Some Cases of Sudden-Onset Amnesia May be Linked With Opioid Use

Some Cases of Sudden-Onset Amnesia May be Linked With Opioid Use
Officials in Massachusetts report a cluster of 14 patients who experienced sudden-onset amnesia, which they suspect was caused by opioids. Thirteen of the patients reported current or past substance abuse, and 12 said they used opioids. Six of the patients said they also used benzodiazepines, while another five said they had used cocaine, HealthDay reports. Report co-author Dr. Alfred DeMaria Jr. said the patients ranged in age from 19 to 52, making it unlikely their memory problems were due to a stroke or dementia. Brain scans of the patients showed abnormalities that appeared to be caused by a toxic substance, the researchers report in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Most patients have improved over time, but two patients still had memory problems after one year. Even among those whose memories have improved, some patients continue to forget directions and other information just given to...
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More Than 30,000 Americans Died From Opioid Overdoses Last Year

More Than 30,000 Americans Died From Opioid Overdoses Last Year
Overdose deaths associated with prescription and illicit opioids increased to 33,091 last year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That number marks an increase of almost 5,000 deaths from the previous year, The Washington Post reports. Deaths from heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were largely responsible for the increase, the article notes. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids increased only slightly. This suggests that efforts to reduce the misuse of these drugs may be having an impact, according to a White House news release. “Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “We need to drastically improve both the treatment of pain and the treatment of opioid use disorders and increase the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose. We must also work collaboratively with our public safety...
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Synthetic Opioid Known as “Pink” Is Legal in Most States

Synthetic Opioid Known as “Pink” Is Legal in Most States
A synthetic opioid known as “pink” is legal in most states, even though it is almost eight times stronger than morphine, CNN reports. The drug, also known as U-47700, is responsible for dozens of deaths nationwide, the article notes. Adam Kline, Police Chief of White Lake, Michigan, told CNN the drug can be legally purchased on the “dark web” in the form of a powder, pill or nasal spray. Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration told NBC News it is aware of confirmed deaths associated with the drug in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin. The drug, along with other synthetic opioids, is being shipped into the United States from China and other countries.
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Spending by Health Insurers Skyrockets for Patients with Opioid Dependence

Spending by Health Insurers Skyrockets for Patients with Opioid Dependence
Spending by health insurance companies increased more than 1,300 percent over four years for patients with an opioid abuse or dependence diagnosis, NPR reports. Spending on insurers’ payments to hospitals, labs, treatment centers and other medical providers for these patients rose from $32 million to $446 million between 2011 and 2015. Insurers spent an average of $3,435 on patients annually, but for those with a diagnosis of opioid dependence or abuse, they spent $19,333. Much of that spending was due to emergency room visits and lab tests. The findings come from Fair Health, a nonprofit databank that provides health industry cost information.
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Study Shows Opioids Increase Risk of Death When Compared To Other Pain Treatments

Study Shows Opioids Increase Risk of Death When Compared To Other Pain Treatments
Long-acting opioids are associated with a significantly increased risk of death when compared with alternative medications for moderate-to-severe chronic pain, according to a Vanderbilt study released in the Journal of the American Medical Assocation (JAMA). Not only did long-acting opioids increase the risk of unintentional overdose deaths, but they were also shown to increase mortality from cardiorespiratory events and other causes. The story appeared in Vanderbilt University’s Research News @ Vanderbilt. Lead author Wayne Ray, Ph.D., and colleagues with the Vanderbilt Department of Health Policy studied Tennessee Medicaid patients between 1999-2012 with chronic pain, primarily back and other musculoskeletal pain, who did not have cancer or other serious illnesses. Researchers compared those starting a long-acting opioid to those taking an alternative medication for moderate-to-severe pain. Alternative medications included both anticonvulsants — typically prescribed to prevent seizure activity in the brain, treat bipolar disorder or neuropathic pain — and low doses of...
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Opioid Use Increases Chronic Pain, Rat Study Finds

Opioid Use Increases Chronic Pain, Rat Study Finds
A new study that finds opioid use increases chronic pain in rats may have important implications for humans, according to researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder. The researchers found that rats who received morphine for five days experienced chronic pain that continued for several months, by triggering the release of pain signals from spinal cord immune cells called glial cells. The findings may help explain the recent surge in prescription painkiller addiction, Forbes reports. “We are showing for the first time that even a brief exposure to opioids can have long-term negative effects on pain,” study author Peter Grace said in a news release. “We found the treatment was contributing to the problem.” Study co-author Linda Watkins added, “The implications for people taking opioids like morphine, oxycodone and methadone are great, since we show the short-term decision to take such opioids can have devastating consequences of making pain worse and longer...
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FDA Panel Will Consider Requiring Doctors to Undergo Opioid Prescribing Training

FDA Panel Will Consider Requiring Doctors to Undergo Opioid Prescribing Training
A panel of experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is meeting this week to consider whether to require doctors to undergo training to prescribe opioid painkillers. Doctors’ groups have resisted mandatory training, The New York Times reports. In 2012, the FDA rejected a recommendation from an expert panel that called for mandatory physician training for opioid prescribing. The panel said such training might help reduce overdose deaths from opioid painkillers. A spokeswoman for the FDA told the newspaper the agency now supports mandatory training. The panel is expected to make a recommendation on Wednesday.Since 2012, the FDA has required companies that make long-acting opioids, such as OxyContin, methadone and fentanyl, to underwrite voluntary medical education courses on prescribing the drugs. Recently, many of those companies said they support requiring physicians to have specific training or expertise in pain management before they can obtain a license from the Drug...
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Shortage of Addiction Treatment Personnel Intensifies as Opioid Crisis Worsens

Shortage of Addiction Treatment Personnel Intensifies as Opioid Crisis Worsens
Addiction treatment centers are struggling to find enough qualified personnel as the opioid crisis worsens, The Wall Street Journal reports. Retention of addiction treatment workers has long been an issue because of low pay, high burnout rate and the stigma attached to addiction, the article notes. Many counselors move on to other fields after several years. There are many reasons the demand for addiction treatment workers—including psychiatrists, licensed counselors and house aides—is increasing. The number of patients addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers is on the rise. The Affordable Care Act requires private insurance companies and Medicaid to cover substance use disorders, and states that have expanded Medicaid under the law have made coverage available to many new patients. In addition, a growing number of localities are steering drug offenders to treatment instead of prison. “Our biggest problem right now is a lack of workforce,” said Becky Vaughn, Vice President of...
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New York Battles Opioid Epidemic by Requiring Electronic Prescribing

New York Battles Opioid Epidemic by Requiring Electronic Prescribing
New York has become the second state to require electronic prescribing, in an effort to combat the opioid addiction epidemic. Minnesota has required e-prescribing since 2011, Marketwatch reports. Only two other states – Massachusetts and Maine – are currently considering similar requirements, the article notes. Under New York’s new law, all prescriptions in the state must be issued electronically after late March. The effort is aimed at reducing forged prescriptions. Lawmakers hope the measure will also reinforce the state’s drug prescription monitoring system, which is designed to cut down on “doctor shopping” by patients seeking multiple prescriptions. Only 1.4 percent of providers nationwide were equipped to e-prescribe controlled substances, including opioid painkillers, in 2014, according to the electronic prescription network Surescripts. Doctors say implementing e-prescribing is both complicated and expensive. “E-prescribing in the right circumstances is fast, efficient and liked by patients and pharmacists and physicians. But there are many circumstances...
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More Funding, Stronger Measures Needed to Fight Opioid Addiction, Officials Say

More Funding, Stronger Measures Needed to Fight Opioid Addiction, Officials Say
More funding and stronger measures are needed to fight opioid addiction, officials said recently at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They called for greater access to addiction treatment and more stringent rules for painkiller prescribing. Speakers at the hearing included governors, U.S. senators and law enforcement officials, according to The Wall Street Journal. They said heroin and painkiller addiction is overwhelming health care workers, police and families across the nation. In 2014, more than 47,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I have never seen anything like this, in terms of the epidemic we are facing,” New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte told the hearing. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, also from New Hampshire, called the problem a pandemic that affects “young and old, urban and rural, rich and poor, whites and minorities.” The hearing was called in part to discuss the...
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