Veterans Especially Hard Hit by Opioid Epidemic

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The opioid epidemic has taken an especially heavy toll on U.S. veterans, Reuters reports. Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of opioid painkillers. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are at the highest risk of opioid addiction, federal data indicates. Senator John McCain has sponsored the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act, which would fund research to help Veterans Administration (VA) doctors rely less on opioids in treating chronic pain. The bill is stalled in Congress, the article notes. “The Veterans Administration needs to understand whether overmedication of drugs, such as opioid painkillers, is a contributing factor in suicide-related deaths,” said McCain, a Vietnam veteran. The VA system has treated 68,000 veterans for opioid addiction since March, according to a department spokesman. The Louis Stokes VA Center in Cleveland has started testing alternative treatments, including acupuncture and yoga, to reduce use of and dependency...
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FDA Issues Advisory About Deadly Risks Associated With Herb Kratom

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers to avoid using the herb kratom, citing 36 known deaths associated with products containing the substance. Kratom comes from a plant in Southeast Asia. It is used to treat pain, anxiety, depression, and symptoms of opioid withdrawal, The Washington Post reports. It is also used recreationally, because it produces symptoms such as euphoria, the article notes. “There is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed health care provider about the product’s dangers, potential side effects or interactions with other drugs.” The FDA noted that there have been reports of kratom being laced with other opioids like hydrocodone. The use of kratom is also associated with...
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Long-Acting and Daily Medications to Treat Opioid Addiction Found Equally Effective

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A new study finds a long-acting medication and a short-term drug that must be taken daily are equally effective in treating opioid addiction. Researchers at NYU Langone Health found extended-release naltrexone (Vivitrol) was as safe and effective as more commonly prescribed buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone) in curtailing opioid use, relapse, treatment drop-out, and overdose. The study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was published in The Lancet. The study is the first major head-to-head comparison of the treatments, according to The Washington Post. Researchers found each treatment had disadvantages. Short-acting medicines must be taken daily for years or even a lifetime. Naltrexone, which is given as a monthly injection, cannot be started until a person is fully detoxified from opioids—which more than 25 percent of the study subjects failed to do. More than half of the study subjects relapsed at least once, regardless of which treatment they received....
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DEA Rule Allows Criminal Prosecution for Fentanyl Trafficking

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will classify illicit versions of fentanyl at the same level as heroin, Reuters reports. The action will make it easier for federal prosecutors and agents to prosecute traffickers of all forms of fentanyl-related substances, the agency said. Legally prescribed fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II drug, which means it is highly addictive but has a medical purpose. The new DEA order classifies illicit fentanyl as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin. Schedule I drugs are considered addictive, with no medicinal purpose. The DEA order will last up to two years, with a possibility of a one-year extension if certain conditions are met. In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “By scheduling all fentanyls, we empower our law enforcement officers and prosecutors to take swift and necessary action against those spreading these deadly poisons. I also urge the many members of Congress who...
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Teens Dependent on Marijuana and Alcohol Struggle with Success Later in Life

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Teens who are dependent on marijuana and alcohol struggle to achieve hallmarks of adult success, such as graduating from college, getting married, having a full-time job and earning a good salary, a new study finds. Researchers at the University of Connecticut tracked 1,165 study participants, starting at age 12. They checked in on them at two-year intervals, until they were between 25 and 34 years old, HealthDay reports. Most of the participants had a grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle with an alcohol problem. Marijuana and alcohol dependence appeared to have a more severe effect on young men. “Parents should try to delay their children’s onset of use as much as possible,” said researcher Victor Hesselbrock. “If you can push regular use back well into adolescence, the kids do a lot better.” The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.  
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Millions of Dollars Needed for Trump’s Anti-Opioid Ad Campaign, Advocates Say

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The anti-drug ad campaign advocated by President Trump’s opioid commission will need millions of dollars in funding, advocates tell The Hill . It is not clear how such a campaign would be funded, the article notes. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who chaired the commission, said the campaign should be paid for by the federal government, with private sector partners. The report, released recently, included 56 recommendations, including an aggressive multimedia campaign to fight the opioid epidemic. An ad campaign must be part of a more comprehensive approach that includes strengthening treatment and changing opioid prescribing patterns, advocates say. In order to be effective, a campaign must be based on evaluations of what has been effective in the past, and must frequently test the ad’s message with the target audience, they note. “We’ve learned a lot about how to communicate about these issues in the past three decades or so....
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Combo of Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen as Effective as Opioids for Acute Pain

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A study of patients who went to the emergency room suffering from acute pain found those given a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen reported as much pain relief as those who were given opioids. The 416 patients in the study had acute pain in their shoulders, arms, hips or legs, the Los Angeles Times reports. About 20 percent of the patients had a bone fracture, the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association . Other patients had injuries such as a sprained ankle or dislocated shoulder. Patients were assigned to one of four groups. One group received a combination ibuprofen/acetaminophen tablet (containing the medications found in Advil and Tylenol. The other groups received a drug containing a prescription opioid, such as Percocet (a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen), Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) or Tylenol No. 3 (codeine and acetaminophen). Patients were asked to rate their pain when...
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Drug Overdose Deaths Rose More Than 17 Percent Last Year: CDC

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 Drug overdose deaths increased more than 17 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The overdose death rate rose to almost 20 people per 100,000, up from 16.3 per 100,000 the previous year, The New York Times reports. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50, the CDC found. Recently, these deaths have been driven by overdoses of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, according to Dr. Robert Anderson, Chief of the CDC mortality statistics branch. “The main message is the drug rate went up a lot again, and of course we’re worried about it,” he said.
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Hospitals Overwhelmed With Treating Diseases Resulting From IV Drug Use

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Hospitals are struggling to deal with an overwhelming number of cases of diseases that result from intravenous opioid use, including hepatitis C, endocarditis and the antibiotic-resistant infection MRSA. Hepatitis C is the most common infectious disease that affects people with opioid use disorder, USA Today reports. Reported cases of the disease almost tripled between 2010 and 2015. Endocarditis—a condition in which the heart’s inner lining is inflamed—is a side effect of opioid addiction. Hospitalizations for endocarditis rose almost 50 percent from 2002 to 2012, at an average cost of $50,000 per patient. MRSA is the second most common co-occurring condition with opioid use disorder, the article notes. The cost of treating the infection is about $60,000 per patient.
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Teens Bring Juul E-Cigarette Device, Which Looks Like USB Flash Drive, to School

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School officials report a growing number of teens are bringing a new e-cigarette device called a Juul vaporizer to school. The device looks like a USB flash drive, and charges when plugged into a laptop, USA Today reports. Juul is small enough to fit inside an enclosed hand. It comes with pods of e-liquid in sweet flavors such as mango, fruit medley and crème brulee. The devices and flavored pods can be ordered online. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking it to reverse a recent decision to delay the regulation of e-cigarettes popular among teens, such as Juul. “To know that New York kids are much more likely to be using these new-age e-cig devices, like Juul, is not only concerning, but it could be dangerous,” Schumer said in a statement. “Up until now, the FDA was on...
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