlightened lawmaking, bashed Big Tobacco and its interests, providing a potent primary election message to public health officials nationwide to curb the growing menace to young people posed by e-cigarettes and vaping.

By a 2-to-1 margin, Bay Area residents supported their Board of Supervisors’ tough ban — which may be the most stringent in the nation — on sales of flavored tobacco products, including vaping liquids packaged as candies and juice boxes, and menthol cigarettes.

Specialized liquids, peddled in flavors like bubble gum, chicken and waffles, and unicorn milk, are key to the youth craze for vaping, in which teens use small devices about the size of a computer flash drive to get a nicotine-fueled boost. They can, with standard hits from liquids in devices like the trendy Juul, regularly consume as much nicotine as is found in a pack of cigarettes.

mentalnyt-300x142Although Americans keep making progress toward ending the stigma associated with mental disorders, including trying to put public funding for the diseases’ treatment on a more even footing, patients with serious mental illness suffer unfairly and harshly still due to their conditions.

Dhruv Khullar, a doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a researcher at the Weill Cornell Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, has written a painful piece for the “Upshot,” an evidence-based column for the New York Times. His article, “The Largest Health Disparity We Don’t Talk About,” reports that:

Americans with depression, bipolar disorder or other serious mental illnesses die 15 to 30 years younger than those without mental illness — a disparity larger than for race, ethnicity, geography or socioeconomic status. It’s a gap, unlike many others, that has been growing, but it receives considerably less academic study or public attention. The extraordinary life expectancy gains of the past half-century [for most in this country] have left these patients behind, with the result that Americans with serious mental illness live shorter lives than those in many of the world’s poorest countries.

MarijuanaOpioids-300x150There’s been a deadly side to the nation’s opioid drug abuse crisis and increasing number of states’ legalization of marijuana: A leading safety group says the number of drugged drivers killed in car crashes is rising dramatically.

The Governors Highway Safety Association reported that 44 percent of fatally injured drivers tested for drugs had positive results in 2016, which is up more than 50 percent compared with a decade ago, according to a blog post by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Pew Trusts, which added that, “more than half the drivers tested positive for marijuana, opioids or a combination of the two.”

As Pew reported, the District of Columbia and nine states “allow marijuana to be sold for recreational and medical use, and 21 others allow it to be sold for medical use. Opioid addiction and overdoses have become a national crisis, with an estimated 115 deaths a day. States are struggling to get a handle on drugged driving. Traffic safety experts say that while it’s easy for police to test drivers for alcohol impairment using a breathalyzer, it’s much harder to detect and screen them for drug impairment. There is no nationally accepted method for testing drivers, and the number of drugs to test for is large. Different drugs also have different effects on drivers. And there is no definitive data linking drugged driving to crashes.”

medicare-300x109Callous institutional inertia can allow dangerous doctors to keep harming patients. But media digging deserves credit for raising needed alarms when professional caregivers and others fail to step up to protect individuals as disparate as taxpayers, seniors, coeds, and heart transplant recipients.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and MedPage Today performed a public service, reporting that they found more than 200 doctors nationwide who surrendered a license, had one revoked, or were excluded from state-paid health care rolls in the previous five years  but somehow remained on the federal Medicare rolls in 2015.

This meant the problem doctors could keep bad practices afloat, in part because Uncle Sam ─ that’s taxpayers like you and me ─ paid these hundreds of MDs $25.8 million to care for seniors, among the nation’s most vulnerable patients.

smoky-300x225It may not come as much more than a duh factor to  nonsmokers with roomies with a heavy cigarette habit, but medical scientists are expressing growing concern about risks posed by “third hand” smoke, residual films left on all manner of environments and surfaces by burning tobacco, close and far.

Multiple media outlets reported on the growing evidence on this potential harm, notably as detailed in a study published in the journal Science Advances. The research, conducted almost by chance, “shows how tobacco smoke from outdoor air can seep into a nonsmoking classroom and coat its surfaces, and how those hazardous chemicals often become airborne again and circulate throughout buildings via central air-conditioning systems,” the Washington Post said.

The newspaper reported that indoor and outdoor air experts at Drexel University in Philadelphia had teamed up and happened to sample surfaces from an empty classroom near their testing lab. They were intrigued to find chemical traces they could not explain, and which they first thought might be tied to coffee spills. But sleuthing led them to determine the residues were from nicotine and tobacco smoke, which only could have been carried into the space by air conditioning or supposed fresh air breezes.

odmapapp-150x300Ss the nation’s opioid crisis spirals into ever-more risky territory where synthetic painkillers get mixed with illegal drugs with fatal results, reporters are digging deeper into how drug companies got the country into this mess and cities now are stepping up with different approaches to curb deadly overdoses.

Vox, an online news and information site, reported that experts aren’t sure why, but they’re seeing an ugly trend in users and dealers mixing fentanyl, a synthetic opioid and sometimes legally prescribed painkiller, and other illicit narcotics, notably cocaine and heroin.

Vox reporter German Lopez, in interviews with drug experts, finds they are divided: Some think the deadly mixtures are occurring on purpose, with users seeking even greater intoxication or dealers promoting this to them. It may be that the mixtures are occurring unintentionally, as fentanyl, even in the tiniest amount as a residue, packs a wallop. Or it may be that authorities, as they try to get a better handle on the opioid crisis, have developed sharper data on drug abuses.

eddie-300x169The Food and Drug Administration has cracked down on illegal sales of vaping devices to minors,  taking aim at the suddenly trendy, pricey, and small Juul e-cigarette. But this aggressive regulatory move itself added to criticism of the agency for its failure to clamp down on a key way kids get dosed with nicotine, a highly addictive substance the FDA hopes to slash from tobacco cigarettes.

April, the agency announced, not only has brought showers but also nationwide, month-long undercover raids and citations by enforcement agents for retailers accused of flouting FDA regulations that bar e-cigarette sales to Americans younger than 21.

The FDA also told Juul’s maker that it must produce a raft of documents and explain how and why its product exploded in popularity, dominating in market share and raising questions about how much nicotine users can get from the vaping device — typically as much as a pack of tobacco cigarettes.

mom-300x171Big Medicine can paper over its troubles with basic fairness by slapping fancy terms on them: take “health and gender disparities,” for instance. But doctors, hospitals, and the rest of us can’t make medical care more equitable, accessible, safe, and affordable without looking at inequities, square on.

That’s why the New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press deserve credit for recent deep digs into the struggles of women, poor women, and especially black women with modern medicine:

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