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Friday, December 26, 2014

80 Percent Needing Help is Alcohol-Related

The use of alcohol during the holiday season is always excessive, even amongst those who do not have a problem with the substance. The reasons for the over-consumption of alcohol are varied, but one thing is certain, there is nothing healthy about it. In fact, while historically those who ended up seeking help for substance abuse were usually split 50/50 between alcohol and drugs, new findings indicate that the figures have shifted and up to 80% of the people needing help is alcohol-related, the BBC reports.

The new figures come from Cais, one of Wales' biggest charities, which provides support on substance abuse and mental health issues across north Wales and Powys. Just five years ago, half of the people seeking help from Cais were having problems with drugs. Now that figure has dropped to around 20 percent, Cais’ Chief Executive Clive Wolfendale believes that the recent shift is the result of alcohol being too cheap and that the product is promoted as being "glamorous."

"Pricing is all over the place. It needs to be more expensive. It's not happening quickly enough," Mr. Wolfendale added. "Sadly, no government seems to be able to get a grip on it.”

Wolfendale thinks that people are looking for a cheap and easy release; they turn to alcohol before drugs because of the availability and cost, according to the article.

"Use of opiates has decreased dramatically and is unappealing to many people, particularly young people, whereas drink has increased in popularity. It's promoted as glamorous."

While the recent findings come from across the Atlantic, in America the price of alcohol is also too low and too easy to come by. It is easy to overlook those suffering from alcoholism in the United States, especially since the majority of conversations these days are focused on the opioid epidemic that has been crippling the states for years. The conversation about alcohol abuse should continue, pricing and advertising reform is desperately needed - lest we overlook the big picture of addiction in America.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Methamphetamine Users May Develop Parkinson's Disease

English: Crystal methamphetamine
When people think of methamphetamine, the first thoughts are often times quite negative, such as diminished physical appearance from the toxic chemicals in the drug and erratic behavior due to sleep deprivation. It turns out that those negative side effects may not be the worst of it; a new study has found that methamphetamine users are three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than people who do not use the drug, Medical News Today reports.

What’s more, the researchers who conducted the study at the University of Utah and Intermountain Healthcare, found that female methamphetamine users may be almost five times as likely to develop Parkinson’s compared with women who do not use drugs.

“Typically, fewer females use meth than males do,” study senior author Glen R. Hanson, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor and interim dean of the University of Utah School of Dentistry and professor of pharmacology and toxicology, noted in a press release. “Even though women are less likely to use it, there appears to be a gender bias toward women in the association between meth use and Parkinson’s.”

Patient data from the University of Utah Health Care and Intermountain Healthcare, as well as more than 40,000 records in the Utah Population Database (UPDB), comprised of genealogical, medical and government-provided information on Utah families, was combed through by researchers. The data that contained identifying patient information was removed in order for all participants to remain anonymous, according to the article.

Only patients who had used only meth and cocaine were considered for the study. Patients who had used any other controlled substance or alcohol with methamphetamine or cocaine were not eligible for the research. The control group was then compared to both the methamphetamine and cocaine groups.

The participants in the cocaine group were not found to be at increased risk for Parkinson's.

"We feel comfortable that it's just the meth causing the risk for Parkinson's, and not other drugs or a combination of meth and other drugs," says Hanson.

The research was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tips From Former Smokers Campaign Success

Have you ever wondered how effective anti-smoking campaigns are? In 2012, an anti-smoking campaign called “Tips From Former Smokers” was launched by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a new report has deemed the campaign not only a success, but also cost effective, according to HealthDay. The CDC reported that the campaign cost just $480 per smoker who quit and $393 per year of life saved.

You may remember this particular anti-smoking campaign, one could argue that it is hard to forget considering that it featured graphic images of the effects that smoking has on the human body. Last year, the CDC reported that an estimated 1.6 million people tried to quit smoking as a result of seeing the anti-smoking ads and 100,000 people actually did manage to quit. The CDC reports that the ad campaign was seen by almost 80 percent of American smokers.

“Our mission is to protect the public health, and the 2012 Tips ads did this by motivating 1.6 million smokers to make a quit attempt,” study co-author Dr. Tim McAfee, Director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in an agency news release. “In addition, our responsibility is to spend public dollars as wisely and efficiently as possible.”

In order for a public health program to be deemed cost-effective, the widely accepted price-ceiling is $50,000 per year of life saved, according to the CDC. The “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign only cost of $393 per year of life saved, leaving a lot of money leftover to be directed towards other causes.

“There is no question the Tips campaign is a ‘best buy’ for public health — it saves lives and saves money,” added CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Developing A Breath Test For THC

In 2014, Alaska and Oregon voted in favor of marijuana legalization, making a total of four states where marijuana can be purchased and consumed legally. Experts believe that more states will follow in 2016, with one of the likely states being California. Many American’s sat back to watch the legalizing pioneer states, Colorado and Washington, develop rules and standards for the safe production, distribution and consumption of the drug. All things considered, a number of Americans contend that, while Colorado and Washington have handled things pretty well, people driving under the influence of marijuana is a major concern.

Unlike alcohol, determining whether or not someone is currently under the influence of marijuana is tricky; police are not equipped with mobile devices that can give them readings one way or the other. Currently, if an officer suspects that a driver is “high,” the suspect will have to submit to a blood analysis to determine the concentration of marijuana in the bloodstream. 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood was set as the legal limit under Initiative 502; anyone testing above 5 is automatically determined to be impaired.

At Washington State University, researchers are developing a breath test for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to The Seattle Times. In Washington, the need for a standardized mobile test that officers can use to determine THC levels is paramount, perhaps the only sure way to dissuade drugged-driving.

Legalization in Washington has brought with it a surge of drivers testing positive for THC. In 2013, the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory reported that 25 percent of all tested blood samples taken from drivers suspected of driving under the influence, tested positive for active THC. In 2012, the year that legalization passed, only 18.6 percent of blood samples tested positive.

Washington State University chemistry professor Herbert Hill and WSU doctoral student Jessica Tufariello believe they can re-purpose devices, like the ones used by airport security and customs agents to detect drugs and explosives, into mobile units that can test one’s breath for THC. According to Hill, preliminary devices probably won’t be able to pinpoint the level of THC in the body, just whether or not THC is present. However, Hill believes that such a device could help law enforcement determine whether to arrest a suspected impaired driver for further testing.

“We believe at least initially that it would lower the false positives that an officer would have,” Hill said. “They would have a higher level of confidence in making an arrest.”

Friday, November 28, 2014

Teenage TBI Reported Drug Use

English: A CT of the head years after a trauma...
Students in Canada, between grades 9 and 12, who had experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI), reported drug use rates two to four times higher than peers with no history of TBI, reports Science Daily.

"Overall, a teen with a history of TBI is at least twice as likely as a classmate who hasn't suffered a brain injury to drink alcohol, use cannabis or abuse other drugs," said Dr. Michael Cusimano, co-principal investigator of the study and a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital. "But when you look at specific drugs, those rates are often higher."

A TBI was defined by researchers as any hit or blow to the head that resulted in the teenager being knocked out for at least five minutes or being hospitalized for at least one night due to symptoms associated with the head injury.

The research showed that, in the past 12 months, teens with a history of TBI said they were:
  • 3.8 times more likely to have used crystal meth.
  • 3.8 times more likely to have used non-prescribed tranquilizers or sedatives.
  • 2.8 times more likely to have used Ecstasy.
  • 2.7 times more likely to have used non-prescribed opioid pain relievers.
  • 2.6 times more likely to have used hallucinogens.
  • 2.5 times more likely to have used cocaine.
  • 2.5 times more likely to have used LSD.
  • 2.1 times more likely to have used non-prescribed ADHD drugs.
"On top of the other health consequences, substance abuse increases the odds of suffering an injury that could result in a TBI," said Dr. Cusimano, who is also a researcher with the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science. "And using some of these substances may also impair recovery after injury."

The findings were published in The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.

Friday, November 21, 2014

MRI's May Predict Future Alcohol Abuse

In the near future it may be possible to predict substance abuse through genetic testing; researchers are tirelessly working to find genetic markers they could indicate an increased likelihood of addiction. What’s more, new research suggests that conducting brain scans on preteens may give scientists the ability to detect changes in the brain, allowing them to predict future alcohol abuse, Medical Daily reports.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine worked with neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center to study 135 preteen boys and girls who were an average of 12.6 years old. None of the participants had ever tried alcohol in their lives.

“What this study is attempting to do is identify the differences in the brains of adolescents who go on to misuse alcohol and other drugs. If we know what is different, we may be able to develop strategies that can prevent the behavior,” project director Dr. John VanMeter said.

The preteens underwent MRI scans to evaluate their brain connections, specifically focusing on the brain’s executive control network (ECN). The ECN is comprised of areas in the brain that process emotion, impulsivity and self-control, according to the article. The preteen’s parents were asked to fill out questionnaires about their children’s behavior and exposure to drugs or alcohol. The researchers then compared the MRI scans with the findings from the questionnaires.

“We know impaired functioning in the ECN is linked to an earlier age of drinking onset and higher frequency of drinking, but it was unclear whether this dysfunction occurred before drinking or was a consequence of alcohol use,” project researcher Tomas Clarke of Georgetown University Medical Center said in a news release. The findings indicated that children who were at high risk for alcohol abuse had significantly fewer connections in the ECN. “Our findings suggest reduced prefrontal cortex development predates alcohol use and may be related to future alcohol use disorders,” Clarke noted.

"Less connectivity predicted higher levels of impulsivity," said Benson Stevens, a research student at Georgetown University, in the release. "Importantly, these effects were observed before the onset of alcohol use. The reduced connectivity between these brain regions could be an important factor in adolescent alcohol use given that reduced inhibitory control has been found to be a factor in alcohol use disorders."

The research was presented this week at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Drinking Alcohol Leads to the Emergency Room

Consuming alcohol often comes with unpredictable outcomes; many cases involve a trip to an emergency room. Alcohol disrupts the decision making process and lowers people’s inhibitions, which can lead to dangerous choices. New research indicates that a person who consumes three drinks in six hours is about 4.6 times more likely to end up in the emergency room than someone who had nothing to drink.

Supported by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, researchers analyzed surveys filled out by 13,000 people, in 18 different countries, that had injured themselves while drinking and needed to go to the ER, according to The Washington Post. The researchers found that even one drink roughly doubles the odds of going to the hospital.

"Patients were asked about the cause of injury bringing them to the emergency department (categorized as falls, traffic, violence, other), drinking within six hours prior to the injury event, and drinking during the same six-hour period the previous week," explained author Cheryl Cherpitel, a researcher with the Alcohol Research Group.

Violence was more commonly the cause of injury from increased drinking than traffic accidents or falls, in fact researchers determined that just one drink almost quadruples a person’s odds of getting into a fight and having to go to the hospital. The more alcohol that one consumes the greater the chance of ending up in the emergency room due to violence.

The study found that women who consumed alcohol had a higher risk of injury than men. The reason for this, explains Duke University's Philip Cook, is that "generally speaking the effects of ingesting X ounces of ethanol in 6 hours depends on weight but also gender (and other factors). Women tend to be more reactive to alcohol, achieving a higher BAC for given level of drinking and body weight."

The findings appear in the journal Addiction.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Alcohol and Tobacco Sold at Pharmacies

In an attempt to promote healthier choices CVS no longer sells tobacco, a move that will cost the company an estimated $2 billion in revenues, according to The Wall Street Journal. In order to compensate for the loss, Caremark, the pharmacies benefits manager, announced it will require some customers to make a $15 co-payment on prescriptions filled at non-CVS pharmacies that sell tobacco. CVS owns Caremark so they have to find some way to make up for the losses.

It is not difficult to see that the CVS anti-tobacco move is not without complications, considering that many of those covered by Caremark do not smoke. Charging such customers an extra co-pay fee when filling their prescriptions at non-CVS pharmacies could be seen as unfair.

Following the lead of CVS, Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager, is surveying pharmacy owners about developing a network of pharmacies that do not sell tobacco products or alcohol, the article reports. This move to create, what is called a “no-sin network,” may end up canceling out any competitive benefit for CVS and may exclude CVS pharmacies from the “no-sin network” because the pharmacy continues to sell alcohol in states that allow it.

“Some clients have inquired about creating networks that include pharmacies that do not sell tobacco or alcohol,” the Express Scripts spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. “We regularly survey our retail pharmacy partners on many topics and we are doing so now. At this point, we are gathering information.”

If Express Scripts moves forward with creating a network of vice free pharmacies, it may force CVS’ hand to stop selling alcohol. While removing products like tobacco and alcohol from pharmacies may promote healthier choices, in a way it is somewhat counter-intuitive. When you consider that many of the drugs found behind the counter are as equally addictive and self-destructive, drugs that continue to disrupt countless lives.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Affordable Care Act Lacking Mental Health Coverage

The Affordable Care Act has provided coverage to millions of Americans who were previously uninsurable. Unfortunately, despite being insured, there are people who have not been able to seek treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems, according to U.S. News & World Report.

There are a number of loopholes in the health care law that has kept people from requesting mental health care, the article reports. The Affordable Care Act does not specify which particular services must be covered, despite mental health and substance use disorders being considered essential health benefits that must be covered. In some cases, patients are not aware that their insurance plans cover behavioral health.

“There’s a perception that enforcement is not what it should be, and that people aren’t getting the benefits they are entitled to,” said Bob Carolla, a spokesman at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found a shortage of 1,846 psychiatrists and 5,931 other mental health professionals. Some experts fear that if more patients start seeking help for behavioral health issues, there will not be adequate resources to serve them. The report showed that 55 percent of U.S. counties do not have any practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers.

“There has been a long-standing shortage,” Carolla says. “Expansion of health care is a good thing, but it also means you are widening demand for it.”

It is crucial that patients understand what their health insurance plan covers exactly before choosing a plan. If you have a history of mental illness or substance abuse, and your plan is not covering treatment, it is best to switch your plan to one that does.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Social Media Recovery Study

Social media is excellent tool for people to connect around the world, closing the gap between liked minded people. Over the last few years people in recovery and people wanting to learn about recovery have connected with professionals in the field using platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Social media is perhaps the best way to get real-time information on any subject, which couldn’t be more important when considering the dangers of untreated alcoholism and addiction.

Researchers working with Facebook and Twitter to further understanding, prevention, and treatment of substance use and addiction have been granted millions of dollars over a three year period by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Medical Daily reports. Researchers will use social media platforms to better identify current attitudes and myths about alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

“We hope to learn more about how changing technologies affect interpersonal communications and factual knowledge about tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs, including the non-medical use of prescription drugs,” said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a news release.

One research team, led by a computer science professor at UNC Charlotte, Dr. Yong Ge, will form advanced data mining techniques to gather tweets directly related to substance use; to uncover patterns of substance use in a timely, economical, and in-depth way, according to the article.

“Substance abuse is a serious health issue facing alarming numbers of young adults (aged from 18 to 25), who often suffer considerable consequences (e.g., blackout, rape, HIV-related sexual risk-taking, academic failure, mental issues, and violence) as a result,” wrote the researchers.

Another team, led by a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Dr. Warren K. Bickel, hopes to provide better treatment of addiction. The team would like to determine if social networks can support continued recovery.

“Although recognized as a chronic relapsing disorder, addiction is still largely treated as an acute disorder,” wrote Bickel’s team in their proposal.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program

In an attempt to combat the two leading causes of death in young adults, more than 55 universities and colleges have partnered with the Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program. The goal is to prevent deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning, and suicide, according to USA Today. The Jed Foundation and Clinton Foundation will work together to evaluate substance abuse, mental health and suicide prevention programs at the participating schools.

Participants include:
  • NYU
  • Cornell
  • Georgetown
  • Boston University
  • Princeton
  • UCLA
“There’s nothing out there this large and comprehensive that I’m aware of that does this, and including substance abuse is pretty novel as well,” said Greg Eells, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Cornell’s Gannett Health Services.

Self-assessment surveys on current mental health promotion, substance abuse and suicide prevention programming will be given to each participating school. The findings will then be compared to a comprehensive set of recommended practices. Each institution will be given customized feedback, such as ideas for improvements and support.

“The college years are the age when many mental health issues first manifest, and it can be a time of significant stress and pressure,” John MacPhee, Executive Director of The Jed Foundation, said in a news release. “The Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program helps schools by working with them to survey everything their university is doing to support their students’ emotional health, and find practical ways to augment these efforts in a comprehensive way. We believe that the implementation of a campus-wide approach to mental health will lead to safer, healthier campuses, and likely greater student retention.”

The colleges have made a four-year commitment to the program.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Need for Mental Health Screening in Schools

Millions of Americans who struggle with mental illness fail to receive treatment. Left untreated, the insidious nature of mental illness can destroy lives and devastate families. While mental illness can develop at an early age, sadly, only one-fourth of children with mental health problems are diagnosed and treated, HealthDay reports.

In fact, new research from the University of Oxford in England showed that about three-quarters of adults, who have been treated for a mental illness, had a diagnosable disorder before they were 18. The report highlighted the need for schools to play a larger role in assisting students with mental health disorders.

“Mental illness often starts in adolescence but doesn’t end in adolescence: it is a life-long disorder,” lead author Dr. Mina Fazel said in a journal news release. “It is therefore essential to find innovative ways to approach treatment and to reach young people to maximize their academic, emotional and social development, and schools are where children spend much of their time.”

School children most commonly suffer from behavioral disorders and anxiety, with depression being more prevalent in secondary school, Fazel said. Untreated mental health problems can impact young people in a number of ways developmentally, leading to failure in school and non-attendance as well as affecting long-term career choices and relationships.

While mental health experts advocate psychiatric screening in schools, some critics are concerned that with screening will come labeling which will lead to stigmatization, according to the article.

"If 10 percent of children had diabetes, we wouldn't be saying that screening was a bad thing. Schools provide a platform to access large proportions of young people, and the vast majority of children picked up by screening would not need complex interventions,” Fazel said. “We know what works, but where we fall down is implementing this on a large scale in schools. We also need national policies to help education and mental health services work more closely together.”

The report can be found in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Alcohol Related Brain Changes Causes Sleep Disturbances

Early recovery from substance use disorders can be challenging; after relying on one substance or another for an extended period of time many feel like a fish out of water. Anxiety and depression are just two of the myriad of issues that alcoholics and addicts are faced with when the substances leave the body. Everyone’s brain is different and how one’s brain has been affected by prolonged use will vary. One of the biggest problems that people in early recovery deal with is sleep disorders.

Many recovering from alcoholism struggle with sleep in early recovery, some even have difficulty with sleeping long after they sober up. After years of drowning the brain in alcohol, the effects can be extensive and often times alter how the brain functions. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine have found that chronic alcohol use over a long period of time can disrupt cells in an area of the brain stem involved in regulating many aspects of sleep, Boston Magazine reports.

"Sleep-wake disturbances can last for months, or even years, after someone stops drinking, which indicates that chronic alcohol abuse could cause long-term negative effects on sleep," said Subimal Datta, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) who served as the article's senior author.

The disruption in the normal sleep cycle from prolonged drinking is the result of the activity of chemicals in the brain that excite neurons increasing, while at the same time decreasing the activity of a chemical that inhibits activity of these neurons, leading to over-activity of brain chemicals.

“Identifying the specific mechanisms that lead to change in brain activity will allow us to develop targeted medications, which could help treat people suffering from sleep issues related to alcohol use disorders,” Datta said in a news release.

The researchers write in Behavioral Brain Research.

Friday, September 26, 2014

First Drink to First Drunk

Drinking at an early age can have a number of negative side-effects, leading to health problems, social problems, and addiction. A new study has found that the shorter the time between a teen’s first drink and the first time they get drunk, can increase the risk of a teen abusing alcohol later on, HealthDay reports. Researchers surveyed 295 high school students who drink.

The teens were asked:
  • When they first tried alcohol?
  • When they first got drunk?
  • How often they drank in the first month?
  • How often they engaged in binge drinking?
“If age of any use is the primary risk factor, our efforts should be primarily focused on preventing initiation of any use,” William Corbin of Arizona State University said in a news release. “If, however, age of first intoxication — or delay from first use to first intoxication — is a unique risk factor above and beyond age of first use, prevention efforts should also target those who have already begun drinking in an effort to prevent the transition to heavy drinking.”

The research indicated that teens who had their first drink at age 14 and first got drunk when they were 15 became heavier drinkers than teens that started drinking at the same age but were 18 before they first got drunk.

“We would recommend that parents attempt to delay their children’s use of alcohol as long as possible,” study author Meghan E. Morean said. “However, even among adolescents who have had their first drink, a significant percentage has yet to drink to intoxication. Therefore, parents’ efforts to delay drinking to intoxication may be helpful in reducing their child’s long-term risk for negative outcomes associated with early drinking.”

 The study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Teenage Drug and Alcohol Use On The Decline

A new government study shows that teenage drug and alcohol use among American’s continues to decline, The Washington Post reports.

The findings come from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as part of its 25th annual observance of National Recovery Month.

The report showed that the rate of current illicit drug use among teens ages 12 to 17 was 8.8 percent in 2013, down from 9.5 percent in 2012 and 11.6 percent in 2002. Between 2002 and 2013, the number of teens with substance dependence or abuse problems decreased from 8.9 percent to 5.2 percent. During the same period the rate of regular alcohol use declined from 17.6 percent to 11.6 percent.

What’s more, the study found that marijuana and prescription drug use declined among teens ages 12 to 17.

While the report's findings are on the positive side, sadly the report found that many American teenagers who require treatment for a substance use disorder are not receiving the help they need. The findings indicated that, of the 22.7 million Americans 12 and older needed treatment for a substance use disorder last year, only 2.5 million received care at a treatment center designed for substance use disorders.

“This report shows that we have made important progress in some key areas, but that we need to rejuvenate our efforts to promote prevention, treatment and recovery, to reach all aspects of our community,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release.

The NSDUH is conducted annually, the findings come from a nationally representative sample of about 70,000 Americans ages 12 and older.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Binge Drinking While Pregnant Puts Child at Risk

Smoking and drinking during pregnancy
Binge drinking on its own is detrimental to the body, every bit of research indicates that those who binge drink increase their risk of health problems and/or addiction. So what happens when women binge drink while pregnant?

The risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is always present when consuming any amount of alcohol while pregnant, but a new study found that children had an increased risk of hyperactivity and inattention when they reached age 11, if their mother engaged in binge drinking while pregnant, they were also more likely to get lower marks on school exams. Researchers defined binge drinking as having four or more alcoholic beverages in a day on at least one occasion during pregnancy, Medical Daily reports.

More than 4,000 mothers in England and Australia took part in the study. Researchers took note of the participant's lifestyle and social factors while pregnant, including:
  • Age
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Alcohol Use
  • Tobacco Use
  • Marijuana Use
  • Use of Other Drugs 
Researchers questioned the mothers twice about their drinking habits, first during their pregnancy, then when their children were 5-years of age. A quarter of the mothers admitted to binge drinking at least once during their pregnancy.

Parents and teachers filled out questionnaires about the children’s mental health when the child was 11-years of age. The children’s academic performance was reviewed by the research team. The effects of a mother’s binge drinking were more pronounced in girls, the study found.

“Women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant should be aware of the possible risks associated with episodes of heavier drinking during pregnancy, even if this only occurs on an occasional basis,” lead researcher Professor Kapil Sayal from the University of Nottingham said in a news release. “The consumption of four or more drinks in a day may increase the risk for hyperactivity and inattention problems and lower academic attainment even if daily average levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are low.”

The study is published in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Nicotine May Lead to Harder Drugs

It seems like every way you turn someone is puffing on an E-cigarette, devices which many argue are a much safer method of getting a nicotine fix as well as an effective tool for quitting smoking. The facts about e-cigarettes are not well known, little research has been conducted to date. However, some researchers suggest that e-cigarettes may increase the risk of addiction to cocaine and other drugs, reports the New England Journal of Medicine.

In 2012, among U.S. adults 18 to 34 years of age who had ever used cocaine, 87.9% had smoked cigarettes before using cocaine, 5.7% began using cigarettes and cocaine at the same time, 3.5% used cocaine first, and 2.9% had never smoked cigarettes, according to the journal. Such data leads wife-husband research team Denise and Eric Kandel, to believe that nicotine in any form may serve as a “gateway” drug. The team found the rate of cocaine dependence was highest among users who started using cocaine after having smoked cigarettes, according to Time.

“Nicotine acts as a gateway drug on the brain, and this effect is likely to occur whether the exposure is from smoking tobacco, passive tobacco smoke or e-cigarettes,” they said. “More effective prevention programs need to be developed for all the products that contain nicotine, especially those targeting young people. Our data suggest that effective interventions would not only prevent smoking and its negative health consequences but also decrease the risk of progressing to illicit drug use and addiction.”

The Kandel’s point out that a typical e-cigarette user is a long-term smoker who is unable to stop smoking, but e-cigarette use is increasing among teens and young adults. 

Parents should be weary of their teenagers using any nicotine delivery system like e-cigarettes. While the devices may be safer than traditional cigarettes, nicotine is without question one of the most addictive substances and one of the hardest to quit. Many factors will determine if one moves on from nicotine to harder substances, but it is better to be safe and abstinence is always encouraged.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lower Nicotine May Reduce Addiction

Many people hold that if cigarettes had less nicotine people would simply smoke more. In fact, reducing nicotine in cigarettes does not lead to increased smoking habits and may actually reduce addiction, according to a new study conducted by the University of Waterloo.

The smoking behaviors of 72 adults were monitored by researchers; the study participants switched to three types of cigarettes with reduced nicotine levels. Researchers observed no change in participants' smoking behavior, number of cigarettes consumed or levels of toxic chemicals in their systems.

"One of the primary barriers to reducing nicotine levels is the belief that individuals who continue to smoke will smoke more cigarettes in an effort to extract the same nicotine levels, thereby exposing themselves to greater amounts of toxic chemicals. Our findings suggest this is not the case," said study lead author Professor David Hammond, of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo. "The smokers were unable or unwilling to compensate when there was markedly less nicotine in the cigarette and when the experience of smoking is far less rewarding."

The average cigarette smoked everyday contain 12mg of nicotine, the cigarettes used in the study - Quest 1, Quest 2 and Quest 3 - had a nicotine content of 8.9, 8.4 and 0.6 mg of nicotine. At the time of the study, Quest cigarettes were the only cigarettes with reduced nicotine in the world available for commercial use.

"There is ample evidence from inside and outside the tobacco industry that major reductions in the nicotine content of cigarettes would result in a less-addictive product," said Professor Hammond. "Overall, the impact of a less-addictive cigarette on reducing smoking uptake and cancer prevention is potentially massive."

The study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Nasal Spray Naloxone Final Testing

The opioid overdose antidote naloxone has become more readily available over the years and the drug has proven itself crucial when it comes to saving lives. A number of states allow addicts to purchase the drug at pharmacies as a preemptive measure; if an emergency does arise the chance of surviving an overdose is that much greater. One of the problems with naloxone in its current available form is that it is an injection; people without medical training may struggle to provide their friend or loved one with the injection. Fortunately, a new nasal spray form of the drug is in its final stage of testing and has received a Fast Track designation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to Science Daily.

The naloxone nasal spray was developed by Daniel Wermeling, a professor at the University of Kentucky's College of Pharmacy Practice and Science, through his start-up company AntiOp Inc. Even if a patient has stopped breathing, the spray delivers a consistent dose, absorbed across the nasal membranes.

"The goal is to make the medication available to patients at high risk of opioid overdose, and to caregivers, including family members, who may lack specialized medical training," Wermeling said. "The treatment could be given in anticipation of EMS arrival, advancing the continuum of care and ultimately saving lives."

Kentucky has been hit hard by prescription drug and heroin overdoses, with 230 heroin overdose deaths in 2013 - up 60 percent from the year before. The need for greater naloxone access, as well as a more user friendly method of implementation, is important.

"Too many Kentucky families have experienced the tragedy of seeing a loved one's life cut short by a drug overdose," said University of Kentucky president, Eli Capilouto. "The epidemic of opioid abuse in our state presents an enormous and urgent challenge, not only for health care providers and law enforcement, but also for us here at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Wermeling's project is putting a powerful new tool into the hands of those on the front line of the fight against heroin, both here in Kentucky and beyond. This type of innovation embodies the three main components of the university's mission -- education, research and, above all, service."

You can watch a short video on how the device works:

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

Increased Suicide Rates Amongst Middle Aged

Many Americans and people around the world are at a loss concerning the recent death of famed comedian/actor Robin Williams. The apparent suicide of Williams has prompted a number of people to look at what could cause someone who appears to have the world in their hands, take their own life. Robin Williams’ death highlights the increasing rate of suicide among American adults ages 45 to 64 according to U.S. health officials, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Williams struggled with drug addiction, alcoholism, and depression for years, according to The New York Times. Williams cleaned up from drugs in the mid-80s, but then sought treatment for alcohol abuse in 2006. Williams had been treated for severe depression recently. However, the risk of suicide increases in people who are struggling with drug and alcohol use and depression. And just yesterday his wife indicated that Williams was also in the early stages of Parkinson's disease.

Suicide rates for adults ages 45 to 64 increased 40 percent from 1999 to 2011, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The suicide rate for people in middle age to late middle age is higher than any other group, according to Jill Harkavy-Friedman, Vice President of Research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We don’t hear about middle-age or older people who kill themselves unless they’re a star like Robin Williams,” she said. “Because it’s so shocking when a younger person dies, there’s a tendency of re-reporting and romanticizing.”

According to Julie Phillips, Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, the increased suicide rate in this age group could be caused by:
  • Economic Pressures
  • Health Problems
  • Abuse of Prescription Drugs
  • Social Isolation
Most suicide prevention efforts have been mostly geared towards young and elderly people, according to Alex Crosby of the CDC. “Middle-aged adults got kind of left out in the thinking of where to focus to resources for suicide prevention,” he said. “It’s important for us to examine more closely and put more resources into that population.”

Friday, August 8, 2014

Civilian Life Leads Veterans to Drink

Drinking problems among veterans returning from foreign conflicts are quite common. Dealing with the post-traumatic stresses after war often results in self-medicating, which can easily lead to a substance use disorder. However, new research indicates that drinking problems in returning U.S. National Guard soldiers are more likely caused by civilian life, as opposed to their experience overseas, according to HealthDay.

Data was collected by researchers over a three year period on about 1,000 Ohio National Guard soldiers who returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. Researchers asked about their alcohol use and about stress in their lives since they returned. They were also asked about their exposure to traumatic events such as:
  • Injuries
  • Land Mines
  • Vehicle Crashes
  • Enemy Fire
  • Deaths of Fellow Soldiers

Researchers found that sixty percent had experienced combat-related trauma, and 36 percent had experienced life problems since they returned. In the first interview, researchers found that 13 percent of veterans reported alcohol abuse or dependence. In the second interview 7 percent and 5 percent in their third interview. Researchers determined that combat-related events were only marginally associated with alcohol problems.

Researchers found that 17 percent of the veterans said they were sexually harassed during their most recent deployment. An increased risk for alcohol problems was most associated with having at least one civilian point of stress or an incident of sexual harassment during deployment, the article notes.

“Exposure to the traumatic event itself has an important effect on mental health in the short-term, but what defines long-term mental health problems is having to deal with a lot of daily life difficulties that arise in the aftermath—when soldiers come home,” lead researcher Magdalena Cerdá of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health said in a news release.

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bipartisan REDEEM Act to Help Low-Level Drug Offenders Re-Enter Society

The REDEEM Act is a bipartisan bill designed to make it easier for low-level drug offenders to re-enter society, according to MSNBC. The bill follows in the wake of the U.S. Sentencing Commission voting to reduce terms for low-level drug traffickers who are already incarcerated.

In April, the Sentencing Commission voted to reduce the base offense for those charged with being in possession of various amounts of drugs. The vote not only affects those yet to be charged, but also those already incarcerated. The REDEEM Act could not come at a better time when you consider that there are more than 46,000 drug offenders who are eligible for early release from prison by more than two years.

All cases will have to go before a judge to be considered for early release and no one will be eligible for release before Nov. 1, 2015. However, Congress has the power to put a stop to the plan by Nov. 1, 2014.

The REDEEM Act is sponsored by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Republican. The act, if passed, would limit the length of time a person must answer employer questions about past convictions, greatly increasing one’s ability to find a job out of prison, according to the article. Another element of the bill focuses on federal welfare. Currently, there is ban on federal welfare benefits for people convicted of non-violent drug violations, under the bill the ban would be repealed for those who complete substance abuse treatment.

Please take a moment to watch a short video of Senators Booker and Paul discussing the REDEEM Act:

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

Americans In Favor of Legal Drinking Age

A Kranz (wreath) of Kölsch beer.
It's been 30 years since Reagan signed a bill that withheld Federal highway funding from states that kept the legal drinking age at 18; the bill was the straw that broke the camel's back ultimately causing all 50 states to adopt 21 and over laws. While there are some Americans who are in favor of changing the drinking age back to 18, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the legal drinking age where it stands, according to a recent Gallup poll.

In fact, seventy-four percent say they would oppose legislation that would change the legal drinking age, while 25% would favor it.

Originally, raising the legal drinking age was an attempt to reduce the number of drinking and driving fatalities, but research has shown that it has had other effects worth noting. The increase led to a reduction in: heavy drinking, unsafe sex, suicide, and dating violence.

There are some who believe that lowering the drinking age back to 18 and teaching kids about alcohol at a young age may diminish the allure of alcohol. If teenagers were taught how to drink responsibly it may dull the allure of alcohol from those unable to drink.

It may come as a surprise that the poll showed that younger adults were no more likely than older adults to support a lower drinking age.

Most teenagers are unaware of just how dangerous alcohol can be, leading to teen binge drinking and often times drunk driving. The likelihood of the drinking age ever going back to 18 is slim and hopefully it stays that way. In the meantime parents need to work hard to educate their children so that they do not form unhealthy relationships with alcohol at a young age.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Popular Amongst Parents

Parents are always on the lookout for innovative ways to stay ahead of their teenagers. In a world connected by social media, as well as online marketplaces that teenagers can use to buy illegal drugs without ever leaving the house, it is imperative that parents stay on top of their children’s activities. Some parents have resorted to using drug-sniffing dogs to comb their households for drugs and/or paraphernalia, according to NPR.

Across the country there are private drug-sniffing K-9 businesses that parents can hire to find out if their kids are hiding something from them. Many argue that it is better to invade their teenager's privacy than it is to do nothing and potentially lose a child to addiction.

Tom Robichaud, a former dog trainer and owner of Discreet Intervention, a Massachusetts based dog-sniffing company, knows firsthand what it means to lose a loved one to drug addiction, having lost his own brother to an overdose, according to the article. “Every time I go into a house, I see those parents like my parents, [and] what they went through,” says Robichaud. “It just destroyed my family.”

On the other end of the spectrum, some believe that hiring private drug-sniffing dogs could be a slippery slope. Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union says he believes drug-sniffing dogs cross a line, pointing out that dogs are capable of sniffing out more than illegal drugs which could potentially invade people’s privacy.

“There’s a fundamental principle here that we don’t intrude in that way on people’s homes,” he said. “And I don’t think we want to go down the road to allowing open season for neighbors to spy on each other.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

2014 National Drug Control Strategy

The opioid epidemic in America has become the focus in the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy released by the Whitehouse, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Acting “drug czar,” Michael Botticelli, who unveiled the administration’s strategy on Wednesday, makes clear that “we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of the drug problem.”

“Instead, it builds on decades of research demonstrating that while law enforcement should always remain a vital piece to protecting public safety, addiction is a brain disorder—one that can be prevented and treated, and from which people recover.”

The problem of addiction in this country hits close to home for Botticelli, who said “I’m also a person in long-term recovery from substance-abuse disorders”.... ”I’m speaking about my recovery because for too long the stigma associated with the disease of addiction has quieted too many of our fellow Americans who have struggled with this disease.”

The 98-page strategy highlights the nation’s growing middle-class opioid problem, due to the rampant heroin and prescription painkiller scourge raging in middle-America. The strategy also points out that drug overdoses will most likely surpass traffic accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in 2014, according to the American College of Physicians. What’s more, the strategy focuses on the legal alternative of substance use disorder treatment over incarceration.

“The plan we released today calls on healthcare providers to prevent and treat addictive disorders just like they would treat any other chronic disorder, like diabetes or heart disease,” Botticelli noted. “It calls on law enforcement, courts, and doctors to collaborate with each other to treat addiction as a public health issue, not a crime.”

Friday, July 4, 2014

Holidays Can Be Hard In Recovery

Major holidays can prove challenging for those in recovery; it is important to stay close to one’s recovery network. Holidays are notorious for relapse, feelings arise that are unique in one’s memory; recovering alcoholics and addicts can easily remember the good times they had, quickly forgetting the depths of despair that those good times ended up bringing them.

The 4th of July is no exception, arguably being the biggest drinking holiday all year. In some places, every other house is throwing some kind of party or get together and it’s easy for people in recovery to see the allure of such gatherings. Individuals working a program of recovery need to have a plan for the day, idle time is never a good thing. In every city there are a number of meeting houses and Alano clubs that host Alcathons (24/hrs of meetings) that usually start the night before the said holiday.

If you find yourself struggling there is always somewhere to turn; don’t let one bad idea make all the hard work you have put into your recovery count for naught. If you want to let loose on the holiday, it’s likely that there is a 12-step dance taking place close to where you live. It is possible to have fun in recovery and not pick up that first drink or drug.

If you cannot get a hold of someone in your support network and can’t get to a meeting, you can get the number to your local 24 hour helpline at the AA or NA websites. If you are willing to reach out, there is always someone in the program who is willing to help.

AA Orange County Hotline: (714) 556-4555 (24 Hours) 

NA Orange County Hotline: (714) 590-2388 (24 Hours)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Prescription Opioid Addiction Fuels Heroin Epidemic

English: Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, original...
As states crack down on prescription drug abuse the demand for heroin has gone up exponentially. The heroin crisis in New York is not an isolated problem; health officials and law enforcement in Massachusetts are seeing that drug abuse is not an inner-city problem as overdose rates in Boston suburbs skyrocket, according to CBS News.

Gov. Deval Patrick has labeled the problem an epidemic, “between 1999 and 2012 overdoses from prescription opiates quadrupled,” Patrick said.

While prescription opioid addiction can start with legitimate use and quickly lead to a serious problem, “They say about 23 percent of people that use an opiate will go on to have an opiate addiction,” State Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said. Prescription drug abuse is a slippery slope that can lead to heroin and other illicit drug use.

“This is striking at the heart of suburbs and it’s tearing families apart and it's destroying young people’s lives,” says Ashland, Mass. Police Chief Craig Davis.

“They may first start along the road of addiction to a legitimate prescription that they may have got from a knee injury, a sports injury, stemming from a sports injury but in very short time they find themselves addicted to these powerful painkillers,” Davis explained. “And now with the opiates being harder and harder to find, heroin has sort of filled that void because heroin is so cheap and plentiful.”

The 2014 World Drug Report indicates that opium production continues to rise and with that the availability of heroin. The drug is being smuggled to New York City like never before and is trafficked across the North East where the demand is unprecedented.

Friday, June 20, 2014

FDA Warning About Suicidal Thoughts Leads To More Suicides

English: Logo of the .
Depression is one of the hardest forms of mental illness to treat despite the slew of medications available. While the medications available today may work great for some people, for others they can be potentially dangerous and even lead to patients taking their own life.

A number of health officials issued a warning that antidepressants could lead to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts among young people and, as a result, many doctors stopped prescribing to that age group. However, a new study has found that doctors avoiding prescribing antidepressants actually increased the rate of youth suicide attempts, according to Reuters.

The findings indicate that many young people suffering from depression were left untreated due to the warnings issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the report in BMJ.

“This study is a one of the first to directly measure a health outcome driven by the interaction of public policy and mass media,” lead author Christine Lu of Harvard Medical School said in a news release. “The FDA, the media and physicians need to find better ways to work together to ensure that patients get the medication that they need, while still being protected from potential risks.”

Researchers reviewed data from healthcare organizations that treat 10 million people. The data showed that after the FDA issued the warning, use of antidepressants fell 31 percent among teens, 24 percent among young adults and 15 percent among adults. There was a 22 percent increase in the number of teens and young adults who overdosed on psychiatric medications over the same time period.

Friday, June 13, 2014

New York Gov. Announces Heroin Plan

The citizens of New York are no strangers to the illegal drug crisis, but the heroin epidemic that has swept across the city has many officials concerned. This week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in a speech that a hundred State Police investigators are being added to drug units around the state in order to help curb the rise in heroin abuse, according to the New York Times. “I’ll be the first to say to you: New York State has a problem with heroin addiction, and it is a growing problem,” said Cuomo in his speech.

Many remember the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s that brought New York to its knees. However, many do not remember that New Yorkers dealt with a heroin epidemic in the 1970’s, but this new crisis towers over the old. “In the ’70s we had a heroin epidemic. This is worse than what we went through before,” Cuomo said.

The prescription drug epidemic has left many Americans dependent on opioid narcotics. The federal government's attempts to stop the prescription drug problem has made it more difficult to acquire prescription opioids and much more expensive. The crackdown on prescription drug abuse has caused thousands of addicts to turn to heroin as a much stronger and cheaper alternative.

As a result, New York City has become the largest hub for heroin distribution on the East Coast. Most of the heroin originates from traffickers in New York City and spreads north through the state, said Joseph D’Amico, the superintendent of the State Police. The drug has found a home in New York suburbs and the problem cannot be ignored.

“When it gets into our suburbs, into our rural areas, into our high schools, into our colleges, it is so much more obvious because it wasn’t there before,” said D’Amico. “But it’s not just a suburban problem. It’s everywhere.”

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chicago Takes On Big Pharma

Just weeks after two California counties filed suit against big pharma, the city of Chicago has followed their example. The city filed a lawsuit against five prescription narcotics companies, claiming that the companies, through deceptive promoting, contributed to the country’s prescription drug epidemic, according to Reuters.

The drug makers have been accused of violating Chicago municipal laws against consumer fraud through misleading advertising and submitting false claims to the health insurance plan for city employees. The pharmaceutical companies downplayed the risks of addiction and exaggerated the benefits of opioid painkillers. The city hopes to be awarded the drug companies’ profits from the alleged illegal marketing as well as civil penalties and punitive damages.

“For years, big pharma has deceived the public about the true risks and benefits of highly potent and highly addictive painkillers in order to expand their customer base and increase their bottom line,” said Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement announcing the lawsuit on Tuesday.

The CDC reports that the sales of opioid painkillers quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, leading to 16,651 overdose deaths in 2010 alone. The city of Chicago makes clear that they are not attempting to ban prescription opioids, but rather stop deceptive marketing campaigns which would allow physicians and patients to have all the facts

The companies under fire are:
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Cephalon Inc.
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc
  • Endo Health Solutions Inc.
  • Actavis
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Some Doctors Favor Zohydro ER

Despite nationwide protests from health experts and lawmakers, doctors have begun prescribing Zohydro ER (pure hydrocodone). About 1,000 doctors have prescribed Zohydro ER and some doctors say the drug has its benefits, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Zohydro ER was made available to doctors in March, after much debate about the need for such a drug while this country is in the grips of a prescription drug epidemic that seemingly has no end in sight. Even the FDA’s own panel of experts advised against approving Zohydro due to the drugs high risk potential for abuse. Nevertheless, the FDA approved the drug going against its panel and the fact that the Zohydro currently has no abuse resistant features and can easily be crushed for snorting or injecting.

Despite the negatives associated with Zohydro, some doctors say that the drug has benefits. Zohydro lacks acetaminophen, a non addictive pain killer that is mixed into other hydrocodone products such as Vicodin. Acetaminophen can do serious damage to the liver when consumed in large quantities or if used over an extended period of time. Patients with chronic round-the-clock pain often consume large quantities of Vicodin which puts their liver at risk.

Removing acetaminophen from the equation while still provided long-acting pain relief is perhaps the only perk to Zohydro ER. Certain doctors believe that Zohydro ER may be the best option for those suffering from chronic pain.

"One of the things that we know about long-acting opioids is that for some people and certain types of chronic pain, they can have a very effective role in helping people manage their pain and increase their function," says Yngvild Olsen, medical director of a substance-abuse treatment program at the Institutes for Behavior Resources in Baltimore.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

California Counties Take On Big Pharma

The time has come for prescription drug companies to account for their actions, at least that is how two California counties look at it after filing suit against five narcotic drug manufacturers, holding them responsible for the prescription drug epidemic plaguing America. Both Orange and Santa Clara counties filed the suit Wednesday alleging that the companies ran a “campaign of deception” with the sole purpose of increasing prescription narcotic sales, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Officials in both counties claim that the companies involved violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance. After years of increasing overdose deaths, emergency room visits and the ever growing medical costs associated with prescription drug abuse, the big drug companies are being taken to task.

While Orange and Santa Clara counties are not the only counties to see, first hand, the effects of prescription drug abuse, they are the first to step up saying no more. There is hardly anywhere in America who has not been touched by the prescription drug epidemic, and while profits soar for certain companies the death toll continues to rise.

Disregarding “a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary,” pharmaceutical companies led doctors to believe the benefits of prescription narcotics were greater than the costs. The suit alleges that the companies in question ran a marketing campaign to encourage patients to ask their doctors for painkillers for even moderate pain concerns, which has led to an addiction crisis throughout the two counties which has caused many patients to turn to heroin.

The goal of the suit is “to stop the lies about what these drugs do,” said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

The companies named in the suit are:
  • Actavis
  • Endo Health Solutions Inc.
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Cephalon Inc.
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Extended Release Naltrexone Cuts Healthcare Costs

Americans are constantly on the lookout for new ways to cut healthcare costs. With the Affordable Care Act, in conjunction with Medicare expansion programs, many Americans who were once considered uninsurable are receiving the care they need. The fight for more affordable healthcare is far from over and a new report has shown that the extended-release drug Naltrexone (Vivitrol) used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence can lead to savings in healthcare costs.

Every year millions of dollars are spent as the result of people with alcohol and opioid dependence needing emergency healthcare (i.e. emergency rooms, detox, and residential treatment). Finding ways to reduce the number of visits to emergency rooms not only saves lives but also saves individuals from costly medical bills. Naltrexone is injected once a month and costs about $1,100 per injection. While the medication is without question expensive, researchers have found that patients who used the drug had generally lower overall costs.

Patients using Naltrexone were in treatment and detox for a shorter period of time than those who chose other forms of treatment, MedicalXpress reports. Patients using extended-release Naltrexone continued the treatment longer than those using the drug acamprosate or oral Naltrexone.

“Historically, oral medications for substance abuse have not often been prescribed or found to have a high degree of success, mostly because patients stopped taking them,” lead author Dan Hartung of Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, said in a news release. “But there are patients who are committed to treating their problems and data showed that they clearly appear to have success with extended-release Naltrexone, which is administered just once a month.”

More patients can now afford the expensive Naltrexone as the result of the Affordable Care Act, the article points out.

“There has always been some reluctance on the part of health care practitioners, as well as the patients they are treating, to use prescription medication to treat a substance abuse problem,” Hartung said. “Medication-assisted therapy is underutilized.”

The study was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
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