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Friday, February 15, 2013
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Florida Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns Releases Report
By Join Together Staff | February 13, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Addiction, Community Related, Government, Healthcare, Parenting, Prescription Drugs & Prevention
A task force of doctors, public health experts and social workers in Florida has released a report designed to combat the growing problem of babies born to mothers who are addicted to prescription drugs.
The report found more than 1,560 babies born in Florida in 2011 were diagnosed with symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). These babies often spend three weeks in neonatal intensive care, with a cost as high as $53,400 per baby. In contrast, the typical hospital cost for a healthy newborn is $9,500, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
NAS babies suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, abdominal pain, incessant crying, rapid breathing, and sometimes seizures, the report notes.
The task force made recommendations in the areas of prevention, intervention and best practices, and treatment. It recommended that hospitals be required to report babies born with symptoms of NAS, as they do with babies born with infectious diseases such as measles and tuberculosis. The group wants to help treatment facilities reach more women, and recommended considering new laws to offer pregnant women immunity for seeking substance abuse treatment.
Task force member Dr. Ken Solomon, a neonatologist, told the newspaper more research is needed to identify the best way to treat newborns in withdrawal. He noted that some hospitals administer methadone, while others use morphine.
Neonatologist Dr. Mary Newport said she is concerned about the long-term effects of NAS. At her hospital, 30 percent of neonatal intensive care unit admissions last year involved drug exposure. “We’ve had this rash of all of these children who had this very intense drug exposure, and then withdrawal and treatment for that. They are about to hit the school system,” Dr. Newport said.
Veterans with PTSD Often Prescribed Drugs Not Supported by Guidelines
By Join Together Staff | February 13, 2013 | 1 Comment | Filed in Mental Health, Military & Treatment
Veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) are often prescribed medications not supported by existing government guidelines, according to a new study. Most of these prescriptions are written by mental health care providers, according to UPI.
Researchers analyzed electronic pharmacy data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for 356,958 veterans with PTSD, who received medications from VHA prescribers. The researchers from the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Health Care System found among veterans with PTSD who had continuous VHA medication use, 65.7 percent were prescribed elective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRI/SNRIs). Second-generation anti-psychotics were prescribed for 25.6 percent of the veterans, while benzodiazepines were prescribed for 37 percent.
The findings appear in the journal Psychiatric Services.
Four Loko Maker to Put “Alcohol Facts Panel” on Can
By Join Together Staff | February 13, 2013 | 4 Comments | Filed in Alcohol, Government, Prevention, Young Adults & Youth
The maker of the sweet alcoholic drink Four Loko will put an “alcohol facts panel” on the back of cans containing more than two servings of alcohol, to settle the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) charges of deceptive marketing.
The panel will be similar to the nutritional facts label found on foods, the Associated Press reports. It will disclose the alcohol by volume, and the number of servings in the can.
According to a FTC news release, the drink’s maker, Phusion Projects, must redesign cans with more than two-and-a-half servings of alcohol so they can be resealed. This new design will encourage drinkers not to consume the entire can in one sitting.
The agency noted it does not have the jurisdiction to ban Four Loko, or to force the company to limit its size or alcohol content.
The FTC had said Four Loko ads implied the 23.5-ounce can was equal to one or two regular 12-ounce beers, but is really more like four or five beers, the article notes. The cans contain up to 12 percent alcohol.
The FTC had said Four Loko ads implied the 23.5-ounce can was equal to one or two regular 12-ounce beers, but is really more like four or five beers, the article notes. The cans contain up to 12 percent alcohol.
The commission had wanted to require Phusion to put new labels on drinks with more than two-and-a-half servings of alcohol, but changed the requirement to cans with more than two servings of alcohol, based on public comments about the dangers of supersized drinks.
The FTC also wanted to require a label on the front of the can that compared the amount of alcohol in Four Loko to a regular beer. It dropped that recommendation after some critics said it could lead to binge drinking, by suggesting the drink was a fast, inexpensive way to get drunk.
Four Loko originally contained caffeine and alcohol. Following warnings by the Food and Drug Administration, Phusion Projects removed caffeine from the drink.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Accidental Poisonings from Prescription Drugs on the Rise in Pets
A growing number of pets are being accidentally poisoned, and prescription medicines are largely to blame, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports it received more than 180,000 calls about poisonous substances last year, up 7 percent from 2011. Since many pet owners rush poisoned pets to their veterinarian instead of calling a hotline, the number of accidental poisonings may be higher, the article notes.
Prescription medications for humans have accounted for the majority of calls about accidental poisonings for the past five years, increasing 2 percent last year to more than 25,200 calls. Pet owners made almost 18,500 calls about over-the-counter medications and supplements, up 2.8 percent from the previous year.
While insecticides and rodenticides are the most deadly household items for pets, common human medicines can also be fatal, depending on the pet’s weight, how much the pet consumes, and the strength of the medicine. “One acetaminophen will kill a cat,” Kevin T. Fitzgerald, a veterinarian with VCA Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, told the newspaper.
Last year, calls about prescription painkillers increased 63 percent, while calls about antidepressants rose 47.5 percent. “More and more people are on these drugs, and dogs find them on the nightstand,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.
The fatality rate among pets from accidental poisoning appears to be low, at 0.2 percent of cases, according to Tina Wismer, Director of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. She notes the center does not know the outcome of each call, so the rate might be higher. Dogs are more likely than cats to be accidentally poisoned. Labrador Retrievers accounted for almost 14,000 calls to the center.
To limit pets’ access to dangerous substances, keep medications in a secure location such as a medicine cabinet, and take the medication when the pet isn’t nearby.
For Problem Drinkers, Depression Often the Result of Heavy Drinking
Depressive symptoms in problem drinkers often are the result of heavy alcohol intake, a new study suggests.
The 30-year study included nearly 400 men, about half of whom were at increased risk for drinking problems because their fathers were alcoholics, MedicalXpress reports. Over the course of the study, about 41 percent of the men with alcoholic fathers developed alcohol abuse or dependence. Almost 20 percent suffered at least one bout of major depression, the article notes.
Among men with alcohol problems, almost one-third of major depressive episodes appeared only when the men were drinking heavily. The study appears in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
“I don’t know that the average person realizes that heavy drinking can induce mood problems,” lead researcher Marc A. Schuckit, MD, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said in a news release.
Dr. Schuckit noted that depression caused by heavy drinking is treated differently from major depressive episodes with other causes. He said the symptoms of depression caused by heavy drinking can be the same as those seen in people who are not heavy drinkers. However, if the symptoms develop in the context of heavy drinking, they are likely to disappear within several weeks to a month after the person stops drinking, and rarely requires antidepressants.
Doctors should consider alcohol use disorders as a potential cause of depression, Dr. Schuckit said. He found no evidence that people with a history of major depression were at increased risk for developing alcohol problems. “If you’re an alcoholic, you’re going to have a lot of mood problems,” he said. “And you may be tempted to say, ‘Well, I drink a lot because I’m depressed.’ You may be right, but it’s even more likely that you’re depressed because you drink heavily.”
Teens with ADHD More Likely to Have Substance Abuse Issues
By Join Together Staff | February 12, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Drugs, Mental Health, Research & Youth
Teenagers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to have substance abuse issues and to smoke cigarettes, compared with their peers without a history of the disorder, according to a nationwide study.
The study found when teens were an average of 15 years old, 35 percent of those with ADHD said they used one or more substances, compared with 20 percent of teens without a history of the disorder, Science Daily reports. Ten percent of teens with ADHD experienced significant problems from their substance abuse, compared with 3 percent of those without ADHD.
The researchers found by age 17, about 13 percent of those with ADHD experienced marijuana abuse or dependence, compared with 7 percent of those without the disorder. Daily cigarette smoking was also higher among teens with the disorder in this age group—17 percent, compared with 8 percent among teens without ADHD.
Both teens with and without ADHD had high rates of alcohol use, the study found. Teens who were treated with ADHD medication had similar substance abuse rates, compared with those who were not being treated for the disorder.
The findings appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“This study underscores the significance of the substance abuse risk for both boys and girls with childhood ADHD,” lead author Brooke Molina, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a news release. “These findings also are the strongest test to date of the association between medication for ADHD and teenage substance abuse.”
Molina added, “We are working hard to understand the reasons why children with ADHD have increased risk of drug abuse. Our hypotheses, partly supported by our research and that of others, is that impulsive decision making, poor school performance, and difficulty making healthy friendships all contribute.”
Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce Bill to Strengthen Mental Health Care
By Join Together Staff | February 12, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Addiction, Community Related, Healthcare, Legislation & Mental Health
A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would strengthen the nation’s mental health care system, and improve access in communities, according to The Washington Post. The bill, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, would require about 2,000 federally qualified community behavioral health centers to provide substance abuse treatment and 24-hour care.
Facilities that met federal criteria could bill Medicaid for their services, which would greatly expand access to treatment, at an estimated cost of $1 billion over the next 10 years, the article notes.
According to the advocacy group National Council for Behavioral Health, the bill will allow greater access to services and treatments needed by people with mental illnesses and addictions, to keep them healthy and safe in their communities.
“Behavioral health has long been left out of the federal dictionary,” Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, said in a news release. “As a result, mental health and addiction providers cannot receive the critical federal funds that support other safety net providers. They share the unique responsibilities of the safety-net — but none of the supports.”
She added, “Over the 30 years I’ve worked in behavioral health, I have heard an untold number of stories about real people who need care, but go without. I’ve seen ERs so mired down by the needs of people with mental illnesses and addictions that it interferes with their ability to serve their primary function. I’ve talked with family members who have knocked on every door and still don’t know where to get help for their loved ones. The Excellence in Mental Health Act would help right this wrong.”
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Colorado Legislature Gears Up to Debate Drugged Driving Limits
By Join Together Staff | February 11, 2013 | 3 Comments | Filed in Community Related, Drugs & Legislation
The Colorado legislature is gearing up to debate where to set the limit on how much marijuana can be in a person’s system before they are considered to be driving under the influence, according to The Denver Post.
The debate is likely to include evidence from two conflicting studies, the article notes. An analysis of nine studies, published in the British Medical Journal, found driving under the influence of marijuana is associated with an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash, especially for fatal collisions. The analysis found driving under the influence of marijuana was associated with almost twice the risk of a motor vehicle crash, compared with unimpaired driving. The studies in the analysis included nearly 50,000 people.
A second study suggests marijuana-limit laws do not impact traffic fatalities.
The debate on drugged driving laws comes in the wake of Colorado’s passage of a recreational marijuana law in November. Currently it is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana in Colorado, but prosecutors must prove impairment in every case, the article notes.
One bill that will be considered by the legislature sets the marijuana limit at 5 nanograms of THC—the active marijuana ingredient—per milliliter of blood. Under the bill, a person with at least 5 nanograms of THC would not automatically be convicted, and could try to argue that they were not impaired, even if they hit the 5-nanogram limit.
Recent research conducted by scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests the 5-nanogram standard may be too high to capture drivers impaired by marijuana. Marilyn Huestis of NIDA, who conducted a study on marijuana use and psychomotor function, says active THC quickly falls below the 5-nanogram limit within 24 hours. “The level of 5 nanograms per mil is pretty high,” she recently told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “We know that people are impaired at lower levels than 5, but the balancing act is trying to find a number that can reliably separate (the impaired from the not-impaired), which is almost impossible to do.”
PRO-ACT Family Addiction Education Program helps families address drug and alcohol addiction
Next free sessions start week of March 5 at various locations in five counties
Each month PRO-ACT (Pennsylvania Recovery Organization–Achieving Community Together) hosts a free Family Addiction Education Program to help individuals and families recognize and address an addiction problem in a spouse, parent, child or other loved one. Led by trained volunteers who have been in the same situation, these information and support programs begin the first week of each month and run one evening a week for three consecutive weeks. Each session lasts two hours.
Programs are offered at several locations throughout the five-county southeast Pennsylvania region:
· Tuesdays—From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Media and Northeast Philadelphia.
· Wednesdays—From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Pottstown; from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in North Philadelphia; and from 7 p.m.to 9 p.m. in West Chester.
· Thursdays—From 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Northern Liberties; 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Bristol and Colmar
Sessions are free and confidential—first names only. Pre-registration is required. To register, call 800-221-6333, weekdays 9 a.m. through 5 p.m., or visit www.proact.org and click the Family Addiction Education Program link.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Amy Winehouse's Legacy
Mitch Winehouse may have lost his daughter Amy to addiction, but as he tells The Fix, he's doing his best to prevent similar tragedies in other families.
On July 23, 2011, the music world—and beyond—was dealt a crushing blow when Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning after binge drinking. But while fans were mourning, Amy’s father Mitch immediately sprang into action by starting the Amy Winehouse Foundation, an organization designed to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people in the UK. The foundation has crossed over into the US and now offers music scholarships for disadvantaged youth; it will also hold the first annual Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Awards and Gala on March 21 in NYC, where Tony Bennett will serve as the honoree and Jennifer Hudson and Nas will perform.
Mitch has also released the memoir Amy, My Daughter and is carrying on her musical legacy with his own album, "Rush of Love"—with the proceeds from both ventures going directly to the foundation. In an exclusive interview with The Fix, Mitch speaks about the accomplishments of the foundation, parenting a child who’s addicted and the importance of early intervention.
How did the Amy Winehouse Foundation first come about?
I was in a hotel room in New York when I first got the news that Amy passed away and one of the first things that entered my head was “Foundation, foundation, foundation.” But I had no experience with this and when we started to create it, we realized you can’t just start one up. It was a steep learning curve and continues to be.
We launched in the UK in September 2011, but we’re really just starting here in the US. In the UK, we’re helping a number of grantees and have joined up with a homeless charity called New Horizon that feeds hot meals to 60 young people a day. We’re also working on creating drug and alcohol education projects and, starting in April, we’ll go into 45 schools and speak with the kids.
Nobody chooses to be an addict. Amy didn’t choose to be an addict.
What is the foundation hoping to accomplish?
Our mission is to help disadvantaged young people so we’re looking to do that in all forms. In the US, we’ll have a slightly different aim and focus more on providing music scholarships. We just donated $25,000 to the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. Amy was half-American and her mom was born in Brooklyn, so it made sense for one of our first US grants to be given out here.
But in the UK, there is no drug education in schools whatsoever. And what about the kids who suffer from self-esteem issues? What do they do when they’re being pressured to drink or do drugs by their peers? What if they’re being bullied or bullying themselves? It’s an issue that goes beyond drugs and alcohol and there are enough people working in recovery in Britain who could be of assistance with this. The service that we’re providing is completely unique to the UK.
Did Amy have issues with drugs as a child or did those develop in adulthood?
To be honest, that all happened so long ago that I don’t want to look back on it. She dealt with her drug problems successfully and was clean for the last three years of her life. What she was suffering from was alcohol addiction. And she really was just one step away from winning that battle, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Having a child who’s an addict can’t be easy.
It’s the most difficult thing that you can imagine. If you talk to three clinical psychologists, they’ll give you three different answers about the best approach. Some say hard love, others say soft love, another says tough love. And when people are in the midst of an addiction, they find it difficult to relate to their families and often separate themselves completely. Luckily, Amy didn’t do that with us. You just have to let them know you love them and care about them.
It’s such a difficult situation for families both in the UK and the US, though, because, unless you have the resources to send your child to private treatment, it’s a three-year waiting list. And we did have the means to send Amy to all these different places, but so many people don’t.
In your memoir, you talked about needing a holiday from her. A lot of parents of addicts often feel guilty admitting that it can be exhausting.
It’s exhaustion, it’s boring and it’s repetitious. I really wanted that to come across in the book. One day she’s clean and hasn’t done any drugs, the next day she’s using again. It would get better and then we’d be back to square one. It was important for me to try and convey that feeling of helplessness and boredom.
Did you reach out to any support groups?
There are a few voluntary organizations in the UK with a family focus, so I did attend those. And what I found is that most parents are in the same boat. They think they’re on their own and genuinely don’t know what to do because if you can’t afford treatment, you pretty much are left on your own to figure it out.
What message do you hope to convey with the foundation and your work in addressing addiction?
Nobody chooses to be an addict. Amy didn’t choose to be an addict. 100 percent of people suffering from addiction didn’t imagine it would end up this way. It’s an illness and should be treated as such. If someone has appendicitis in the US and they don’t have private insurance, they’ll still get an operation and the hospital will pick up the bill. The same principle should apply with treating addiction.
I also want to stress the importance of early intervention in school education programs, as well as reintegration into society once addiction has happened. Instead of being a burden on society, addicts should be allowed to earn their own money and rejoin the community. It’s not rocket science.