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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Cost of Heavy Drinking

It is no secret that heavy alcohol use can have detrimental effects on a person’s mind and/or body - having a serious impact on one’s life. Heavy consumption can lead to addiction, causing people’s lives to spin out of control; not just impacting loved one’s but also society. New research indicates that heavy alcohol use costs the American economy billions of dollars every year, PsychCentral reports. The findings come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The researchers attribute the cost to:
  • Reduced Workplace Productivity
  • Crime
  • Treating Health Problems
CDC researchers found that excessive drinking cost the U.S. $249 billion in 2010 ($2.05 per drink), according to the article. When you compare that figure to what heavy alcohol use cost the economy in 2006 ($223.5 billion or $1.90 per drink), you can see a significant increase.

The data indicates that binge drinking was responsible for 77 percent of the costs. In 2010, states each paid a median of $3.5 billion in alcohol-related costs, the article reports. Some states paid a lot more than others, with North Dakota paying $488 million to California paying $35 billion.

“The increase in the costs of excessive drinking from 2006 to 2010 is concerning, particularly given the severe economic recession that occurred during these years,” said Robert Brewer, M.D., M.S.P.H., head of CDC’s Alcohol Program and one of the study’s authors.

“Effective prevention strategies can reduce excessive drinking and related costs in states and communities, but they are under used.” 

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Many Teens Accept Rides From Drivers Who Had Been Drinking

Driving under the influence of alcohol is never a good idea, and while most teenagers are aware of the dangers - they drive anyway. New research suggests that many teens are willing to be accompanied by a driver that has been drinking. A new survey has found that 30 percent of teenagers have accepted a ride in the last year from a driver they knew had been drinking, HealthDay reports. The survey was sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and State Farm Insurance.

"Everyone would agree that riding with a drinking driver is not a good idea, but teens are making this choice to do so," said Dave Phillips, a State Farm spokesman. "This study shows that teens don't plan to ride with a drinking driver, but they are willing to do so if the situation comes up." 

The findings come from 600 teenagers who participated in an online poll. The data indicates that one in four would be willing to ride with a driver that has been consuming alcohol, according to the article. On the hand, the survey showed that more than 90 percent of teenagers report being willing to speak with their friends about the risks of riding with drunk drivers, and 70 percent do not believe that speaking against riding with drunk drivers would damage their friendships.

Robert Turrisi, a professor of biobehavioral health with Penn State's Prevention Research Center, says that parents need to talk with their teenagers about handling situations involving drunk driving. He points out that teens process decisions differently than adults.

"Young people are not just small versions of adults," said Turrisi. "They really think fundamentally different. They make their decisions more based upon emotions than well-thought-out plans, most of the time."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Treating Back Pain With NSAIDs

Finding alternative forms of pain management is crucial in the fight to end the prescription opioid epidemic in America. All too often doctors prescribe opioids for minor ailments that could be treated with non narcotic analgesics. New research suggests that over the counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) provide as much relief for lower back pain as opioids or a muscle relaxants, HealthDay reports. Researchers compared both prescription naproxen (Naprosyn) and OTC naproxen to Percocet (oxycodone with acetaminophen).

“Acute low back pain is a frustrating condition,” said lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Friedman, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “Adding the narcotics or muscle relaxants to naproxen therapy didn’t help pain or function any more than naproxen alone. Nearly 50 percent of patients were still suffering one week later and nearly 25 percent of the patients were still suffering three months later.” 

Dr. Friedman points out that there are currently no good treatments for acute lower back pain, according to the article. The findings show that prescription opioids are not always needed for treating back pain; many patients would be served better by taking NSAIDs, such as Aleve or Advil.

“This is another study to add to the pile that says narcotics are not appropriate to treat back pain,” said Dr. Houman Danesh, director of integrative pain management in the department of anesthesiology-pain at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “Although fewer doctors are prescribing narcotic painkillers for back pain, many still do.” 

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Some Doctors Prescribe Opioids Twice As Often

The overprescribing of prescription narcotics has left tragedy in its wake. The high rate of opioid overdose deaths has all the major health related agencies scrambling to find ways to curb the ever growing epidemic. New research indicates that a small number of doctors are responsible for the majority of narcotic prescriptions written, HealthDay reports. The findings come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis of drug-monitoring programs in eight states - representing about one-quarter of the population of the United States.

"Every day, 44 people die in American communities from an overdose of prescription opioids and many more become addicted," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in an agency news release."States are on the frontline of witnessing these overdose deaths. This research can help inform their prescription overdose prevention efforts and save lives." 

The analyzed states include:
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia
The analysis showed that prescribing practices vary from state to state, but in some states doctors were found to be prescribing around twice as many prescription opioids and sedatives as doctors in other states, according to the article. The researchers found that in some states prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, were being prescribed four times more often than in other states. What’s more, all eight states were found to prescribe prescription opioids twice as often as stimulants or sedatives.

"A more comprehensive approach is needed to address the prescription opioid overdose epidemic, including guidance to providers on the risks and benefits of these medications," said the director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Dr. Debra Houry, in the news release. 

The findings were published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Family Structure Influences Teenage Relationships With Alcohol

It goes without saying that every parent goes about raising their children in different ways. While variations may seem like minor details, how alcohol is viewed and treated in the household by parents could influence whether problems may arise down the road. New research suggests that a teenager's family structure could influence whether or not allowing them to drink at home will result in alcohol problems, The Boston Globe reports.

Some parents believe that allowing their teens to consume alcohol at home will teach them safe drinking practices, while other parents preach abstinence until adulthood. The new study found that allowing teens to drink at home did not predict later alcohol use, according to the article. The researchers found that family structure played major role in how relationships with alcohol developed.

The research involved interviews with 772 children ages 12 to 17, and their parents, starting in 1989. The participants were re-interviewed up to four times over the next 15 years. This is the first study to deal with the relationship between drinking at home and family structure, the article reports.

“An intact family structure with two parents might serve as a proxy for factors like better communication with both parents and clearer expectations of behavior — what’s allowed and what’s not,” said lead author Ash Levitt of the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions. “When there are two parents, it’s also easier to set rules and monitor how they’re being followed.” 

Certainly, the nature of one’s family will have an impact on a teenagers' development of relationship skills. Although, even when a family is intact (2 parents), it can still be risky to allow teens to consume alcohol at home.

The findings were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Recovery High School

For many in recovery, addiction began in their teens and it is usually not addressed until adulthood. Many teenagers who are dealing with addiction manage to have their problem go undetected throughout their high school years. Those whose parents or peers discover the problem, usually through overdose or arrest, are commonly sent to treatment. After treatment, such teenagers usually resume their schooling, but some do not return to their old high school.

In certain parts of the country, teenagers who have struggled with addiction may be eligible to attend what’s being called “Recovery High.” In the State of Massachusetts, a number of such schools have opened, offering schoolwork and recovery support for teenagers living sober, WBUR reports. There are now five high schools in the state that provide a community for recovering addicts.

One school, William J. Ostiguy Recovery High School, is housed in a Boston office building. The school is open year round and offers small classes, usually no more than 15 students at a time, according to the article. A licensed substance abuse counselor develops individual recovery plans for the students, and each student must submit to random weekly drug tests. If a student happens to relapse, they are required to leave school for treatment for an indefinite period.

“All too often people in recovery in general, not just kids, will convince themselves that once a relapse happens they might as well go all out because they’ve already quote-unquote screwed up,” says John McCarthy, Ostiguy’s recovery counselor. “And it’s really unfortunate, because a relapse does not have to be like that. It can be, you know, a positive learning opportunity.” 

Recovery high schools offer a unique opportunity for young people in recovery. They can receive a good education, and they can do it amongst peers who are also learning to live a life free from addiction.

“The young people identify as being in addiction,” said Roger Oser, Ostiguy’s principal. “So they look to the left and they look to the right and they see someone who is going through the same struggle as them, which they don’t get in their communities and their home schools.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Naloxone Saves Dozens of Lives in Chicago

Across the country the surfacing of the deadly mixture of heroin and fentanyl seems to be becoming more and more common. Fentanyl is reported to be 100 times more potent than morphine and can be manufactured with relative ease. Heroin is being mixed with fentanyl to increase the drug's potency, often resulting in deadly outcomes. In many cases, addicts are unaware of the presence of fentanyl, ignorance which can quickly lead to an overdose and potential death.

The rise in heroin use in the United States, in the wake of more than a decade long prescription opioid epidemic, has led many lawmakers to the realization that access to the life saving overdose reversal drug naloxone is critical. In a number of rural and urban areas of the country first responders have been equipped with naloxone kits, sold under the brand name Narcan ®. What’s more, lawmakers have begun allowing the miracle drug to be acquired without a prescription, allowing the family members of addicts' access to the medicine - saving even more lives. Unfortunately, in some of the areas hardest hit by the epidemic, naloxone access is still limited.

Naloxone made the news last week, when more than 80 people overdosed on heroin that was likely laced with fentanyl, the Chicago Tribune reports. Dozens of lives were saved thanks to naloxone; however, despite Chicago leading the nation in emergency room visits linked to heroin, Chicago police officers do not carry naloxone kits.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that Chicago is a heroin distribution hub, according to the article. One in five people arrested in Cook County, Illinois test positive for heroin. A new state law is in the works that would allow people in Illinois to get naloxone without a prescription, following a model in place in 14 other states.

"This is what the world would look like if it were well-protected by naloxone: Overdoses would still happen, but there would be a lack of fatalities," said Dan Bigg, whose Chicago Recovery Alliance outreach organization has given out naloxone to drug users for 18 years. "What we're seeing now is really a potentially amazing thing."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The UNITE to Face Addiction Rally

Over the weekend thousands of people came together in Washington D.C. to bring attention to the disease of addiction with the hope of breaking the stigma of a problem that affects millions of Americans, The Washington Post reports. The rally, which took place in the National Mall, hosted government officials and celebrities.

The keynote speakers and performers included:
  • Michael Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Vivek H. Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General
  • Mehmet Oz. Performer, talk-show host and surgeon
  • Sheryl Crow
  • The Fray
  • Steven Tyler
  • Aloe Blacc
The organizers of the event hope to change the conversation about addiction, a disease that affects one in three households, according to the article. 85 million people nationwide are affected by addiction, being the most urgent health issue facing the country.

"That’s why we’re in Washington, D.C., because it is a national health-care crisis,” said Donald McFarland, Communications Director for the group that organized the rally, Facing Addiction. “The truth of the matter is, ‘just say no’ didn’t work and the war on drugs failed.”

Breaking the stigma of addiction is crucial if the nation is ever to bring the crisis under control. A former heroin addict who attended the rally said he has struggled to talk about addiction because of the stigma that accompanies the disease.

“Something people need to understand is you have morals, you know that it’s wrong — so to speak — and you’re helpless,” said Nico Doorn. “The approach of putting people in jail and showing celebrities who have thrown away their lives isn’t working.”

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