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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lowering Legal Drinking Age - More High School Dropouts

There was a time in the United States when you could legally drink alcohol at the age of 18. In 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed which made it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to purchase alcohol and states that failed to comply would see reductions in annual federal highway funding. Now 31 years later, people are still debating the appropriate legal age.

Since 1984, there has been a lot of research conducted that focused on the effects of alcohol on the developing brain of adolescents. Studies have, time and time again, shown that alcohol can cause serious harm leading to problems that can last through adulthood - including behavioral health issues. Alcohol can impact teenagers socially as well, affecting school, friendships and on the home front. New research suggests that lowering the legal drinking age back to 18 could increase the high school dropout rate, TIME reports.

Dropout rates prior to 1984 were examined by researchers. The findings indicated that 17-year-olds were adversely affected by their older peers.

“We saw a 3 percent increase in dropout rates in the whole sample,” said lead author Andrew Plunk, assistant professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. “In already at-risk groups [of dropping out of high school] like blacks and Hispanics, we saw a 4 percent increase.” 

If you consider that 3.3 million students are expected to graduate this year, lowering the minimum to 18 would result 99,000 additional dropouts, according to the article.

"I think this study gives us some idea of what could happen if we lower the legal drinking age," Plunk said,” said Plunk in news release. "It suggests to me that we'd see this same dropout phenomenon again." 

The findings were published Monday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

8 of 10 in Addiction Treatment Smoke Cigarettes

Smoking cigarettes is a common occurrence among those in addiction recovery. Before and after recovery meetings, people can be seen smoking; making it fair to say that tobacco is often times the last vice to be given up. If a person with a substance use disorder checks into a recovery center, it is likely that a patient’s tobacco use will be addressed and options will be made available to assist them with smoking cessation. However, giving up cigarettes is rarely a requirement for a number of reasons.

A review of studies has shown that 8 out of 10 people in addiction treatment smoke cigarettes, according to U.S. News & World Report. The findings come from a review of 54 tobacco studies comprised of more than 37,000 people in addiction treatment in 20 countries. The review did not include data from the United States.

"When people come into treatment for drugs and alcohol, we are not treating another addiction that has a significant chance of eventually killing them, which is tobacco use," said study leader Joseph Guydish, a professor of medicine and health policy at UCSF, in a university news release. 

While the current review of studies did not include U.S. data, Guydish’s earlier research indicated that 76 percent of patients in American treatment facilities smoked compared to 84 percent internationally, according to the article. Among the general public, less than 18 percent in the U.S. and 31 percent internationally smoke.

"Every person who enters substance abuse treatment ought to have their tobacco use evaluated and treated," Guydish said. "If they don't want to be treated and quit right away, they should have some education to help them think more about quitting." 

The findings were published in the journal Addiction.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Are E-Cigarettes Safe and Effective for Smoking Cessation?

Are e-cigarettes effective smoking cessation devices? According to a panel of experts from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, there is not enough evidence to indicate whether e-cigarettes are safe or effective for smoking cessation, Reuters reports. Insurance companies typically use U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations to determine if they will compensate for screenings and treatments.

E-cigarettes are still in their infancy, which means that the amount of research currently available is limited. Experts have mixed opinions about e-cigarettes. While many will argue that electronic nicotine devices are safer than traditional nicotine products, there is not much evidence indicating that e-cigarettes are effective for smoking cessation.

“There is not enough evidence to evaluate the effectiveness, safety or benefits and harms of using e-cigarettes to help people quit smoking,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, a task force member and researcher at the University of Arizona. 

At the moment, experts believe that current smoking cessation products when used in conjunction with behavioral therapy, has shown the most promise when it comes to quitting, according to the article. Nicotine replacement therapy (i.e. patches, gums, and lozenges) and the medications Chantix ® (varenicline) and Zyban ® (bupropion SR) are the currently FDA approved smoking cessation products.

“The task force recommends that clinicians direct patients who smoke tobacco to other cessation interventions with established effectiveness and safety,” Garcia said by email. “Many studies show that combinations of behavioral interventions or pharmacotherapies can help the most.” 

The task force recommendations are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bipartisan Bill Aimed At Synthetic Drug Use

The uphill battle against synthetic drugs continues, forcing lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to work together. A bipartisan bill has been introduced by U.S. representatives aimed at the use of synthetic drugs, according to Roll Call. The American College of Emergency Physicians supports the bill.

“Unapproved synthetic drugs are destroying lives every day in the USA,” said Dr. Alex Rosenau, Immediate Past President of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in a news release. “With a wink and a nod, they are sold over the counter, claim to give users a good time, then destroy their lives, flood emergency rooms with critically sick kids, and tie up EMS and law enforcement resources.” 

Synthetic drugs, such as bath salts and fake marijuana, continue to make headlines due to a surge in emergency room cases involving the caustic substances. If passed, the bill would add more than 200 compounds used to make synthetic drugs to the Schedule I list, according to the article. Synthetic drugs have proved difficult to combat, manufacturers are constantly changing the formula to elude authorities. The bill would also aid prosecutors in synthetic drug cases.

The Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2015, was introduced by Representative Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania). The measure was co-sponsored by Representatives Jim Himes (D-Connecticut), David Jolly of (R-Florida), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

“These drugs are, in my judgment, more serious than the drugs that are on the Controlled Substance Act, more dangerous,” said Norton. “These are right out in the open. They’re disguised in colored wrapping with snappy names to appeal to young people and children in particular. They are cheap. Much cheaper than the dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin. They’re sold everywhere. And drugs that are sold everywhere are presumed to be safe. They are openly marketed as an alternative to dangerous drugs and they have bizarre effects.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

FDA Granted Authority to Destroy Fake Drugs

The United States is the biggest pharmaceutical and supplements market in the world. Countries all over the world ship drugs to America, even if the drugs do not meet U.S. regulations. In the past, if fake or low quality medications were shipped to the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would ship the drugs back to the country of origin. Overseas counterfeit manufacturers would repackage the drugs and reship.

Now, the FDA has the authority to destroy poor-quality or fake drugs that are refused admission into the United States, the Washington Examiner reports. The new rule stems from a surge of counterfeit Herceptin shipments, a drug used to treat cancer. The FDA was already able to destroy counterfeit or poor-quality food or medical devices, but now they can destroy drugs that do not meet the country's standards that are valued at $2,500 or less.

The 2012 Food Drug and Safety Innovation Act (FDASIA) grants the FDA its newfound authority to destroy fake or adulterated pharmaceuticals, according to the article. The FDASIA was signed into law on July 9, 2012, it gives the FDA increased authority and strengthens the agency's ability to safeguard and advance public health.

“With nearly 40 percent of finished drugs being imported, and nearly 80 percent of active ingredients coming from overseas sources, protecting the global drug supply chain and making sure that patients have access to the drugs they need is a priority for FDA,” said the agency on their website

Counterfeit drugs coming from other countries are not subject to rigorous testing standards. An unsuspecting user has no way of knowing what they are consuming, potentially resulting in serious side effects or worse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Indiana Leads the Nation In Pharmacy Robberies

When the nation finally came to terms with the fact that it was facing a prescription drug epidemic, certain steps were taken to reign in the problem; unfortunately, few could have predicted that efforts to combat the issue would only create new problems. Practically every state now has a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) in one form or another, designed to track abusers, end overprescribing and deter doctor shopping (people who go to multiple doctors in a month for them same medications).

PDMPs have proven to be effective, but such programs do not address addiction - the driving force of the epidemic. Addicts who find it too difficult to acquire opioid medications will seek other means of attaining a high. In recent years the rate of heroin use has risen dramatically, as addicts switch from pills to dope, resulting in more overdose deaths. Another likely unintended consequence was a rise in pharmacy robberies. Since the beginning of 2015, more than 130 Indiana pharmacies have reported robberies, USA Today reports.

In fact Indiana, which has been in the news a lot lately due to an outbreak of HIV linked to the opioid narcotic Opana, leads the nation in pharmacy robberies. Ted Cotterill, the director at the Indiana Board of Pharmacy, said there has been a total of 151 robberies this year, the earlier figure did not account for attempted robberies.

“This puts us at number one in the country at the moment, which is not the kind of number one that Indiana wants to be in any category,” said Cotterill. 

While Indiana officials can’t be sure why they lead the nation in pharmacy robberies, it is likely that the crimes are directly linked to crack downs on prescription drug abuse, according to the article.

“While we have tightened the grip on prescribing and dispensing, we may have just driven that traffic elsewhere,” said Todd Meyer, prosecuting attorney for Boone County, Indiana.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Meth Lab Injuries On The Rise

'Where there is a will, there is a way' - or so the saying goes. This adage can be applied quite well to the production of methamphetamine. A number of government crackdowns made it more difficult for meth cooks to get their hands on large quantities of pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient of Sudafed ® that is essential to meth production. This resulted in meth production moving south of the border; where Mexican cartels developed “super labs” in order to feed the huge demand for the drug here in the United States. In fact, the majority of all the methamphetamine used in America now originates in Mexico.

While government efforts made it harder to produce meth here in America, there are a number of cooks who have found a way to circumvent the laws which has led to a rise in meth lab related injuries, HealthDay reports. Between 2001 and 2012, 162 people were injured in meth lab accidents. The findings come from a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of five states.

The states include:
  • Louisiana
  • Oregon
  • New York
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
Limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine that could be purchased at one time and making the drug only available at the pharmacy requiring buyers to give their name, resulted in a reduction of meth lab related injuries - for a time, according to the article. In 2008, meth cooks found a way around such deterrents by purchasing small amounts of the drug at multiple locations and using fake names. The rise in injuries can also be linked to the dangerous “shake and bake” method of producing the drug.

"This method involves shaking smaller amounts of precursor chemicals in a two-liter [half-gallon] plastic bottle, which frequently bursts, causing burns and environmental contamination," reported CDC lead investigator Dr. Natalia Melnikova. 

The researchers write in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
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