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Online Tool Tracks Suspected Opioid Overdoses in Real Time

Online Tool Tracks Suspected Opioid Overdoses in Real Time

A new online tool allows first responders, public safety and public health officials to track opioid overdoses in real time, NBC News reports.

Health officials say the data allows them to quickly allocate resources where they are needed.

First responders can access the tool, the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), from any mobile device or computer when they go to the scene of an overdose. They enter whether the overdose was fatal or nonfatal and whether the opioid overdose antidote naloxone was administered. The results appear on a map, which police chiefs and other officials can use to see where overdoses are being reported.

If there is a cluster of overdoses in a particular area, police and fire chiefs get e-mail alerts.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Those Arrested For Pot Number More That All Violent Crimes

Those Arrested For Pot Number More That All Violent Crimes

In 2016 more people were arrested for marijuana possession than for all crimes the FBI classifies as violent, according to 2016 crime data released by the agency.

Marijuana possession arrests edged up slightly in 2016, a year in which voters in four states approved recreational marijuana initiatives and voters in three others approved medical marijuana measures.

The article in the Washington Post noted that marijuana possession remains one of the single largest arrest categories in the United States, accounting for over 5 percent of all arrests last year.

More than one in 20 arrests involved a marijuana possession charge, amounting to more than one marijuana possession arrest every minute.

The FBI’s report goes on to note that overall, in 2016, roughly 1.5 million people were arrested for drug-related offenses, up slightly year-over-year. Advocates for a more public health-centered approach to drug use say numbers like these show the drug war never really went away.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Scientists Develop Portable, Rapid Urine Test for Amphetamines

Scientists Develop Portable, Rapid Urine Test for Amphetamines

Korean scientists have developed a portable, quick urine test for amphetamines, HealthDay reports.

“Breathalyzers are effective at catching drunk drivers on the spot, thereby preventing accidents,” researcher Ilha Hwang said. “We hope that our sensor may have a similar effect with people who abuse amphetamines.”

The test uses a wireless sensor and smartphone app, and can detect amphetamines in a drop of urine within seconds, the researchers report in the journal Chem. The device costs about $50 to produce.

“Conventional drug detection generally use techniques that require long operation time, sophisticated experimental procedures, and expensive equipment with well-trained professional operators,” co-senior author Joon Hak Oh said in a news release. “Moreover, they are not usually portable. Our method is a new type of drug sensor that can solve all these problems at once.”

Further testing in clinical settings is needed before the device can be marketed, Oh said.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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FDA Requires Makers of Fast-Acting Opioids to Pay for Doctor Training

FDA Requires Makers of Fast-Acting Opioids to Pay for Doctor Training

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will require makers of fast-acting opioids to fund voluntary training for healthcare professionals who prescribe the drugs, according to Reuters.

The training will include education on safe prescribing practices and non-opioid alternatives.

The FDA informed 74 manufacturers of immediate-release opioids that they will have to fund training for doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Companies that make extended-release and long-acting formulations of opioids already must pay for training of healthcare professionals. The FDA is also considering some type of mandatory education on opioids, the article notes.

According to the FDA, approximately 160 million prescriptions a year – about 90 percent of all opioid pain medications prescribed in the United States – are for fast-acting formulations.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Cigna Will Stop Covering OxyContin in Effort to Reduce Inappropriate Use

Cigna Will Stop Covering OxyContin in Effort to Reduce Inappropriate Use

Health insurer Cigna announced this week it will stop covering the prescription opioid OxyContin in an effort to reduce inappropriate use of the drug. Instead it will cover an equivalent drug less vulnerable to being misused.

The alternate drug is Xtampza ER, made by Collegium Pharmaceutical Inc. Xtampza ER cannot be made more fast-acting through cutting or crushing, Cigna said.

The change will go into effect January 1, 2018, Reuters reports.

Patients who have started using OxyContin for hospice care or cancer treatments will continue to have the medication covered next year.

“Our focus is on helping customers get the most value from their medications – this means obtaining effective pain relief while also guarding against opioid misuse. We continually evaluate the clinical effectiveness, affordability and safety of all our covered medications as these characteristics can change over time, and we make adjustments that we believe will provide better overall value for those we serve,” Cigna Chief Pharmacy Officer Jon Maesner, Pharm.D. said in a news release.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Hospital Treatment Rates for Heroin Surge While Rates for Prescription Opioids Drop

Hospital Treatment Rates for Heroin Surge While Rates for Prescription Opioids Drop

Hospital treatment rates for heroin rose more than 31 percent between 2008 and 2014, while treatment rates for prescription opioids have declined, according to a new study.

Hospital discharge rates for prescription opioid poisonings decreased each year by about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, the study found.

Lead researcher Tina Hernandez-Boussard of Stanford University said the results provide evidence that people addicted to prescription opioids are turning to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get, HealthDay reports.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that prescribing clinicians are positively reacting to the opioid crisis and therefore prescription opioids are contributing less to the overall drug epidemic,” Dr. Hernandez –Boussard said in a news release.

The findings are published in Health Affairs.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Survey Results Shed Light on Substance Use Initiation Trends

Survey Results Shed Light on Substance Use Initiation Trends

Illicit drug use initiation was highest for marijuana in 2016, followed by prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers and stimulants, according to national data.

A recent article in Healio.com – Psychiatric Annals referenced these findings.

“Whether someone engages in substance use is associated with several risk factors that are typically correlated with an increased likelihood of substance use (eg, perception of low risk of harm from using a substance, easy availability of substances) and protective factors that are typically associated with a decreased likelihood of substance use (eg, exposure to prevention messages),” Rachel N. Lipari, PhD, of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and colleagues wrote.

To determine risk, protective factors and estimates for substance use initiation, researchers analyzed data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) for individuals aged 12 years and older. More than four out of five individuals perceived great risk for harm from weekly use of cocaine, heroin or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), while roughly one-third of individuals perceived great risk for harm from weekly marijuana use.

Overall, 68.3% of individuals perceived great risk for harm from consuming four or five alcoholic drinks nearly every day and 72.8% perceived great risk for harm from smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day.Perception of risk varied across age groups. Approximately two out of five youths aged 12 to 17 years perceived great risk from weekly marijuana use compared with one out of six young adults aged 18 to 25 years. Individuals who never used marijuana or cocaine were more likely to report greater perceived risk for harm from use.

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Study Highlights Unmet Treatment Needs Among Adults With Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Study Highlights Unmet Treatment Needs Among Adults With Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Despite current treatment guidelines, fewer than 10 percent of adults with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders receive treatment for both disorders, and more than 50 percent do not receive treatment for either disorder.

The findings highlight a large gap between the prevalence of co-occurring disorders and treatment rates among U.S. adults and the need to identify effective approaches to increasing treatment for those with these conditions.

An analysis of data from U.S. adults with both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder indicates that only 9.1 percent of those adults received both types of care over the past year, and 52.5 percent received neither mental health care nor substance use treatment.

The study, based on data collected from the 2008-2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reports that 3.3 percent of the adult U.S. population, or some 7.7 million individuals, suffers from both a mental health and substance use disorder. Those adults with co-occurring disorders who did receive both types of treatment tend to have more serious psychiatric problems and accompanying physical ailments and were more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system compared to individuals who did not receive both types of care.

The primary reasons for not seeking care were inability to afford treatment, lack of knowledge about where to get care, and a low perceived need among those with both disorders.

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NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator Helps Find Quality Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder

NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator Helps Find Quality Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder

Described as a “game-changer” by individuals in the alcohol treatment community!

An important new online resource is now available to help people recognize and find high quality treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), which affects more than 15 million adults in the United States. The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator helps individuals and their loved ones negotiate the often-complicated process of choosing treatment for alcohol misuse by telling them what they need to know, and what they need to do, to recognize and choose quality care.

The landmark Navigator website is comprehensive, yet easy-to-use -- guiding users through a step-by-step process to find highly-qualified treatment professionals. It helps create informed consumers by describing AUD and the various treatment options available, explaining the importance of “evidence-based” practices, providing tips on how to recognize five signs of quality care, and recommending specific steps to find quality treatment, including 10 questions to ask potential providers. It also features online directories of treatment providers, with instructions on how to use the directories, and a downloadable toolkit to help organize and simplify the search process.

In development for more than two years, the Navigator is based on decades of scientific research on clinical interventions and health services, with input from treatment providers, researchers, people seeking treatment, and their families. Individuals can use this comprehensive resource to better understand treatment options; families can get information that will empower them to help an adult loved one; and health professionals can use it as a tool to share with patients/clients who need a referral.

The NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator: https://AlcoholTreatment.niaaa.nih.gov

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Do We Have an Amphetamine Problem on College Campuses?

Do We Have an Amphetamine Problem on College Campuses?

College is a stressful time for students. Balancing the rigors of studying and coursework with the social and financial demands of college life can be particularly challenging.

Some students try to deal with these challenges by taking amphetamines or stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin, thinking it will improve their focus and academic performance or allow them to stay awake and alert late into the night to study, work or party. While Adderall has proven benefits for individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), taking amphetamines for nonmedical or non-prescribed purposes can be extremely dangerous and even deadly.

What are amphetamines?Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that have been used in many forms over the years as a way to reduce hunger and fatigue or improve mental focus. Amphetamines are also an addictive substance and can have severe side effects for individuals who misuse them or take them for non-medical purposes. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), amphetamines are a schedule II drug, meaning they have a high potential for abuse as well as a high risk of addiction. There are critical and potentially fatal consequences of misusing prescription amphetamines, including medications prescribed to treat ADHD.As ADHD became the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in children, the production of amphetamines in the United States rapidly increased, as did the number of young people receiving prescriptions for stimulant medications. From 1993 to 2001, Adderall production increased by a staggering 5,767 percent. Additionally, stimulant medications, including Adderall, Dexedrine and Ritalin, have more than quintupled in sales from $1.7 billion in 2002 to almost $9 billion in 2012. With amphetamines readily available, it makes sense that these stimulant drugs are being widely misused on college campuses.

How many college students are misusing amphetamines?The number of students taking amphetamines for nonmedical reasons is continuing to rise. Students report that it is easy to get ADHD medication in college and studies have shown that the percentage of college students who report using ADHD stimulants for nonmedical reasons ranges from 5 to 35 percent. Moreover, national research indicates that full-time college students between the ages of 18 to 22 years old are twice as likely as those who are not full-time students to report using Adderall.

While stimulant misuse is definitely a concern on college campuses, many students do not think that taking amphetamines for nonmedical purposes is particularly harmful. For example, a 2016 national survey stated that 38.5 percent of college-age individuals (19 to 22 years old) reported that regularly taking these drugs for nonmedical purposes did not pose a “great risk” of harm and this age group was the least likely relative to 12th graders or older young adults to disapprove of their misuse.

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Marijuana Use Is Associated With an Increased Risk of Rx Opioid Misuse and Use Disorders

Marijuana Use Is Associated With an Increased Risk of Rx Opioid Misuse and Use Disorders

New research suggests that marijuana users may be more likely than nonusers to misuse prescription opioids and develop prescription opioid use disorder.

The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Columbia University.

The investigators analyzed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which interviewed more than 43,000 American adults in 2001-2002, and followed up with more than 34,000 of them in 2004-2005.

The analysis indicated that respondents who reported past-year marijuana use in their initial interview had 2.2 times higher odds than nonusers of meeting DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for prescription opioid use disorder by the follow-up. They also had 2.6 times greater odds of initiating prescription opioid misuse, defined as using a drug without a prescription, in higher doses, for longer periods, or for other reasons than prescribed.

A number of recent papers suggest that marijuana may reduce prescription opioid addiction and overdoses by providing an alternate or complementary pain relief option. That suggestion is partly based on comparisons of aggregate data from states that legalized marijuana for medical use vs. those that didn’t. In contrast, the current study focuses on individual marijuana users vs. nonusers and their trajectories with regard to opioid misuse and disorders. These findings are in-line with previous research demonstrating that people who use marijuana are more likely than non-users to use other drugs and develop problems with drug use.

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Patient Advocacy & Health Care Orgs Launch ‘Campaign to Protect Patient Privacy Rights’

Patient Advocacy & Health Care Orgs Launch ‘Campaign to Protect Patient Privacy Rights’

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has joined more than 110 organizations in a campaign to protect patient privacy rights.

Many of the nation’s leading addiction treatment, recovery, health care and advocacy organizations announced a new coordinated effort – the Campaign to Protect Patient Privacy Rights – to advocate for maintaining the confidentiality of substance use disorder (SUD) patients in the face of proposals to eradicate these essential rights.

The Campaign, which includes the Legal Action Center, the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, AIDS United, Community Catalyst, Faces and Voices of Recovery, Facing Addiction, Harm Reduction Coalition, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and over 100 other patient and provider advocacy groups, has issued a set of principles to guide its advocacy and to help inform policymakers and the public on the critical issues at stake.

The federal SUD confidentiality rules, known as 42 C.F.R. Part 2 (“Part 2”), were established more than 40 years ago to ensure that people with a substance use disorder are not made more vulnerable to discriminatory practices and legal consequences as a result of seeking treatment. The rules prevent treatment providers from disclosing information about a patient’s substance use treatment without patient consent in most circumstances. Proposals to replace Part 2’s confidentiality requirements with HIPAA’s more relaxed standards would not sufficiently protect people seeking and receiving SUD treatment, and could expose patients to great harm.

Unlike most other medical illnesses, substance use disorders often have criminal and civil legal consequences. Part 2 provides safeguards for patients against potentially disastrous results of unauthorized disclosure. Unlike individuals with other illnesses or disabilities, SUD patients are vulnerable to arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. Additionally, many people with SUD are not protected by federal or state civil rights laws that protect people with disabilities from employment, housing and other types of discrimination. Loosened confidentiality protections for SUD patient records can not only discourage patients from seeking treatment, but also subjects them to the risk of experiencing severe negative consequences and discrimination.

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National Prescription Drug Take Back Day - October 28, 2017

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day - October 28, 2017

On Saturday, October 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Drug Enforcement Administration will give the public its 14th opportunity in 7 years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.

The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Last April Americans turned in 450 tons (900,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at almost 5,500 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 13 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 8.1 million pounds—more than 4,050 tons—of pills.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about the October 28 Take Back Day event, go to the DEA Diversion website.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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FDA Approves Marketing of First Mobile App to Help Treat Substance Use Disorders

FDA Approves Marketing of First Mobile App to Help Treat Substance Use Disorders

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permitted marketing of the first mobile app to help treat substance use disorders (SUD).

The app is designed to be prescribed by a doctor and used along with counseling, CNBC reports.

The Reset device delivers cognitive behavioral therapy to patients to teach skills that aid in the treatment of substance use disorders, the company says.

These skills are “intended to increase abstinence from substance abuse and increase retention in outpatient therapy programs,” according to a news release from the FDA.

The agency said the Reset device is indicated as a prescription-only adjunct treatment for patients with SUD who are not currently on opioid replacement therapy, who do not abuse alcohol solely, or whose primary substance of abuse is not opioids.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Some Insurance Companies Restrict Access to Less Addictive Pain Medications

Some Insurance Companies Restrict Access to Less Addictive Pain Medications

Some insurance companies are restricting patients’ access to pain medicines with a lower risk of dependence or addiction, while making it easier to get generic opioid drugs, The New York Times reports.

Opioids drugs are generally less expensive than safer alternatives, the article notes.

The New York Times and ProPublica analyzed Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people.

They found only one-third of people had access to Butrans, a painkilling skin patch containing buprenorphine, a less-risky opioid. Every drug plan that covered lidocaine patches, which are not addictive, but are more expensive than other generic pain drugs, required that patients get prior approval for the patches.

Almost all plans covered common opioids, and few plans required patients to obtain prior approval for them.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Google Restricts Ads for Addiction Treatment

Google Restricts Ads for Addiction Treatment

Google has announced it is restricting ads for addiction treatment.

“We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision,” a company spokeswoman said.

Prosecutors and health advocates have warned that many online searches for addiction treatment lead people to click on ads for rehab centers that are not suited to help them, or may even endanger their lives, according to The New York Times.

Many rehab centers buy ads that would come up when someone searched for phrases such as “alcohol treatment centers” or “drug rehab.”

“This is a bold move by one of the world’s biggest companies, saying people’s lives are more important than profit,” said Greg Williams, co-founder of the advocacy group Facing Addiction.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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More Children and Teens Arriving in Emergency Rooms Dependent on Opioids

More Children and Teens Arriving in Emergency Rooms Dependent on Opioids

More children and teens are arriving in U.S. emergency rooms dependent on or addicted to opioids, HealthDay reports.

Almost 50,000 ER patients ages 21 and younger were diagnosed with opioid dependence or addiction in 2013, up from 32,200 in 2008, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“It was very concerning to see that by the last year we studied, an average of 135 children each day were testing positive for opioid addiction or dependency in emergency departments,” study co-author Veerajalandhar Allareddy, MD of the University of Iowa said in a news release. “In our opinion, this is a pediatric public health crisis.”

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Alcohol Use and Misuse Up Among Older Adults

Alcohol Use and Misuse Up Among Older Adults

Recent news reports in various media outlets have noted that across the country, alcohol use — and misuse — have gone up among USA older adults.

According to NewsWorks, the online home of WHYY, a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that between 2001 and 2012, increases in alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and alcohol use disorder among older adults were substantial, said the study's authors. So much so that they call the change "unprecedented."

According to George Koob of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), "Almost everybody over 65 is taking a lot of pills and a number of those pills can actually potentiate the action of alcohol." He also noted that the health risks for drinking among this age group are different than for younger people.

Taken together, the drugs have a stronger effect — and alcohol can interfere with other prescription drugs.

"For example," he said, "If you take alcohol with an opioid, like a painkiller, you can kill yourself at doses lower for both the pain killer and the alcohol."

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Opioid Overdoses Have Shaved 2.5 Months Off Americans’ Life Expectancy

Opioid Overdoses Have Shaved 2.5 Months Off Americans’ Life Expectancy

Opioid overdoses reduced Americans’ life expectancy by 2.5 months between 2000 and 2015, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During that period, U.S. life expectancy increased overall from almost 77 years to 79 years, as deaths from major killers such as cancer and heart disease decreased, HealthDay reports.

But during that period, the death rate from drug overdoses more than doubled, and the death rate from opioid overdoses—including heroin and prescription opioids—more than tripled.

By the final year of the study, Americans’ average life expectancy began to decrease again.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Opioid Crisis Fast Facts

Opioid Crisis Fast Facts

The United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis, the impact surpassing annual car crashes, and the AIDs epidemic in the 1990s.

Over two million people in the U.S. have become dependent on or abused prescription pain pills and/or an illicit drug.

At the onset, many users become addicted after a legitimate injury or surgery requires them to take prescription painkillers. Legal painkillers like morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone are prescribed by doctors for acute or chronic pain.

However, drug overdoses are on the rise, with 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015. In the same year, the International Narcotics Control Board reported that Americans represented about 99.7 percent of the world's hydrocodone consumption. Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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