Deaths From Drugs, Alcohol and Suicide Reach New Peaks in Communities of Color


Deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide—known as “deaths of despair”—are increasing among blacks, Latinos and Asians, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust. While drug overdoses were still highest among whites in 2016, there were disproportionately large increases in drug deaths among racial/ethnic minority groups, particularly among black Americans, the study found. In the previous decade, blacks had relatively low drug overdose rates — averaging 35 percent lower than whites between 2006 and 2015, NBC News reports. However, between 2015 and 2016, blacks experienced an alarming increase — of 39 percent — in drug-related deaths. That year, drug deaths increased 24 percent among Latinos and 19 percent among whites.

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What to Do with Excess Prescription Medications in Your Home


Surplus prescription medications can pose a significant risk to both adults and children. As stated by the National Safety Council, “the largest source of easily available and ‘free’ abused medications are the billions of prescription pills readily accessible in home medicine cabinets.” The best way to prevent prescription drug misuse, including the misuse of potentially deadly opioids, is by properly storing and ultimately disposing of excess medications. Unfortunately, in their latest poll, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse asked, “do you currently have leftover or excess prescription medications in your home?” and half of all respondents replied “yes.” A more comprehensive survey conducted by Consumer Reports found that “one-third of Americans haven’t cleaned out their medicine cabinets in a year or more; and nearly a fifth (19 percent) haven’t done so in three years.” A study that appeared in JAMA Surgery stated that only a quarter of people in...

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Could Naltrexone Be Used to Treat Pregnant Women with Opioid Addiction?


Of the three medications currently approved to treat opioid addiction, the long-acting antagonist naltrexone, which blocks opioids from attaching to the mu-opioid receptor, is the newest and the least studied. The research gap is closing, however: A recent study published in Lancet found that extended-release naltrexone was equally effective at reducing illicit opioid use as the partial agonist buprenorphine if patients could be successfully initiated on naltrexone. Initiation requires detoxification from opioids first (since naltrexone elicits withdrawal symptoms in opioid-dependent users), which can be an impediment for some patients. Still, this finding pointed to the promise of naltrexone as an effective treatment approach, as well as the need for research on how to overcome the “detox hurdle” when using an antagonist medication to treat opioid use disorder. As naltrexone becomes more widely used in the treatment of opioid use disorders, we need to learn more about whether it could be safe...

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As More U.S. States Legalize Marijuana, Mexico’s Drug Cartels Turn to Heroin


Mexican drug cartels are turning to heroin as more U.S. states legalize marijuana, according to USA Today. Small farmers who used to plant marijuana to be smuggled in the United States are switching to opium poppies, which brings them a better price. The opium gum is harvested and processed into heroin. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, marijuana seizures have fallen by more than half since 2012, while seizures of heroin and methamphetamine have soared.Heroin seizures by the U.S. Border Patrol rose from 430 pounds in 2012 to 953 pounds in 2017. Marijuana seizures dropped from 2,299,864 pounds in 2012 to 861,231 pounds in 2017. Meth seizures rose from 3,715 pounds in 2012 to 10,328 pounds in 2017.  

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Legislative Hearings on Opioid Crisis to Focus on Law Enforcement, Public Health


House Republicans will hold a series of hearings on addressing the opioid crisis, with a focus on law enforcement, public health and insurance coverage, according to The Wall Street Journal. The first hearing, by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will be held on February 28. The bills to be considered are likely to require additional funding from Congress, the article notes. One bill under consideration would make it easier for certain derivatives of synthetic drugs to be categorized as controlled substances. Another bill would ensure that doctors can get details of a patient’s past substance use if consent is given. Under one piece of legislation, in-home hospice providers would be permitted to destroy remaining opioids after a patient dies. Another proposed bill would increase use of prescription drug monitoring programs, and would make it easier for states to share data on opioid use and overdose deaths.

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Can Vivitrol Help People Leaving Jail Stay Off Opioids?


Many people who are arrested and brought to jail on Rikers Island in New York City use opioids, and are forced to detox while in jail. Researchers at New York University (NYU) are studying whether providing the opioid-addiction medicine extended-release naltrexone (Vivitrol) to these individuals when they leave jail reduces their risk of relapse and overdose. “When we launched the study, many people used methadone to detox in jail, but didn’t continue it for maintenance,” said Joshua D. Lee MD, MSc, Associate Professor of Population Health and Medicine/General Internal Medicine and Clinical Innovation at the NYU School of Medicine. “That means they are leaving jail with no maintenance medication, which puts them at great risk of relapse and overdose, as well as HIV and hepatitis C from injection drug use.” Vivitrol is a monthly injection that blocks the effects of opioids, including pain relief or the feelings of well-being that can...

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Many Teens Say Peers’ Vaping Led Them to Try E-Cigarettes


Almost 40 percent of teens who use e-cigarettes say seeing their peers use the devices led them to try vaping themselves, a new government report finds. Teens who try e-cigarettes are often tempted by the flavors of vaping liquids, and some believe e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, HealthDay reports. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used form of tobacco among middle school and high school students, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, a report by the U.S. Surgeon General called for reducing e-cigarette use among young people. The report said young people are more vulnerable than adults to the negative consequences of nicotine exposure. “These effects include addiction, priming for use of other addictive substances, reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, and mood disorders,” the report stated.

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FDA Announces Voluntary Destruction and Recall of Kratom Products


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week announced it is overseeing the voluntary destruction and recall of kratom products. Earlier this month, the FDA warned kratom is an opioid and has been linked with 44 deaths. Kratom, an unregulated botanical substance, is used by some people to relieve pain, anxiety and depression, as well as symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The company that makes kratom-containing products under the brand names Botany Bay, Enhance Your Life and Divinity promised to recall and destroy the products, HealthDay reports. The company, Divinity Products Distribution, agreed to stop selling all products containing kratom. In a statement, the FDA said, “Based on the scientific evidence of the serious risks associated with the use of kratom, in the interest of public health, the FDA encourages all companies currently involved in the sale of products containing kratom intended for human consumption to take similar steps to take their...

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What Causes Spouses to Resemble One Another In Their Risk for Alcohol Use Disorder?


A population-based registry study found that the increase in risk for a first onset of alcohol use disorder in a married individual after the onset of alcohol use disorder onset in his or her spouse was large and rapid. When an individual was married in either order to serial partners with vs. without alcohol use disorder, the risk for alcohol use disorder was substantially increased when the partner had an alcohol use disorder registration and decreased when the partner did not have an alcohol use disorder registration. What does this mean? A married individual’s risk for alcohol use disorder is likely directly and causally affected by the presence of alcohol use disorder in his or her spouse. Although spouses strongly resemble one another in their risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the causes of this association remain unclear. The study seems to conclude that the increase in risk for AUD registration...

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Are Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Common In the United States?


A recent cross-sectional study of over 13,000 first-grade children in four regions of the United States was designed to estimate the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, including fetal alcohol syndrome, partial fetal alcohol syndrome, and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are costly, life-long disabilities. Older data suggested the prevalence of the disorder in the United States was 10 per 1000 children; however, there are few current estimates based on larger, diverse US population samples. Out of a total of 6,639 children who were selected for participation, a total of 222 cases of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders were identified. The conservative prevalence estimates for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders ranged from 11.3 per 1,000 children. The weighted prevalence estimates for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders ranged from 31.1 per 1,000 children. Estimated prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders among first-graders in 4 US communities ranged from 1.1% to 5.0% using a...

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