Health Effects of New “Heat-Not-Burn” Cigarettes Still Unknown

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The health effects of new products known as “heat-not-burn” cigarettes are still unknown, researchers caution in a new study. The devices mix the electronics behind e-cigarettes with the tobacco-burning properties of regular cigarettes, according to HealthDay . The devices warm up tobacco to about 500 degrees Fahrenheit, producing an inhalable aerosol. Heat-not-burn cigarettes are not approved for sale in the United States. An application for approval was filed with the Food and Drug Administration late last year. Researchers looked at Google searches about the devices in Japan, where they are available. They found that searches about the devices surged by more than 1,400 percent in 2015, when they were first released in Japan. Searches increased almost 3,000 percent between 2015 and 2017. There are as many as 7.5 million Google searches a month about heat-not-burn devices in Japan, the researchers report in PLOS One. “We don’t know enough about the...
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Uber Use Cuts Drunk Driving Accidents in Some Cities

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Use of Uber has contributed to a decrease in drunk driving accidents in some cities but not others, according to HealthDay . Study author Christopher Morrison of the University of Pennsylvania said the availability of public transportation is one factor that may influence Uber’s effect on drunk driving. The findings appear in the American Journal of Epidemiology . The study looked at car crash histories and Uber availability between 2013 and 2016 in Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; and San Antonio, Texas. Alcohol-involved crashes were reduced by about 60 percent in Portland, but not at all in Reno, the researchers found. “The differences could be due to a wide range of different factors,” Morrison said. “One likely explanation is that local populations use public and private transport differently from city to city, and probably also use ride-sharing services differently from city to city.” He noted that Portland has...
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Medicare Places Few Restrictions on Opioid Prescriptions: Study

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Medicare has not put significant restrictions in place for opioid prescriptions, despite recent government guidelines that recommend such limits, according to a new study. Yale researchers analyzed Medicare coverage for opioids. They found that in 2015, one-third of opioids were prescribed with no restrictions, such as prior authorization or setting quantity limits, HealthDay reports. The study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine , also found a modest increase in Medicare coverage of opioids between 2006 and 2015. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines that recommend primary care providers avoid prescribing opioid painkillers for patients with chronic pain. The guidelines state that doctors who determine that opioid painkillers are needed should prescribe the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time.
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Online Tool Tracks Suspected Opioid Overdoses in Real Time

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A new online tool allows first responders, public safety and public health officials to track opioid overdoses in real time, NBC News reports. Health officials say the data allows them to quickly allocate resources where they are needed. First responders can access the tool, the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), from any mobile device or computer when they go to the scene of an overdose. They enter whether the overdose was fatal or nonfatal and whether the opioid overdose antidote naloxone was administered. The results appear on a map, which police chiefs and other officials can use to see where overdoses are being reported. If there is a cluster of overdoses in a particular area, police and fire chiefs get e-mail alerts.
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Those Arrested For Pot Number More That All Violent Crimes

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In 2016 more people were arrested for marijuana possession than for all crimes the FBI classifies as violent, according to 2016 crime data released by the agency. Marijuana possession arrests edged up slightly in 2016, a year in which voters in four states approved recreational marijuana initiatives and voters in three others approved medical marijuana measures. The article in the Washington Post noted that marijuana possession remains one of the single largest arrest categories in the United States, accounting for over 5 percent of all arrests last year. More than one in 20 arrests involved a marijuana possession charge, amounting to more than one marijuana possession arrest every minute. The FBI’s report goes on to note that overall, in 2016, roughly 1.5 million people were arrested for drug-related offenses, up slightly year-over-year. Advocates for a more public health-centered approach to drug use say numbers like these show the drug war...
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Scientists Develop Portable, Rapid Urine Test for Amphetamines

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Korean scientists have developed a portable, quick urine test for amphetamines, HealthDay reports. “Breathalyzers are effective at catching drunk drivers on the spot, thereby preventing accidents,” researcher Ilha Hwang said. “We hope that our sensor may have a similar effect with people who abuse amphetamines.” The test uses a wireless sensor and smartphone app, and can detect amphetamines in a drop of urine within seconds, the researchers report in the journal Chem. The device costs about $50 to produce. “Conventional drug detection generally use techniques that require long operation time, sophisticated experimental procedures, and expensive equipment with well-trained professional operators,” co-senior author Joon Hak Oh said in a news release. “Moreover, they are not usually portable. Our method is a new type of drug sensor that can solve all these problems at once.” Further testing in clinical settings is needed before the device can be marketed, Oh said.
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FDA Requires Makers of Fast-Acting Opioids to Pay for Doctor Training

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will require makers of fast-acting opioids to fund voluntary training for healthcare professionals who prescribe the drugs, according to Reuters . The training will include education on safe prescribing practices and non-opioid alternatives. The FDA informed 74 manufacturers of immediate-release opioids that they will have to fund training for doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Companies that make extended-release and long-acting formulations of opioids already must pay for training of healthcare professionals. The FDA is also considering some type of mandatory education on opioids, the article notes. According to the FDA, approximately 160 million prescriptions a year – about 90 percent of all opioid pain medications prescribed in the United States – are for fast-acting formulations.
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Cigna Will Stop Covering OxyContin in Effort to Reduce Inappropriate Use

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Health insurer Cigna announced this week it will stop covering the prescription opioid OxyContin in an effort to reduce inappropriate use of the drug. Instead it will cover an equivalent drug less vulnerable to being misused. The alternate drug is Xtampza ER, made by Collegium Pharmaceutical Inc. Xtampza ER cannot be made more fast-acting through cutting or crushing, Cigna said. The change will go into effect January 1, 2018, Reuters reports. Patients who have started using OxyContin for hospice care or cancer treatments will continue to have the medication covered next year. “Our focus is on helping customers get the most value from their medications – this means obtaining effective pain relief while also guarding against opioid misuse. We continually evaluate the clinical effectiveness, affordability and safety of all our covered medications as these characteristics can change over time, and we make adjustments that we believe will provide better overall...
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Hospital Treatment Rates for Heroin Surge While Rates for Prescription Opioids Drop

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Hospital treatment rates for heroin rose more than 31 percent between 2008 and 2014, while treatment rates for prescription opioids have declined, according to a new study. Hospital discharge rates for prescription opioid poisonings decreased each year by about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, the study found. Lead researcher Tina Hernandez-Boussard of Stanford University said the results provide evidence that people addicted to prescription opioids are turning to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get, HealthDay reports. “I’m cautiously optimistic that prescribing clinicians are positively reacting to the opioid crisis and therefore prescription opioids are contributing less to the overall drug epidemic,” Dr. Hernandez –Boussard said in a news release. The findings are published in Health Affairs .
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Survey Results Shed Light on Substance Use Initiation Trends

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Illicit drug use initiation was highest for marijuana in 2016, followed by prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers and stimulants, according to national data. A recent article in Healio.com – Psychiatric Annals referenced these findings. “Whether someone engages in substance use is associated with several risk factors that are typically correlated with an increased likelihood of substance use (eg, perception of low risk of harm from using a substance, easy availability of substances) and protective factors that are typically associated with a decreased likelihood of substance use (eg, exposure to prevention messages),” Rachel N. Lipari, PhD, of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and colleagues wrote. To determine risk, protective factors and estimates for substance use initiation, researchers analyzed data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) for individuals aged 12 years and older. More than four out of five individuals perceived great risk for harm...
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