Archive for July, 2012

Anti-Prescription Drug Abuse Billboards Going Up Across Kentucky

Kentucky heightens its battle against prescription drug abuse by reminding Kentuckians about the dangers of prescription pills and the importance of monitoring, securing and safely disposing of unneeded prescription pills.

Kentucky prescription abuse billboardAttorney General Jack Conway is working together with  his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program partners — the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) and the Lamar Outdoor Advertising — to put up prescription drug abuse awareness billboards across the Commonwealth.

“We are doing everything we can to warn Kentuckians about the deadly consequences of prescription drug abuse to ensure that we don’t lose another generation to this scourge,” General Conway said. “I appreciate the assistance we have received from Lamar, NADDI and our other partners as we launch this new awareness effort across the Commonwealth.”

According to Forbes Magazine, Kentucky is the fourth most medicated state in the country. Last year, medical professionals had prescribed 219 million doses of hydrocodone to Kentuckians which equates to 50 doses for every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth. What is even more troublesome is that Kentucky has more people dying from prescription drugs overdoses than traffic accidents.

Mike Gibson, Sales Manager for Lamar Lexington, said the billboards will be displayed “in more than a dozen cities across Kentucky immediately.”

Aside from his public awareness initiatives, Attorney General Conway is also joining Governor Beshear, House Speaker Stumbo and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in the Commonwealth.

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Obama Administration Announced Grants to Stop Drug Abuse

The White House announced last week a new drug control policy that awards $22 million in grants to tackle substance abuse treatment and crime.

substance abuse treatmentDubbed Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), the grant program will provide Iowa, Arizona, and New Jersey up to $7.5 million over 5 years to screen and treat people with substance abuse disorders in different primary care settings and emergency rooms. The three states were chosen through a competitive grant process. The program will be enforced in areas with high numbers of low-income people and traditionally underinsured who receive care at federally qualified health centers and other clinics.

At a press conference, Pamela Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said “We know that prevention works, treatment helps, and people get better.”

Officials have been alarmed by the growing trend of substance abuse in the country, especially the skyrocketing cases of people misusing prescription medications. Even more alarming is the fact that many drug users are not getting the treatment they need to overcome their addiction, as well as other health problems related to drug use.

The core principle of SBIRT is to integrate mental and physical health screening and treatment. Patients who test for abusing substances will be given brief counseling, consisting mostly of a 5-to-10-minute educational talk. Law enforcement leaders expressed full support to the policy and are even leading the way. “This program represents the future of drug control policy in our nation,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

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Ohio Goes High-Tech to Fight Painkiller Abuse

Southern Ohio is taking a serious lead in fighting painkiller abuse as local health officials adopt biometric tools similar to those used by the military.

Fingerprint scanningThe one-year pilot program will be performed at several pharmacies and Holzer Health System, a health-care provider with two hospitals in southern Ohio. Patients will be required to submit to a finger print scan to see a doctor at one hospital system. Although the initiative is voluntary, officials have high hopes it will help curb the increasing prescription drug abuse in the region.  So far, the program has already generated more than 100 members.

CrossChx LLC  will be providing the fingerprint devices and data-analytics muscle that will be used for the pilot program. CrossChx is founded by Sean Lane, a 31-year old who was deployed five times to Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003 to 2008. He believes biometrics could help southern Ohio win its battle against painkiller abuse.

“We kind of want to surge, like we did in Iraq, against this problem,” Lane tells the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog. “In Ohio, we’re dealing with data silos, where people have data and they’re not sharing it. These are the same sharing issues we fought through in Iraq,” he says.

The real-time data upload to a patient’s electronic medical record. The patients’ information which include number of doctor’s office visits, trips to the pharmacy, and prescribed medications will all prove crucial for helping health officials and law enforcement target diversion of drugs into the illegal market. Additionally, the fingerprint biometrics could make it easier for officials to identify questionable doctors or suspect pharmacists.

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Medical Marijuana Faces Obstacle in Los Angeles

Medical marijuana advocates may have thought that they’ve finally found their home in Los Angeles, but this week’s decision may have turned things around completely. The Los Angeles City Council has just voted to ban medical marijuana shops operating in their area. Until solid and satisfactory guidelines from the highest court can be presented to the state’s governing body, the fate of medical marijuana facilities will remain uncertain.

medical marijuana shopsAs soon as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signs the decision, medical marijuana facilities will only have 30 days to prepare and close shop. Letters will also be addressed to approximately 900 registered facilities informing them of the ban.

With this development, city officials say they are now more equipped to counter charges which may spring from aggrieved medical marijuana dispensaries owners. It also strengthens their authority to stop home health agencies and hospices from administering medical weed to patients.

State officials originally favored dispensaries providing the maximum number of operators should only be at 70. Due to legal challenges and subsequent rulings supporting the said dispensaries, there are now 762 existing facilities in Los Angeles alone and there could be at least 200 more which could open.

Medical marijuana clinics remain illegal under federal law which has prompted U.S. authorities to go after owners of shops and stop their operations.

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Ecstasy Impairs Memory Says New Study

A recent study from the University of Cologne in Germany gives another reason why it’s better to stay away from Ecstasy, lest it causes memory problems.

ecstasy-causes-memory-damageAccording to lead researcher, psychologist Daniel Wagner, the study involved people who are not regular users of the drug, which helps rule out alternative causes for the memory loss. Wagner and colleagues focused their study on new users of Ecstasy. The participants had to have some experience with the drug — making it more likely that they’d use it in the future — but could not have taken more than five pills in their lifetimes. Of the 149 participants,109 returned 12 months later for a series of psychological tests, many focusing on memory.

“By measuring the cognitive function of people with no history of Ecstasy use and, one year later, identifying those who had used Ecstasy at least 10 times and remeasuring their performance, we have been able to start isolating the precise cognitive effects of this drug,” Wagner told LiveScience.

Among Ecstasy users, Wagner’s group found a deterioration in a memory task called paired associates learning. “Given the specific memory impairments, our findings may raise concerns in regard to MDMA use, even in recreational amounts over a relatively short time period,” Wagner explains.

Though the researchers have yet to investigate whether the impairments are permanent or reversible, they are already planning a two-year follow-up study to investigate other effects of the drug

Ecstasy became popular in rave parties and techno clubs. The side effects of the drugs, felt within 20 minutes to 1 hour following consumption, include increased confidence and energy, lowered inhibitions, feelings of closeness to others, floating sensation, and hallucinations. The drug can also cause increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, paranoia, loss of appetite, muscle aches and stiffness, irrational or bizarre behavior, vomiting, and poor muscle control.

In 2009, 2.8 million Americans age 12 and older had abused Ecstasy (MDMA) at least once in the year prior to being surveyed, according to the Monitoring the Future Study.

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Campaigns Against Teen Tobacco Use Suffers Budget Cuts

Funding for anti-tobacco programs that target teen populations gets critical cuts in North Carolina.

Mecklenburg County was one of the first to suffer from the cuts as state officials voted to decrease funds for the said campaigns. This move did not sit well for the advocates of teen anti-tobacco use.

Tobacco Reality Unfiltered (TRU) spokesperson and coming senior Caroline Debello is one of the most affected by the cuts. As a messenger for the TRU, Debello brings the message against teen smoking to kids her age. She gets paid for her services but after what has happened, she might not be able to continue and her plans to travel all over the state might be put on hold.  “To stop that, I don’t know how you have the guts to do that,” Debello claimed. “I think it’s ridiculous.”

teen smokingThe budget of TRU in Raleigh decreased from $17.3 million to a measly $2.7 million.

Results of the budget cuts have cost the Mecklenburg County Health Department to lose three of their health educator positions and at least $300,000 in funding.

National and state officials were quick to defend their votes favoring budget cuts for anti-tobacco programs. They say smoking rates continue to drop, thus the money will be used to sustain other health programs such as the Medicaid.

State Rep. Craig Horn shared why he decided to allow the cuts. Horn said: “I think that we can reduce state spending in this specific area so that available funds can be reallocated.”

But for teens like Debello, the future of teen smoking is now uncertain as statistics could once again shoot up as initiatives against smoking are lessened. Debello shared: “It is disappointing. It’s awful and it’s heartbreaking that we can’t keep doing this to try and make a difference in the state.”

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