Articles Posted in Mental Illness

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.

nudextaWith baby boomers leading a graying wave that’s sweeping the nation, there’s little wonder why there’s a furious search under way to medically assist and to support seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. But should the appropriate response be to burst out laughing, crying, or just to scream out loud about Avanir Pharmaceuticals’ little red Nudexta pills and how they’re getting foisted by the millions on the elderly in nursing homes?

CNN deserves credit for its reporting on the sketchy prescribing of Nudexta. Millions may know something about this drug due to the barrage of commercials for it, featuring the accomplished actor Danny Glover (hope he got a giant paycheck for this role).

Authorities have approved Nudexta to treat sudden and uncontrollable laughing or crying, aka the pseudobulbar affect or PBA. Less than 1 percent of all Americans suffer from PBA, which most commonly is seen in those with multiple sclerosis (MS) or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

paxil-300x300Psychiatric medications, which doctors have prescribed freely and patients have taken dutifully, not only may have demonstrated risks for the young but also under-considered problems for adults older than 40 — 1 in 7 of whom has filled a script, for example, for an antidepressant.

The New York Times has done a service by bringing to the fore some lesser known issues of psych meds by reporting on a successful lawsuit involving a 57-year-old Chicago lawyer. He apparently suffered from severe physical and mental agitation after he started taking paroxetine, the generic form of the brand-name drug Paxil. His anxiety became so acute, a jury found, the lawyer threw himself fatally in front of an oncoming train.

Antidepressants, including Paxil, long have been controversial for the young, especially after reports cropped up describing serious issues with their use. All such meds have carried a “black box” warning label, reviewed and approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, warning that they increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, teens, and those younger than 25.

Chronic_Traumatic_Encephalopathy-300x153Football players and fans, if they had doubts before, have taken yet another hit to their favorite sport, with a retrospective study of hundreds of pro players’ brains finding a damaging disorder in a startling percentage of the donated organs.

Experts reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that 110 of 111 brains of onetime players in the National Football League, examined by neuropathologists and other experts, showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It’s a degenerative disease that experts think is caused by repeated head blows. It has been linked with multiple symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can crop up long after the head trauma stops.

Caution needs to be exercised with this research because the athlete-brain donors and their families were extremely self-selecting. They participated in the post-mortem study, some with guarantees of confidentiality about identities, because they had experienced or started to show likely CTE-related debilitation before their deaths.

overdose-300x225Taken from a most favorable point of view, Big Pharma and doctors tried to address a big physical problem for patients when they pushed ahead in recent years with potent painkillers. But now, it’s those troubled Americans’ mental health woes that  officials may need to deal with to better battle what has become an epidemic of opioid drug abuse.

It’s a crisis that may worsen still and claim as many as 650,000 lives in the next decade, says the online health information site, Stat, which consulted 10 leading experts to develop its forecast.

Stat and other news organizations also have reported on newly published research showing the depths of the mental health challenges of those who abuse opioid drugs, with adults with a mental illness each year receiving more than half of the 115 million opioid prescriptions in the United States.

girls-300x208It isn’t a teary topic fit only for moody young adult fiction and sudsy afternoon TV dramas: Depression afflicts as many as a third of girls, becoming a rising problem for some as early as age 11 and increasingly separating out as gender difference in the mental health between boys and girls.

The higher incidence of depression in girls—found in interview research with more than 100,000 young participants from 2009 to 2014 in the annual, statistically representative National Survey of Drug Use and Health—has raised concern among mental health experts. They note that depression can cause patients to struggle with relationships and school. It can lead some to suicide and may require sustained treatment for those with more serious cases.

Researchers could not explain why girls are more affected by depression, and they were surprised to find the earlier gender divergence, with it occurring at younger ages than had been tracked before. This tends to undercut existing psychological theories, they said, that depression in girls may be triggered by hormone changes or other significant life shifts that occur in their teens.

Medicaid-300x225Republicans have long fumed about the federal government’s role in health care, ever since Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor were both passed in 1965. Now, though, we’re at a crossroads, where a frontal assault on Medicaid could cause big damage to both programs.

The temptation for too many Americans, as I’ve written before, may be to skip over the Medicaid-related parts of the GOP proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. That would be wrong because those parts of the American Health Care Act, aka Trumpcare, may be the most radical and will be detrimental to the poor, working poor, children, sick, disabled, and seniors. They will hit many millions more middle-class Americans than might be thought.

Opponents also say that Trumpcare and its Medicaid and health insurance changes will harm Medicare, the linchpin of health care coverage for seniors.

price-portrait-300x253The Republican-controlled Senate has launched itself in a late-night session on the path to its long-pledged repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The GOP-controlled House on  Friday the 13th followed close behind.

Lawmakers have chosen a complex parliamentary path. GOP members are expressing confusion about their way forward, even as doubts are being voiced by GOP governors in states where the ACA has expanded health care for the poor through Medicaid. The president-elect has called for swift action — insisting on not just Obamacare’s repeal but also its replacement with an undefined plan that he says will provide health care coverage that’s better than what exists now and for more Americans.

With big, many, and byzantine legislative steps needing to be taken even beyond “repeal,” can the ACA be replaced, too — and with what?

Carrie_Fisher_memorial_star-225x300Although advocates ended 2016 cheered by new legislation that increased funding and raised the priority of mental health in the nation’s health policy, the year also closed with stark reminders of how far the United States has lagged in this vital area.

Two separate news investigations have painted dire portraits of how the lack of mental health care has led to criminal violence and killings, while another media probe found disturbing signs that a major hospital chain was too quick to question patients’ mental competency and then to hold them against their will. The deaths of two of Hollywood’s elites—a mother and daughter—also brought to fore the stigma that many still bear due to mental disorders.

Neglect’s huge toll

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