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Monday, September 30, 2013

Fatal Crashes Involving Drugs

Driving under the influence is extremely dangerous, putting the lives of others and the life of the driver in danger. New research has shown that drivers who test positive for drugs are as much as three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash, the new study finds.

The results of roadside surveys of drug and alcohol use by drivers were analyzed by researchers, they found that almost 32 percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents and about 14 percent of drivers not involved in such accidents, tested positive for at least one drug.

Columbia University researchers found that using drugs and alcohol together greatly increased the risk of a fatal crash, according to the report. In fact, those testing positive for both alcohol and drugs have a 23-fold increased risk, Health Day reports.

Drugs most likely to be associated with deadly accidents in order from most dangerous to least are:
  • Depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Marijuana
57 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes had elevated blood alcohol levels, with about 9 percent of drivers overall testing positive for alcohol. Research showed that twenty percent of drivers involved in deadly accidents had alcohol and one or more drugs in their system.

“While alcohol-impaired driving remains the greatest threat to traffic safety, these findings about drugged driving are particularly salient in light of the increases in the availability of prescription stimulants and opioids over the past decade,” lead researcher Dr. Guohua Li said in a news release.  

The findings are published in Accident Analysis and Prevention.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Synthetic Drugs Pass Most Drug Tests

FrogE Magic Plant Food
Synthetic drugs have quickly become a nationwide concern amongst officials due to the dangers associated with “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana. These types of drugs appeal to a number of people due to the fact that they are not easily detected with your standard drug tests, either for the workplace or for legal reasons. In fact, most parole or probation drug tests are unlikely to detect synthetic marijuana, a new study finds.

The study found that a sample of young men from the Washington, D.C. parole and probation system showed that 39 percent tested positive for synthetic marijuana, yet they had passed a traditional drug screen, according to The Washington Post.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research were responsible for the study. 

“Most drug tests are testing for the old epidemics, and they need to update their panels,” said lead researcher Eric Wish.

The report stated, “For the first time we, found a drug that was as likely to be found in persons who had failed the limited criminal justice system screen as in persons who had passed.”

The need for updated testing is not only for those in the legal system but also for those in the field of public health. 

“You have people coming into these places exhibiting strange behaviors and they enter the public health system looking for help, but the doctor may not know what is wrong with the person,” Wish said. “The public health system needs to start looking at these new metabolites to screen for them.”
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Prescription Opioids Doubled for Non-Cancer Pain

Pharmacy Rx symbol
The prescription opioid epidemic in the United States continues to plague the country. People can obtain a prescription for just about any ailment; in many cases people who do not require strong opioids are given prescriptions for them simply on the word of the patient. A new study has shown that opioid prescribing for non-cancer pain almost doubled between 2000 and 2010.

Federal government data on treatment of non-cancer pain from 2000 to 2010 was observed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

There were 164 million pain-related visits to doctors in 2010; of those about half of patients were treated with pain medicine of one type or another, according to HealthDay. Prescriptions of non-opioid painkillers remained about the same for the time period stable 26 percent to 29 percent, but prescriptions for opioids nearly doubled, from 11 percent to 19 percent.

“We found that not only have the rates of treated pain not improved, but in many cases, use of safer alternatives to opioids, such as medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, have either stayed flat or declined,” researcher Dr. G. Caleb Alexander said in a news release. “This suggests that efforts to improve the identification and treatment of pain have backfired, due to an over-reliance on prescription opioids that have caused incredible morbidity and mortality among patients young and old alike.”

The findings are published in the journal Medical Care.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bath Salts Related Emergency Room Visits

Deutsch: Körniges Badesalz aus den "Salzg...
Synthetic marijuana and bath salts continue to send people to emergency rooms at alarming rates despite efforts to combat these insidious drugs. In 2011 alone, there were 23,000 emergency room visits associated with “bath salts,” according to a new report conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Bath salts are consumed in a number of ways, either by mouth, inhalation, or injection. SAMHSA found that bath salts usage can cause:
  • Heart and Blood Vessel Problems
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Psychosis
  • Death
The new report is the first national study to take a close look at bath salts-related emergency room visits, according to HealthDay. Hopefully, these new statistics will jump start the actions that a have been failing to put “bath salts” production under wraps.

The SAMHSA report showed that 33 percent of these hospital visits involved only bath salts. 15 percent of patients had bath salts as well as marijuana or synthetic marijuana in their system, and 52 percent of patients had other drugs in conjunction with “bath salts” in their blood.

“Although bath salts drugs are sometimes claimed to be ‘legal highs’ or are promoted with labels to mask their real purpose, they can be extremely dangerous when used,” Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Chief Medical Officer of SAMHSA, said in a news release.  

Almost 2.5 million U.S. emergency department visits involved drug misuse or abuse in 2011.
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Emergency Rooms Still Seeing Synthetic Marijuana Cases

Despite efforts by law enforcement officials, people around the country are still finding themselves in emergency rooms due to the side-effects associated with synthetic marijuana. The makers of these types of drugs are constantly changing the formula in order to elude authorities. Teenagers and young adults are failing to receive the message that these drugs can be fatal. In Colorado, people suspected of getting sick from drugs like Spice and K2 is up to 150, according to NPR.

These drugs are a mixture of shredded plant material which is sprayed with chemicals that are supposed to simulate the active ingredient in traditional marijuana - THC. With three deaths and 75 hospitalizations thought to be caused by the drug, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are actively investigating the case.

About one-fifth of the hospitalized patients are teenagers, the article notes. 

Dr. Tista Ghosh, the acting Colorado Chief Medical Officer, said that hospital emergency rooms across the state are seeing people coming into emergency rooms with agitation, delirium and confusion, as well as unresponsiveness, extreme sleepiness and seizures. “We’re not exactly sure what molecule or chemical we’re looking for,” Dr. Ghosh said. “It’s pretty rare to be able to do this kind of testing. There’s not that many labs in the country that can do this.”

Last year in Wyoming, Spice caused kidney failure in three young people; vomiting and back pain was seen in a dozen other cases. 

“In [the Wyoming] investigation, they did find a novel compound that was being put into the synthetic marijuana,” Dr. Ghosh said. “That makes this kind of investigation more challenging, because they are constantly changing the chemical compositions that are in synthetic marijuana.”

Synthetic marijuana can cause:
  • Loss of Control
  • Lack of Pain Response
  • Agitation
  • Pale Skin
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Uncontrolled Body Movements
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Heart Palpitations
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Warning Labels for Opioid Pain Medications

English: Logo of the U.S. Food and Drug Admini...
Opioid pain medications can be dangerous if taken improperly and also have the potential for dependence. Despite warning labels on medication bottles, people often fail to heed the warnings. In an attempt to make it more clear, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced changes to the safety labels on extended-release and long-acting opioid painkillers.

The FDA will call attention to the dangers of abuse and possible death, Reuters reports. Other warnings will be the risks to babies whose mothers take the medicines. 

The labels will appear on the drugs:
  • OxyContin
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine
Labels will now indicate that the drugs should be used only by patients in pain that is severe enough to require daily, constant, long-term opioid treatment. That is those patients who have not had adequate pain relief from other medicines.

“The FDA is invoking its authority to require safety labeling changes and postmarket studies to combat the misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death from these potent drugs that have harmed too many patients and devastated too many families and communities,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a news release.

The FDA will require additional studies of opioid pain medication to assess risks of abuse, overdose, and death.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

SAMHSA Reports Heroin Use On The Rise

Substance abuse trends amongst young adults have shown that prescription drug abuse has remained at a constant level, while methamphetamine use and binge drinking are on the decline, according to a new national survey. However, the fact that heroin use is on the rise is indicative of more young adults switching from prescription opioids to heroin, due to the increase in strength as well as the cheaper cost.

5.3 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for the purpose of getting “high” in the past month, a similar rate to the two years prior. In the past month, teen binge drinking was lower last year, compared with 2002 and 2009, reports Time.com.

The number of Americans claiming to use meth in 2012 fell to 440,000, from 731,000 in 2006. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) believes that the drop can be attributed to restrictions making it more difficult for meth producers to acquire pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient for meth production.

When compared to 2009, prescription drug abuse rates among 18 to 25 adults was significantly lower last year, with 6.4 percent using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by SAMHSA).

52.1 percent of adults reported drinking alcohol last year and almost one quarter of Americans, 60 million people, reported binge drinking. 

Drug use may be dropping in the young adult age group; however, older adult drug use is on the rise for ages 50 to 64. With 7.2 percent of people in this age group acknowledging illegal drug use last year, up from 3.4 percent a decade ago. Drug use for adults ages 55 to 59 rose from 1.9 percent to 6.6 percent from 2002 to 2012.

There are fewer teens smoking cigarettes, according to the new report.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

New SAMHSA Report On Substance Abuse

The Front of the SAMHSA building at 1 Choke Ch...
A national survey found that 5.3 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the past month, rates have held steady to the two years prior. Teen drinking in the past month was lower last year compared with 2002 and 2009, according to the national survey.

Young adults abusing prescription drugs continues to be a major concern among health care experts due to the ease of acquisition. However, abuse rates among adults ages 18 to 25 were significantly lower last year than in 2009, 6.4 percent of young adults used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in 2009, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Fortunately, drunk driving is down, the report showed that 11.2 percent of Americans drove under the influence of alcohol at least once last year; compared with 11.1 percent in 2011 and 14.2 percent in 2002.

SAMHSA found that 9 percent of the population, 23.9 million Americans, 12 years and older used drugs in the previous month. 

Marijuana is still the most commonly used drug, with 7.3 percent of Americans saying they are current users. People ages 12 and older who used heroin in the past year increased from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012 - almost double.

“These findings show that while we have made progress in preventing some aspects of substance abuse we must redouble our efforts to reduce and eliminate all forms of it throughout our nation,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “These statistics represent real people, families and communities dealing with the devastating consequences of abuse and addiction. We must strive to prevent further abuse and provide the hope of treatment and recovery to all people needing help.”  

The report was released in conjunction with the 24th annual National Recovery Month.
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Children: Buprenorphine Effects of Unintentional Exposure

English: Suboxone tablet - both sides.
Keeping medications out of the hands of children is something that can be easily managed; yet, every year there are thousands of accidental poisonings involving prescription drugs that can be lethal. Adults who become addicted to their pain medications will often turn to the drug buprenorphine to help the withdrawal process; unfortunately children are getting their hands on the drug.

Buprenorphine (or the buprenorphine-naloxone combination form) is usually sold as a tablet or film strip, the drug has been proven to be quite effective. However, during 2010-2011, an average of 1500 children under 6 years of age was evaluated in emergency departments each year due to unintentional exposure to buprenorphine. Buprenorphine can cause central nervous system depression, respiratory depression, and death in young children.

In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers study how young children are gaining access to buprenorphine, as well as the effects of unintentional exposure to its different formulations.

2380 cases of unintentional buprenorphine cases in any form involving children under 6 years of age were evaluated by Dr. Eric Lavonas and colleagues from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the University of Oklahoma, Integris Baptist Medical Center, Degge Group, and Venebio Group.

The average age of the children was 2 years. Most children had good outcomes, 587 children were admitted to the intensive care unit and 4 children died.

Common effects of buprenorphine exposure were:
  • Lethargy
  • Respiratory Depression
  • Miosis (small pupils)
  • Vomiting
Dr. Lavonas says, "This study underscores the value of providing medications that are particularly dangerous when taken by children, in single dose, child resistant packaging." This approach is likely to be more effective at reducing unintentional exposure than additional efforts at education.

Medical News Today
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