The abuse of prescription painkillers has reached epidemic proportions in America.
Nearly half of the nation’s 38,329 drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The New York Times reports that: “These narcotics now kill more adults than heroin and cocaine combined, sending 420,000 Americans to emergency rooms each year.
“So many state health officials and advocacy groups were incredulous last fall when the Food and Drug Administrationapproved an even more powerful prescription painkiller — against the advice of its own expert advisory committee.The drug is Zohydro ER, a long-acting formulation of the opioid hydrocodone. The short-acting form, sold under brand names like Vicodin and Lortab, is already the most prescribed drug in the country, and the most abused.In March, Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts sought to ban Zohydro outright, calling it “a potentially lethal narcotic painkiller.” The manufacturer, Zogenix of San Diego, went to court, and last week a federal judge struck down the ban pending further legal action.But other states in New England are moving to restrict the use of Zohydro, and 29 state attorneys general have asked the F.D.A. to reconsider its approval.“People are fearful this will be another original OxyContin,” said Sharon Walsh, director of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research at the University of Kentucky, referring to an early formulation of the painkiller that resulted in a wave of prescription drug deaths in the 1990s and early 2000s. (OxyContin is now available in an abuse-deterrent formulation.)Zohydro is pure hydrocodone in an extended-release formulation. It is intended for people suffering from chronic pain who now must take short-acting hydrocodone pills every few hours around the clock. Continue reading “New drugs raise old concerns”
The notion that hallucinogenic drugs played a significant part in the development of religion has been extensively discussed, particularly since the middle of the twentieth century.
As reported in today’s The Atlantic, “Various ideas of this type have been collected into what has become known as the entheogen theory. The word entheogen is a neologism coined
in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists (those that study the relationship between people and plants). The literal meaning of entheogen is “that which causes God to be within an individual” and might be considered as a more accurate and academic term for popular terms such as hallucinogen or psychedelic drug. By the term entheogen we understand the use of psychoactive substances for religious or spiritual reasons rather than for purely recreational purposes.
“Perhaps one of the first things to consider is whether there is any direct evidence for the entheogenic theory of religion which derives from contemporary science. One famous example that has been widely discussed is the Marsh Chapel experiment. This experiment was run by the Harvard Psilocybin Project in the early 1960s, a research project spearheaded by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Leary had traveled to Mexico in 1960, where he had been introduced to the effects of hallucinogenic psilocybin-containing mushrooms and was anxious to explore the implications of the drug for psychological research.
“On Good Friday 1962, two groups of students received either psilocybin or niacin (a nonhallucinogenic “control” substance) on a double-blind basis prior to the service in Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. Following the service nearly the entire group receiving psilocybin reported having had a profound religious experience, compared to just a few in the control group. This result was therefore judged to have supported the entheogenic potential of hallucinogenic drug use. Interestingly, the experiment has subsequently been repeated under somewhat different and arguably better controlled circumstances and the results were substantially the same. Continue reading “Drugs and religion”
Despite recent gains against substance abuse by American teens, hundreds of thousands of them use marijuana and alcohol on a given day, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.
On a typical day, WebMD reports, “an estimated 881,684 kids aged 12 to 17 smoke cigarettes, 646,707 use marijuana and 457,672 drink alcohol, according to a report by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“The number of teens smoking pot on a given day could almost fill the 250,000-seat Indianapolis Speedway two and a half times, the report pointed out.
“This data about adolescents sheds new light on how deeply substance use pervades the lives of many young people and their families,” SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release. “While other studies indicate that significant progress has been made in lowering the levels of some forms of substance use among adolescents in the past decade, this report shows that far too many young people are still at risk.”
“The report also said that on an average day:
- 7,639 kids aged 12 to 17 drink alcohol for the first time,
- 4,594 use an illicit drug for the first time,
- 4,000 use marijuana for the first time,
- 3,701 smoke cigarettes for the first time,
- 2,151 misuse prescription pain relievers for the first time. Continue reading “The kids may not be all right”
Every now and then everyone has trouble sleeping. And then there are those of us who always have the problem.
No wonder the sleep medication industry now accounts for $1.7-billion in spending each year.
Todays Wall Street Journal discusses “A new sleep drug by Merck & Co. is expected to gain U.S. approval in the coming months, even as its main competitor is coming under growing scrutiny by regulators and doctors for sometimes-dangerous side effects. The new drug, known as suvorexant, will affect a different part of the brain than a generation of older medicines such as zolpidem, known as Ambien, which depresses brain activity. The hope is that suvorexant will cause fewer side effects than its older counterparts.
“An estimated 25% or more Americans face a bout of insomnia in a given year, and at least 1 in 10 suffers the chronic form of the disorder, routinely facing sleepless nights, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s a need for more drugs,” said Russell Rosenberg, chairman of the National Sleep Foundation. Current drugs don’t work for everyone, and a push to lower doses amid safety concerns has led to patients “coming in and saying it’s not working as well,” said Dr. Rosenberg, a practicing sleep psychologist and director of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and Technology.
“New sleep drugs may be facing a higher approval bar, amid rising concern that Ambien and similar drugs cause side effects such as risky bouts of sleepwalking and next-day drowsiness, which can impair driving. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised doctors to reduce doses of Ambien for women, and added new warnings to its labeling earlier this year.”
Read full article at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324183204578565392659897114.html
It’s common knowledge that the U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, especially among it minority populations.
Less known is that those numbers are dropping, ableit slowly. As reported in thesamefacts.com, this is the “most underreported public policy story of the past year: The continuing decline in the number of Americans who are behind bars or on probation/parole. Both the change itself and low level of attention it has garnered are worthy of reflection.” Keith Humphries offers some excellent analysis:
“At the time of President Obama’s inauguration, the incarceration rate in the United States had been
rising every single year since the mid 1970s.The relentless growth in the proportion of Americans behind bars had persisted through good economic times and bad, Republican and Democratic Presidents, and countless changes in state and local politics around the country. Continue reading “American prison population quietly declines”
“A leading expert on addictions says there still remains a ‘tremendous misunderstanding’ about the problem in our society,” reports the Chatham Daily News in a story about psychiatrist Gabor Mate.
“People see addictions as some lifestyle choice that somebody makes,” but “Nobody wakes up and says, ‘My ambition is to become an addict,'” say Mate. A keynote speaker this week at the Chatham-Kent Addictions Awareness Conference, Mate said “addiction is a response to suffering and most people who are severely addicted were traumatized as children. As a result, he said, people in this situation have pain they try to soothe with drugs.”
Continue reading “Addiction and identity”
Prescription drug overdoses now claim more lives than heroin and cocaine combined, fueling a doubling of drug-related deaths in the United States over the last decade, according to a story in today’s Los Angeles Times by Scott Glover and Lisa Girdion entitled:“Legal Drugs, Deadly Outcome.”
“Health and law enforcement officials seeking to curb the epidemic have focused on how OxyContin,Vicodin, Xanax and other potent pain and anxiety medications are obtained illegally, such as through pharmacy robberies or when teenagers raid their parents’ medicine cabinets.” the authors state, adding that “Authorities have failed to recognize how often people overdose on medications prescribed for them by their doctors.
“A Los Angeles Times investigation has found that in nearly half of the accidental deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, the deceased had a doctor’s prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death.
“Reporters identified a total of 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs from 2006 through 2011 in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties.
“An examination of coroners’ records found that in 1,762 of those cases — 47%— drugs for which the deceased had a prescription were the sole cause or a contributing cause of death.A small cadre of doctors was associated with a disproportionate number of those fatal overdoses. Seventy-one — 0.1% of all practicing doctors in the four counties — wrote prescriptions for drugs that caused or contributed to 298 deaths. That is 17% of the total linked to doctors’ prescriptions.
For cull coverage, see Los Angeles Times by Scott Glover and Lisa Girdion entitled:“Legal Drugs, Deadly Outcome.”