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New Study Finds Most Frequent Reason for Calling Poison Centers are Prescription Drugs

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emergency room visits due to synthetic marijuanaPoisonings from prescription drugs are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, according to National Poison Control Center data from 2012.

Also topping the list was poisonings from “bath salts,” synthetic marijuana and laundry detergent pods. The paper was published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

“The poison center system can provide real-time advice and collect data regarding a variety of poisonings, including those that may be new or unfamiliar to emergency physicians,” said lead study author Richard Dart, MD, PhD, of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, CO. “Emergency physicians are continually challenged by the emergence of new types of poisonings, which lately include illicit street drugs as well as laundry detergent pods. The National Poison Data System (NPDS) plays an integral role in helping EMS and emergency departments respond to these dangerous substances.”

In 2012, poison centers nationwide recorded 2.2 million human poison exposures. Eighty-three percent of poisonings that ended in death in 2012 were linked to a pharmaceutical product, most commonly opioid painkillers. The total number of prescription opioid exposures by children more than doubled between 2002 and 2012 from 2,591 to 5,541.

The family of designer drugs such as “bath salts” (a type of amphetamine), “plant food,” synthetic marijuana and others continue to poison users severely enough that they require emergency medical treatment. Although bath salts exposures peaked in 2011, new illicit drugs sold to consumers continue to be monitored by poison control centers.

“Poisoning continues to be a significant cause of injury and death in the United States,” said Dr. Dart. “The near real-time responsiveness of NPDS helps emergency physicians respond to new poisoning threats, while also assisting patients who call for help to know when they need the ER and when they can manage things safely at home.”

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Prescription Drug Fatalities Drop In Medical Marijuana States

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Is medical marijuana the key to addressing prescription drug abuse deaths? A study conducted by a professor from Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health seems to conclude so.

prescription drug overdoseDr. Colleen L. Barry, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Health Policy and Management, released a team study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine that links lower deaths due to prescription drug abuse in states that legalize medical marijuana. “As our awareness of the addiction and overdose risks associated with use of opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin grows, individuals with chronic pain and their medical providers may be opting to treat pain entirely or in part with medical marijuana, in states where this is legal,” Barry said in a news item.

The study revealed that states where medical pot has been legalized posted a 25 percent lower mortality rate due to prescription medication overdose. The research used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between the years 1999 and 2010, which showed that the rate of fatalities arising from opioid painkiller abuse shot up within that particular time frame.

Study lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber from the University of Pennsylvania shared the details of the research results. “In absolute terms, states with a medical marijuana law had about 1,700 fewer opioid painkiller overdose deaths in 2010 than would be expected based on trends before the laws were passed.”

Meanwhile, the study’s proponents urged for more studies related to this topic, noting that there is a need to determine the long-term effects of medical marijuana in “both overdose deaths and the health trajectories of individuals suffering from chronic pain.”

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Government Tightens Restrictions on Commonly Abused Prescription Drug

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Ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31st, the federal government tightened restrictions on the prescribing of hydrocodone,  the most common form of painkiller in the country.prescription drug abuse

Hydrocodone, is the most widely prescribed painkiller in the United States and is an ingredient in drugs like Vicodin.

The rule places hydrocodone in a tougher, more restrictive category. Doctors will no longer be able to call in prescriptions by telephone, and patients will not be allowed to get refills on the same prescription, but will have to return to a health care professional to get a new prescription. The drug will have to be kept in special vaults in pharmacies.

The Drug Enforcement Administration published the rule on Thursday and it will take effect in 45 days.

“This is substantial,” said Dr. Nathaniel Katz, assistant professor of anesthesia at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “It’s a sign of a shift toward more cautious opioid prescribing. This will be an inconvenience to some, but policy is a machete, not a scalpel, and you have to figure out where to use it. I think people will be more helped than harmed.”

Abuse of painkillers now claims the lives of more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined, according to federal data, and the number of Americans who die from prescription drug overdoses has more than tripled since the late 1990s.

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Missouri Continues to Baffle Law Enforcement by Refusing to Keep Prescription Drug Database

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Missouri is the lone state in the country that refuses to keep a database of the drugs that are prescribed to patients, much to the chagrin of the people who are tasked with trying to stop the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States.fighting prescription drug abuse

Not having such a database hampers Missouri’s ability to combat prescription drug abuse and also attracts people from neighboring states looking to stockpile pills and bring them home to either abuse or sell to others, according to law enforcement officials, legislators and data compiled by a prescription drug processing firm.

Drug monitoring program procedures and powers vary from one state to another, but they all require doctors, pharmacists or both to enter all prescriptions into a database that can be consulted later to make sure patients do not get excess medication. In some states, checking the database is mandatory.

Missouri has been urged to put a database into effect by Missouri medical associations, members of Congress from neighboring states, the White House and even Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, the St. Louis-based manufacturer of oft-abused prescription painkiller oxycodone.

But attempts to establish one so far have been blocked by a small group of lawmakers led by State Senator Rob Schaaf, a family physician who argues that allowing the government to keep prescription records violates personal privacy.

“There’s some people who say you are causing people to die — but I’m not causing people to die. I’m protecting other people’s liberty,” Schaaf said in a recent interview in his Senate office. “Missouri needs to be the first state to resist, and the other states need to follow suit and protect the liberty of their own citizens.”

Schaaf’s opposition has come under sharp criticism from fellow Republicans, including representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, one of eight states that borders Missouri.

“It’s very selfish on Missouri’s part to hang their hat on this privacy matter,” Rogers said. “The rest of us suffer.”

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Prescription Drug Abuse Kills More People Than Cocaine and Heroin

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The dangers of prescription drug abuse has recently been given more weight through a new study by researchers from Canada’s McGill University.

prescription drug abuseThe research involved a comprehensive review of previous studies on the rise in fatalities caused by prescription drugs. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported about 12 million individuals who admitted to usage of prescription drugs with no prescriptions. What’s worse is that more than 16,000 fatalities caused by opioid painkillers were recorded, according to a news item.

The study, which appeared in the American Journal of Public Health June 19, browsed through medical records and existing studies from 1990 to 2013. Nicholas King, one of the study’s proponents, shared that the motivation behind the study was to provide a undeniable confirmation. “Prescription painkiller overdoses have received a lot of attention in editorials and the popular press, but we wanted to find out what solid evidence is out there,” King said.

From the study, 17 determining factors were identified to have caused the increase in the number of deaths due to prescription painkiller abuse. Some of the notable determinants include higher sales of painkiller medicines, creation of cocktail mixes (opioids mixed with drugs and/or alcohol), and other demographic-centric factors.

King and the study authors believe that knowledge of these determinants should be able to push stronger interventions and better preventive measures to minimize painkiller-related deaths.

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Opioid overdose prevention programs may reduce deaths, reports Journal of Addiction Medicine

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Community opioid overdose prevention programs (OOPPs) can improve bystander responses to overdose of heroin and related drugs, according to a review in the June Journal of Addiction Medicine.Naloxone

These programs usually involve the distribution of kits that include naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

Based on the available evidence, “Bystanders (mostly opioid users) can and will use naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses when properly trained, and … this training can be done successfully through OOPPs,” write Dr. Christine M. Wilder and colleagues of University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.

However, more robust research is needed to determine whether OOPPs can meet the goal of reducing deaths from opioid overdose.

To get their results, Dr. Wilder and colleagues identified and analyzed the results of 19 published studies evaluating OOPPs. The training in these programs included recognition, prevention, and risk factors for overdose; and how to respond to an overdose, including naloxone administration. Naloxone was usually given by injection, but sometimes by nasal administration.

Fourteen studies provided follow-up data on more than 9,000 OOPP participants. About half of patients participating in OOPP programs had experienced an overdose during their lifetime, while about 80% had witnessed an overdose.

Eighteen studies provided data on nearly 1,950 naloxone administrations and found when naloxone was given in response to an overdose, the person giving it was usually also an opioid user.

Eleven studies reported 100% survival; the rest reported survival rates of between 83 to 96%. Two studies provided data suggesting that OOPPs were associated with community-wide reductions in opioid overdose deaths. The studies also contained information on 12 unsuccessful administrations, in which naloxone did not reverse the overdose for various reasons.

Studies suggested that OOPP training increased bystanders’ knowledge of overdose prevention and risk factors, while increasing the use of appropriate overdose strategies. Training did not seem to increase bystanders’ willingness to call EMS.

Many communities have been interested in implementing an OOPP, however, many questions remain about whether they are effective or not.

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Missed the 2014 Rx Drug Abuse Summit? Here are some highlights:

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Substance Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Emphasized Through Billboard Campaign

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Prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs come next to marijuana and alcohol abuse in teens aged 14 and above in America.  These are commonly abused because of the wrong notion that it is safer than illicit drugs.

Image credit: 19 Action News

Cleveland city leaders recently launched a billboard campaign against prescription drug abuse.  The billboard aims to direct the community to an available hotline number for assistance, according to a news report.  It also plans to bring awareness to the general public through education, prevention programs, and tools to lessen and improve prescribing practices.

Most prescription pills that are abused are painkillers or opioids, depressants, morphines, stimulants and sleeping pills. Most of these drugs are in the tablet form and should be taken orally.  The abusers pound it and they either snort the substance or inject it directly to the bloodstream.

Prescription drug abuse has now become an epidemic.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it is becoming a gateway to heroin addiction, which posts high risks to health issues.

The abuse may be done intentionally or unconsciously.  These are taken for reasons and amounts not allowed and intended by doctors. These have pleasurable effects and can be readily available. One can easily go doctor shopping to accumulate the pills.  It can cloud a person’s judgment and reasoning ability and may lead to unsafe sex, pregnancy, abortion, STDs and vehicular accidents.

Overdosing on painkillers now surpasses murders and car accidents in terms of death tolls.

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Addicted Expectant Mothers on the Rise in Kentucky and Ohio

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Babies born addicted to heroin and other drugs are on the rise in Northern Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio. baby's hand

According to the NKY Heroin Impact and Response team, which has been studying the heroin problem for more than a year, Kentucky newborns treated for drug withdrawal doubled from 2011-2012, from 730 to more than 1,400.

The rate of drug-exposed infants per 1,000 births increased three-fold from 2009 to 2012 at seven Southwest Ohio hospitals participating in the Perinatal Institute Neonatal Abstinence Program:

  • Bethesda North Hospital
  • Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Fort Hamilton Hospital
  • Mercy Fairfield Hospital
  • Mercy Anderson Hospital
  • Christ Hospital
  • University of Cincinnati Medical Center

In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare saw a greater-than-double increase. The hospital’s report to the leadership team of the NKY Heroin Impact and Response coalition shows St. E Edgewood treated 26 infants born with drug withdrawal syndrome in 2011 and 63 infants in 2012.

Dr. Catherine DeFoor, pediatrician with St. Elizabeth Pediatrics in Florence and chief of pediatrics for St. Elizabeth hospitals, said she sees one or two babies a week, on average, with addiction symptoms.

“Some weeks are worse,” she told nyk.com. “One week we had five.”

The babies display all of the withdrawal symptoms of any addict, said DeFoor.

“They’re jittery, crying, sneezing, irritable,” and, rarely, she said, “they can have seizures.”

The babies are kept in the hospital even if they do not immediately show symptoms of withdrawal, and monitored for 48 to 72 hours.

If withdrawal is occurring, DeFoor said, the infants are given methadone to ease the withdrawal symptoms and then gradually weaned off.

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Colorado Introduces New Campaign to Combat Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

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prescription drugsFresh on the heels of its move to make now-legal marijuana more readily available to adults, Colorado has introduced a campaign meant to help fight teen prescription drug abuse.

The Rise Above Colorado campaign is being unveiled today (Jan. 15) and will include educational programs and outreach efforts.

Both Gov. John Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers strongly support the campaign, which aims to present facts to teens.

“We wanted to respond to the changing drug landscape,” Rise Above Colorado executive director Kent MacLennan said. “We will communicate with teens on a science and fact basis. We won’t be preachy. We will present facts in an honest way.”

According to a survey of Colorado youths, prescription medications are easier to get than beer and, after marijuana, are the most abused substances by teens.

The survey was done by Rise Above Colorado and The Partnership at Drugfree.org and it shows that more than 29% of Colorado 12th-graders had taken prescription medication without a doctor’s prescription, a figure higher than the national average of 25.6%. Colorado has the second worst rate of pain-pill abuse in the U.S. behind only Oregon.

The survey also revealed that 42% of teens said it was easy to get prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets.

“It’s easier than you would think it would be,” said University High School senior Amanda Hill, speaking about how many students in the Greeley area obtain prescription medications.

Hill is part of Rise Above Colorado’s teen advisory council, a group of youths who will help spread information about prescription drug abuse.

The nonprofit program will work with The Partnership at Drugfree.org, a nationwide program addressing adolescent substance abuse.