Articles Posted in Addiction

ammo-300x191As Americans have hunkered down to safeguard themselves from Covid-19 infection, too many people also have stocked their homes with potentially harmful items — and the nation soon may be reckoning with the health consequences.

Will consumers come to regret that officials, locality by locality, deemed “essential” and chose to keep open marijuana shops, gun dealers, and liquor stores? Will doctors rue their decision to support patients, understandably unnerved by the pandemic, with a spike in prescriptions of potent and problematic anti-anxiety drugs?

Experts are sounding the alarms — with reasons worth wide public reminder.

droz-150x150 drdrew-150x150DrPhil-150x150Even as countless health care workers put themselves at risk and display courage, professionalism, and compassion in caring for Covid-19 patients, a growing collection of colleagues are showering themselves in shame, showing that the credential M.D. may stand for master of dubiousness or Ph.D. is  someone whose nonsense is piled high and deep.

As the folks at the HealthNewsReview.org warned a “desperate public,” too ready to embrace self-promoting doctors and others because they are hungry for purported expertise as a pandemic sweeps the globe:

“Beware these red flags: partisan and hyperbolic language and hawking of unproven treatments that seem too good to be true. Seek solid advice from longtime public health institutions: the [federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention] and the World Health Organization. Understand that because this disease is novel, information is rapidly changing and often tenuous – uncertainties that can be exploited for fame and fortune.”

juul-300x197Here’s a glimmer of good health news: It seems that nations around the world may be avoiding what, just a blink ago, was one of the United States’ significant public health concerns — vaping and e-cigarettes.

Juul, the San Francisco-based company at the heart of this controversy, has seen doors shut in its face as it tries to expand its U.S.-curtailed business, the New York Times reported:

“The company has been met with ferocious anti-vaping sentiment and a barrage of newly enacted e-cigarette restrictions, or outright bans, in country after country. As a result, its ambitious overseas plans have collapsed. Juul was kicked off the market in China last fall after just four days. The company has had to abandon plans for India after the government there banned all electronic cigarettes. Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos have also closed the door to e-cigarettes. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the arrest of anyone caught vaping outside designated smoking areas. Juul has postponed its launch in the Netherlands and has pulled out of Israel. In South Korea, the number of Juul customers has plummeted after the government issued dire health warnings about e-cigarettes, and the company has scaled back its distribution there.”

logowalmart-300x117Walmart and Johnson and Johnson, two of America’s corporate titans, each acted in ways that helped to fuel the opioid crisis that federal experts estimate claims 128 Americans’ lives each day, news media investigations show.

Walmart ignored repeated complaints from its own pharmacists and permitted the over-subscribing of logojj-300x57hundreds of thousands of potent prescription painkillers by sketchy doctors across the country, with the company’s refusal to deal with rising problems leading federal prosecutors to ready hefty civil and criminal cases, according to ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site.

The retailing giant, however, pulled powerful political strings, with Trump Administration officials stepping in to stymie potential lawsuits and criminal charges against Walmart — despite a previously secret settlement the company earlier had signed, pledging to step up its oversight of prescription drugs it sold, ProPublica reported. Reporters Jesse Eisinger and James Bandler wrote:

AAMedals-300x156Although federal experts estimate that alcohol abuse leads to 88,000 Americans’ deaths annually and economic costs of almost $250 billion, one of the nation’s oldest and best-known programs to deal with this problematic behavior has long been surrounded by doubts.

Critics have questioned its effectiveness, criticized its “irrationality,” and focused on its stepped regimen, desperate and self-enrolling participants, and core tenets, including its spiritual appeals to higher and external powers.

But after a deep dig into the building and rigorous evidence about it — including scrutiny of 27 studies, (some of them randomized clinical trials) with more than 10,000 participants — researchers from Harvard, Stanford, and Europe have concluded in a published, research review for the respected Cochrane Collaboration that Alcoholics Anonymous, indeed, can be beneficial for many but not all excessive alcohol users.

cdcHepCopioidabuse-300x150The opioid-overdose crisis has not disappeared, not by a long shot, and there’s a new warning about its toll: A blue-ribbon expert panel has urged doctors to expand testing for hepatitis C to all adults, ages 18 to 79, and no longer limiting the screening to those born between 1945 and 1965. That’s because the risky conduct that goes with abusing opioids also bumps up the risk of this potentially deadly but treatable liver infection.

Hepatitis C is growing as a significant health concern, the New York Times reported:

“Despite substantial advances in treatment over the past five years, infections are on the rise. Roughly 44,700 new hepatitis C infections were reported in the United States in 2017, according to federal data. A major challenge for health officials is that a significant number of people have the virus but do not know they are infected … Hepatitis C leads to chronic liver disease in most people who contract it, and some eventually develop cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is spread primarily through the sharing of needles among people who use illicit drugs.”

Mallinckrodtlogo-300x137
The civil justice system has scored a win in curtailing what once was a major maker of much abused and lethal prescription painkillers: Mallinckrodt, a global drug making giant, has agreed to send its opioids-making generics division into bankruptcy as part of a $1.6 billion settlement to settle thousands of opioid damage claims by state and local governments.

As the New York Times reported of the hefty deal:

“The agreement was endorsed by 47 states and U.S. territories along with a committee of lawyers representing thousands of cities and counties … The money, to be paid into a cash trust over eight years, will be used to underwrite the costs of opioid addiction treatments and related efforts across the country … Under the terms of the agreement, the United States division of Mallinckrodt that produces generic opioids would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After a bankruptcy judge approves the restructuring plan, an initial payment of $300 million would be disbursed to plaintiffs to alleviate the opioid crisis, with the remaining $1.3 billion to be paid out over eight years. Other divisions of the company, which has its headquarters abroad and also produces branded drugs, are not filing for bankruptcy. Mallinckrodt is the first opioid company to reach even a tentative national settlement agreement with municipal governments and most of the states.”

adamsmug-150x150Cigarette smokers got yet more chiding from public health officials about why and how they should quit an addictive and destructive habit. To do so isn’t easy, and a “shocking” number of doctors aren’t helping enough, the Surgeon General of the United States conceded. But there are big reasons to give up the nasty vice, especially before elective surgery, the World Health Organization warned.

The health experts found much to agree on when it comes to the carnage smoking causes. As the New York Times reported on the surgeon general’s work:

“More than 55 years after the first surgeon general’s report warned that smoking causes cancer, it remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of smoking in the United States has declined to an all-time low of 14%. More than 3 of every 5 adult Americans who have smoked have quit, the report said. Still, 34 million Americans currently smoke, and an estimated 480,000 die from smoking-related illnesses each year, the agency said. About 16 million people in the United States now suffer from cancer, heart disease and smoking-related disorders, according to the CDC. The financial toll is enormous too, with annual health care spending attributed to smoking exceeding $170 billion, the agency said.”

califgovnewsomBig Pharma, with its relentless price gouging, may finally have poked in the eye the wrong people. But even as patients wait to see if hospitals, and now states and insurers, can beat down skyrocketing drug prices, isn’t it past time for more public shaming for doctors who persist in writing excessive, dubious, and downright risky prescriptions?

Although the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress have failed to deliver on repeated promises to attack excessive costs for prescription drugs, the state of California and now leading insurers are following some hospitals in tackling the problem.

Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom (shown, above right), in unveiling his state budget, told lawmakers that he wants the Golden State to consider contracting with generic drug makers to produce products that would cost less and be sold under a California label. As the Los Angeles Times described the still-to-be fleshed out gubernatorial plan:

boozengals-300x180Tipple much, much less in 2020. That might be a life-saving bit of advice for too many Americans to follow, especially because of new data on a worrisome spike in alcohol-related deaths.

As NBC News reported, based on published research by federal researchers:

“The yearly total of alcohol-related deaths for people ages 16 and over more than doubled, from 35,914 in 1999 to 72,558 in 2017. There were almost 1 million such deaths overall in that time. While middle-age men accounted for the majority of those deaths, women — especially white women — are catching up, the study found. That’s concerning in part because women’s bodies tend to be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.”

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