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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Definition of Recovery

The process of recovery is different for everyone, while the methods may be similar across the board, the experience of changing one’s life can have its own individual meaning. That being said, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has been working over the last year to come up with a comprehensive definition that would encompass recovery for both mental disorders and substance abuse.

The new working definition of Recovery from Mental Disorders and Substance Use Disorders is as follows:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

"Over the years it has become increasingly apparent that a practical, comprehensive working definition of recovery would enable policy makers, providers, and others to better design, deliver, and measure integrated and holistic services to those in need," said SAMHSA Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde. "By working with all elements of the behavioral health community and others to develop this definition, I believe SAMHSA has achieved a significant milestone in promoting greater public awareness and appreciation for the importance of recovery, and widespread support for the services that can make it a reality for millions of Americans."

Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has laid out four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:
  • Health: overcoming or managing one's disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way.
  • Home: a stable and safe place to live.
  • Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society
  • Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Powerful Hydrocodone Drug

It is probably fair to say that there is hardly an adult in the country who has not been prescribed Vicodin (hydrocodone) at one point or another. This has certainly played into the fact that hydrocodone medications are the second most abused painkillers after oxycodone. It is almost unbelievable to think that in less than a year’s time we may be seeing a new drug hit the market - pure hydrocodone.

Hydrocodone medications today mix hydrocodone with non-addictive pain killers such as acetaminophen. Drugs that contain pure hydrocodone without any additives offer huge potential for abuse and addiction, most likely on the same level as oxycodone.

The new drugs will have up to 10 times the amount of the drug as existing medications such as Vicodin. Four different pharmaceutical companies have begun patient testing, and one of them, Zogenix of San Diego, has plans to apply early next year to start marketing its product, Zohydro.

Zohydro, will be a timed-release drug meant for managing moderate to severe pain, without the time release abusers could crush it to release an intense, immediate high.

"I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin," said April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. "We just don't need this on the market."

Zohydro will be abused the same way every other prescription opiate drug has been in the past, once addicts can get their hands on a purer form of the drug they will hardly want the drug’s forefather Vicodin. The FDA should really think long and hard before they allow this drug’s release. Is oxycodone not powerful enough already?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Eating Disorders Complex Disease

There are a number of mental health problems that often go unnoticed around the globe, especially disorders dealing with weight. In America, weight is a major concern for women as well as men, although male eating disorders are not usually spotted unless it involves overeating. The social stigmas surrounding weight in this country can cause people to feel inadequate which can prompt people to turn to unhealthy practices. Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia (binge eating and purging) are perhaps some of the hardest conditions to treat and if left untreated can be fatal.

Eating disorders often go hand in hand with substance abuse; drugs and alcohol often help people with eating disorders cope with the pain and guilt associated with the disorder which leads to addiction. Co-occurring disorders that involve Anorexia, Bulimia, and overeating are the hardest to treat due to the complex nature of eating related diseases. After years of training one’s mind and body to not crave food as well convincing oneself that they could always look better is hard to alter.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders:
  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
  • Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders.
  • Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness

Fortunately, effective treatments for eating disorders modeled in 12 step format are available across the country. Many men and women who work a program of recovery have found that they can lead a healthy life and be comfortable with their image.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Binge Drinking and Relationships

In many cases one’s greatest influence is their romantic partner. We often think of personal relationships as being our greatest source of support and understanding; however, a new study has shown that drug and alcohol use is often directly related to one’s partner - especially when it came to binge drinking.

Researchers studied 208 non-married, heterosexual dating couples in their early 20's; each couple had to be dating for at least 3 months, have face-to-face contact at least 5 days a week, and one member of each dating couple had to be a university/college student.

On an average, the couples in the study were dating for close to 2 years.

Over a 28 day time frame, researchers were able to predict one partner's binge drinking based the other partner's binge drinking.

"In some respect this is a cautionary piece of research. Pick your friends and lovers carefully because they influence you more than you think," Simon Sherry, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S, said.

"We're not so naive as researchers to think students are going to walk away from binge drinking. But our study shows there's a large majority of students who form romantic partnerships where alcohol is a regularly occurring theme," Sherry added.

Binge drinking is extremely dangerous, if your partner is engaging in that style of drinking it is in one’s best interest to not go down that road. Talk to your partner, it is often the case that one’s romantic partner is the first line of defense in stopping such behavior. Most people are unaware how harmful binge drinking is to one’s health which is why so many people lose their life every year to such activity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Government Drunk Driving Crackdown

The holiday season always means a rise in intoxicated drivers, which means law enforcement officials will be out in force in attempt to save lives. In the U.S. people often are not use to excessive partying throughout the year until the end of the year, they often do not realize just how drunk they actually are often resulting in DUIs or, worse, fatal accidents. The Department of Transportation has announced a nationwide crackdown.

Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary, said the education and enforcement initiative will include reminders to drivers that police and other agencies will be out in force in their search for drunk drivers, The Washington Post reports. “We’re making gains in our fight against drunk driving, but we cannot and will not let up,” LaHood said in a statement.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is a $7 million advertising campaign that hopefully will help cut back on drunk driving. The government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) is stating the facts about drunk driving so that everyone is aware of the dangers associated with it. The ads, which will run through January 2, portray drunk drivers being arrested.

The NHTSA released a report that found an estimated 31 percent of driving deaths were linked to alcohol in 2010, compared with nine percent of deaths caused by distracted driving. The report found that overall, highway deaths fell last year to the lowest level in six decades, even though Americans are driving more. A total of 32,885 people died in vehicle crashes in the United States last year - 10,228 were related to alcohol. Deaths linked to alcohol fell 4.9 percent from 2009 to 2010, the report noted.

Drinking and driving is extremely dangerous, in the blink of an eye peoples’ lives can be altered forever. There are a number of safe ways to get around this holiday season, if you are drinking, then it is best that you do not risk it, for the sake of you, your family, and all others who share the road.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Prescription Drug Treatment Admissions Jump

As the prescription drug epidemic continues to ravage American citizens from all walks of life, a number of people are entering treatment due to their addiction to opiates. A new government report has found that treatment admissions for prescription drug abuse rose 430 percent from 1999 to 2009. More and more addicts have been turning away from traditional illegal narcotics and gravitating towards prescription narcotics because there is less risk involved due to the legal aspects.

The New York Daily News reports that the biggest jumps in admissions for prescription drug abuse occurred in:
  • Maine
  • Vermont
  • Delaware
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Arkansas
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia

SAMHSA found admissions related to marijuana rose 33 percent over the 10-year period; however, those who entered treatment due to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol abuse declined. Treatment admissions for methamphetamine/ amphetamine treatment increased between 1999 and 2005, but, fortunately the number of admissions has decreased every year from 2005 through 2009.

“While some aspects of substance abuse treatment admissions have changed, meeting the overall need remains an essential public health priority,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “The increasing numbers of people entering treatment for prescription drug abuse is the latest indicator of the severity of the problem. Concerned family members or friends who think a substance abuse problem may exist should seek help. Treatment is effective and people recover.”

Make no mistake, prescription narcotics are just as dangerous as illegal drugs, the potential for overdose is equally high as well the risk of becoming addicted. Parents need to be vigilante in making sure that when they no longer require their pain medication that they dispose of it in a proper manner to avoid the drugs falling into the hands of their children.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sharing Prescription Drug Database Information

The prescription drug epidemic is a major health concern in every state in the Union. A number of states have began tracking prescription drugs using databases that help officials spot trends like doctor shopping. One problem that states are seeing is that many states are not sharing their database information with other states which makes it hard to crack down on “drug tourism”; some people will travel through many states to pick up drugs in states that have more pain clinics or in states where it is easier to obtain a large amount of a particular drug.

Florida’s Department of Health is recommending that the state release information from its new database that tracks prescription pain medicine with other states. The act would increase the effectiveness of these new databases, this national problem can only be combated if states work together to solve the problem.

“Sharing data helps in breaking up drug-diversion rings of organized doctor shoppers and pill mills that work across state lines,” John Eadie, Director of the Prescription Monitoring Program Center of Excellence at Brandeis University, told the Sun-Sentinel. “With that sharing, physicians in Florida will know what patients have obtained in other states.”

In 2009, about 223,700 prescriptions for controlled substances that were written in Florida were filled by pharmacists in Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, Arizona and Vermont. The perfect example of “drug tourism”, going to one state for a prescription only to fill it in another. 48 states have legislation to create prescription drug monitoring programs, and three dozen programs are now in operation, according to James Giglio, Executive Director of the Alliance of States with Prescription Monitoring Programs.

If states do not work together on this, it will render the databases relatively useless in the scheme of things, a unified nationwide database is what’s needed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Zero-Tolerance Policies

Drug and alcohol use amongst teenagers while at school is a major concern in most public schools across the country have strict zero tolerance policies to deter students from engaging in such activities. In many cases zero-tolerance policies help keep students from encouraging other students to use drugs or alcohol. Students who bring mind altering substances to school should be punished, the question is to what extent and should every student be treated the same as the next. There are a number of parents who believe that principals should be more flexible in how they dole out punishment, that the severity of the punishment should take a person’s track record into account.

A 14-year-old named Lindsey Tanner in Shreveport, Louisiana, was punished for offering a Midol pill to a fellow student, according to USA Today. Lindsay had no history of drug use or discipline issues, even though the drug she was handing out wasn’t even a narcotic she had to attend a six-week drug and alcohol awareness program and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Lindsay was also required to attend an alternative school for the rest of eighth grade and part of ninth grade. The newspaper claims that Lindsay isn’t alone, she is one of thousands of students who are treated the same as more violent or regular offenders due to zero-tolerance policies.

Interestingly, zero-tolerance policies were the result of the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994, an act that required states that received federal funds to mandate that local school districts expel students who bring a weapon to school for a minimum of one year. As a result every school made their own interpretation of how to handle less severe offenses, such as bringing drugs to school, as well as over-the-counter medication.

  • 94 percent of American schools have zero-tolerance policies for weapons or firearms
  • 87 percent for alcohol
  • 79 percent for violence or tobacco

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Medical Marijuana and Organ Transplants

Medical marijuana has been a hot button topic in California for some time now. Whether or not you are for or against medical marijuana, there are many people who are suffering from chronic pain related to a number of disorders who find relief from cannabis. Unbelievably, a man who was on the liver transplant list at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles has been removed because he was using medical marijuana to help with his cancer and did not show up for a drug test.

In order for Norman Smith to get back on the list, he must avoid medical marijuana for six months and submit to random drug testing as well as undergo counseling, reports the Los Angeles Times. As far as organ donor programs go there is no standard as to who can or cannot receive organs when medical marijuana is involved.

“We do not make a moral or ethical judgment about people who are smoking medical marijuana. Our concern is strictly for the health and safety of our patients,” said Sally Stewart, a spokesperson for the hospital.

According to the hospital’s policy, if a patient on a transplant list tests positive for marijuana, they can remain on the list if they sign a statement promising to stay away from the drug. If they fail a random drug test or do not show up for one, they are removed from the list. It is hard to agree with a policy like the one Cedar-Sinai uses, especially considering that people with terminal diseases find the drug to provide more relief than prescription drugs. There is hardly a legitimate reason to deny someone a liver transplant solely based off the use of medical marijuana.

Marijuana may not be a healthy alternative medicine to use, but if it provides relief for terminally ill patients many believe it should be considered an accepted practice.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rappers Promoting Alcoholic Beverages Boosting Sales

Over the past decade musicians have taken a strong interest in endorsing alcoholic drinks, typically due to the popularity of a drink or because they have stakes in the company financially. There is nothing wrong with promoting a product that one has invested in; however, if promoting a product that encourages younger people such as teenagers to think that drinking a particular alcoholic beverage like Grey Goose is cool, then it can be dangerous.

The Los Angeles Times reports that rappers have been promoting their products in their songs to help boost sales, artists such as:
  • Pitbull
  • Sean “Diddy” Combs
  • Snoop Dogg
  • Ludacris

If you were to watch the video for Pitbull’s song “Give Me Everything,” he pours a glass of Voli vodka, and mentions the brand in his song “Rain Over Me.” In both songs you can see Voli Vodka bottles which the rapper owns a stake in, the newspaper reports. Combs promotes Ciroc vodka, a drink he has financial ties to, he has been featuring the drink in his videos as well as tweeting about the drink many times on Twitter. In April, Snoop Dogg began promoting the fruit-flavored alcoholic drink Blast by Colt 45.

One in five songs that are popular with teens have explicit references to alcohol, and one-quarter of these songs mention a specific brand, according to a new study published last month. Clearly, promotions like these can have far reaching effects that could be a factor that helps send teenagers down the wrong path.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh analyzed 793 songs that were popular among youths between 2005 and 2007. Their findings showed that frequent exposure to alcohol brand names in songs could encourage substance abuse among teens.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prescription Drug Database Funding Cuts

As the fight against prescription drug abuse in America continues some states are finding it difficult to move forward with prescription drug databases due to lack of funding. California is one of those states according to the Associated Press, where proposed budget cuts may render their new prescription drug database useless.

The number of people running the system recently has been cut from eight people to two, and no one will be left to run it in January unless more funding arises according to the article. Without any employees no one will be able to update the system, making the whole database pointless.

More than 8,000 physicians and pharmacists have signed up to use the database since it began in 2009. Law enforcement has used the database for criminal investigations. The database is also useful for determining if patients or doctors are involved in prescription drug abuse, the AP notes.

More than 100 million prescriptions have been logged into the database and four to six million new prescriptions per month are being inputted. The system has been used more than one million times for patient activity reports. Prescription drug databases are the only way this country will ever gain control of prescription drug abuse, states need to find a way to allocate more funding because in the end the abuse will cost state budgets more than the database.

The yearly cost of running the database is less than $1 million, according to the article.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Twin Study On Smoking Cigarettes

Quitting smoking can be extremely difficult and typically one’s ease in quitting varies from case to case. It has long been a mystery as to why some people who smoke for years can just stop smoking no problem while others will have a hard time not lighting up again. New research, conducted on twins, has shown that one’s ability to quit may be genetic which could explain the apparent anomalies from case to case.

596 pairs of twins, 363 identical, and 233 fraternal took part in the study. Among identical twins, 65 percent of both twins quit in a two-year span if one twin quit. Among fraternal twins, the percentage was 55 percent. These results show that genetic factors are involved, since identical twins share the exact same DNA, while fraternal twins do not, Time reports.

We need to keep in mind that the study looked at smoking behaviors of twins between 1960 and 1980, obviously the public’s perception about smoking changed in the United States during that time period. Researcher Fred Pampel of the University of Colorado noted in a news release that fewer people today smoke than in the past, but those who continue to smoke are more likely to be hard-core smokers who are most strongly influenced by genetic factors.

The researchers said current policies to reduce smoking, including bans on smoking in public spaces and high tobacco taxes, may not be as effective as they once were since many smokers today do not smoke out of choice, but rather because they are addicted to nicotine.

More emphasis is needed on nicotine-replacement therapy and counseling, Pampel said. The more alternatives made available to smokers the more likely people will try to quit. Most smokers may want to quit, but have been unable to find a suitable replacement for their needs.

The study appears in the journal Demography.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Alcohol Consumption On The Rise

Alcohol, while legal, is still extremely harmful to one’s health and many people are unaware of this fact. More alcohol is consumed in the United States than any other mind altering substance often leading to people’s relaxed view of the dangers associated with alcohol. Most people are exposed to alcohol at a fairly young age either by family or friends; it is often hard for teenagers and young adults to see the harm with drinking, especially since most of their peers consume alcohol.

A new poll has shown that alcohol consumption is on the rise in the United States, although drinking preferences are different depending on which region of the country you are in, according to USA Today. A 2010 Gallup Poll showed that alcohol use was at a 25-year high, 67 percent of Americans claimed that they drink alcohol.

There are a number of factors associated with the apparent rise in active drinkers. The economy has a huge role in the spike, with high unemployment rates across the country and mass home foreclosures, there are many people who are using alcohol to deal with the hard times. There is also another sector of drinkers who have lost their jobs and are finding that they have more time to drink, Jon Taffer, a bar consultant, told USA Today

The people of New England, the far West and Upper Plains states drink the most, while those living in the Deep South and Mid-Atlantic, except for Washington D.C., drink the least, according to the Beer Institute. New Hampshire residents consumed more alcohol per person than any other state — more than double the national average.

Wine consumption is perhaps the most popular drink these days, an average of 2.3 gallons apiece in 2010, up 35 percent since 1994. In the same period, spirit consumption rose 18 percent, to 1.5 gallons per person, while beer drinking dropped 7 percent, to 20.7 gallons per person, reports the Beer Institute.

Alcohol is highly addictive and it does not take much prolonged drinking for a problem to develop. People need to keep in mind that alcohol is not a healthy coping mechanism and if problem drinking occurs help should be sought out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Primary Care Physicians Managing Pain

Pain management is an extremely difficult field of medicine. There are few actual pain specialists in America which makes pain management fall in the lap of primary care physicians. Few primary care physicians have been properly educated in how to adequately deal with the ever growing prescription drug epidemic, according to American Medical News. In most cases primary care physicians are a contributing factor in how prescription drug abuse has spun out of control.

“Doctors have caused an epidemic, not out of malicious intent but out of a desire to treat pain compassionately,” Andrew Kolodny, MD, President of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, told the publication. “We over prescribed and created a public health crisis.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the number of Americans who died from overdoses of prescription painkillers more than tripled in the past decade. Now more people die from prescription opioids than from heroin and cocaine combined.

An estimated 14,800 people died in the United States from painkiller overdoses in 2008, a more than threefold jump from the 4,000 deaths recorded in 1999, the CDC said in a new report.

Primary care physicians often develop a strong rapport with their patients often making hard to say no when a patient asks for a particular drug. In many cases doctors are not conducting thorough exams to determine the source of the problem, assuming there is actually a problem. Doctors write prescriptions more than they look for solutions to the problem their patient is suffering from. Prescription opioids should only be prescribed as a last resort.

The more thorough doctors are with their patients can directly influence the number of patients who die from accidental overdoses. Doctors can no longer take their patients word about their ailments, as more and more people lie about their symptoms to acquire their drugs of choice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Suboxone Effective Treatment for Prescription Opioids

Opiate addiction has become a growing problem due to the rise of prescription drug problems in America. Prescription opioids are not too dissimilar from heroin, the base ingredients are essentially the same, so treating prescription opioid addiction is about the same as treating heroin addiction. In the past ten years a number of drugs have been made available for treating opiate addiction, drugs like buprenorphine, commonly known as Suboxone, has proven to be far more effective for treatment purposes than methadone.

A study was recently conducted, the first of its kind, of treatment for addiction to prescription opioids. The study found that Suboxone (buprenorphine plus naloxone) is quite effective. The study was conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

650 people addicted to prescription painkillers took part in the study, according to ABC News. Suboxone tricks opioid receptors in the brain, which reduces one’s cravings, making treatment for opioid abuse more effective.

Over the course of 12 weeks, 49 percent of participants reduced prescription painkiller abuse. Once they stopped taking Suboxone, the success rate dropped to 8.6 percent.

“The study suggests that patients addicted to prescription opioid painkillers can be effectively treated in primary care settings using Suboxone,” NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD, said in a news release. “However, once the medication was discontinued, patients had a high rate of relapse—so more research is needed to determine how to sustain recovery among patients addicted to opioid medications.”

There is a downside to taking drugs like Suboxone, it is addictive and prolonged use could lead to a relapse. It should only be used in prescription settings where usage can be monitored and counseling can be provided along with the medication. Taking the drug at home can lead to taking too much as well as people selling the drug for cash to buy the drugs they really desire.

The results appear in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Prescription Drug Take Back Day Success

Prescription drugs are often not completely used which is why states have started instituting prescription drug take back days. Most people when they no longer require the drugs they were prescribed will leave them in their medicine cabinet which can lead to people or children coming upon them and taking them recreationally. Scenarios like that often lead to unintentional overdoses especially with drugs like oxycodone.

An estimated 14,800 people died in the United States from painkiller overdoses in 2008, a more than threefold jump from the 4,000 deaths recorded in 1999, the CDC said. Prescription and illegal drugs caused 36,450 deaths in 2008, compared with 39,973 deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

Since the start of this year’s take back day, 188.5 tons of unwanted or expired prescription medications were collected around the country, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced.

Almost 500 tons of medications have been collected by the DEA since it began the program 13 months ago, according to the Associated Press. More than 5,000 drug collection locations were set up around the country this year.

“The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the past three Take-Back Day events speaks volumes about the need to develop a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs,” DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said in a news release.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report that found the number of Americans who died from overdoses of prescription painkillers more than tripled in the past decade. Prescription drugs are a serious health concern across the country and around the world, with more and more drugs being prescribed every day authorities need to be extra vigilant with regard to the matter.

Everyone should do their part and properly dispose of prescription medications, it can save lives.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Prescription Drug Deaths Triple

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention just released a startling report regarding prescription drug overdoses. More people die from prescription drug overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined, the number of Americans who died from overdoses of prescription painkillers more than tripled in the past decade, according to the CDC.

According to the CDC and the AP:

  • An estimated 14,800 people died in the United States from painkiller overdoses in 2008, a more than threefold jump from the 4,000 deaths recorded in 1999.
  • Prescription and illegal drugs caused 36,450 deaths in 2008, compared with 39,973 deaths from motor vehicle crashes.

The CDC attributes the rise in prescription drug overdoses to:
  • “pill mills”
  • “doctor shopping”

In 2010, the amount of prescription painkillers that were prescribed could medicate every American in the country around the clock for an entire month, according to the CDC. “Right now, the system is awash in opioids—dangerous drugs that got people hooked and keep them hooked,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden.

“Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America,” Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, said in a CDC news release. He noted health care providers and patients should be educated on the risks of prescription painkillers. “Parents and grandparents should properly dispose of any unneeded or expired medications from the home and to talk to their kids about the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs,” he pointed out.

It is unbelievable how easy it has become to acquire prescription opioids in this country. It is no wonder considering the apparent lack of oversight regarding production as well as distribution of the drugs. However, with the advent of new state-to-state prescription drug databases we will hopefully see a dramatic drop in overdoses associated with prescription drugs.

According to the CDC, 40 Americans die every day from prescription painkiller abuse!

Monday, October 31, 2011

More Prescription Drug Arrests in Florida

The war against the prescription drug epidemic in Florida wages on, with more and more people being arrested for illegal distribution of such drugs - including doctors and pharmacists. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder went to Tampa, Florida to report the arrest of 22 people in Central Florida on charges of illegal prescription drug distribution; among the arrested were five doctors and two pharmacists. With the help of the new drug database as well as stricter enforcement policies, the days of illegally obtaining prescription narcotics may be slowly coming to an end.

Between 2005 and 2010, oxycodone-related deaths in Florida increased by 345 percent, according to Holder in his speech. Last year, there was an estimated 53 million oxycodone pills sold to medical practitioners in the United States, it is unbelievable to think that more than 85 percent were bought in Florida.

Drug tourism is a major problem in Florida, people travel across state lines into Florida to buy prescription narcotics with ease, only to travel to another state to sell them. On top of the 22 arrests, there were another fifteen people were indicted in a conspiracy to illegally obtain controlled substances and transport them to Kentucky, according to the Associated Press.

“The days of easily acquiring these drugs from corrupt doctors and pharmacists is coming to an end,” Holder said. He announced a Drug Enforcement Administration Tactical Diversion Squad is being created in Orlando to shut down:
  • “pill mills”
  • prescription forgery rings
  • illegal online pharmacies

These squads are already operating in 40 cities, including Tampa and Miami and should be quite effective in curbing the raging epidemic. Florida, as well as number of other states, needs to be vigilant if they are ever going to have a significant impact regarding this problem. We need to better educate people as to the dangers associated with prescription narcotics because many people believe that they are safer than illegal drugs - which is simply not the case.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Washington Votes On Alcohol Privatization

In every state in the country alcohol is big business which requires a lot of oversight and control laws. Often times the state will control the distribution of liquor, to be dispensed in state owned liquor stores and by doing so the price of liquor is strictly controlled; in turn this helps control the amount of consumption as well. In the state of Washington a new bill is being voted on that would privatize liquor sales the same way beer and wine is sold. The alcohol watchdog group, Alcohol Justice, is strongly opposed to the new bill.

Ballots were sent by mail last week, and must be returned by November 8 and if it is passed this could generate a lot of revenue for the state. Meanwhile, alcohol distributors would take huge financial hits which have prompted them to vote against it. Naturally, behind the new bill is a huge corporation which stands to make millions if the proposed measure I-1183 is passed. Costco has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to pass the measure, which led to the collection of more than 360,000 signatures to help put it on the ballot.

Alcohol Justice says I-1183 will authorize five times as many alcohol retailers, this will lead to a jump in consumption and problem drinking. Alcohol Justice sited a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who made a recommendation against any the further privatization of alcohol sales in settings with current government control of retail sales. With any luck enough people will vote against the new measure.

“This finding is based on strong evidence that privatization results in increased per capita alcohol consumption, a well-established proxy for excessive consumption,” the CDC noted in the report.

The article notes Washington Governor Chris Gregoire opposes the measure.

Wall Street Journal

Monday, October 24, 2011

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are Closing

A number of medical marijuana dispensaries have begun closing their doors in response to a mandate given to landlords of such facilities by the federal government. The government has chosen to go after landlords rather than dispensary owners themselves to put a stop to all of this. Many of the 38 clinics in central California have closed because landlords were given two weeks to evict them, according to the Associated Press.

Four U.S. attorneys said they would prosecute landlords who rent their buildings to operators of medical marijuana dispensaries, threatened with criminal charges or seizure of their assets.

“What we are seeing is a wholesale violation of both federal and state law by some people involved in the industry,” Thom Mrozek, a spokesman with the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, told the AP. “There are huge amounts of money going into this industry. It’s our position that this goes way beyond simply paying rent and cultivating marijuana.”

The U.S. Justice Department stated that medical marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers are not immune from prosecution for violation of federal drug and money-laundering laws.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote a policy memo to federal prosecutors that states, “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law.”

The moves being made are not surprising; the federal government has worked tirelessly to find a way to stop the movement, what better way than to outlaw the renting of office space for marijuana related businesses.The attorneys said they suspect these dispensaries of using the state’s medical marijuana law to profit from large-scale drug sales. They said they are also focusing on properties used to grow marijuana.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

American Support For Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana is a hot button topic in America; there are a number of people who would like to see the drug legalized. However, there has been little scientific data to support the cause which is why the California Medical Association (CMA) is asking for the Obama administration to stop the prohibition which has gone on in this country for over 70 years. The CMA believes that lifting the ban will allow for more research to be conducted, shedding light on the medical properties of the substance.

A new poll conducted by Gallup has shown that half of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, up from 46 percent last year.

Among adults under age 30, who have deemed themselves as liberals, 60 percent support of legalization, according to Reuters. Surprisingly, 31 percent of Americans over age 65 said they support legalization of marijuana as well.

The first Gallup poll that asked about Americans to give their thoughts on the subject, in 1969, found 12 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana. Support for legalization passed 30 percent in 2000, and 40 percent in 2009.

55 percent of men and 46 percent of women in the new poll backed legalization.

Medical marijuana has had a lot of influence on people regarding their thoughts about the drug. Typically, the drug is not associated with violent crimes making it more acceptable in the public’s eye.

Monday, October 17, 2011

California Medical Association Supports Legalization

A big leap has occurred this week regarding the legalization of marijuana in the state of California, a cause that now has the support of the California Medical Association (CMA). The policy was adopted by the CMA at its annual meeting on Friday; the association represents more than 35,000 doctors. The CMA is the first major medical organization to support marijuana legalization, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The way it works now has many doctors uncomfortable with recommending a drug for medical use when the federal government still deems the drug illegal. Furthermore, it is quite difficult to conduct testing on the drug in order to determine its medical values. The CMA would like the Obama administration to legalize the drug so that such testing can be conducted. The association hopes that marijuana can be monitored the same way big tobacco has been for years.

The CMA released a statement, stating that it advocates the regulation of medical marijuana “to allow for wider clinical research, accountable and quality controlled production of the substance and proper public awareness.” They also support the legalization of recreational marijuana use so states can regulate it for purity and safety.

Not everyone shares the CMA’s sentiments regarding legalization, John Lovell, spokesman for the California Police Chiefs Association, responded to the proposal, “Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana — how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence — it’s just an unbelievably irresponsible position.”

It is easy to support both arguments on this subject, and this will most likely be debated for years to come. The drug certainly has medical properties, but, it also has addictive properties as well as effects on the brain. It seems unlikely that the federal government will heed the call form the CMA considering that it just announced that dispensaries and growers in medical marijuana states are not immune to punishment just because the state they are in allows it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Binge Drinking Takes Another Life

Young adults who binge drink frequently should be concerned about how dangerous it can be as well as fatal. Drinking on its own is harmful to one’s health, but drinking excessively in a short amount of time has proven time and again to be fatal for a number of people. As was the case for 21 year-old Lydia Clark, a Drake University student, who died after an apparent night of binge drinking on her birthday.

According to Clark’s friends, she had consumed approximately 16 shots that night but did not appear to be dangerously intoxicated; Clark started drinking at about 9:30 p.m. on Friday and continued for about six hours, offered Ivey Bruton, a Junior at Kansas State University and childhood friend who was with Clark when she died.

Clark had an undiagnosed heart condition that contributed to her death, according to her father who spoke with the Register.

According to KCCI, Drake University released a statement on Clark's death:

"It is with sadness that Drake University confirms that Lydia Clark, from Meriden, Kansas, passed away on Saturday afternoon at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. Lydia was a junior international relations and rhetoric major. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her."

The Iowa State Daily published an editorial, inspired by Clark’s tragic passing.

"We are neither condemning nor condoning that level of alcohol consumption or passing judgment on her in any way, but this event is a tragedy that should serve as a reminder of the highest magnitude to students of all classes and ages that, when taken in too much excess, alcohol is not merely intoxicating, but deadly," the paper's editorial board wrote.

Monday, October 10, 2011

California Medical Marijuana Under Fire

In 1996 California became the first state to allow a medical marijuana program to provide sick patients with cannabis. As a result, what seemed like overnight, the marijuana industry became big business “over the table”. There are people who feel that medical marijuana helps them more than any other prescription drug and in that manner medical marijuana programs are a good thing and a step towards ending the prohibition. However, as individuals starting making more and more money on distributing marijuana it has caused federal officials to step in. While California may have been the model that other states followed in implementing their own medical marijuana programs, every state is different and has their own rules and regulations regarding the distribution of the product - with a lot more oversight than California.

The New York Times reports that the United States attorneys in California have told dozens of marijuana dispensaries to close their doors or face criminal and civil action. Last Friday, four U.S. attorneys stated that they would prosecute landlords who rent space to operators of medical marijuana dispensaries. They claim that such dispensaries are using the state’s medical marijuana law to profit from large-scale drug sales, worth tens of millions of dollars’ and the drug is crossing state lines which is illegal.

The attorneys will not be focusing on individual patients, they are focusing on commercial operations. “Large commercial operations cloak their money-making activities in the guise of helping sick people when they are in fact helping themselves,” said Benjamin B. Wagner, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento. “Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously ill sick people and those who are caring for them.”

Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote a policy memo to federal prosecutors that states, “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law.”

Unfortunately, the federal government may be biting off more than they can chew, with 15 states actively allowing medical marijuana programs it may be hard to crack down, let alone single out California. What’s more, there are more people requiring medical marijuana than there are growers, let alone distributors; closing down dispensaries might force the market to go back underground opening the doors for cartels and gangs to come back into the picture.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Drunk Driving Remains High With Young Adults

Drunk driving continues to be a huge dilemma across the United States, a problem that constantly needs to be addressed by law makers and police officers. While the number of drunk driving incidents have been dropping overall, drunk driving amongst young adults continues to stay high - especially with young men, binge-drinkers, and people who do not wear seat belts, according to a report conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Drunk driving is a public health problem with far-reaching effects,” Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., Director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a news release. “Drunk drivers, who have delayed reaction times and reflexes, put even the most responsible drivers and pedestrians in harm’s way.”

There were an estimated 112 million drunk-driving incidents in 2010, or an average of 300,000 per day, according to HealthDay. Drunk driving accounts for almost 11,000 traffic fatalities annually, about one-third of the total.

The CDC found:
  • Men account for 81 percent of drunk drivers.
  • Men ages 21 to 34 make up 11 percent of the population, they account for 32 percent of drunk drivers.
  • 85 percent of adults who admitted to drinking and driving said they binge drink.
  • People who reported not wearing a seat belt were four times as likely to be involved in a drunk driving incident.
The recession may play a part in the overall drop of drunk driving incidents, with more people drinking at home rather than driving to bars or restaurants, according to CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. In an attempt to reduce drunk driving rates even more the CDC recommended:
  • sobriety checkpoints
  • keeping the minimum drinking age at 21 in all states
  • requiring convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks

Monday, October 3, 2011

Unused Medication Dilemma

Every year millions of Americans are prescribed medications for a whole host of problems; pain management, anti-anxiety, and anti-depression are some of the most common reasons people are prescribed medications today. With more people turning to prescription medications than ever, there has been a concern in a number of states regarding disposal of unused medications. Unused medications often end up in the wrong hands fueling people's addiction, sometimes sold and other times stolen by teenagers rummaging through their parents medicine cabinet. In an attempt to cut back on such activities, certain states have formed medication disposal programs. Such programs have proven to be an effective solution to the growing home stock piles of unused prescription medications. Unfortunately, these programs are quite costly, especially for states that have environmental protection laws in place which force states to send medications out of state for proper disposal.

Maine is a state with strict environmental laws which costs the state a lot of money slated for collecting unused medications which is being diverted to pay for the cost of outsourcing the job of disposal. In order to slash costs, Maine is experimenting with composting prescription medications so that they are safe to send to the landfill or be used for other purposes. Maine officials hope composting will be an inexpensive solution to disposing of medications, according to the Morning Sentinel. The article points out that Maine rounds up more unused medications per resident than any other state in the country. It is frightening to think that in a low population state like Maine, prescription drug use is extremely high.

State officials plan to try a number of composting ideas by putting the unused drugs into bins which will be monitored as the drugs break down. If the plan is successful, state officials will be able to safely dispose of the drugs. A number of people who are uninformed about prescription drug disposal programs will often flush unused drugs down the toilet which is terrible for the water supply. Hopefully, state disposal programs will work hard to keep their citizens informed about disposal programs so that unused medications end up in the right hands and the right place.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Antipsychotics Ineffective Treatment for Recovery

There isn't a science associated with helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction, no formula to make everything better. Every case is different, what worked for the last patient may or may not work now. It is often the case that people checking into treatment facilities are dealing with other psychological disorders that hinder recovery. Such cases are classified as "dual diagnosis" or "co-occurring disorders" and generally require more attention from doctors or specialists. Doctors in the recovery field will, at times, use medications typically used for other disorders to treat patients dealing with substance abuse - "off label". In some cases this practice has helped people recover, but, there are a number of cases that certain medications have exacerbated the problem.

Drugs known as anti-psychotics are often used in the treatment and recovery field to help patients get well. A new report points out that this tactic is not effective in treating addiction. People who show signs of other mental health problems on top of addiction are sometimes given drugs typically used for anti-psychosis and in some cases they have proven to be useful in evening out one's brain chemistry. When anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications do not appear to work doctors will often turn to anti-psychotics.

The most common drugs prescribed are:
  • Risperdal
  • Abilify
  • Zyprexa
  • Seroquel
Data was combined from 162 studies of atypical antipsychotics prescribed for “off label” uses by researchers from RAND Health in Santa Monica, California. Their conclusion from the studies was that the drugs did not have an effect in patients with drug and alcohol abuse, or with eating disorders. Antipsychotics showed side-effects such as:
  • tremors
  • stroke
  • weight gain
  • fatigue

People entering drug and alcohol treatment should be informed about the drugs they are being prescribed. People need to take an active part in their recovery and should be informed about the medications that are given to them.

The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicago Area Addicts: Whites, Suburban, Upper Middle Class

The City of Chicago has long been under siege by street drugs, not too dissimilar than most major cities in America with high poverty. However, as prescription drugs become more acceptable for many people to take because of the misconception that they are somehow safer than street drugs; many upper class suburban Americans have began abusing prescription drugs - especially in the Chicago area. People who are hooked on prescription medicines, like oxycodone and Xanax, will often substitute heroin if they run out of their prescription early; Chicago is an epicenter for the heroin trade in America, but, as more people move to the suburbs street drugs like heroin will and have followed.

Experts say that drug addicts who are white, suburban, and upper-middle class are becoming more and more common. The number of older adults looking for pain relief as well as teens who just want to get high is growing, the Chicago Tribune reports. What's more, you don't have to go to a doctor to acquire prescription drugs anymore since street gangs are being supplied by drug cartels with such drugs, according to Jack Riley of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chicago Division; there is an incentive for cartels who deal with prescription drugs considering that prescription drugs are typically sold for more than street drugs making them a more lucrative venture.

Jake Epperly, the owner of a recovery center in the Chicago area, made a valid point about peoples' ability to transition from so-called "safe" prescription medicines to heroin. He points out that people no longer have to inject heroin, they can smoke or snort the drug because of an influx of Mexican black tar heroin, a gummy substance not to dissimilar from hashish. In the past Chicago heroin was typically in white powder form, known as China White, a form of the drug that is most commonly injected.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spike in Young Adult Overdose Hospitalizations

Just after a report was released showing that prescription drugs kill more people every year than auto accidents, a new report has shown a spike in overdoses amongst 18 - 24 year olds according to government researchers. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is quite common among those in this age bracket; however, the numbers uncovered by the report are staggering. The researchers, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, regarding that age bracket found that between 1999 and 2008, hospitalizations rose by:

  • 25 percent for alcohol overdoses
  • 56 percent for drug overdoses
  • 76 percent for overdoses caused by a combination of drugs and alcohol

The report showed that in 2008, one out of every three overdoses that required hospitalization in that age group involved heavy alcohol consumption. Their findings also showed that hospitalizations for drugs severely outweighed those for alcohol:

  • 29,000 alcohol overdoses among young adults reached in 2008
  • 29,000 combined drug and alcohol overdoses
  • 114,000 overdoses involving drugs alone

You may be wondering why there were so many more drug overdoses than anything else? The answer to that question is prescription drugs and how many of them are out there in just about every household in America.
Researchers saw a 122 percent jump in the rate of poisonings from prescription opioids and related narcotics among young adults. Prescription drugs can be extremely dangerous if used improperly or if mixed with alcohol, causing a potentially fatal combination. Many people have the opinion that because a drug is prescribed by a doctor that it is safe and somehow less addictive than prescription drug cousins - illegal drugs. “The combination of alcohol with narcotic pain medications is particularly dangerous, because they both suppress activity in brain areas that regulate breathing and other vital functions,” researcher Aaron M. White, PhD, said in a news release.

The study is published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Prescription Drugs Kill More Than Auto Accidents

An analysis conducted by the LA Times has concluded with startling facts related to causes of death. It's is the first time in current history, since the government started tracking drug related deaths in 1979, that more people died from drug related deaths than traffic accidents. The rise in overdoses caused by prescription narcotics is testament to the fact that more people than ever are being prescribed prescription drugs. With little oversight in how patients take their prescriptions, it is not all that surprising that prescription drugs have become one of the top causes of accidental deaths. According to the article, the number of annual drug related deaths have doubled, with an estimated 37,485 Americans who died from drug-related causes in 2009.

We could combine the number of deaths caused by heroin and cocaine and it would still be less than number of deaths related to prescription drugs. It seems strange, with so much money being invested in stopping the flow of illegal drugs in America, that prescription drugs would be the biggest killer. It shows how much more needs to be done to curb the rising prescription drug abuse trends. Most prescription drug overdoses are tied to the use of pain killers and anti-anxiety medication like Xanax and Valium. Annual auto accident related deaths have decreased by more than one-third since the early 1970s, to 36,284 in 2009; the decrease has been attributed to advancements in auto safety.

“Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn’t have the same stigma as using street narcotics,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sergeant Steve Opferman, the heads a county task force on prescription drug-related crimes. Between 2000 and 2008, drug related deaths:
  • More than doubled among teenagers and young adults.
  • More than tripled among people ages 50 to 69.
  • The number of drug-related deaths was greatest among people in their 40s

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taconic Parkway Crash Husband Sues NY

It's been over two years since Diane Schuler drove the wrong way on to the Taconic Parkway killing her and five children and another three gentlemen in an oncoming vehicle. Despite the fact that authorities found a broken bottle of vodka on the scene, as well as vodka and marijuana in Diane's blood, her husband maintains that Diane was a perfect mother and did not have a substance abuse problem. Since the accident, there have been independent investigations that support the initial findings, yet Daniel Schuler continues to fight for his wife's innocence. Now, Daniel Schuler is suing the state of New York and the father of three nieces who were killed, claiming that there was inadequate signage and the vehicle that Diane was driving, a trailblazer owned by the father of the three nieces, was faulty.

"It's a terrible tragedy," Tom Ruskin, who was hired by the Schulers to investigate the accident, told the Post. "His wife was drunk and high at the time of the accident that killed seven innocent people. You don't keep suing people...If she was alive today, Diane would likely be in jail."

Last month, HBO did a special on the story called "There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane", which points out Schuler's obsessive perfectionism and how it may have been a factor in the crash. Diane's family and friends explained to filmmaker Liz Garbus, Diane Schuler strived to be the best in every way. By all accounts, Diane Schuler was a "super mom", a control freak tormented by a tumultuous past; apparently Diane's mother abandoned her when she was 9.

It is sad that Daniel Schuler will not let this case rest; it must be extremely hard on the other families who lost so much on that fateful day. The fact is, science doesn't lie, toxicology reports at the time showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, equivalent to 10 drinks, as well as high levels of THC from marijuana. Without a doubt Schuler needed help, she was clearly suffering; no stable person would make the choices she made that day.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Parents Influence Kids Driving Intoxicated

In many ways children are blank slates, extremely impressionable and can pick up behaviors with ease, even bad habits. Parents act as guides for their children, helping them navigate their way through a world that has a lot of snares and traps that can bring them to places they shouldn’t go. In many ways you can bet that a parent’s behavior will, 9 times out of 10, be adopted by their children. Kids who witness their parents drinking and drugging will without a doubt become curious and it is only a matter of time before they adopt the habits of their parents.

A new report points out that teens whose parents drink are more likely to drive under the influence (DUI) when they are adults than children with non-drinking parents. What’s interesting is that the study found that it did not matter how much one’s parents drink, even children whose parents drink moderately are at risk for problems.

Almost 10,000 teens and their parents were surveyed, and then surveyed again seven years later. The report showed that friends also had a role to play in drunk driving, but, parents had the bigger role. Teens are at highest risk when they have both friends and parents who drink alcohol: 11 percent of these teens said they drove under the influence when they were in their 20s.

“The main idea is that parents’ alcohol use has an effect on their kids’ behavior,” study lead author, Mildred Maldonado-Molina of the University of Florida College of Medicine, said in a university news release. “It’s important for parents to know that their behavior has an effect not only at that developmental age when their kids are adolescents, but also on their future behavior as young adults.”

The findings showed that 6 percent of teenagers whose parents drank, even occasionally, said they drove under the influence when they were 21, compared with 2 percent of those whose parents did not drink, Health Day News reports.

The results are published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How Alcohol Affects Choices

It has long been known that alcohol lowers one's inhibitions causing them to make decisions that they would not normally consider. Countless people who drink regularly have had experiences that they regretted upon sobering up. It is not a coincidence when people get multiple DUI citations throughout their drinking careers, it isn't that they do not know what they are doing is wrong. It is just that alcohol makes them careless about their actions causing them to make decisions counter to reason. New research may have shown how alcohol affects self-control by dulling the brain signal that informs someone they are making a mistake.

Researchers from the University of Missouri measured brain activity in 67 participants while they were performing a challenging computer task, according to Science Daily. The participants’ mood was observed by researchers, as well as their accuracy in completing the task and how accurate the participants thought they were.
  • One-third of participants were given alcoholic drinks
  • one third had a placebo drink
  • one-third did not have any drink

The brain’s “alarm signal” when responding to a mistake was significantly reduced in the alcohol group compared with the other two groups. Although, participants who drank alcohol were no less likely to realize they had made a mistake, but, they were less likely than those in the non-alcohol groups to slow down and be more careful after making a mistake.

“In tasks like the one we used, although we encourage people to try to respond as quickly as possible, it is very common for people to respond more slowly following an error, as a way of trying to regain self-control. That’s what we saw in our placebo group. The alcohol group participants didn’t do this,” lead researcher Bruce Bartholow said.

The study is published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

European Mental Health Problem

As the world moves forward into the 21st century, mental health has fast become the world’s largest health problem. A gap in mental health treatment continues to grow wider, not just in America but in Europe as well. People suffering from mental illnesses rarely receive the treatment that they so desperately need, testament to the fact that society still does not understand the social impact that not treating mental illness can have. A large part of the people that we pass every day who are living on the streets are suffering from a mental disability in one form or another.

According to a new study conducted in Europe, there are almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population who deal each year with a brain disorder such as: depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia. Sadly, only about a third of the suffering receive any treatment like therapy or medication and those who do receive it typically are given sub-par treatment - a far cry from the state of the art medical techniques available.

"Mental disorders have become Europe's largest health challenge of the 21st century," the study's authors said.

Unfortunately, as more and more people become afflicted by mental illness, drug companies are pulling back their investments in brain research and how it affects behavior. This puts the load on top of governments and charitable organizations to fund most of the research while drug companies get rich off the drugs doctors prescribe.

“The immense treatment gap ... for mental disorders has to be closed," said Hans Ulrich Wittchen, director of the institute of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Germany's Dresden University and the lead investigator on the European study.

Wittchen led a three-year study covering 30 European countries, including the 27 European Union member states plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway  - a population of 514 million people. “Those few receiving treatment do so with considerable delays of an average of several years and rarely with the appropriate, state-of-the-art therapies."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

$88 Million To Prevent Youth Substance Use

Adolescent and teen substance abuse is an ever growing concern as more kids have access to dangerous prescription medications than ever before. In an attempt to combat the growing problem, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), today announced $12.3 million in new Drug Free Communities Support Program (DFC) grants to 87 communities and 20 new DFC Mentoring grants across the country. These grants will be in addition to the nearly $76 million in Continuation grants simultaneously released to 607 currently funded DFC coalitions and twelve DFC Mentoring Continuation coalitions. The goal of the awarded grants is to help community organizations to educate our youth on the dangers of abuse and addiction, as well as help those already afflicted find adequate treatment programs.

"The most powerful tool we have to address our Nation's drug problem is preventing it before it even begins," said Director Kerlikowske. "Research shows that every dollar invested in drug education and prevention programs saves up to ten dollars in costs related to treatment for substance use. President Obama understands how the hard work of local community leaders, youth, parents, educators, healthcare professionals, faith-based leaders, law enforcement officials, and others can strengthen communities and save kids' lives."

The fight to keep kids off drugs is a never ending battle, as long as drugs are on the streets or in home medicine cabinets there will always be a risk of our youth getting their hands on them. Education programs need to always be available in order to keep kids informed about the dangers of prescription medications as well as hard drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.

"The Drug-Free Communities Support Program is one of the key elements in our nation's efforts to prevent and reduce substance abuse," said Pamela S. Hyde, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "It is effective in large part because it focuses on community-based approaches to promoting safe and healthy environments where families can raise children free from the dangers and destruction of substance abuse."


Monday, August 29, 2011

FDA New Painkiller Approval

Just when one may have thought that there were enough addictive opioids on the market, the FDA has recently given Johnson & Johnson approval to produce another. The drug is called Nucynta and it has a high potential for abuse, where by users can become psychologically or physically dependent on the drug. The new approval is somewhat controversial considering that Nucynta was approved in 2008 in an immediate release format which was heavily abused, the new approval is for an extended release format which should make crushing up the drug to be snorted or injected more difficult.

Nucynta is a Schedule II narcotic, a category of drugs considered to have a strong potential for abuse or addiction but that have legitimate medical use. There is no question whether or not Schedule II drugs help patients with their severe pain; however, these drugs are prescribed far too regularly and to people who could manage on something not as strong and certainly less addictive. The United States is at the forefront of the prescription drug epidemic and more pain narcotics are designed and produced in this country. It is hard to imagine that there are not enough drugs already on the market to deal with the various levels of pain patients experience.

At some point it would be wise on the federal governments behalf to put a moratorium on strong addictive medications that have a high potential for abuse. While pharmaceutical companies continue to make millions of dollars from their medications, there are millions of people suffering from their dependence on those medications. Johnson & Johnson has an answer to pain, but hardly an answer to recovery from prescription drug addiction.

It is always best to search for alternatives forms of pain management, pills may be the quickest most effective form of pain management, but, they are also the most dangerous taking many lives every year. Don't let your doctor be quick and send you on your way with a prescription, it is always best to discuss alternatives.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Social Networking Peer Pressure

The world is getting smaller and less personal due to the World Wide Web; it seems everyone from children to older adults is somehow connected to the Internet and use it on a daily basis. Teenagers are probably online sharing their lives with their peers the most; and it may be that social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are a bad influence on teenagers when it comes to drinking and drug use according to a new survey conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York. Just about every time a party takes place there is always a group of people that posts pictures of people intoxicated, holding drinks, and passed out. Teenagers who see such photos are more inclined to want to drink or get high.

An estimated 70 percent of teens spend time on social networking sites in a typical day, the survey found. Compared with teens who do not use social networking sites, according to the survey those who visit them on a regular basis are:
  • five times as likely to use tobacco
  • three times as likely to drink alcohol
  • twice as likely to use marijuana

The problem is not just with teenagers; the survey found that about half of adolescents on social networking sites have seen photos of teens who are using alcohol or drugs, or who have passed out. Clearly, this fact should concern parents who allow their children to participate on social networking sites. Why there may be other factors that can contribute to underage drinking and drug use, peer influence is huge and should be monitored. A number of parents have befriended their children on such sites in order to keep an eye on what their children and their children's friends are up to.

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Delays on Hydrocodone Restrictions

In the last ten years the United States has seen more prescription drug abuse than ever before, especially when it comes to prescription pain killers like hydrocodone and oxycodone. While E.R. visit records continue to pile up, government officials continue to delay regulations that would tighten up the control of such drugs. In 2009, more than 86,000 ER visits were related to the non-medical use of hydrocodone. There is hardly a household in America that does not have hydrocodone in their medicine cabinet due to over prescribing and lax laws pertaining to Schedule III drugs which can be refilled up to 6 times before one is required to go back to the doctor in order to get more. Whereas Schedule II narcotics must be locked up at pharmacies and physicians can only prescribe one bottle at a time and patients must have an original prescription in order to obtain the medication. Since 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has juggled with the idea of changing Vicodin's (hydrocodone) classification from Schedule III to Schedule II but the decision continues to be pushed back.

Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opiate in the United States, with more than 139 million prescriptions for hydrocodone-containing products dispensed in 2010 and more than 36 million in the first quarter of 2011, according to the DEA. A review of police drug labs showed that seizures of pills containing hydrocodone are second only to those of oxycodone, with almost 45,000 pills containing hydrocodone being seized in the U.S last year.

A bill was introduced in Congress in March that would tighten controls on hydrocodone, bypassing the FDA and DEA rulemaking process. Hopefully, the new bill will take effect, it will be much harder for people to obtain the drug, and surely we will see a decline in E.R. visits.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cell Phones and Medication Compliance

Methamphetamine addiction is extremely difficult to deal with on a number of levels, which is why treating it is equally hard. Every drug affects addicts differently and every addiction has a different drug to help treat it. However, not everyone who goes down the road to recovery is in an inpatient treatment facility which makes monitoring patients and their compliance with taking certain medications a challenge. A new study finds asking patients to use a cell phone to snap a picture of medication for methamphetamine dependence treatment before they take it, and emailing it to their doctor, may be a simple and effective way of monitoring treatment compliance, Medical News Today reports.

Cell phones are devices that everyone these days is familiar with which researchers believe makes using them to aid professionals in treating patients a sound method. Researchers reported that they provided cell phones with cameras to 20 patients who had been prescribed modafinil to treat methamphetamine dependence. Patients take a picture of their medication in their hand before they swallowed it, and then email the photo to the researchers, according to the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

The cell phone method showed to be more effective than two other methods used: medication event monitoring system is a pill bottle that electronically records every time the bottle is opened and the second approach is counting the patient’s supply of pills at each clinic visit.

The cell phone technique gave a more accurate time measure and more frequent assessment of compliance than the other two methods. “Given the ubiquity of cellular telephone use, and the relative ease of this adherence measurement method, we believe it is a useful and cost-effective approach,” the researchers wrote.

Monday, August 15, 2011

AlcoholEdu New College Alcohol Program

As we move closer to the beginning of the fall semester, new students, meaning freshman are preparing to enter a completely new environment and will have all new experiences. Naturally, drugs and alcohol abuse are major concerns for college officials, which is why they are working hard to implement programs that will help educate their students regarding the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Binge drinking and sexual assault occurs every weekend on college campuses across the country. A new program that was just developed will be implemented at a number of campuses this year; aimed at demonstrating the consequences of excessive drinking.

The program, called AlcoholEdu for College, is an online course for college freshman, designed to help students imagine themselves in real-life situations; questions will be asked regarding what a student would do if they saw a friend who drinks too much and goes wild.

A study of 30 campuses, half of which implemented the program, found AlcoholEdu also reduced the risk of students getting into trouble with authorities, according to the Boston Globe. Up to 40 percent of college students in the United States participate in binge drinking, and that statistic has not changed for decades. Almost 2,000 college students in the U.S. die each year from alcohol-related injuries. An estimated 600,000 students are injured while under the influence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The goal is to teach students that they do not have to fall into the pressures from their peers, as well as teach them that if they do have a problem that there is nothing to be embarrassed about and there is help out there. Students should not be afraid about coming forward for a friend that needs help and does not know how to ask for it. Everyday friends save their friends lives just by having the skills to know what to do if there is a problem.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Betty Ford Helping People Recover


Betty Ford was known for many things, some of which are: activism, First Lady of the United States of America, and alcoholic. While the latter may sound unappealing to a number of people, for those whose lives were touched and in some cases saved by Betty, it is a big deal. She was one of the first people in the public spotlight and political arena to speak openly about her affliction and after finding recovery herself she made it her personal mission to help those in need find it, too. Even in death Betty Ford is still helping people in recovery, Mary Pattiz, chairwoman of the board at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, said Wednesday $400,000 was a direct bequest to the center, as well as another $100,000 from a foundation set up by Ford and her late husband, President Gerald Ford, according to The Desert Sun of Palm Springs.

"Mrs. Ford was, and always will be, the heart and soul of this place of healing," Pattiz said. "It means so much to us that after all she had given over the past 30 years, the center was still front and center in her mind during her final days."

The drug treatment facility that Ford co-founded has help over 100,000 people start the road to recovery. It was designed to open the door of treatment for addicts and then would help patients find a suitable extended care facility after 30 days. With the skills patients gained in the first thirty in their tool box, it made what was required to live and prosper in recovery a reality down the road. The entire addiction community owes Betty Ford their gratitude and admiration.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

College Recovery Programs

College is often a high stress environment for a number of people and every student deals with stress differently. Developing healthy coping skills for dealing with stress can be hard for people which is why many turn to drugs and alcohol to help manage the pressure. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol give students a false sense of control that can lead students down the road to addiction. A number of colleges have begun offering services for those individuals who may be abusing substances and/or are addicted to them.

College peers may not have the tools to help their fellow students find recovery and those students who are suffering from addiction will often be too embarrassed to seek help for their problem. This summer, a group of colleges formed the Association for Recovery in Higher Education to promote recovery related initiatives.

Texas Tech has lead the charge n programs related to recovery by offering:
  • 12-step courses
  • classes on relapse prevention
  • opportunities for academic scholarships
  • a serenity center for students who wish to meditate

New recovery programs will be starting this fall at the University of Michigan and Penn State University.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that from 1999 to 2009, the number of students age 18 to 24 seeking treatment for substance abuse more than doubled. The rate of heavy alcohol use—having five or more drinks on five or more occasions in the previous month—is highest among 20- to 22-year-olds; college students are the heaviest drinkers in that group, SAMHSA says.

A well renowned treatment provider will be offering a residence hall for college students in recovery in New York City, which will be open to students going to college in Manhattan such as NYU and Columbia.

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