Wednesday, April 27, 2011
The writing on the wall could not be any clearer when it comes to the dangers of prescription narcotics. Decades before the United States began its war on terror, it had long been at battle against drugs since Nixon declared war on them back in the seventies. The war on drugs wages on, but today we are not fighting Cocaine cowboys or Colombian and Cuban drug lords so much, the enemy today is pharmaceutical companies, pain management doctors, and pharmacies on nearly every corner of your typical American city. How does a government go about attacking an entire medical institution built, an organization on their toes for fear of malpractice law suits and pharmaceutical companies' lobbyist working hard to continue to have the ability to produce as much medication as possible? The answer may be in finding alternatives to prescription opiates until every option is exhausted. Doctors may be forced to prescribe if a patient claims to be experiencing pain, but no one can fault a doctor for trying alternative forms of pain management before resorting to prescribing addictive and potential fatal prescription opioids.
An estimated 27,500 people died in 2007 from unintentional drug overdoses, many of them involving prescription opioids, according to a report prepared by doctors affiliated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and Duke University Medical Center. In the same report they urged doctors to look for alternative pain management options before prescribing opioid medications; they also noted that in 2007 accidental deaths due to prescription opioid painkillers were the cause of more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
Pain management doctors need to be trained extensively in identifying when mental illness and substance abuse problems are present. As it is right now, just about anyone can walk into a doctor's office and walk out with whatever they want and then go down the street to the next doctor. The report suggests that doctors first try non-narcotic medications, physical therapy, psychotherapy, and exercise. If, and only if, those methods fail should a doctor look towards opiates as the solution. Peoples' lives are in doctors' hands, the pills they prescribe have the power to ruin lives and take lives, the less prescribing done - the better.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a common diagnosis these days amongst adolescents and teenagers which generally requires that the diagnosed be put on a prescription amphetamine like Adderall or Ritalin. Prescribing people whose brains have not finished developing addictive drugs like amphetamines is extremely dangerous, the chance of dependency forming is extremely high which will often lead to experimentation of other drugs. In fact, people diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to abuse substances including nicotine, marijuana, and cocaine, as well as more likely to develop substance use disorders, a review of 27 long-term studies determined. One of the major concerns that accompanies ADHD is that a number of people diagnosed do not have the disorder, patients will falsify symptoms in order to be prescribed an amphetamine as well as receive more time on their exams in school. ADHD has given students the ability to cheat if they so desire, even students attending notorious colleges like Harvard or Yale where amphetamine use is rampant.
Children with ADHD are up to three times more likely than children without the disorder to use, abuse, or become dependent to addictive substances according to the study. USA Today reports that the researchers found that teenagers with ADHD were 1.5 times more likely to try marijuana than those without the disorder, as well as nicotine and illegal substances at an earlier age, the researchers reported in Clinical Psychology Review. Parents whose children have been diagnosed with ADHD should be concerned and keep an extra special eye on their child. If a substance abuse problem develops it is up to parents to recognize that something is not right with their child.
The study is an analysis of 27 long-term studies that included a total of 4,100 youth with ADHD and 6,800 without the disorder. Researchers followed the test subjects from childhood into young adulthood.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
President Obama is going to war against illegal prescription drug use in America, an epidemic that has swept across our great nation. The majority of people in this country who take drugs like the powerful opiate OxyContin did not get the drug from a doctor. In fact, only 7% of OxyContin users got the drug from a doctor and 13% bought it from a drug dealer or other stranger, but, the real problem is that nearly two-thirds were given the drug by a friend or relative. Obama's new Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan calls on Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act with a new requirement: doctors who deal with pain management need to learn appropriate uses for opioid medicines, as well as know how to screen patients for drug abuse before they can get a Drug Enforcement Administration license to prescribe such drugs.
A major goal is starting prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in every state and making sure they can share data across states and are used by healthcare providers. A number of addicts get their hands on narcotics from peoples' unused prescriptions, the government will be installing convenient and environmentally responsible prescription drug disposal programs. According to White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, Congress must require special training for doctors and other health care workers before they are allowed to prescribe powerful drugs like OxyContin.
Instances of recreational use and diversion of OxyContin have increased in the U.S. beginning in the late 1990s. A 2003 study by the Government Accountability Office determined three major factors that may have contributed to the illicit use and distribution of OxyContin in the U.S.
- OxyContin contains a large amount of oxycodone compared with other types of oxycodone containing pills.
- OxyContin's warning label said to not crush the controlled-release tablets because of the potential for rapid release of oxycodone, which led to many people crushing the tablets and injecting or snorting the drug.
- By 2001, sales of OxyContin in the U.S. exceeded $1 billion per year.
Monday, April 18, 2011
College campuses are a new environment for young adults to spread their wings, some of which for their first time. Influences can play a huge role in how one's college experience unfolds, bad influences like drugs and alcohol can have the power to cut one's college experience short. In the past ten years college campuses have begun cracking down on smoking cigarettes as well. A number of campuses began implementing programs that would set up designated smoking areas on campus, places that were tucked away and barely visible unless one was looking for a place to smoke. Now, colleges can go one step further by becoming certified as "Smoke Free" by a non-profit health organization, according to the New York Times.
Campuses that successfully provide documentation about their policies and their connections (or lack thereof) to tobacco companies will be granted status by the nonprofit organization Bacchus Network. Photos displaying the signs used to promote being smoke-free must be submitted in order to qualify. Colleges have to pay $295 application fee in order to become certified. Nine colleges have applied so far and three have been successful. There are three levels of certification, the article says. Winona State in Minnesota has achieved Silver, while Nebraska Methodist College and Oklahoma State have achieved Gold. No campus has yet attained Diamond status.
A number of campuses claim to be smoke-free, but, according to the American Lung Association, there are 259 tobacco-free campuses including chewing tobacco and snuff. The American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation says there are 466 campuses that ban smoking on university grounds. The more campuses that become smoke free, the better off the students will be by promoting a healthier environment in which to achieve. It is never too late to quit smoking cigarettes and there are number of groups that can help with support.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
A number of soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from anxiety and depression, usually as a result of post traumatic stress. It is common for soldiers to self medicate their issues with drugs and alcohol in order to cope with the immense pressure inside. In many cases, soldiers who are struggling are not sure which way they should turn for help; let alone which direction they are facing, which unfortunately can result in veterans taking their own lives. Now veterans groups are stepping up to the plate to try an assist young veterans coming back from the 'war on terror' with their problems. Newer Veteran's groups are holding alcohol-free meetings to help with the alcohol abuse which has become a major problem with younger veterans, with groups such as Dryhootch in Milwaukee trying to attract veterans with coffee as opposed to beer.
The scientific director at the National Center for Veterans Studies, Utah University, Dr. David Rudd, explained to NPR that nearly 20 percent of current vets suffer from anxiety disorder or depression, and many self-medicate with alcohol. With the waning membership in traditional veteran groups like Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, it is crucial that Veteran's groups take a new alcohol-free approach. Modern methods of alcohol and drug abuse treatment have the tools to give to suffering veterans in need of assistance; no one has to stay out in the cold. Veteran's groups in conjunction with drug and alcohol counseling may have the power to help soldiers coming home stay sober.
Vietnam veteran Bob Curry, founded the Veteran's group Dryhootch which he hopes to expand by the end of the year, provides peer-to-peer counseling program. Peer mentor Mark Flower tells NPR that his goal is to engage veterans without pressuring them. Help is out there is soldiers desire it....
Monday, April 11, 2011
A mother's body is the temple where life is created in this world; whatever a mother consumes during pregnancy influences the development and well being of the child growing inside of her. Every year, a large number of babies are born into this world with a disadvantage, a dependency to drugs that the mother consumed during pregnancy. Many babies pass on into the next life from complications of being exposed to drugs in utero, but, some babies have enough strength to put up a good fight with assistance from doctors and nurses. One such baby fighting for its life as these very words are typed is a 3-day-old baby going through opiate withdrawal in a hospital in Maine and doctors are giving the baby methadone, a drug best known for treating heroin addiction which helps with the pain.
Opiate pain medications have one of the highest abuse rates in the United States; it comes as little surprise that women dependent on drugs like Oxycontin, a powerful opiate, would get pregnant. As was the case with the mother of the baby in Maine, she had abused prescription painkillers like Oxycontin acquired on the street for the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy. Then to make matters worse, she tried to quit cold turkey which according to doctors can be a dangerous course, resulting in miscarriage. When the mother, whose name is Tonya, tried to quit the baby had seizures in utero, which is when Tonya turned to a methadone treatment, for her cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Babies born hooked on prescription medications is reminiscent of the babies born in the '80's addicted to cocaine. There is no easy way for a doctor to care for a pregnant woman addicted to drugs; many doctors will refuse to treat pregnant women who are dependent on prescription opiates. Those doctors who are willing to treat such patients must determine whether the negative side effects the drugs will have on the fetus is justifiable.
“I’ve had pharmacies that have just called back and said: ‘This lady’s pregnant. Why do you want me to fill this scrip? I can’t do that,’ ” said Dr. Craig Smith, a family practitioner in Bridgton, Me. “But when you stop and think about what actually happens during withdrawal and how violent it can be, that would certainly be not in the baby’s best interest.”
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
It seems like every day there is something in the news about prescription narcotics and the inherent dangers associated with taking them. With over prescribing and doctor shopping on the rise, it is not surprising that there are 13,000 deaths a year related to unintentional overdoses involving opioids, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Pain management is perhaps the most difficult aspect of modern medicine for doctors to work with, considering that no one can feel the pain you feel, so it is impossible to deny someone medication if they are claiming to be in pain because most ailments are under the surface. In turn, the pain management field has opened their doors to any one claiming to be in pain, flooding the streets with high strength prescription narcotics.
A new study published Tuesday found that people on high or maximum doses of prescription opioid pain relievers have a much greater risk of accidental, lethal overdose. ABC News interviewed a woman who had been prescribed a high-dose cocktail of prescription pain killers, sedatives, mood regulators and muscle relaxants meant to help cope with chronic pain leaving her teetering on a fulcrum with the chance of overdose on either side for years. "I was liberally prescribed painkillers and anxiety meds and nearly died from the combination of pills. Several times I OD'ed inadvertently, once [while] in the hospital [and] my breathing stopped," said Alesandra Rain, 53. "You lose track of what you're taking because a lot of the time I was advised to 'take as needed.' My sister says she would stay up all night with me to make sure I kept breathing" when it appeared she had taken too much, Rain says.
We are facing an epidemic that seems to be growing and the death rates are ever increasing; with death rates from painkiller and sedative overdose deaths increasing by a whopping 124 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2004 to 2008, emergency room visits linked to prescription drug overdose more than doubled, and among those aged 45 to 54, these overdoses have become the second leading cause of accidental death, according to SAMHSA.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The disease of addiction is a complex disease with a number of variables to consider when treating. Scientists and doctors have struggled over the years to better identify what takes place in the body when addiction is present. Modern medicine, such as brain scans and decoded DNA, has allowed experts to understand better than ever what is behind addiction underneath the surface. A new study has identified a gene appearing to be involved in regulating how much alcohol a person drinks, understanding this gene may help scientists determine more effective treatments for alcoholism and binge drinking, according to a report from Reuters. It could easily be argued that the success rates seen with today's treatment practices can be attributed to modern medicine.
47,000 people were analyzed in the new study whereby they found that people who have a rare type of a gene called AUTS2 drink an average of 5 percent less alcohol than people with the more commonly found type of the gene. This is not the first time AUTS2 gene has been worked with, it has also been linked in previous research to autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Gunter Schumann of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, worked on the study and told Reuters that combining genetic studies and behavioral data should help uncover the biological basis of why people drink. This is an important first step in developing individually targeted prevention and treatments for alcohol abuse and addiction, according to Schumann.
The researchers analyzed the gene’s activity in brain tissue samples. Researchers found that people with the type of AUTS2 gene linked with less drinking had higher activity of the gene, reports Reuters. Breakthroughs like this are a step in the right direction for designing individual treatment plans that will be the most effective for patients.
The new study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.