Articles Posted in Addiction

juullogo1-300x142Parents, educators, politicians, federal regulators, and advocates for Americans’ better health all should pause and consider the prime takeaways from a company’s willingness to strike a $439 million settlement with three dozen states figuratively shutting a barn door long after the nag has bolted.

Hint: Big Tobacco is relentless in its efforts to addict regular folks to products proven to destroy their health — and the financial payoff for doing so continues to be so potentially lucrative that most of us can hardly imagine.

Let’s back up just a bit for the basic facts: Juul, a San Francisco-based firm that federal officials have blamed for almost single-handedly creating the e-cigarette and vaping fad in recent years, reached a deal with 33 states and a U.S. territory to pay almost half a billion dollars over the way it marketed its products to teenagers and young adults.

smokingjoint-150x150Generation Z and young millennials have become the nation’s leading group of stoners, setting record highs for their use of marijuana, hallucinogenic drugs, nicotine, and booze.

This has occurred even as federal regulators have gotten called out for failing to crack down, after chest-thumping promises to do so, on the noxious but popular practice among the young of vaping.

The National Institutes of Health has conducted its annual “Monitoring the Future” survey of behaviors and attitudes of young adults since 1975, providing a much-watched, longitudinal snapshot of the lives and health of Americans ages 19 to 30. Its results this go-round are unsettling to those who monitor substance use and abuse in this critical age group, as the Washington Post reported:

cvsapp-150x150CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart are getting expensive lessons about corporate responsibility in filling prescriptions, as federal courts in San Francisco and Cleveland separately have faulted the companies for inundating communities with staggering quantities of addictive painkillers.

Those drugs caused such great harm that the three major drug chains must pay two Ohio Counties $650.5 million, a judge has decided.

The county governments told U.S. Judge Dan A. Polster — before whom has been consolidated thousands of lawsuits from states, counties, cities, other local governments, and Indian tribes — that they estimate they and their residents have suffered $3 billion in damages due to the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis.  A November jury verdict in favor of the two Ohio counties already faulted the pharmacy chains for continuing “to dispense mass quantities of prescription painkillers over the years while ignoring flagrant signs that the pills were being abused,” the New York Times reported.

fdamattholman-150x150The ink was barely dry on statements from the head of the federal Food and Drug Administration about a planned external, independent review of the agency’s tobacco oversight division when one of its top regulators created a personnel stink of his own.

Matt Holman, chief of the office of science in FDA’s much-criticized Center for Tobacco Products, ended his 20-year government career.

He quit — to go to work for Philip Morris International, the global tobacco conglomerate and maker of Marlboros.

logoteva-300x115Big Pharma has run into a rare rough summer — and that could be positive news for all the rest of us regular folks. Just how? Consider:

cdcoverdosedeaths-300x175The opioid drug abuse and overdose crisis is not only smashing fatality records, it also is slamming poorer people and communities of color and taking a savage toll on younger black Americans.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has analyzed data from Washington, D.C., and 25 states, finding in its study published online, as the New York Times reported:

“Overall, overdose deaths jumped 30% from 2019 to 2020 … Deaths among black people rose 44%, about twice the increase in deaths among white people (22%) or Hispanic people (21%). Deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives increased 39%. Measured as a portion of the population, in 2020, deaths among black people were higher than in any other racial or ethnic group — 39 per 100,000, compared with 31 for white people, 36 for American Indian and Alaska Native people and 21 for Hispanic people. ‘The disproportionate increase in overdose death rates among blacks and American Indian and Alaska Native people may partly be due to health inequities, like unequal access to substance use treatment and treatment biases,’ said Dr. Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director of the CDC.”

ashtray-300x195Federal regulators have cracked down on Big Tobacco and its zealous, profit-seeking promotion of products that fuel some of the leading causes of preventable disease in this country: cigarette smoking and vaping.

The federal Food and Drug Administration ordered the maker of Juul, a pioneer in pushing so-called e-cigarettes and vape flavorings on the young, to pull its products off the markets.

Agency experts also made public their plans to order Big Tobacco to slash the nicotine in conventional cigarettes, a move designed to gut the addictive allure that is foundational to an estimated $95 billion-a-year industry.

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.

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.

newportsFederal regulators say they soon will ban the manufacture, distribution, and retail and wholesale selling of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, an action expected to take effect in a year or two and which anti-smoking advocates argue could save hundreds of thousands of lives of black and young Americans.

The Food and Drug Administration says the best available evidence argues powerfully for its planned ban, which some opponents have flipped as risky for one of the biggest groups that researchers say will benefit: African Americans.

Big Tobacco has targeted black consumers for decades, getting them and young people addicted to powerful nicotine by pushing the soothing effect of mint-derived menthol on the harshness of cigarette smoke, as the Washington Post reported:

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