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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Military Fight Against Synthetic Drugs

Over the last few years synthetic drugs have become popular amongst teenagers and young adults across the country. Despite efforts to ban ingredients for the manufacture and on the sale of synthetic marijuana and “bath salts,” the makers of such drugs have managed to find loopholes which have kept these dangerous drugs on the market.

Standard drug testing methods are unable to detect most synthetic drugs, this adds to the drug’s allure. A number of service men and women have turned to synthetic drugs as an alternative to traditional drugs that are easily detected in drug screens. Fortunately, education campaigns and improved drug testing methods are having an effect, the Navy and Marine Corps have seen a drop in synthetic drug use, The Navy Times reports.

The Defense Department's efforts to combat synthetic drugs began in 2010, the article notes. The banning of compounds to make the drug and the development of testing methods that detect synthetic drugs were the first steps; followed by a synthetic drugs awareness campaign in 2012.

The Navy and Marine Corps report a 45 percent decrease in the monthly average of those found using Spice (synthetic marijuana) and a 60 percent decrease in those using bath salts.

Synthetic drugs are hard to combat due to the ever-changing ingredients used to make them, according to Terrence Boos, a chemist with the Drug Enforcement Administration. “The evolution of these drugs is providing a challenge for toxicology screens,” he said. “When someone is presenting at an emergency department, they are presenting with an unknown drug in their system.”

Monday, November 25, 2013

Teens Lack Proper Mental Health Treatment

Mental health is difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat; for every patient that receives adequate care for their disease, there are still many more who do not see any care. Sadly, there are a number of teenagers who suffer from mental health problems who do not get the treatment they so desperately require.

In the United States, more than half of teens suffering from mental health disorders do not receive treatment, according to a new study. Those who do receive help are mostly treated by someone other than a mental health professional, HealthDay reports. In fact, most teens receive their mental health treatment by pediatricians, school counselors or probation officers. White teens were much more likely to receive care than Black teens.

“It’s still the case in this country that people don’t take psychiatric conditions as seriously as they should,” lead researcher E. Jane Costello of Duke University said in a news release. “This, despite the fact that these conditions are linked to a whole host of other problems.”

In an analysis of more than 10,000 teens in the last year, researchers found that only 45 percent of teens with psychiatric disorders received some form of service. 

Cases most likely to receive help were:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (74 percent)
  • Conduct Disorder (73 percent)
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (71 percent)
Cases least likely to receive help were:
  • Phobias (41 percent)
  • Anxiety Disorder (41 percent)
The United States has a shortage qualified pediatric mental health professionals, Costello said. “We need to train more child psychiatrists in this country,” she noted. “And those individuals need to be used strategically, as consultants to the school counselors and others who do the lion’s share of the work.”

The findings appear in the journal Psychiatric Services.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Senate Bill Passed Tracking Prescription Drugs

Moves are being made in the U.S. Senate to implement methods of tracking prescription drugs. A measure, implementing a prescription drug tracking system, following drugs from the manufacturing floor until they are sold at a drugstore, was passed this week, according to The News & Observer.

The Drug Quality and Security Act will require drug: manufacturers, repackagers, wholesale distributors, and dispensers to keep information and pass on details regarding each drug’s distribution history. Over the next seven years the goal is to put into place product tracking, down to a single pill within 10 year period.

Manufacturers will be required to serialize their products in a consistent way across the industry, over a four years period after the law is enacted. 

“This legislation will improve the safety of compounded drugs as well as establish an unprecedented tracing system that will, for the first time ever, track prescription drugs from manufacturing to distribution, thereby thwarting drug counterfeiters,” Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa said in a news release.

“Americans must have the confidence that their drugs—whether obtained at a hospital, at a doctor’s office, or at the pharmacy counter—are safe, and that is exactly what this bill does.”

John Castellani, President and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement, “The counterfeiting of prescription drugs is on the rise within the United States but oftentimes goes unnoticed or unreported, leaving many Americans unaware of this problem. In fact, some experts have cited the counterfeiting of these medicines as even more lucrative than the trafficking of illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. This act will improve the security of the finished drug supply chain and reduce the impact of the patchwork of state laws related to the pedigree requirements for drug distribution.”

The bill awaits President Obama’s signature.

Monday, November 18, 2013

PCP Related Emergency Room Visits On the Rise

Stick model of phencyclidine (PCP) molecule as...
A new report, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), has found that phencyclidine (PCP), commonly referred to as “Angel Dust,” use is on the rise. SAMHSA determined that PCP-related emergency room visits had a rise of 400 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Emergency rooms cases involving Angel Dust were 14,825 in 2005, but in 2011 there were 75,538, Medical News Today reports. About two-thirds of cases involving PCP were made by males, about half the cases involved people ages 25 to 34.

The largest increase in PCP use was seen among patients ages 25 to 34.

There are a host of ways that PCP can be consumed, the most common being inhalation by way of smoking another drug like marijuana. Although a number of people snort, inject, or swallow PCP.

A number of people consume PCP without being aware the drug had been added to the marijuana or methamphetamine they purchased, leading to a chaotic experience for the user. People confronted while under the influence of PCP, often become very dangerous to themselves and to others.

“This report is a wake-up call that this dangerous drug may be making a comeback in communities throughout the nation,” Dr. Peter Delany, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, said in a news release. “PCP is a potentially deadly drug and can have devastating consequences not only for individuals, but also for families, friends and communities. We must take steps at every level to combat the spread of this public health threat.”
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Long Term Heroin Use Changes Brain

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body; researchers continue to study the effects that drugs have on our remarkable operating system. It is well known that the brain has a remarkable ability to recover from the damages incurred from long term substance abuse; however, new research suggest that extended drug use can alter how genes are activated in the brain.

A new study has found that long term heroin use leads to changes in brain function, HealthDay reports.

Research was conducted on the brains of deceased heroin users. The area of the brain called the striatum, known to have a part in drug abuse, was focused on by researchers. It was determined that significant changes in how DNA was being used in the brain were related to heroin use. The longer one abused the drug, the greater the changes.

 “Our study addresses a critical gap in our knowledge about heroin addiction because we cannot often directly study the brains of addicted humans,” according to senior author Yasmin Hurd of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City. “Our results provide important insights into how human brains change in response to long-term heroin use, and give us the knowledge to help treat this dangerous disease.”  

The findings were presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.
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Monday, November 11, 2013

PTSD Treated With Prescription Narcotics

Veterans Day, a time for remembrance and gratitude for those who have served the United States, particularly those who served in foreign conflict(s). It is impossible to fully comprehend the soldiers experience and the toll it takes on them, both mentally and physically. Every year, thousands of Veterans fail to receive the care they require; those who are treated are often only prescribed prescription narcotics to treat their psychological ailments.

In fact, Veterans with PTSD are about twice as likely to be prescribed opioids as those without mental health problems, according to a study by Veterans Affairs. Researchers determined that PTSD patients are more likely to get more than one opioid and the highest dose.

VA records indicate that about 30 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receiving care from the VA have PTSD and more than half suffer chronic pain. Veterans suffering from PTSD and chronic pain are at a high risk of even more life problems; many specialists have found that proper treatment techniques with PTSD can actually reduce chronic pain without having to drown it out with opioids.

Prescription narcotics and PTSD is a bad mixture, often leading to suicides, overdoses, and addiction. More than 50,000 veterans were treated by the VA in the last year for opioid use problems, a figure that is almost double from 10 years earlier, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Andrew Kowal, one of the developers of the clinical guidelines for pain management at the VA, said the number of troops “retiring out of the Army on narcotics chronically is just absolutely unbelievable.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Raising Legal Limit On Tobacco

I took this photograph.
Last week, the New York City Council voted to increase the legal age for buying tobacco to 21. Following New York’s lead, Washington, D.C. is looking at a similar measure. Washington D.C. Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, is introducing legislation, with the support of 12 other Councilman, to raise the legal limit from 18 to 21, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 will decrease access to cigarettes, and, more importantly, may decrease the rate of smoking in young adults,” McDuffie said in a news release. “By restricting tobacco sales to young people, we can prevent many of our youth from acquiring a terrible, deadly addiction.”

Unlike New York’s law, which encompasses e-cigarettes in their bill, the D.C. measure would not ban the electronic devices for young adults ages 18 to 21, the article notes. Washington, D.C.’s close proximity to Virginia has residents crossing the state line to buy less expensive cigarettes. The short trip to Virginia saves smokers $2.20 on each pack of cigarettes because the cigarette taxes are much lower.

The legal age for purchasing tobacco in New Jersey is 19, but a measure to raise the legal age to 21 has been introduced by Senator Richard Codey.

With any luck, the new legislation to raise the legal age for buying tobacco will keep young adults from starting to smoke all together.
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Monday, November 4, 2013

Experts Against FDA Zohydro Approval

In the wake of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the first pure hydrocodone drug, Zohydro, law enforcement and addiction specialists have voiced their concerns about the potential increase in overdose deaths, Newsday reports.

Last December, the FDA created a panel of experts who voted against approval of Zohydro ER. The potential for addiction was the panel's foremost concern. Despite the makers of the drug, Zogenix, meeting targets for safety and efficacy, the panel voted 11-2 against approval. The panel said Zohydro could be used by opiate addicted people, including those abusing oxycodone.

Zohydro is 10 times stronger when abused than today’s standard hydrocodone products, according to the article. Zohydro ER (extended release) is designed to be released over time, but it can be crushed and snorted by abusers of the medication. Zohydro, unlike OxyContin, does not include similar tamper-resistant features, the newspaper notes.

Vicodin contains a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Zohydro is pure hydrocodone and is expected to reach the market in early 2014. Zogenix has begun work on an abuse deterrent formulation of Zohydro, according to a company statement.

“That the FDA has approved another incredibly powerful painkiller without [tamper-proof features] is both disconcerting and dangerous,” said Jeffrey Reynolds, Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, who told the FDA expert panel he opposed Zohydro’s approval without safety features. “While this drug might be a godsend for people with acute pain, it’s a potential nightmare for those struggling with or at risk for addiction.”
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