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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!

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