CDC: Fentanyl Sold as Cocaine Led to 12 Overdoses in 8 Hours

CDC: Fentanyl Sold as Cocaine Led to 12 Overdoses in 8 Hours
A hospital in New Haven, Connecticut treated 12 people who overdosed last June when they used fentanyl that had been sold as cocaine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Three of the people died. Fentanyl is an opioid that can be 50 times as strong as heroin, ABC News reports. Many fentanyl overdoses occur when the drug is sold as heroin, oxycodone or other opioids. A rapid response from public health officials and police may have saved lives, the CDC noted. Paramedics were equipped with additional naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote. Officials traced back the source of the drugs, issued a public service announcement and gave out naloxone to families and friends of people known to use opioids.
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Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse and Dependence Costs $78.5 Billion Annually & Misused by Almost 19 Million Americans

Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse and Dependence Costs $78.5 Billion Annually & Misused by Almost 19 Million Americans
A new study estimates prescription opioid overdose, abuse and dependence costs $78.5 billion annually in the United States. Researchers from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control said healthcare accounts for about one-third of costs attributable to the prescription opioid epidemic, Newswise reports. An additional one-fourth of costs are borne by the public sector, they wrote in the journal Medical Care. Those costs include public insurance (Medicaid, Medicare and veterans’ programs), as well as other government sources for addiction treatment. State and local governments also pay $7.7 billion annually in criminal justice costs related to the opioid epidemic. Almost 19 Million Americans Misused Prescription Drugs Last Year A new government survey finds 18.9 million people ages 12 and older—7.1 percent—misused prescription drugs such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives last year. The survey found 45 percent of Americans take one or more of these drugs, NPR reports. The widespread...
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U.S. Senator Proposes Banning 22 Synthetic Drugs After Rash of Overdoses in New York

U.S. Senator Proposes Banning 22 Synthetic Drugs After Rash of Overdoses in New York
Following reports of 130 suspected overdoses linked to synthetic drugs in New York last week, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a bill that would ban 22 synthetic drugs. While some synthetic cannibinoids are banned under federal law, people who make the drugs continually change the chemical compound to stay one step ahead of authorities, CNN reports. Schumer’s bill would outlaw variants of “K2” and “Spice,” as well as variants of the opioid fentanyl. “New York’s most recent K2 binge that left our ER’s bulging and streets strewn with stupefied users with zombie-like symptoms are a sign of what’s to come if Congress doesn’t act quickly,” Schumer said in a news release.
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Overdose Antidote Naloxone Becoming Easier to Buy in Most States

Overdose Antidote Naloxone Becoming Easier to Buy in Most States
The overdose antidote naloxone is becoming easier to buy around the country, the Associated Press reports. Most states have passed laws allowing people to buy naloxone without a prescription. Drugstores and other retailers are also making it more easily available. Until recently, naloxone, sold as Narcan, was available mostly through clinics, hospitals or paramedics and other first responders. “This saves lives, doesn’t seem to have any negative impact that we can identify, therefore it should be available,” said Dr. Corey Waller of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Target and Wal-Mart have made it easier to access naloxone through their pharmacies in many states, or are planning to do so, the article notes. The grocery chain Kroger sells naloxone without requiring a prescription in a few states. Naloxone has received attention recently after news reports that Prince was rescued from an overdose of the painkiller Percocet...
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Heroin Overdoses Becoming More Visible in Public Spaces

Heroin Overdoses Becoming More Visible in Public Spaces
The heroin epidemic is becoming increasingly visible as more people who use the drug are overdosing in public spaces, The New York Times reports. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, several people overdosed in the bathrooms of a church, leading church officials to close the bathrooms to the public. “We weren’t medically equipped or educated to handle overdoses, and we were desperately afraid we were going to have something happen that was way out of our reach,” said the Reverend Joseph O. Robinson, Rector of Christ Church Cambridge. Police in many towns find people who have been using heroin unconscious or dead in cars, fast-food restaurant bathrooms, on public transportation, and in parks, hospitals and libraries. Some people who use heroin seek out towns where emergency medical workers carry the opioid overdose antidote naloxone (Narcan), the article notes. They know “if they do overdose, there’s a good likelihood that when police respond, they’ll be...
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FDA Should Add “Black Box” Warning to Opioids and Benzodiazepines

FDA Should Add “Black Box” Warning to Opioids and Benzodiazepines
Officials from state and local health departments around the country are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to add “black box” warnings to opioid painkillers and sedatives known as benzodiazepines, to alert people that taking them together increases the risk of fatal overdoses. Recently, health officials submitted a petition to the FDA about the warnings, The Washington Post reports. The petition urges the FDA to adopt labeling for all opioid medications that reads: “Warning: Concurrent use with benzodiazepines reduces the margin of safety for respiratory depression and contributes to the risk of fatal overdose, particularly in the setting of misuse.” A similar warning would be placed on benzodiazepines, warning about mixing the drugs with opioids. “Existing warnings about the concurrent use of opioids and benzodiazepines are inconsistent, infrequent, and insufficient. The FDA should act swiftly on the clear scientific evidence and add black box warnings to both classes of medication,”...
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Sedative-Related Overdoses on the Rise

Sedative-Related Overdoses on the Rise
Fatal overdoses from benzodiazepines—sedatives sold under brand names such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan—are on the rise, a new study finds. Overdoses from benzodiazepines accounted for 31 percent of the almost 23,000 deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the United States in 2013, according to HealthDay. “As more benzodiazepines were prescribed, more people have died from overdoses involving these drugs,” said study author Dr. Joanna Starrels of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “In 2013, more than 5 percent of American adults filled prescriptions for benzodiazepines. And the overdose death rate increased more than four times from 1996 to 2013.” She noted while there has been a large public health response to the epidemic of prescription opioid use, addiction and overdose, there has not been much response to the increase in prescription benzodiazepine deaths. Dr. Starrels said the rate of deaths from benzodiazepines is still lower than deaths from opioid overdoses, but...
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Young Infants as Likely as Older Children to be Accidentally Poisoned

Young Infants as Likely as Older Children to be Accidentally Poisoned
Young infants are just as likely as older children to be accidentally poisoned, a new study finds. Babies younger than six months old are most likely to be accidentally poisoned by acetaminophen, according to HealthDay. Other common substances involved in babies’ accidental poisonings include H2-blockers (for acid reflux), gastrointestinal medications, combination cough/cold products, antibiotics and ibuprofen. “I was surprised with the large number of exposures even in this young age group,” said lead author Dr. A. Min Kang of Banner-University Medical Center Phoenix in Arizona. “Pediatricians typically do not begin poison prevention education until about six months of age, since the traditional hazard we think about is the exploratory ingestion — that is when kids begin to explore their environment and get into things they are not supposed to.” The study appears in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers reviewed poison control center calls from 2004 to 2013 that were related to...
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Massachusetts Officials Report Eight Deaths in One Week From “Hollywood” Heroin

Massachusetts Officials Report Eight Deaths in One Week From “Hollywood” Heroin
Massachusetts State Police report eight people have died in one week from a deadly strain of heroin known as “Hollywood” heroin. Officials say they are not sure how long the strain has been in the state. The deaths were reported in small cities in Western Massachusetts, CNN reports. State officials say they are investigating why this strain of heroin is so deadly. There may be additional dangerous chemicals added to the batch, according to Holyoke Police Department Lt. Jim Albert. The strain may be so pure that even some people addicted to heroin can’t handle it, he noted. A few people who used the deadly strain of heroin were saved by the opioid overdose antidote naloxone. While police seized 9,000 bags of heroin with the “Hollywood” stamp and arrested four people on heroin trafficking charges, there still may be more of the heroin circulating, according to Springfield Police Sgt. John Delaney....
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Opposition to Federal Effort to Curb Painkiller Prescribing

Opposition to Federal Effort to Curb Painkiller Prescribing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) face stiff opposition to its effort to reduce prescribing of opioid painkillers, the Associated Press reports. Critics of new prescribing guidelines include drug manufacturers, industry-funded groups and some public health officials. The guidelines, which were originally scheduled to be released this month, are designed to reverse the increase in deadly overdoses of opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. They are not binding. Opponents of the guidelines say they have been largely written behind closed doors, the AP notes. Officials from the Food and Drug Administration and other health agencies called the guidelines “shortsighted,” relying on “low-quality evidence.” The officials said they plan to file a formal complaint. Following the officials’ comments, the CDC said the guidelines would not be released in January, and opened them to public comment for 30 days. “This is a big win for the opioid lobby,” said...
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