Fewer Teens Are Using E-Cigarettes and Other Types of Tobacco

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Fewer teens are using e-cigarettes and other types of tobacco, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study found 11.3 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2016, down from 16 percent the previous year, The Washington Post reports. This represents the first decline in e-cigarette use since the CDC began keeping track in 2011. Only 8 percent of high school students said they smoked cigarettes last year, and 20 percent said they used any tobacco product, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, pipes and smokeless tobacco. Those numbers are the lowest on record, the CDC reported. “While these latest numbers are encouraging, it is critical that we work to ensure this downward trend continues over the long term across all tobacco products,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a news release.
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Most People Who Use Illicit Opioids Fear Fentanyl, But Say It’s Difficult to Avoid

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A study of people who use illicit opioids or misuse prescription opioids found 80 percent said they fear and dislike fentanyl, but it is difficult to avoid, HealthDay reports. “I never found the idea that fentanyl was some sort of honeypot that people were scrambling to get hold of very compelling,” said study author Jennifer Carroll of Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School in Providence, R.I. “I hope we can begin chipping away at the narrative that the opioid crisis is driven by people chasing some sort of ultimate high. That’s an idea that has never matched reality.” The study appears in the International Journal of Drug Policy . A second study in the journal found the number of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths in Rhode Island rose to 138 in the first nine months of 2016, compared to 84 in all of 2014. Fentanyl was involved in 56 percent of the...
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Addiction Experts Warn Republican Health Care Plan Will Deepen Opioid Crisis

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The Republican health care plan, which would roll back the Affordable Care Act and reduce or terminate health coverage for millions of Americans, will deepen the nation’s opioid crisis, addiction experts tell the Los Angeles Times . “It would essentially write off a generation,” said Dr. Shawn Ryan, President of BrightView Health, a network of drug treatment clinics in Cincinnati. “It would be catastrophic.” The House health care plan passed in April cut more than $800 billion in federal aid to state Medicaid programs, which cover many Americans with substance use disorders. The Senate plan also includes major Medicaid cutbacks, the article notes. The White House budget calls for an additional $600 billion in Medicaid cuts over the next decade.
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Few Young People Treated for Opioid Addiction Get MAT

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Only 27 percent of youths treated for opioid addiction receive buprenorphine or naltrexone, known as medication-assisted treatment, a new study finds. “These medications are considered the evidence-based standard of care for opioid addiction by the American Academy of Pediatrics,” said lead researcher Dr. Scott Hadland of Boston University School of Medicine. Buprenorphine (sold as Suboxone) has been shown to reduce cravings, while naltrexone (sold as Revia and Vivitrol) blocks the high from opioids, HealthDay reports. The rate of opioid addiction among teens and young adults shot up almost sixfold between 2001 and 2014, the researchers note in JAMA Pediatrics . Hadland said one reason so few young people receive medication-assisted treatment is that too few pediatricians and family doctors are trained in how to treat opioid addiction. “In light of the national opioid crisis, it’s really now more important than ever to ensure that providers are receiving the training,” he...
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Aetna Embraces Medication to Combat Opioid Crisis

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Aetna is going all in on medication-assisted treatment in response to the opioid epidemic, according to a letter CEO Mark Bertolini is sending today to a handful of Democratic senators. Bertolini highlights three goals the insurer hopes to achieve by 2022: Reduce inappropriate opioid prescriptions by 50%. Increase by 50% the number of opioid addicts treated with medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based treatments. Increase the number of enrollees with chronic pain who use alternative pain treatments by 50%. Go deeper: Aetna's embrace of medication-assisted treatment is a sharp contrast from some insurers' previous reluctance to cover the approach, which Bob Herman covered for Modern Healthcare. It also follows Tom Price's controversial comment saying medication-assisted treatment is "substituting one opioid for another." But Aetna has already worked to make medication more available: Earlier this year, it removed all pre-authorization requirements for certain products and put them on a preventive medicine list...
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ERs Do Not Usually Ask Young People About Alcohol Consumption

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A study published in Emergency Medical Journal has found that nine out of ten ERs are failing to identify young people with alcohol problems, preventing them from getting the vital help they need. A survey of 147 ERs, conducted by researchers from the University of Surrey, found that young people are not routinely asked about their alcohol consumption, a useful tool in detecting alcohol problems. The research also found that those over the age of 65 are not routinely asked about their drinking either. The survey found that over 85 per cent of A&E departments do not routinely ask young people about their alcohol consumption or use formal screening tools to identify those that may need help or advice about their drinking. This is in violation of current guidelines, which suggest that screening followed by feedback of the results is the most effective way to reduce alcohol related harm. Although...
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Attorney General Asks Congress to Roll Back Federal Medical Marijuana Protections

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked congressional leaders to roll back federal protections for medical marijuana. In a letter, Sessions asked the leaders to undo protections that prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent certain states from implementing their own laws that “authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” The protections have been in place since 2014, The Washington Post reports. Sessions wrote, “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the [Justice] Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”
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Fentanyl Sales Fueled by the Dark Web

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The opioid crisis is being fueled by anonymous online sales on the dark web, where buyers purchase fentanyl and other drugs using special browsers and virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, The New York Times reports. Law enforcement officials say Internet sales of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are on the rise. They are frustrated in their attempts to crack down on these sales because of their anonymous nature. Enough fentanyl to get almost 50,000 people high can fit into a standard first-class envelope, the article notes. A leading dark web site, AlphaBay, last week had more than 21,000 listings for opioids and more than 4,100 for fentanyl and similar drugs. The number of fentanyl listings on AlphaBay and other dark web sites has been steadily increasing.
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Republican Proposed Medicaid Cuts Endanger Addiction Treatment

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Cuts to Medicaid proposed by Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate jeopardize addiction treatment, NPR reports. In Pennsylvania, more than 124,000 residents depend on Medicaid for addiction treatment. The state’s Medicaid program currently pays for addiction treatment with Vivitrol, a monthly injection that costs about $1,000 a dose. A person receiving the shots also has weekly therapy sessions and visits with a recovery coach, also paid for by Medicaid. Pennsylvania, which expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, pays no more than 10 percent of costs for patients who gained coverage under the expansion. The federal government funds the rest. The Republican health care bill that passed the House and is being considered by the Senate would cut Medicaid spending by more than $800 billion across 10 years nationwide, the article notes. If the federal government cuts Medicaid funding, states either would have to come up with the rest...
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Opioid Epidemic Drives Up Death Rate Among Americans Ages 25 to 44

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The nation’s opioid epidemic is fueling a rise in the overall death rate among Americans ages 25 to 44, according to an analysis of government data by The Washington Post. Death rates in this age group have increased in almost every racial and ethnic group since the beginning of this decade, the newspaper found. The death rate rose 12 percent among whites, 4 percent among African Americans, 7 percent among Hispanics and 18 percent among Native Americans. The increase has been due in large part to drug overdoses and alcohol abuse, the analysis found. Opioid use is a major factor in the increase, the article notes. “What it reflects is an out-of-control epidemic right now,” Josh Sharfstein, Director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins, told the newspaper. “It’s affecting the economy. It’s affecting the entire community. This is an absolute call to action for public health.”
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