Hepatitis C Spreads as a Result of Opioid Epidemic

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New cases of hepatitis C are on the rise as a result of the nation’s opioid epidemic, according to health officials. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced earlier this year that new hepatitis C cases have almost tripled nationwide in just a few years, The Washington Post reports. The increase is largely due to intravenous drug use among young adults. Hepatitis C can be contracted at any point during the drug injection process, including by using a drug cooker or tourniquet with another person’s blood on it, according to Shruti Mehta of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Treating hepatitis C can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and is limited by insurance and Medicaid, the article notes. Treatment is mostly unavailable to people who are still using illicit drugs.
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Justice Department Charges Chinese Distributors Who Sold Fentanyl to Americans Online

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The U.S. Justice Department announced charges against two Chinese nationals who sold fentanyl online to American customers, The Washington Post reports. The men are the first Chinese-based fentanyl manufacturers and distributors to be designated as Consolidated Priority Organization Targets, which the Justice Department considers to be among the most significant drug trafficking threats in the world. According to the Justice Department, one of the men operated websites that sold fentanyl directly to American customers. He also ran at least two chemical plants in China capable of producing tons of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. The other man ran at least four fentanyl labs in China. He also advertised and sold fentanyl online. The article notes it is unclear if the men could ever be brought to the United States to face charges.
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Senators: Repeal Law That Impedes DEA’s Ability to Crack Down on Opioid Distribution

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Two Democratic senators have introduced legislation that would repeal a law they say hampers efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fight the opioid epidemic. According to a report by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes , the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act impeded the DEA’s authority to freeze suspicious shipments of opioids in order to reduce the flow of painkillers to the black market. CNN reports Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia have called for the repeal of the legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2016. The law passed by unanimous consent in the Senate. “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities,” McCaskill said in a statement. “I’ll be introducing legislation that repeals...
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Tom Marino Withdraws Nomination as Head of ONDCP

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Representative Tom Marino of Pennsylvania announced that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. His decision comes in the wake of a Washington Post and 60 Minutes joint report that concluded legislation Marino sponsored hampered efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fight the opioid epidemic. The legislation, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, was opposed by the DEA, and supported by drug companies, NPR reports. It changed the standard for identifying dangers of opioids to local communities from “imminent” threats to “immediate” threats. This impeded the DEA’s authority to freeze suspicious shipments of opioids in order to reduce the flow of painkillers to the black market, the article notes.
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Prevalence of Illicit Drug Use is Higher in Large Metro Areas

Urban
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), although both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas experienced significant increases from 2003–2005 to 2012–2014 in self-reported past-month use of illicit drugs, the prevalence was highest for the large metropolitan areas compared with small metropolitan or nonmetropolitan areas throughout the study period. The report goes on to note that past-month use of illicit drugs declined over the study period for the youngest respondents (aged 12–17 years). The prevalence of past-year illicit drug use disorders among persons using illicit drugs in the past year varied by metropolitan/nonmetropolitan status and changed over time. Across both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, the prevalence of past-year illicit drug use disorders declined during 2003–2014. Although both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas experienced significant increases from 2003–2005 to 2012–2014 in self-reported past-month use of illicit drugs, the prevalence was highest for the large metropolitan areas...
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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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