Articles Posted in Addiction

juulcig-300x159Has one of the nation’s top health watchdogs awoken too late, barked too little, and, maybe won’t bite enough as Big Tobacco and its allies have addicted a generation of young people to nicotine?

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration, captured extensive media attention by hitting the alarm button about “epidemic” vaping and teens’ use of e-cigarettes, notably the wildly trendy Juul device and others of its kind.

He said the FDA has acted against 1,300 retailers for peddling e-cigarettes and their liquid flavorings to underage customers. More key: The agency has told Juul and other leading makers that they have 60 days to show how they can keep their products out of the hands of customers 18 and younger — or the FDA may ban them from the market.

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Big Tobacco and its allies long have exploited evolving media to hawk harmful products, promoting them as desirable and sexy in print, movies, radio, television, and online. So, it’s not exactly a surprise that these merchants of death have become masters of marketing on social media, targeting young consumers worldwide.

Their latest campaigns may let cigarette- and e-cigarette-makers skirt regulations, some of them tough and aimed at protecting naïve, vulnerable kids from lifetime addictions.

The tobacco hype may be working all too well, with researchers at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere finding that 10.8 million adults in the United States are “vaping,” with 54.6 percent of e-cigarette users also smoking cigarettes. “About 15 percent of vapers had never smoked cigarettes, and 30.4 percent had quit smoking them,” the newspaper reported.

cdcnytopioidtoll-300x262In 2017, drug overdoses killed 72,000 Americans, a 10 percent increase over 2016 and yet another record, according to the latest provisional federal estimates.

That single year toll would be more than double the American deaths attributed to the Korean War, and almost 1.25 times those  caused by the Vietnam War. The New York Times reported that 2017’s overdose deaths were “higher than the peak yearly death totals from HIV, car crashes or gun deaths.”

The newspaper said experts, analyzing the numbers, blamed them on a few reasons (see NYT chart above): “A growing number of Americans are using opioids, and drugs are becoming more deadly. It is the second factor that most likely explains the bulk of the increased number of overdoses last year.”

cdc-opi-aug-300x227When Big Pharma pursues rapacious profits and regulators snooze, patients suffer terrible consequences, as new revelations about the opioid crisis show.

Kaiser Health News Service , via the Washington Post, and The New York Times both have done excellent investigative digging into drug makers’ role in fueling the prescription painkiller mess that authorities estimate claims 116 lives a day due to overdoses.

Fred Schulte, writing for the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser service, reported that rival makers — seeing how much money Purdue Pharma was making with its powerful and addictive OxyContin drug and that it was encountering law enforcement and regulatory challenges — stepped in with “similarly dangerous painkillers, such as fentanyl, morphine and methadone.”

livercancer-300x173Summer tipplers may want to steer away from that second glass of  sangria, or rethink that next round of beers.  That’s because there’s yet more bad news about Americans and booze abuse: Liver disease deaths are spiking, with fatalities tied to cirrhosis jumping by 65 percent between 1999 and 2016, while those connected with liver cancer doubled in the same time span.

Americans 25- to 34-years-old saw the steepest increases in alcohol-related liver disease, with the number of annual deaths in seven years, as studied by Michigan experts, nearly tripling.

“Alcohol misuse and its complications” is striking down a new generation of Americans, Elliot Tapper, a University of Michigan liver expert and lead author of a newly published study on liver cancer, told the Washington Post.

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Americans should be wary lest they get in between Big Pharma and a buck.

That’s what investigators for a U.S. Senate subcommittee showed when scrutinizing how industry middlemen inundated the Show Me State with more than a billion doses of powerful prescription painkillers, making big profits but asking few questions how so many opioid drugs could be taken by so few patients.

It’s also what patients might see as drug makers retreat from research to develop needed new antibiotics and therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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.

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