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Monday, January 30, 2012

First Aid for the Mind

Mental health problems are perhaps the hardest ailments to treat due to their complex nature. Every case is different and every person is different, thus responses to treatment methods vary. It is hard for the average person to recognize when someone is having a crisis. When someone isn’t breathing there are countless people walking the streets at any given moment that can provide CPR. What happens when someone has a mental crisis? How many people are equipped with the tools to help out?

The City of Philadelphia will be training thousands of people to provide what is being called “first aid for the mind”. Trained experts in the field of mental health will be training people over the next few months, who will then hold 12-hour courses for the general public who can be certified after completing a test on the subject.

Behavioral Health Commissioner Dr. Arthur Evans stated the goals of the Mental Health First Aid program:
  • 1,500 certifications this year
  • Over the next decade hopefully10% of the populace will be able to help

“This is to help people be able to identify and to refer to professional help,” Evans says. “It’s not for them to necessarily intervene themselves.”

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Special Notice
Hope by the Sea is once again honored to be featured on A & E’s INTERVENTION. Tune in to INTERVENTION February 13, 2012, to meet Zeinah. This episode will premiere on Monday, February 13th at 10pm and 2am ET/PT.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Florida Doctor Sues CVS Pharmacy

It is not much of a secret that Florida has been identified as the center of the prescription drug epidemic here in America. With more prescriptions being written in Florida for drugs like oxycodone, a strong pain killer, than any other state the fight to curb this epidemic needs to be toughest in Florida. Good progress has already been made as authorities crack down on pain clinics and patient doctor shopping along with the advent of a multi-state prescription drug database.

Naturally, there was bound to be some doctors who feel they are getting a bad rap due to their high numbers of prescriptions for pain killers throughout the state. One doctor has decided to file suit against the nationwide pharmacy CVS after CVS sent out letters to certain doctors in the state of Florida stating that it would no longer fill prescriptions they wrote for oxycodone and other Schedule II narcotic drugs.

Attorney Gus Benitez has filed suit against CVS on behalf of one doctor who received a letter, Sylvester Hanna, the owner of a pain clinic. “When you take this action — when CVS takes this action — they’re blacklisting these doctors, and they’re casting this net where they’re affecting a lot of people,” Benitez said. The suit claims that by refusing to fill Hanna’s prescriptions, CVS is falsely implying that he is acting unethically or illegally.

While CVS would not field specific questions about the list of doctors they have made, according to the Orlando Sentinel, the pharmacies’ spokesman did make a statement. “We have informed a small number of Florida physicians that CVS/pharmacy will no longer fill the prescriptions they write for Schedule II narcotics,” CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said in a statement to the newspaper. “While we regret any inconvenience this may cause for our customers, we treat the dispensing of controlled substances with the utmost care and seriousness. CVS/pharmacy is unwavering in its compliance and measures to prevent drug abuse and keep controlled substances out of the wrong hands.”

CVS has made a bold move, but it is a move that is understandable considering the rampant abuse by both patients and the doctors prescribing the medications in the state of Florida. If CVS wins the case filed against them it would not be surprising if other pharmacies follow their lead.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Methamphetamine Use On The Rise

Over the last several years methamphetamine use in the United States has been on the decline, but, according to a new report that may not be the case anymore. Mexican drug cartels and small U.S. “meth” producers are the cause of the increase in usage, the Evansville Courier and Press reports.

“Methamphetamine is unique from other illicit drugs of abuse because production of the drug requires no specialized skill or training, and its recipes are readily available on the Internet,” Joseph T. Rannazzisi, Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Office of Diversion Control, told the newspaper. “The precursor chemicals associated with this drug have also been historically easy to obtain and inexpensive to purchase. These factors have contributed to methamphetamine’s rapid sweep across our nation.”

A report by the National Drug Intelligence Center released last August, “National Drug Threat Assessment 2011,” pointed out that methamphetamine use among the young has risen. Mexican drug cartels that smuggle the drug across the Southwestern border are the main reason for the increase of use. Mexican cartels can produce, transport and distribute the drug.

Super labs in Mexico and Southern California can account for two-thirds of the nation’s meth supply and trafficked throughout the country. All other meth labs that operate in the United States can be found in locations such as:
  • basements
  • kitchens
  • garages
  • bedrooms
  • car trunks
  • vacant buildings

“At the federal level, DEA is committed to exploring all options, including legislative changes to place pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and their analogues in Schedule V, as prescription-only substances,” Rannazzisi added. The more control the government puts on cold medications the harder it is for cooks to produce the drug.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Family History Impacts Teenagers

A child’s greatest influence is their parents, what children see, hear, or experience due to their parents behavior will greatly impact them. A family history of alcoholism can seriously affect a teenager’s decision making according to a new study. Researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University determined that such teenagers have a weaker brain response during risky decision-making when compared with teens without such a family history.

31 teens, ages 13 to 15, were observed during the course of the study, with 18 having had a family history of alcoholism. All of the teens’ brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging, to see responses during an activity that was similar to the show Wheel of Fortune. The game presented risky and safe probabilities of winning different sums of money.

Teens with a family history of alcoholism had two areas of the brain that responded differently, UPI reports. Brain areas are important for executive functioning, which guide complex behavior through planning, decision-making, and response control. The teen group with a family history of alcoholism showed weaker brain responses during risky decision-making, compared with teens who did not have a family history of alcoholism.

“A typical brain activity, in regions implicated in executive functioning could lead to reduced cognitive control, which may result in risky choices regarding alcohol use.”

The research can be seen in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Study

In the second decade of the 21st century it is probably fair to say that most people understand that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can seriously put the fetus at risk. Yet, despite that reality a number of women still choose to consume alcohol throughout their pregnancy. As more research is conducted every year on the effects alcohol can have on the fetus, researchers are finding that alcohol not only causes physical problems but also behavioral - problems that rear their head sometimes years down the road. A new study has shown that any alcohol consumption during pregnancy, especially during the second half of the first trimester, puts the baby at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

The study’s authors Haruna Sawada Feldman, PhD, MPH, of the University of California San Diego in La Jolla and colleagues found that for every additional drink a day on average during those early months, there were increased risks of:
  • 25% for smooth philtrum
  • 22% for thin vermilion
  • 12% for microcephaly
  • 16% for lower birth weight
  • 18% for reduced birth length

The research showed that for each additional episode of binge drinking and each additional drink in the maximum number consumed per occasion also showed the same risks. Data for the study was obtained from women enrolled in the California Teratogen Information Service and Clinical Research Program from 1978 to 2005.

It is so crucial that pregnant women heed the warnings printed on alcoholic beverages. Nobody should ever think that even one drink is acceptable, there is plenty of time in life after the pregnancy to consume alcohol, if one so desires.

The findings appeared online ahead of print in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

1 in 6 Americans Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is becoming more of a major concern considering that 1 in 6 Americans is binge drinking at least four times a month, according to a new study conducted by the government. The study found that per occasion people are consuming an average of eight drinks. Binge drinking is considered for men drinking 5 or more drinks and for women 4 or more drinks. The Center of Disease Control reported that binge drinking causes more than half of the 80,000 alcohol-impaired deaths and three-quarters of the $223.5 billion in economic costs.

"What is different with this study is we studied the frequency and the intensity, and the number of episodes by different groups," says author and the CDC's alcohol program lead Robert Brewer. "The frequency is very high and the amount consumed was also very high."

Self-reported data collected during 2010 of U.S. adults ages 18 and older in 48 states and the District of Columbia was analyzed during the study.

"As dramatic as these findings are they're probably a good bit higher," says Brewer. "We've done comparisons between what people report they drink and what is sold. We're probably picking up less than a third of alcohol consumption."

The researchers also found:
  • The prevalence was twice as likely among men (23%) as that of women (11.4%).
  • Highest prevalence of binge drinking is among those between 18 and 34 years old.
  • Highest frequency is among 65-plus group.
  • Income group most likely to binge drink is more than $75,000.
  • Income group that binge drinks most often and drinks the most per binge is less than $25,000.
  • Most people who binge drink are not alcoholic.
"We're not meaning to suggest there isn't a proportion of people who are binge drinking or who are not alcohol dependent," says Brewer. "And we're not trying to diminish the importance of alcohol dependence. It's just that the large majority of people would not meet the medical definition of alcoholic."

Monday, January 9, 2012

New "Super Painkillers" Are A Major Concern

At the end of last month we became aware of a new drug that could potentially hit the market, if approved by the FDA, which has a number of officials concerned about the dangers that will be associated with it. Known as “super painkillers”, there are currently four of these new drugs currently being tested by pharmaceutical companies. These drugs, one of which is being called Zohydro, contain a more powerful version of hydrocodone, one of the country’s most abused painkillers, the Associated Press reports.

One state official who is deeply concerned is New York Senator Charles Schumer; he is warning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against approving the new “super painkillers.” Recently in the state of New York there were two pharmacy robberies that left 6 people dead, reinforcing the fact that there is serious epidemic regarding prescription opiate abuse in this country and people will do just about anything to get their hands on them.

“It’s tremendously concerning that at the same time policymakers and law enforcement professionals are waging a war on the growing prescription drug crisis, new super-drugs could well be on their way, flooding the market,” Senator Schumer said. “The FDA needs to grab the reins and slow down the stampede to introduce these powerful narcotics.” He said these new drugs would become very valuable on the black market.

As of right now drugs that contain the opioid hydrocodone also have non narcotic pain relievers like Acetaminophen mixed in. The new drugs are pure hydrocodone, and contain up to 10 times the amount found in Vicodin.

Hopefully, state officials will be able to dissuade the FDA from approving these new “super painkillers”, drugs that will certainly result in the loss of life for a number of people if released on the market.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Prescription Drug Workgroup Report

Prescription drug abuse in America is a hot button topic that affects every state. Vermont has one of the biggest problems which is why the Prescription Drug Abuse Workgroup was formed, consisting of 75 members from varied professions who are attempting to help with the problem. The workgroup issued a final report in December that lays out a statewide approach to actively address the problem.

Since 2008, the workgroup has met quarterly, convened jointly by the Vermont Departments of Health and Public Safety. When together they discussed possible solutions to the problem in four focus areas:
  • education and community prevention/treatment
  • monitoring
  • disposal
  • law enforcement

Vermont ranks 26th worst of all states in the non-medical use of pain killers, and has the second highest per capita rate of all states for admissions to treatment for opiates for 20- to 29-year olds.

“Prescription drug abuse is a major public health concern and we knew – for the Health Department and Public Safety to adequately address the problem – an ‘all-hands-on deck’ approach was required,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD. “The safe dispensing of these controlled medications, which serve a useful purpose, is a major priority for us and our partners statewide.”

The report suggested that Vermont needs:
  • Improved prescriber education for medical students
  • public education on proper disposal of drugs
  • better informed patients and patient verification
  • enhanced law enforcement efforts and training
  • more widespread use of the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System

The Health Department, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Vermont Medical Society, Office of Professional Regulation, Northern New England Poison Center, Department of Health Access, Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration (BISHCA), Vermont Boards of Pharmacy and Medical Practice, and the Vermont State Police contributed recommendations to the final report.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Parents Held Liable for Underage Drinking

The use of alcohol by middle-schoolers and high school students typically begins in the household. Many parents believe that if kids are going to drink that it is safer they do it at home. While that may seem like sound judgement, it may be sending the wrong message to youngsters about drinking and the long lasting side effects of drinking at a young age. Furthermore, parents who allow their teens to have friends over to drink, in attempt to keep them off the roads, may be subject to liability laws resulting in lawsuits, fines, and even jail time.

Students Against Destructive Decisions were co-sponsored by the insurance company Liberty Mutual to conduct research. They found 41 percent of teens say their parents allow them to go to parties where alcohol is being served, compared with 36 percent two years ago.

Parents in some states can be liable even if they were not aware that drinking was going on in their home, according to the Associated Press.

A Stanford University professor was arrested in November after his 17-year-old son had a party in the basement. Despite Professor Bill Burnett’s attempt to forbid alcohol at the party and even checking on the teens a number of times, Burnett spent one night in jail and was booked on 44 counts of suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Each count carries up to a $2,500 fine and almost a year in jail.

According to the Associated Press:
  • Eight states have “social host” laws that make parents liable if underage guests in their home are drinking, even if no harm comes to anyone
  • In some of the states, parents are allowed to serve alcohol to their own children in certain situations.
  • In 16 states, laws hold parents responsible for underage drinking in some circumstances, such as if a teenager who drank in their home was in a car accident.

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