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Cocaine Deaths on the Rise Among Black Americans

Cocaine Deaths on the Rise Among Black Americans

Cocaine deaths are increasing, particularly among non-Hispanic black Americans, The New York Times reports.

Cocaine, the number-two killer among illegal drugs, claims the lives of more black Americans than heroin does, the article notes.

A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found between 2012 and 2015, the death rate from cocaine overdoses was 7.6 per 100,000 among black men, compared with 5.45 per 100,000 for heroin. Cocaine overdoses exceeded those from heroin among black women as well.

“We have multiple drug problems in the U.S.,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine who advises governments on drug prevention and treatment policies. “We need to focus on more than one drug at a time.”

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Growing Number of Children End Up in ICU After Overdosing on Opioids

Growing Number of Children End Up in ICU After Overdosing on Opioids

A new study finds a significant and steady increase in the number of children in the United States who are admitted to pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) after swallowing opioids.

The increase occurred across all age groups, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

The opioid-related PICU admission rate increased 39 percent from 2004 to 2015, HealthDay reports.

The majority of these patients were ages 12 to 17, but a third of patients were younger than 6.

“What concerns us is the rate that PICU admissions are increasing over time, which is in contrast to adult data that suggest we have reached a plateau in hospitalization for opioid overdose,” lead researcher Dr. Jason Kane of the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital said in a news release. “As more opioids are being prescribed in the community, children are becoming ‘second victims’ of the opioid epidemic.”

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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ERs Report Opioid Overdoses Jumped 30 Percent in One Year

ERs Report Opioid Overdoses Jumped 30 Percent in One Year

Hospital emergency rooms reported a 30 percent jump in opioid overdoses between the third quarter of 2016 and the third quarter of 2017, according to NPR.

The largest increase in overdoses occurred in the Midwest, which saw a 69.7 percent increase. In Wisconsin, opioid overdoses increased 109 percent.

The smallest increase occurred in the Southeast, which saw a 14 percent increase. The findings come from a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We have an emergency on our hands,” said acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat. “The fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic continues and is accelerating. We saw, sadly, that in every region, in every age group of adults, in both men and women, overdoses from opioids are increasing.” Schuchat noted the report could underestimate the total number of overdoses, because many people who overdose do not end up in the emergency room.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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What Influences Transition from Prescription Opioid Misuse to Injection Drug Use?

What Influences Transition from Prescription Opioid Misuse to Injection Drug Use?

A new study finds there are no significant differences between young adults who misuse prescription opioids and those who inject heroin, except for the amount of time they have used drugs.

The study of young adults in rural upstate New York found on average, it took four to five years between the time a young person started using prescription opioids and the time they started to inject drugs. “Unless they receive treatment, in another year or two it’s likely those who are misusing prescription opioids are on a trajectory to start injecting,” said lead researcher Holly Hagan PhD, MPH, RN, Professor at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and co-director of the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research. “We have to figure out how to intervene now to help these young people with their substance use problem.”

Most of the young adults in the study who were in treatment were in 12-step programs and were not receiving medication-assisted treatment. “There are few programs for methadone and buprenorphine in this area,” Dr. Hagan said. “More office-based buprenorphine treatment is needed to prevent young adults from transitioning to injection drug use. We want to reverse this cycle of drug use before it becomes too entrenched.”

Dr. Hagan found that of the 198 young adults in the study, ages 18 to 29, about half had experienced at least one overdose.

Before starting the study, Dr. Hagan thought that severe adverse childhood experiences might explain the difference between young adults who misused prescription opioids and those who injected heroin. “Adverse childhood experiences – both physical and emotional abuse – were strongly associated with having a substance use disorder,” she said.

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Americans Urged to Dispose of Unused Rx This Weekend

Americans Urged to Dispose of Unused Rx This Weekend

With 174 Americans dying every day from drug overdoses, Addiction Policy Forum is urging everyone to clean out their medicine cabinets when they turn the clocks ahead this Sunday. The organization is promoting the safe disposal of unused prescription drugs by giving away disposal kits at events across the country and online. For a list of events and to order a free disposal kit, visit www.addictionpolicy.org/order.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly one-third of people ages 12 and over who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug for non-medical reasons. Over 11.5 million Americans misused prescription painkillers in the last year1 and every day 2,000 teenagers misuse prescription drugs for the first time.2 

The addiction epidemic is currently impacting more than 21 million American families. "Everyone can do their part by getting rid of unused prescription drugs in a safe way. We are urging anyone who has old, unused medications sitting around their home to order a free online disposal kit," said Jessica Hulsey Nickel, President of Addiction Policy Forum. "It's an easy way for everyone to do their part to solve the addiction crisis by ensuring these drugs stay out of the hands of children, teenagers, or anyone they were not intended for."

Studies suggest that a majority of patients use only some or none opioid medications prescribed to them, and more than 90 percent failed to dispose of the leftovers in recommended ways, which can harm the environment.3  

"We want to encourage everyone to dispose of their unused prescription drugs twice a year, whenever we change our clocks," said Hulsey Nickel. "Our hope is that this is as ingrained in people's minds as changing their smoke detector batteries, because just like a working smoke detector, getting rid of prescription drugs can save lives."

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Deaths From Benzodiazepine Overdoses on the Rise

Deaths From Benzodiazepine Overdoses on the Rise

Deaths from overdoses of prescription sedatives known as benzodiazepines—including Xanax and Valium—are on the rise, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines increased from 1,135 in 1999, to 8,791 in 2015.

Benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat conditions including anxiety, insomnia and seizures. Overdoses have increased in the past decade, as the number of prescriptions for these drugs has increased, HealthDay reports. Prescriptions for benzodiazepines rose by 67 percent between 1996 and 2013, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.

“These are highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs, and many people don’t know that,” lead author Dr. Anna Lembke of the Stanford University School of Medicine said. “Sadly, most physicians are also unaware of this and blithely prescribe them without educating their patients about the risk of addiction.”

 

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Creating Healthy Habits

Creating Healthy Habits

We know that making healthy choices can help us feel better and live longer. Maybe you’ve already tried to eat better, get more exercise or sleep, quit smoking, or reduce stress. It’s not easy. But research shows how you can boost your ability to create and sustain a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s frustrating to experience setbacks when you’re trying to make healthy changes and reach a goal,” says NIH behavior change expert Dr. Susan Czajkowski. “The good news is that decades of research show that change is possible, and there are proven strategies you can use to set yourself up for success.”

Lots of things you do impact your health and quality of life, now and in the future. You can reduce your risk for the most common, costly, and preventable health problems—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity—by making healthy choices.

Know Your Habits

Regular things you do—from brushing your teeth to having a few drinks every night—can become habits. Repetitive behaviors that make you feel good can affect your brain in ways that create habits that may be hard to change. Habits often become automatic—they happen without much thought.

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White House Opioid Summit to Highlight Efforts to Fight Nationwide Epidemic

White House Opioid Summit to Highlight Efforts to Fight Nationwide Epidemic

The White House is scheduled to convene a summit on the nation’s opioid epidemic Thursday afternoon, the Washington Examiner reports.

The summit will include many government officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The newly appointed acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Jim Carroll, will make his first public appearance at the summit.

About 200 other participants from outside the Trump Administration will attend, including people presenting nonprofits that focus on addiction and recovery.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Justice Department to Examine Role of Drug Makers and Distributors in Opioid Crisis

Justice Department to Examine Role of Drug Makers and Distributors in Opioid Crisis

A new Justice Department task force will examine the role of drug manufacturers and distributors in the opioid crisis, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said recently.

Sessions also announced the Justice Department will file a statement of interest in hundreds of lawsuits against drug companies brought by local governments and medical institutions, seeking reimbursement for the cost of the epidemic, The Washington Post reports.

Sessions said in a statement, “The hard-working taxpayers of this country deserve to be compensated by those whose illegal activity contributed to those costs. And we will go to court to ensure that the American people receive the compensation they deserve.”

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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FDA to Allow Drug Companies to Sell Wider Range of Opioid Addiction Treatments

FDA to Allow Drug Companies to Sell Wider Range of Opioid Addiction Treatments

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow drug companies to sell medications that reduce opioid cravings, even if they do not fully stop addiction, The New York Times reports.

In a speech at the National Governors Association, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar noted only one-third of specialty addiction treatment programs offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT). “We want to raise that number — in fact, it will be nigh impossible to turn the tide on this epidemic without doing so,” he said. Azar added the FDA intends “to correct a misconception that patients must achieve total abstinence in order for MAT to be considered effective.”

The FDA will encourage development of medications that can help patients function better and can be helpful when used in combination with therapy and other social support, even if the medications don’t completely end addiction, an agency official told the newspaper.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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As More U.S. States Legalize Marijuana, Mexico’s Drug Cartels Turn to Heroin

As More U.S. States Legalize Marijuana, Mexico’s Drug Cartels Turn to Heroin

Mexican drug cartels are turning to heroin as more U.S. states legalize marijuana, according to USA Today.

Small farmers who used to plant marijuana to be smuggled in the United States are switching to opium poppies, which brings them a better price. The opium gum is harvested and processed into heroin.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, marijuana seizures have fallen by more than half since 2012, while seizures of heroin and methamphetamine have soared.Heroin seizures by the U.S. Border Patrol rose from 430 pounds in 2012 to 953 pounds in 2017.

Marijuana seizures dropped from 2,299,864 pounds in 2012 to 861,231 pounds in 2017. Meth seizures rose from 3,715 pounds in 2012 to 10,328 pounds in 2017.

 

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Legislative Hearings on Opioid Crisis to Focus on Law Enforcement, Public Health

Legislative Hearings on Opioid Crisis to Focus on Law Enforcement, Public Health

House Republicans will hold a series of hearings on addressing the opioid crisis, with a focus on law enforcement, public health and insurance coverage, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The first hearing, by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will be held on February 28.

The bills to be considered are likely to require additional funding from Congress, the article notes. One bill under consideration would make it easier for certain derivatives of synthetic drugs to be categorized as controlled substances. Another bill would ensure that doctors can get details of a patient’s past substance use if consent is given.

Under one piece of legislation, in-home hospice providers would be permitted to destroy remaining opioids after a patient dies. Another proposed bill would increase use of prescription drug monitoring programs, and would make it easier for states to share data on opioid use and overdose deaths.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Can Vivitrol Help People Leaving Jail Stay Off Opioids?

Can Vivitrol Help People Leaving Jail Stay Off Opioids?

Many people who are arrested and brought to jail on Rikers Island in New York City use opioids, and are forced to detox while in jail.

Researchers at New York University (NYU) are studying whether providing the opioid-addiction medicine extended-release naltrexone (Vivitrol) to these individuals when they leave jail reduces their risk of relapse and overdose.

“When we launched the study, many people used methadone to detox in jail, but didn’t continue it for maintenance,” said Joshua D. Lee MD, MSc, Associate Professor of Population Health and Medicine/General Internal Medicine and Clinical Innovation at the NYU School of Medicine. “That means they are leaving jail with no maintenance medication, which puts them at great risk of relapse and overdose, as well as HIV and hepatitis C from injection drug use.”

Vivitrol is a monthly injection that blocks the effects of opioids, including pain relief or the feelings of well-being that can lead to opioid misuse. It has no potential for abuse.

“Many people leaving jail think they can stay opiate-free on their own, but the chance of successful recovery without medication-assisted treatment is low,” Dr. Lee said. “If they receive naltrexone, they can either continue using it once they are out of jail, or at least it gives them a month to make arrangements for methadone or buprenorphine.”

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Many Teens Say Peers’ Vaping Led Them to Try E-Cigarettes

Many Teens Say Peers’ Vaping Led Them to Try E-Cigarettes

Almost 40 percent of teens who use e-cigarettes say seeing their peers use the devices led them to try vaping themselves, a new government report finds.

Teens who try e-cigarettes are often tempted by the flavors of vaping liquids, and some believe e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, HealthDay reports.

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used form of tobacco among middle school and high school students, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2016, a report by the U.S. Surgeon General called for reducing e-cigarette use among young people. The report said young people are more vulnerable than adults to the negative consequences of nicotine exposure. “These effects include addiction, priming for use of other addictive substances, reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders,” the report stated.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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FDA Announces Voluntary Destruction and Recall of Kratom Products

FDA Announces Voluntary Destruction and Recall of Kratom Products

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week announced it is overseeing the voluntary destruction and recall of kratom products.

Earlier this month, the FDA warned kratom is an opioid and has been linked with 44 deaths. Kratom, an unregulated botanical substance, is used by some people to relieve pain, anxiety and depression, as well as symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

The company that makes kratom-containing products under the brand names Botany Bay, Enhance Your Life and Divinity promised to recall and destroy the products, HealthDay reports.

The company, Divinity Products Distribution, agreed to stop selling all products containing kratom.

In a statement, the FDA said, “Based on the scientific evidence of the serious risks associated with the use of kratom, in the interest of public health, the FDA encourages all companies currently involved in the sale of products containing kratom intended for human consumption to take similar steps to take their products off the market and submit any necessary evidence, as appropriate, to the FDA to evaluate them based on the applicable regulatory pathway.”

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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What Causes Spouses to Resemble One Another In Their Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder?

What Causes Spouses to Resemble One Another In Their Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder?

A population-based registry study, found that the increase in risk for a first onset of alcohol use disorder in a married individual after the onset of alcohol use disorder onset in his or her spouse was large and rapid.

When an individual was married in either order to serial partners with vs. without alcohol use disorder, the risk for alcohol use disorder was substantially increased when the partner had an alcohol use disorder registration and decreased when the partner did not have an alcohol use disorder registration.

What does this mean? A married individual’s risk for alcohol use disorder is likely directly and causally affected by the presence of alcohol use disorder in his or her spouse.

Although spouses strongly resemble one another in their risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the causes of this association remain unclear.

The study seems to conclude that the increase in risk for AUD registration in a married individual following a first AUD registration in the spouse is large and rapid.

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Are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Common In the United States?

Are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Common In the United States?

A recent cross-sectional study of over 13,000 first-grade children in four regions of the United States was designed to estimate the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, including fetal alcohol syndrome, partial fetal alcohol syndrome, and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are costly, life-long disabilities.

Older data suggested the prevalence of the disorder in the United States was 10 per 1000 children; however, there are few current estimates based on larger, diverse US population samples.

Out of a total of 6,639 children who were selected for participation, a total of 222 cases of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders were identified.

The conservative prevalence estimates for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders ranged from 11.3 per 1,000 children. The weighted prevalence estimates for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders ranged from 31.1 per 1,000 children.

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Separating Side Effects Could Hold Key for Safer Opioids

Separating Side Effects Could Hold Key for Safer Opioids

NIH-funded scientists may have revealed brain functions in pre-clinical research that widen the safety margin for opioid pain relief without overdose

Opioid pain relievers can be extremely effective in relieving pain, but can carry a high risk of addiction and ultimately overdose when breathing is suppressed and stops. Scientists have discovered a way to separate these two effects -- pain relief and breathing -- opening a window of opportunity to make effective pain medications without the risk of respiratory failure. The research, published today in Cell, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Opioid medications suppress pain by binding to specific receptors (proteins) in the brain; these same receptors also produce respiratory suppression. However, the way these receptors act to regulate pain and breathing may be fundamentally different. Studies using mouse genetic models suggest that avoiding one particular signaling pathway led to more favorable responses to morphine (pain relief without respiration effects). The investigators then explored if they could make drugs that would turn on the pathways associated with pain relief and avoid the pathways associated with respiratory suppression.

"We are pleased to have uncovered a potential new mechanism to create safer alternatives to opioid medications, ones that would be far less likely to cause the side effects that lead to overdose deaths associated with the misuse of opioids," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. "We are excited that basic research on how opioid drugs work in the brain has led to this novel approach, and that we continue to make critical progress in this area."

How the pathways split following receptor activation is referred to as biased signaling. The study showed that as the degree of bias (divergence) increased, so too did the ability of an opioid to reduce pain in mice without affecting breathing. Similarly, compounds that favor the breathing pathway produced more respiratory side effects at lower doses. Ultimately, opioids with a larger divergence (bias factor) had a larger margin of safety, or therapeutic window, opening up an opportunity for medication intervention.

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Connect People With Support Services to Fight Opioid Epidemic: Surgeon General

Connect People With Support Services to Fight Opioid Epidemic: Surgeon General

Connecting people with support services such as food and housing is a key step in curbing the opioid epidemic, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said recently.

“We’ve got to be more innovative in terms of helping folks understand that providing all these services will increase their chances of success and ultimately lower cost,” Adams said at an event sponsored by Faces and Voices of Recovery and Indivior. “That’s what I want Congress to know, that’s what I want policymakers to know — we’re not throwing good money after bad; we’re actually getting a return on investment by wrapping people with the support services they need to be successful in recovery.”

Adams said his brother self-medicated to cope with untreated mental health issues, The Hill reports.

“He ended up committing criminal activity to support his habit and is now in state prison a few miles away from here in Maryland because of his addiction, still not getting treatment,” Adams said, a story he called “far too common.”

 

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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OxyContin Maker Announces It Will No Longer Market Drug to Doctors

OxyContin Maker Announces It Will No Longer Market Drug to Doctors

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, said it will no longer market the drug to doctors.

The announcement comes in response to lawsuits that blame the company for helping to trigger the opioid crisis, CBS News reports.

The company said it has eliminated more than half its sales staff, and will no longer send sales representatives to doctors’ offices to talk about opioid medications.

OxyContin is the world’s top-selling opioid painkiller. Purdue, along with pharmaceutical distributors and other companies that make opioids, are defending themselves against hundreds of state and local lawsuits that aim to hold the drug industry accountable for the opioid epidemic, the article notes. The lawsuits are seeking money and changes to how the industry operates.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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