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Monday, April 30, 2012

60 Minute Report About Addiction

Addiction is one of the most complex diseases to understand, despite all the science and expertise at our disposal. There is hardly a family in America that doesn’t have an individual who struggles with addiction in one form or another. Fortunately, as time goes by, we understand addiction more and more, thanks to a handful of scientists.

Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has revolutionized how science and medicine view addiction: as a disease, not a character defect. She was interviewed by 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer. Please take the time to watch the short video below:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

The seal of the United States Drug Enforcement...The seal of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)As we approach National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 28th 2012, we should take time and reflect upon how serious the prescription drug epidemic is and how important safely disposing of one’s unused drugs can be. Believe it or not, the majority of people who use prescription narcotics for the first time acquire the drugs from other people, according to a new survey

Once a habit ensues, going to a doctor to have prescriptions written is the only way to ensure that you will have enough medication to sustain your habit throughout the month, USA Today reports.

More than two-thirds of those who said they had gotten high on painkillers for the first time in the past year received the pills from family or friends, according to an analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, scheduled to be released on Wednesday,.

Estimates show that 2.4 million Americans start abusing prescription drugs annually. About one-third of new users are adolescents, according to the report. Almost 6 percent of young adults ages 18 to 25, and 3 percent of teenagers, say they regularly get high on prescription drugs.

Two-thirds of people who used painkillers to get high less than once a week got pills for free, or stole them from a relative or friend, the survey found. Among regular users, 28 percent said they bought the pills from a relative, friend, drug dealer or online. Twenty-six percent had prescriptions from at least one doctor.

The Take Back event is sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Walgreens Agreed To Settle Allegations

WalgreensWalgreens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Billions of dollars are made every year from the sales of prescription drugs. Pharmacies across the globe have a vested interest in convincing customers to fill their prescription at their store. Many of the prescriptions filled every day are paid for by the government, but it is illegal for pharmacies to give incentives to those on state health programs to fill their prescriptions.

Walgreens has agreed to pay the government $7.9 million to settle allegations that the company gave people enrolled in government-run health programs $25 gift cards for switching their prescriptions over to the pharmacy chain, according to the Justice Department.

The gift cards were only to be offered to those paying for their medications privately or with self pay insurance, but Walgreens would ignore the exemptions.

“This case represents the government’s strong commitment to pursuing improper practices in the retail pharmacy industry that have the effect of manipulating patient decisions,” Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General with the U.S. Justice Department, said in a news release.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

12-Step for Teenagers

More teenagers are abusing drugs to the point where they require substance abuse treatment. According to new study, teenagers in treatment for substance abuse can benefit from 12-step programs. In the past there was little research conducted on how effective these programs are for adolescents, HealthDay reports.

127 teens who were outpatients in substance abuse treatment programs participated in the study. They were evaluated when they began the study, and again three, six and 12 months later.

The researchers found about one-quarter to one-third of the teens attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings throughout the year-long study period, and that the more meetings the participants went to, the better they did with their problem throughout the year.

“Importantly, youth who also were in contact with an AA or NA sponsor or who participated verbally during AA/NA meetings had an even better outcome over and above the positive effects from merely attending,” researcher John F. Kelly of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital said in a news release. “These findings support the common clinical recommendation that individuals should ‘go to meetings, get a sponsor, and get active.’ This is the first evidence to support this common clinical recommendation among young people.”

“It is also a good idea to facilitate a good match between the patient’s primary substance, cannabis/other drugs or alcohol, and the mutual-help organization to which they are being referred, Marijuana Anonymous, NA or AA. Not doing this can lead to a poor initial match, which can be difficult to overcome,” Kelly said.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thomas Kinkade's Death

There is hardly a person in America who has not seen a Thomas Kinkade painting or replica sculptures. Kinkade was known as "The Painter of Light," he was an Evangelical Christian who created idealistic landscape scenes many of which were inspired by the Bible.

When reports came out last week that at age 54, Kinkade died peacefully in his sleep at the home that he built many people were skeptical about the report. Now news reports are painting a different picture of the “Painter of Light”, apparently he had been drinking all night when he went unconscious and stopped breathing.

Kinkade’s legacy may not have been as angelic as one might have gathered from his paintings. A 2006 LA Times article lists the following incidents: "an allegedly drunken Kinkade heckled illusionists Siegfried and Roy; cursed a former employee's wife who came to his side when he fell off a barstool; fondled a startled woman's breasts at a signing party; and urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim."

At the time of his death he was dealing with a number of arbitration claims from owners of his galleries across the country, and the LA Times reports that one gallery even filed for bankruptcy in 2010. The lawyer on the case called Kinkade a "deadbeat", saying that "Kinkade's word is as worthless as his artwork."

When Kinkade passed away his debt was enormous by most standards, owing approximately $9 million to at least 165 creditors, Newser reports. Sadly, Thomas Kinkade reportedly suffered from alcoholism before he relapsed and passed away. You never know which drink is going to be your last. The disease of alcoholism can be a killer, but, it doesn’t have to be if one reaches out for help.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Link Prescription Drug Databases

The fight against prescription drug abuse, “pill mills”, and doctor shopping cannot happen in only one state, every state needs to do their part and work together if real change is going to be seen. Currently, there are many states that have prescription drug monitoring systems in place, but, they are not linked together which means people can travel from state to stay in order to acquire the drugs they need either to feed their habit or to restock their inventory for business.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear stated this week at the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando that if we are going to make any progress in fighting this epidemic every state must link their prescription drug monitoring programs together.

“No state or community is an island. It will take all of us – working across geographical and agency borders – to make headway against prescription drug abuse,” Beshear said in a statement. He is urging legislators in Kentucky to pass a bill this week that would require pain management clinics to be owned by licensed physicians. The measure also would give the Attorney General control of prescription monitoring data.

The state of Kentucky will be signing an agreement to share and receive prescription drug dispensing data with at least 20 other states, according to Beshear. The Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting program will join the National Association of Board of Pharmacy’s Prescription Monitoring Program InterConnect.

Monday, April 9, 2012

California Prescription Drug Monitoring System Failure

The most effective way to gain control of the ever growing prescription drug epidemic in America is by the use of prescription drug monitoring systems. Unfortunately, many states have yet to use such systems efficiently, rendering such programs ineffective. California happens to be one of those states due to the fact that enrollment in the program is optional and on top of that funding for the program continues to be cut, according to The New York Times.

Despite the major health concerns associated with prescription drug abuse, only 1,216 pharmacists and 6,755 doctors are signed up to use the prescription drug monitoring system; when you consider that there are 165,000 physicians and pharmacists statewide it is unbelievable to think of how many are actually participating. Governor Brown cut $71 million from the state’s Department of Justice budget which has left little money to run the program effectively due to a lack of staffing, according to the article.

Doctors and pharmacists who use the system complain that it is slow and difficult to use, and cannot analyze data in a systematic manner. “It’s hit or miss,” said Dr. Richard Gracer, who runs a pain management clinic. “Once in a while it’s slow. Sometimes it gives the wrong answers. If the amount of doctors who should be using it signed up, it would probably die right away.”

Mike Small, who runs the state program, said, “Doctors don’t want to spend 10 minutes waiting when they have a patient in front of them.”

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Alcohol Interlock Devices In All Vehicles

In the not too distant future our motor vehicles may be much smarter and be able to tell if the driver has consumed alcohol without having to breathe into an alcohol ignition interlock device which are currently installed into the vehicles of motorists who have had a DUI, The Wall Street Journal reports. The new devices could be embedded in a starter button or shift lever. Nearly one-third of drivers killed in car crashes have been drinking with blood alcohol levels of 0.08 or higher, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In the next ten years or so, experts believe that the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) could be available for all vehicles regardless if you have a history of drinking and driving.

There has been a bill proposed that would give the NHTSA’s alcohol detector program $24 million over two years period. This would allow the agency to equip 100 or more cars with the new alcohol detection device prototypes. One device would measure alcohol in the driver’s breath and the other would take a reading from the driver’s skin.

The people working on creating the new system are working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Wall Street Journal article points out that the next goal would be to develop vehicles that would drive a drunk owner home.

16 states require those with a history of DUI’s to install alcohol interlock devices in their vehicles. If the driver has consumed even a drop of alcohol, whether from mouth-wash or a cocktail, the vehicle will not start.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Government Anti-Smoking Ad Campaign

Tobacco is by far one of the hardest substances to quit and takes thousands of lives every year. The new anti-smoking ad campaign sponsored by the government appears to have made an impact on a number of people. The campaign features former smokers who talk about how tobacco has affected their lives in negative ways.

Since the campaign began the number of calls to a toll-free telephone hotline whose mission is to help people quit smoking has doubled.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW totaled more than 33,000 in the first week of the ad campaign, compared with less than 14,500 the week before. On top of that, the number of clicks to the government’s www.smokefree.gov website raised to about 66,000, from about 20,000, reports USA Today.

The new ad campaign will air for 12 weeks, costing $54 million. It is believed by the CDC that the campaign will help about 50,000 smokers quit.

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