Heroin Deaths Double in the Past Two Years

From: Bloomberg News

The number of Americans dying from heroin overdoses doubled across 28 states in 2012 from 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fueled by easy access and rising rates of opioid addiction.

The unusual analysis published today in the CDC’s weekly bulletin stemmed from the agency’s effort to determine if reports from some states about spikes in heroin use and related deaths since 2010 were part of a larger nationwide trend. They found a growing problem with fatal overdoses of heroin.

Health officials have focused in recent years on reducing abuse of prescription opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin. Overdoses of those medicines quadrupled from 1999 through 2010, while heroin, a cheaper and more available alternative, increased by less than 50 percent. The report confirms heroin has made a comeback in 28 states, as noted by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin who said in January his state was in a “full-blown heroin crisis.”

Deaths from heroin overdoses rose across the board: in both genders, all ages, all racial and ethnic groups and all regions of the country, the CDC report found.

“The findings indicate a need for intensified prevention efforts aimed at reducing overdose deaths from all types of opioids,” the report found. “Efforts to prevent expansion of the number of opioid pain reliever users who might use heroin when it is available should continue.”

Death Toll

There were 3,635 heroin deaths in 2012, an increase from 1,779 two years earlier. While the crackdown on opioid abuse may have led users to heroin, painkillers are still more deadly. Opioid overdoses killed 9,869 Americans in 2012, down 5.4 percent from 2010.

Additional data suggests that prescription painkillers may be a gateway drug to heroin use, the report said. Three-quarters of patients in a rehabilitation program who started using heroin after 2000 said the first opioid they took was a prescription medication. More than 80 percent of people who began using heroin in the 1960s said they started with the drug.

“Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing remains a crucial public health strategy to address both prescription opioid and heroin overdoses,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “Addressing prescription opioid abuse by changing prescribing is likely to prevent heroin use in the long term.”
 

Drug overdose deaths spike among middle-aged women

From USA Today:

More women are dying from prescription painkiller overdoses than ever before, highlighting what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls a growing public health epidemic.

The CDC study shows that while men are still more likely to die of overdoses, the number of deaths among women increased five-fold in the last decade, four times more than deaths in women from cocaine and heroin combined, says CDC director Tom Frieden. About 12% of these deaths were suicides, CDC experts said.

The rate of prescription drug overdose deaths of women increased 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared with an increase of 250% for men. More men die of prescription painkiller overdoses — about 23,000 in 2010, compared with 15,300 for women.

Women may be more prone to overdoses because they're more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed painkillers, have higher doses, and use them longer than men, said Linda Degutis, director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers skyrocketed over the past decade despite no major increases in the need for prescription painkillers over the last 20 years, said Chris Jones, a health scientist at CDC. Doctors are prescribing medications more frequently for patients who may not need them, a trend in the medical profession that needs to be reversed, Frieden said.

Women between 45 and 54 had the greatest increases in drug overdose deaths, likely because of dependence on prescription drugs to ease chronic pain, experts said.

Posted: 7/3/2013 1:45:00 PM

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Opana abuse in USA overtakes OxyContin

From USA Today:

Prescription drug abuse is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem, the White House Office on National Drug Policy says. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified the misuse of these powerful painkillers as an epidemic, with 1.3 million emergency room visits in 2010, a 115% increase since 2004. Overdose deaths on opioid pain relievers surpassed deaths from heroin and cocaine for the first time in 2008.

This rise of Opana abuse illustrates the adaptability of drug addicts and the never-ending challenge facing law enforcement authorities, addiction specialists and pharmaceutical companies. Just when they think they have curbed abuse and stopped trafficking of one drug, another fills the void. Opana's dangerous new popularity arose when OxyContin's manufacturer changed its formula to deter users from crushing, breaking or dissolving the pill so it could be snorted or injected to achieve a high.

As a new, harder-to-abuse Opana formulation replaces the old formula, police and addiction experts expect heroin to fill that void.

For years, drug abusers favored an extended-release version of OxyContin, a narcotic painkiller, for a powerful high. Over the past decade, its abuse was so prevalent that the drug became a household name.

Drug abusers could crush or dissolve the pill's time-release coating to get the full punch of the opioid oxycodone. But Purdue Pharma, OxyContin's manufacturer, reformulated it in August 2010, making it nearly impossible to crush, dissolve and inject. By the beginning of 2011, more than 95% of prescriptions were being filled with reformulated OxyContin, Purdue spokesman James Heins said.

Though people could still abuse the drug by taking larger quantities, some addicts craved the injectable high.

"At first, people tried to defeat it," McGuire said. "Then, Opana started to pop up like crazy."

Opana ER, an extended-release painkiller containing oxymorphone, came on the market in 2006. Endo Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer, completed development of a crush-resistant pill in 2010 but did not get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until late last year, said Endo senior vice president Blaine Davis.

On June 14, the FDA moved the old Opana formulation to its list of discontinued drugs. Davis said he doesn't know how much remains on the market.

Posted: 7/11/2012 12:27:00 PM

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The Year in Pills - 2010's Hall of Shame

From CounterPunch:

2010 will go down as the year the diet pill Meridia and pain pill Darvon were withdrawn from the market and the heart-attack associated diabetes drug Avandia was severely restricted.

Additionally, here are the drugs which make 2010's Hall of Shame:
  • Yaz and Yasmin
  • Lyrica, Topamax and Lamictal
  • Humira, Prolia and TNF Blockers
  • Chantix
  • Ambien
  • Tamoxifen
  • Lipitor and Crestor
  • Boniva
  • Prempro
  • Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, SSRIs
  • Effexor, Cymbalta, Pristiq, SNRIs
  • Seroquel, Zyprexa, Geodon, atypical antipsychotics
  • Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, Adderall and ADHD Drugs
  • Gardasil and Cervarix Vaccines
  • Foradil Aerolizer, Serevent Diskus, Advair and Symbicort
  • Singulair and Accolate, leukotriene receptor antagonists
     
Posted: 1/11/2011 12:36:00 PM

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Prescription-based DUIs draw attention from police

From The Sierra Vista Herald:

When police officer James Boubelik pulls someone over for reckless driving, he looks for clues of impairment like dilated pupils, slurred speech or the smell of alcohol.

But it’s more than just alcohol and illegal drugs that Boubelik and other officers are looking for these days. They’re also looking for drivers impaired by legal, prescription drugs — harder to recognize than drunken driving and sometimes harder to prosecute.

Posted: 11/18/2010 1:56:00 PM

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Driving while on prescriptions a growing issue for police and the courts

From NorthJersey.com:

As more doctors prescribe Xanax, Vicodin and Oxycodone, police are seeing a rise in more DWIs, not with driving under the influence of alcohol, but with drivers on legally obtained painkillers. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), statistics speak for themselves. Between 1997 and 2007, according to a University of Michigan study, treatment admissions for prescription painkillers increased more than 400 percent. The DEA said that between 2004 and 2008, the number of visits to hospital emergency departments involving the non-medical use of narcotic painkillers increased 111 percent. Area cops are reporting making more prescription medication-related DWI arrests and area lawyers are now vigorously defending those cases in court.

Posted: 10/14/2010 2:51:00 PM

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National 'Take Back Day' urges surrender of unneeded prescription drugs

From The Washington Post:

With the abuse of prescription drugs continuing to rise, the Drug Enforcement Administration is for the first time asking people nationwide to turn in their expired, unused and unwanted prescription medicines at more than 4,000 locations on Saturday.

The first national "Take Back Day" aims to collect powerful drugs that are beneficial to patients, but that could easily fall into the wrong hands if left to languish in homes. People will be able to turn in pills, powders and other solid medicines anonymously and without fear of prosecution; authorities will then safely destroy the medications by incinerating them.

Posted: 9/24/2010 8:15:00 AM

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Use of Marijuana, Ecstasy, Methamphetamine on Rise in U.S.

From HealthDay News:

Illegal drug use in the United States increased from 2008 to 2009, federal drug officials reported Thursday, citing growing acceptance of marijuana and an upswing in ecstasy and methamphetamine use.

Driven largely by growing use of marijuana, drug use among those aged 12 and older rose from 8 percent in 2008 to 8.7 percent in 2009, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This represents the highest usage in nearly a decade, officials said.

The report, based on a survey of some 67,500 people throughout the country, noted non-medical use of prescription drugs rose from 2.5 percent in 2008 to 2.8 percent in 2009.

Monthly use of ecstasy climbed from 555,000 in 2008 to 760,000 in 2009. The number of methamphetamine users shot up, too, from 314,000 to 502,000 over the year, according to the report.

Posted: 9/17/2010 10:26:00 AM

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Look-alike, sound-alike drugs trigger dangers

From msnbc.com:

Whether the drug mistake was caused by a garbled telephone message, a typing error or a computer problem, Shelley Sanders isn’t sure.

She just knows that her 62-year-old mother was supposed to get one kind of medication, a pain drug called Lyrica, but instead received another, an anti-epilepsy drug called Lamictal, and in an initial dose far higher than any doctor would recommend.

And she knows that within days of taking the 150-milligram pills, Linda Sanders, a soft-spoken Florida grandmother who went to YMCA aerobics classes three times a week, got a gun from the bedroom and shot herself in the head.

Only afterward did Shelley Sanders learn that suicidal actions are a known risk of Lamictal and that her mother’s death closely followed one of the more than 5 million wrong-drug errors that occur each year, including many caused by similar-sounding mixed-up names.

Whether it’s confusing the migraine drug Topamax with the blood pressure drug Toprol-XL, or the antihistamine Zyrtec with the antipsychotic Zyprexa, mistakes caused by drug name mix-ups continue to happen a decade after a groundbreaking Institute of Medicine report first declared that 7,000 people in the U.S. died from medication errors each year.

Today, some 1,500 drugs have names so similar they’ve been confused with one or more other medications, according to a 2008 report by U.S. Pharmacopeia, the group that sets standards for medications in this country.

Just last month, the international drugmaker Takeda agreed to change the name of its new heartburn drug Kapidex after reports of confusion with the prostate cancer drug Casodex. In some cases, women received a cancer drug intended only for men.

It's the first such name change since the federal Food and Drug Administration launched a new "Safe Use Initiative" last November aimed at curbing the number of medication errors.

U.S. outpatient pharmacies filled 3.9 billion prescriptions in 2009, according to most recent figures from Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions. Overall, the dispensing error rate is 1.7 percent, which translates into more than 66 million drug mistakes a year.

“On a percentage basis, they’re very rare,” noted Bruce Lambert, a professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Pharmacy. “If you’re among that small group, it’s cold comfort to you.”

Bad handwriting, workplace distractions, inexperienced staff and worker shortages all have been blamed for the problem. But Lambert says it’s even more basic than that.

“The names themselves are intrinsically confusing,” he said. “The way that the human mind is organized, we’re prone to confusing names that sound alike.”

Pharmacy technicians are most often involved in look-alike, sound-alike errors, with about 38 percent implicated in initial reports, according to the Pharmacopeia report. They were followed by pharmacists at nearly 24 percent and registered nurses at about 20 percent. Doctors accounted for about 7 percent.

Posted: 6/10/2010 3:54:00 PM

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Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2009

From the ASPCA:

With various dangers lurking in corners and cabinets, the home can be a minefield of poisons for our pets. In 2009, the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) in Urbana, IL, handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic substances, many of which included everyday household products. Don’t leave it up to Fido or Fluffy to keep themselves safe. Below is a list of the top 10 pet poisons that affected our furry friends in 2009.

Human Medications - Last year, the ASPCA managed 45,816 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor.

Insecticides - In 2009, our toxicologists fielded 29,020 calls related to insecticides. One of the most common incidents involved the misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species.

People Food - People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol, like gum, can seriously disable our furry friends, and accounted for more than 17,453 cases in 2009.

Plants - Common houseplants were the subject of 7,858 calls to APCC in 2009. Varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets.

Veterinary Medications - Even though veterinary medications are intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents.

Rodenticides - Last year, the ASPCA received 6,639 calls about pets who had accidentally ingested rat and mouse poisons. Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well.

Household Cleaners - These products, when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.

Heavy Metals - Heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury accounted for 3,304 cases of pet poisonings in 2009.

Garden Products - Last year, the ASPCA fielded 2,329 calls related to fertilizer exposure, which can cause severe gastric upset and possibly gastrointestinal obstruction.

Chemical Hazards - A category on the rise, chemical hazards—found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals—form a substantial danger to pets.

Posted: 1/25/2010 2:34:00 PM

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