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Friday, April 24, 2015

Maine Program Alerts Doctors About Drug Related Crimes

In the state of Maine, a new program is underway that may save lives. Diversion Alert is a non-profit organization that allows medical professionals to access drug arrest records, giving physicians and extra level of discretion before they prescribe a drug that may result in a patient overdose, Bangor Daily News reports.

The program is in need of funding, which if unable to acquire could result in an end to the operation. The programs executive director has applied for several grants and has started raising money through a crowdfunding site, diversionalert.causevox.com/.

Prescription drug abuse is a major concern for a number of reasons, especially the risk of opioid overdoses. The implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs and abuse-deterrent opioids has proven to be an effective measure in the fight against the epidemic affecting people from all walks of life in all 50 states. Diversion Alert is available to doctors and pharmacists, providing them with a monthly list of people arrested or summoned for prescription or illegal drug-related crimes.

Not only does Diversion Alert help doctors identify patients at risk of overdosing, according to the program’s executive director, Clare Desrosiers, it provides a forum for doctors to talk to possible addicts about addiction treatment. Desrosiers points out that while prescription drug monitoring programs notify doctors about doctor shoppers, it does not alert prescribers when a patient has been charged with a crime related to prescription drugs.

Interestingly, Maine providers do not treat those arrested as pariahs. Desrosiers points out they continued to “provide well-informed and needed health care to all patients while also attending to alternative prescribing for those who have been involved in illegal substance activity.”

“I think this shows us that the program is effective,” said Desrosiers. “It would be a shame to see this lose funding.”


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Friday, April 17, 2015

Patient Misperceptions About Opioid Dependence

When people go to the emergency room complaining of pain the most common response by physicians is to give them something for the pain. In most cases the patient takes the prescription and does not think much of it, even if the drug has a high potential for dependence and/or addiction.

New research has found that patients want to be given more information about their pain management options, Science Daily reports.

While it goes without saying that prescription opioids are the most effective analgesics available, the researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that emergency room patients have misperceptions about opioid dependence and expressed a desire for better communication from physicians.

Using semi-structured open-ended telephone interviews with 23 patients discharged from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, according to the article, the researchers found that the main themes of the interviews included opioid dependence, addiction and doctor-patient communication about pain management. For example:

  • A fear of developing dependence or addiction.
  • Worries about following prescribed dosing preventing the possibility of addiction.
  • Relying on media and other individuals as a source of information about opioids.
  • Awareness of physicians' need to balance patients' pain management needs and safe opioid prescribing guidelines.
"It was interesting to find that patients believe that taking an opioid as prescribed prevents the possibility of addiction, but also that patients are learning about opioids from television and from friends and acquaintances -- not healthcare providers," said senior author Zachary F. Meisel, MD, MPH, MS, assistant professor and attending physician in the department of Emergency Medicine, who oversaw the study led by Robert J. Smith, BS, a medical student at Penn. "There's clearly a significant need for emergency departments to improve education around the risks of opioid misuse."

The study was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Friday, April 10, 2015

When the Prescription Becomes the Problem

The prescription opioid epidemic and rise in overdose deaths has government agencies scrambling to combat the issue. While previous efforts have had some effect, the problem is still seriously out of control. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a social media campaign called “When the Prescription Becomes the Problem,” Forbes reports.

The campaign is calling on those who have been affected by prescription opioid abuse to share their story with the world using social media platforms. The CDC hopes that the campaign will raise awareness regarding prescription opioid abuse and overdose. There were 16,235 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2013, according to the CDC.

“Prescription drug overdose devastates individuals, families and communities,” said Erin Connelly, Associate Director for Communication at the CDC’s Injury Center. “We’d like to get everyone talking and thinking about the risks involved with opioid painkillers.”

Using the hashtag “RxProblem” (#RxProblem), the CDC is asking people to write a six-word story or message and create an original picture or a video. People are then encouraged to share it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by May 15, 2015, using the hashtag. Hopefully, friends and followers will share the message to increase reach.

“Starting April 6th, help us tell the stories of the many people whose lives have been affected by prescription painkiller addiction or the death of a loved one,” the CDC says on its campaign website. “Encourage those in need to seek treatment for addiction. Celebrate others who are already working to change lives, and inspire our communities to improve patient safety and the way we treat pain.”

If you would like to contribute your story about your struggle with prescription opioids, it may help others find their way into recovery. You can learn more about the “When the Prescription Becomes the Problem” campaign here.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Higher Mortality Rates Tied to Alcohol Use

Habitual alcohol use can lead to a number of health problems, leading to a higher mortality rate for alcohol dependent patients. Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Bonn found that, when compared to those without a history of alcohol use, alcohol dependent patients pass away 7.6 years earlier, Science Daily reports. The need for earlier and more intensive psychotherapeutic support is being called for by the researchers.

The research was conducted by Dr. Schoepf and Prof. Dr. Reinhard Heun from the Royal Derby Hospital; they evaluated patient data from seven general hospitals in Manchester, England. The study’s findings drew from over 12.5-years of data, the researchers analyzed co-morbid physical illnesses of 23,371 hospital patients with alcohol dependence, according to the article. The researchers found that 27 concomitant illnesses affect people with alcohol addiction more often.

Prof. Heun summarized the result: "During the observation period, approximately one out of five hospital patients with alcoholism died in one of the hospitals, while only one out of twelve patients in the control group died."

"Mental problems as well as significant physical health impairments are associated with alcohol addiction," says Dr. Dieter Schoepf from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University of Bonn Hospital. "Alcoholics who were treated in British general hospitals for health problems die an average of 7.6 years earlier than non-alcohol dependent patients; this is due to the interaction of several concomitant physical illnesses," reports the scientist.

"Patients with addiction problems are often admitted to hospitals as emergency cases. At the time of diagnosis, priority is then given to the acute symptoms -- this may contribute to the fact that not all physical illnesses are recorded," says Dr. Schoepf.

The findings were published in the journal European Psychiatry.
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