Mixing of Opioids and Alcohol Make for a Dangerous Cocktail

Mixing of Opioids and Alcohol Make for a Dangerous Cocktail
A new study warns that drinking alcohol while taking powerful opioid painkillers can trigger a potentially deadly respiratory problem, particularly in seniors. In the study, report on by HeathDay, the researchers assessed how mixing the opioid painkiller oxycodone and alcohol affected 12 younger volunteers, aged 21 to 28, and 12 older volunteers, aged 66 to 77.  The study authors reported that taking just one oxycodone tablet with a modest amount of alcohol increased the risk of respiratory depression. The older volunteers were more likely than the younger ones to have repeated episodes where they temporarily stopped breathing. The study was published online Feb. 7 in the journal Anesthesiology.
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FDA Increases Warnings About Risk of Combining Opioids and Benzodiazepines

FDA Increases Warnings About Risk of Combining Opioids and Benzodiazepines
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stepped up warnings about the dangers of combing opioid painkillers with benzodiazepine sedatives. The agency is requiring new warnings on labels for opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, as well as for benzodiazepines such as alprazolam and diazepam. Xanax is a commonly used benzodiazepine. A total of 389 drugs are covered by the new warnings, The Wall Street Journal reports. “It is nothing short of a public health crisis when you see a substantial increase of avoidable overdose and death related to two widely used drug classes being taken together,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, said in a news release.
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Most Patients Taking Opioid Painkillers Willing to Get Naloxone, Too

Most Patients Taking Opioid Painkillers Willing to Get Naloxone, Too
Most patients taking opioid painkillers are willing to fill a prescription for the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, a new small study suggests. Prescribing naloxone to patients taking opioid painkillers is increasingly recommended by medical guidelines, HealthDay reports. However, currently naloxone is not routinely prescribed to patients taking opioid painkillers, the article notes. The new study included 60 patients who received opioid painkiller prescriptions and were given prescriptions for naloxone. The study found 82 percent of patients filled their naloxone prescriptions. More than one-third of patients said they improved their drug-taking behavior after receiving naloxone. Some said they improved their handling of dosing and timing of doses. Three patients used naloxone to treat an apparent overdose.
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Patients in Pain Say It Has Become Harder to Get Opioid Painkillers

Patients in Pain Say It Has Become Harder to Get Opioid Painkillers
Patients suffering from chronic pain say they are finding it more difficult to get prescriptions for opioid painkillers, The Boston Globe reports. Federal and state regulations to reduce access to opioids have made doctors and pharmacists more reluctant to prescribe and dispense the drugs. Chronic pain patients say they are frequently required to prove they are not addicted to opioids, the article notes. An estimated 100 million adults in the United States are thought to suffer from chronic pain. In many cases, the pain is caused by injury, disease or nervous system problems. There are a number of non-opioid treatments available, including anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, devices such as spinal stimulators, physical therapy and meditation. While these treatments rarely stop the pain, patients often use a variety of these options to help them cope with it. Some patients see opioids as critical in helping them deal with their pain. Claire Sampson, Co-Chairwoman...
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Some Dental Schools Training Students to Reduce Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions

Some Dental Schools Training Students to Reduce Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions
Some dental schools are training their students to reduce the amount of opioid painkillers they prescribe for their surgical patients. Dentists are among the leading prescribers of opioids, especially for surgical tooth extractions, NBC News reports. The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine is training students to give their surgical patients detailed explanations of the best way to take opioids and dispose of them. They give patients a two-week prescription that is not refillable. “I think we find today that prescribing needs to include both education as well as dispensing,” said Dr. Paul Moore, professor of pharmacology and anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. “We teach all of our students here if you’re going to write a prescription for an opioid it is important to follow our checklist that includes the kinds of information that you need to provide that patient.” As many as half of...
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More Older Adults Becoming Addicted to Opioid Painkillers

More Older Adults Becoming Addicted to Opioid Painkillers
A growing number of older adults are becoming addicted to opioid painkillers, The New York Times reports. They are using the pills to deal with the aches and pains of aging and the anxiety that can come with retirement. “They’ve built a fortress around themselves,” said Joseph Garbely, Medical Director of Caron Treatment Centers. “Their resources allow them to advance in their addiction without detection. So the addiction progresses.” He notes that signs of addiction such as confusion, shaky hands and mood swings are often thought to be symptoms of aging. It can be difficult to detox older adults from prescription drugs, Dr. Garbely said. “They have to be monitored and slowly withdrawn. Opioid withdrawal won’t kill you, but you’ll wish you were dead.” After a lifetime of achievement, the loss of self-worth that may come with retirement may spark an addiction, said Brenda J. Iliff, Executive Director of Hazelden Betty...
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Study Links Opioid Painkillers With Higher Risk of Early Death From Heart Risks

Study Links Opioid Painkillers With Higher Risk of Early Death From Heart Risks
A new study finds people who have been prescribed opioid painkillers have a higher risk of early death compared with patients given other pain medications. Much of the increased risk is due to cardiovascular complications, HealthDay reports. Patients given opioid painkillers were 64 percent more likely to die early for any reason, and 65 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular complications, compared with patients given other painkillers, researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee found. Complications that led to early death included breathing difficulties during sleep, heart rhythm irregularities and other cardiovascular complications. “We were not surprised by the increased risk for overdose deaths, which is well known,” said study author Wayne Ray. “However, the large increase in cardiovascular death risk is a novel finding.” The researchers analyzed data from almost 23,000 patients collected between 1999 and 2012. The patients, whose average age was 48, had just been prescribed a...
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Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Linked to 30% Drop in Opioid Prescribing

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Linked to 30% Drop in Opioid Prescribing
States that use prescription drug monitoring programs have seen a 30 percent decrease in the rate of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers, a new study finds. “This reduction was seen immediately following the launch of the program and was maintained in the second and third years afterward,” the researchers wrote in the journal Health Affairs. NBC News reports the researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York are not certain why the programs reduce opioid prescriptions. “It is possible that the implementation of a prescription drug monitoring program by itself substantially raised awareness among prescribers about controlled substance misuse and abuse and made them more cautious when prescribing pain medications with a great potential for abuse and dependency,” they wrote. “It is also possible that knowing that their prescribing was being ‘watched’ deterred them from prescribing Schedule II opioids to some extent,” they added. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration,...
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Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers on the Decline

Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers on the Decline
The number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers is declining in the United States, a sign that the opioid epidemic may be peaking, The New York Times reports. Opioid prescriptions decreased in 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the newspaper’s review of several data sources. Before that, doctors were writing so many opioid prescriptions that there were enough for every American adult to have their own bottle, the article notes. The decline indicates that doctors have begun listening to warnings about the drugs’ addictive potential, and that government efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions are having an effect, experts say. “The culture is changing,” said Dr. Bruce Psaty, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, who studies drug safety. “We are on the downside of a curve with opioid prescribing now.” According to the information firm IMS Health, there has been a 12 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions nationwide since they...
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Opioid Painkillers Will Have to Carry “Black Box” Warning

Opioid Painkillers Will Have to Carry “Black Box” Warning
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