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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Health Group Coalition Against FDA's Approval of Zohydro

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being strongly urged to reverse its approval of Zohydro ER (extended release) before its set release date of March 2014, according to CNN. The drug, approved last October, is pure hydrocodone, the narcotic opioid ingredient of Vicodin. Most prescription painkillers are a combination of opioids and non-narcotic drugs like acetaminophen. Combination drugs are much harder to abuse than pure opioids like OxyContin (oxycodone) and potentially Zohydro (hydrocodone).

A coalition of health care and consumer groups, as well as 40 addiction treatment centers, has joined together in the fight against the FDA’s decision to approve a drug that, without question, will be heavily abused, CNN reports.

Health groups include:
  • The American Society of Addiction Medicine
  • Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing
  • Public Citizen Health Research Group
  • Phoenix House
  • The Hazelden Foundation
Nearly two years ago, a panel of experts created by the FDA, in the field of addiction and prescription drugs, voted against Zohydro. The panel voiced overwhelming concerns about the dangers of abuse and the potential for addiction.

What’s more, Zohydro ER lacks tamper-resistant features that would make the drug more appealing to experts. The drug can be crushed or dissolved, making it easy for users to either snort or inject the medication. Such problems were also associated with the drug OxyContin; however, the brand name OxyContin has been reformulated making it more difficult for users to tamper with the medication.

In December, 28 attorneys general wrote to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg regarding Zohydro, they said that the approval of Zohydro ER “has the potential to exacerbate our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic because this drug will be the first hydrocodone-only opioid narcotic that is reportedly five to ten times more potent than traditional hydrocodone products, and it has no abuse-deterrent properties.”

The coalition of health groups opposed to Zohydro wrote a letter to Commissioner Hamburg, which stated, “In the midst of a severe drug epidemic fueled by overprescribing of opioids, the very last thing the country needs is a new, dangerous, high-dose opioid. Too many people have already become addicted to similar opioid medications, and too many lives have been lost.”

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Industry Resists Tamper Resistant Drugs

English: Logo of the .
While the prescription drug epidemic continues to grow at an alarming rate, pharmaceutical companies sit back and worry about their profit margins. There is a no reason why prescription pain medication that can be tampered with is still available on the open market. Tamper resistant drugs are available yet very few patients ever see them, because of industry profit margins and federal bureaucracy, according to the Boston Globe.

As of now, the FDA permits only brand name OxyContin to be marketed as a tamper resistant medication after the makers did an expensive reformulation. This hardly deters addicts who still have access to nearly a dozen other opiate medications that are still available in non-abuse resistant forms, even if the makers have such forms available. One of those drugs is oxycodone the generic of OxyContin. It hardly makes sense that OxyContin is tamper resistant while oxycodone is not - they are the same drug.

A 20-year veteran of narcotics enforcement, Yarmouth Police detective Sergeant Charles Peterson, backs proposals in Congress mandating pharmaceutical companies to market only abuse-resistant drugs. “Do we look at public safety, or do we look at profit?” said Peterson.

He believes that any opiate addiction “could have been prevented through either regulation of the pharmaceutical industry or restructuring of the opiate-based drugs themselves. They’re not going to go anywhere that would affect their bottom line unless they get pushed that way.”

In response to tamper resistant drugs many addicts have turned to heroin as cheaper alternative that has no restrictions. It seems that big pharma is afraid that if all their drugs are tamper resistant, addicts will look elsewhere to achieve their high. A legitimate fear is testament to the snowball effect of easy access to narcotic medications, too many drugs and very little oversight.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Hampshire Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Happy
The prescription drug epidemic is far reaching, impacting nearly all walks of life. Sadly, the new millennium has seen an exponential rise in babies being born with hardly a chance, drugs coursing through their blood before they even take the first gasp of air. The rise in prescription drug abuse has caused many to turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative to high priced opiate medications. Many of the aforementioned addicts happen to be expectant mothers. In New Hampshire, they have seen a rise in the number of babies born addicted to opioids, what’s known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

The number of addicted babies rose 600 percent between 2003 and 2009, according to Dr. William H. Edwards, section chief of neonatology at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) in Lebanon. “It really is an epidemic,” said Edwards. “It’s an astounding problem, and it needs to be recognized.”

The New Hampshire Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation released a report; findings showed that in 2009 116 infants were born with NAS, more than five times the amount born in 2000.

The national cost of health care for NAS babies has gone from $190 million to $720 million from 2000 to 2009 - nearly quadrupling. The average hospital costs for each NAS case rose from $39,400 to $53,400, according to an American Hospital Association (AHA) report.

There is a huge societal cost associated with NAS, as might be expected, many of the new mothers lacked health insurance and the majority of the hospital bills were covered by Medicaid. Safely detoxing babies from narcotics is not cheap by any means. The AHA report found state Medicaid programs had paid the bills for about 78 percent of addicted newborns.
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Monday, February 17, 2014

Government Encourages More Naloxone Use

Naloxone (2)
Every day people are dying from heroin overdoses that could have been reversed if the drug Narcan (naloxone) were present at the time. At a White House press conference, the Director of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerlikowske, said that heroin overdoses take the lives of 100 people daily. The government has suggested that first responders across the country should carry naloxone.

“Naloxone has very few side effects and can be safely administered in many different settings, so there is some hope for its expanded use,” Kerlikowske said.

In the wake of the success scene in Quincy, MA by police officers carrying the overdose antidote naloxone, officials are encouraging more police forces to carry the drug. Officials cited a pilot program of naloxone in Staten Island, New York; a police officer used naloxone to reverse an overdose in January, CNN reports.



If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

“Because police are often the first on the scene of an overdose, the Administration strongly encourages local law enforcement agencies to train and equip their personnel with this lifesaving drug. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to increase access to naloxone, resulting in over 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001,” stated the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in a blog post. “Used in concert with ‘Good Samaritan’ laws, which grant immunity from criminal prosecution to those seeking medical help for someone experiencing an overdose, it can and will save lives.”

Heroin is not the only concern; there has been a 20 percent rise in prescription drug overdose deaths since 2006. In an effort to save money, many prescription drug users turn to heroin as a less expensive more effective source. “Heroin is cheaper than prescription drugs and they make the switch for economic reasons,” according to Dr. Wilson Compton of ONDCP.
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Energy Drinks Tied to Teen Substance Use

Energy Drink Dosen Sammlung
Teenagers and young adults consume more energy drinks than any other age group, foregoing traditional forms of caffeine like coffee. Energy drinks contain ingredients that are much stronger than a normal cup of coffee which makes them more popular. New research has shown that teens who consume energy drinks may be more likely to use alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, Health Day reports.

Nearly 22,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12, took part in the study. The group that was most likely to use energy drinks were eighth graders. Researchers found that 30 percent said they drank high-caffeine energy drinks, more than 40 percent drank regular soft drinks, and 20 percent drank diet soda daily. Those who consumed energy drinks were two to three times more likely to admit using drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.

Teens from broken families and those whose parents had completed a lower level of education were more likely to consume energy drinks. Teens who drank soft drinks were less likely than teens who consume energy drinks to use alcohol and drugs.

“The current study indicates that adolescent consumption of energy drinks/shots is widespread and that energy drink users also report heightened risk for substance use,” writes researchers from the University of Michigan.

Mixing energy drinks with alcohol has become a common choice amongst the younger age groups. It is often the case that people think that the energy drink makes them less drunk, allowing them to consume more alcohol. This common misconception has led to alcohol related car crashes and alcohol poisonings.

The research was published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Narcan Antidote Continues Reversing Heroin Overdoses

Logo of the United States National Institute o...
The heroin overdose antidote Narcan (naloxone) is saving lives, the more available the drug becomes, the more lives are saved. Nationwide, the drug naloxone is now more available to friends and families of addicts, as well as addicts themselves, the Los Angeles Times reports.

There are currently 17 states and the District of Columbia that have laws allowing the family and friends of those addicted to heroin or prescription opioids to have the antidote. Police departments around the country are being encouraged to carry Narcan by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Quincy, Massachusetts, police department was the first in the nation to see the advantages of Narcan; their officers were required to carry Narcan while on patrol. The requirement paid off, they reported a 95 percent success rate with Narcan treatment.

In the past, Narcan was used exclusively by paramedics and doctors, but by the time the patients arrive it is often too late to administer the life saving medicine. Providing the Narcan nasal spray to the addicts themselves has proven effective in reversing overdoses that could have led to fatalities. The medication blocks the ability of heroin or opioid painkillers to attach to brain cells.

As more and more prescription opiate addicts make the switch to heroin, states from coast to coast have seen a surge in heroin use. The rise in heroin use has led to a number of lawmakers to consider more relaxed laws on who can acquire the life saving antidote. Ohio is one state that has a bill they are considering that would allow distribution of Narcan, the article notes. The Ohio measure would increase the availability of naloxone to anyone “in a position to assist an individual who there is reason to believe is at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose.”

Wilson Compton, the Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says that when naloxone is injected into an overdose victim whose heart has not stopped, “it’s virtually 100 percent effective.” When overdose victims are discovered, “they’re kind of blue, they’re breathing very shallowly, or hardly breathing at all,” he said. “If this medication is administered [properly], they wake up within a minute or two. It’s remarkable. You save their life.”
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America National Leadership Forum

National Youth Leadership Initiative encourage...
The 2014 Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Leadership Forum starts this week, where more than 2,500 community leaders will meet in the Washington, D.C. area.

The CADCA forum is the nation’s largest training event for substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals. The nation's finest federal and state officials and community leaders will join together to find solutions to the nation’s substance abuse problems. The event will showcase more than 80 training courses, with the goal of helping participants develop effective methods for addressing drug-related issues in their communities.

Teenage marijuana use and underage drinking will be a major focus point at the forum. Preventing prescription drug abuse, as in years passed, will also be at the forefront of concerns that will be addressed.

CADCA Keynote speakers will include:
  • Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Frances Harding, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
  • Pamela Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator
  • Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Brigadier General Barrye Price, Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army
The 24th annual CADCA forum began February 3rd, 2014.
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Marijuana Billboard Super Bowl Battle

An inside view of MetLife Stadium during the f...
Every year around Super Bowl time, Americans are bombarded with countless alcohol advertisements. One can hardly turn on the television without being encouraged to open a beer. This year was a little different, as it was the first football season that recreational marijuana was legal in certain states. Naturally, marijuana advocates wanted the same recognition by the NFL as beer companies.

Ironically, professional athletes from the only two states in the nation, Washington and Colorado, where marijuana is legal for recreational use, went head-to-head in New Jersey at Super Bowl XLVIII. In preparation for the game, groups advocating for legalization, as well as those against it, launched billboard campaigns around the New York-New Jersey area, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Billboards, with pro-marijuana messages, purchased by the Marijuana Policy Project, appeared along New Jersey highways leading to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. One billboard read: “MARIJUANA: Safer than alcohol…and football” or “As many people were arrested for marijuana in 2012 (749,824) as have attended the past 10 Super Bowls combined (751,203)”.

Morgan Fox, the Marijuana Policy Project spokesman, said the marketing campaign highlighted the hypocrisy associated with the NFL and its beer sponsors. “The same organization has no problem actively advertising a much more dangerous substance, particularly in a relatively family environment,” Fox said.

The Marijuana Policy Project’s billboard competition was Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, chairman of SAM, said in a news release, “Marijuana use saps motivation, perseverance, and determination – the opposite of what it takes to win the Super Bowl. It is not a safe drug, especially for kids, and we need to reiterate the message to coaches, parents, players, and teens alike that it has no place in football.”
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