Category Archives: Substance Abuse
FDA Approves Three New Type 2 Diabetes Treatments
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three new drugs for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Nesina tablets, Kazano tablets and Oseni tablets are all used to control blood sugar. Alogliptin is a new active ingredient that “helps stimulate the release of insulin after a meal, which leads to better blood sugar control,” said Mary Parks, MD, director of the Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a release. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also released its first ever guidelines for treating type 2 diabetes in kids ages 10 to 18. Read more on diabetes.
Study: Car Commuters Gain More Weight than People Who Use Other Transportation
People who commute to work by car gain more weight than their cohorts who use other forms of transportation, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers compared car commuters to those who took trains, buses and bikes, finding the car drivers put on an average of four pounds over four years, as compared to three pounds for the other commuters. The only people in the study who did not gain weight were those who exercised enough weekly and never drove to work. Lawrence Frank of the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said a possible explanation for the results for car drivers is “[p]eople who have longer commutes tend to purchase a lot of their food and run a lot of errands on their way to and from work,” according to Reuters. Read more on obesity.
TV Alcohol Ads May Increase Risk of Alcohol-related Problems for Kids
Watching alcohol ads on television may increase the chance of young kids having alcohol-related problems, but teaching kids about the realities of alcohol and the effects of persuasive messages in the media can help reduce the effects, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. "This study provides evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising in seventh grade and liking those alcohol advertisements on television is associated with higher levels of drinking in the eighth and ninth grades," said lead researcher Jerry Grenard, an associate professor in the School of Community and Global Health at Claremont Graduate University in California, in a release. "Examples of problems include failing to do homework, attending school drunk, passing out and getting into fights.” Researchers said the policymakers and the alcohol industry should work together to limit youth exposure. Read more on substance abuse.
MLB to Test for Human Growth Hormone During the Season
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have agreed to perform in-season blood testing for human growth hormone, as well as a test to detect synthetic testosterone. The use of performance-enhancing drugs has become a significant issue in baseball over the past several years, calling into question the accomplishments of many players going back to the 1980s. Earlier this week the sport’s Hall of Fame announced no one had been elected on this year’s ballot, which included perhaps the greatest batter and the greatest pitcher of the past 40 years—both of whom are tainted by the scandal of the steroid era. Read more on substance abuse.
Flu Season Seeing Shortages of Vaccine, Tamiflu
The increasingly bad flu season is also now seeing a shortage of flu vaccine and the Tamiflu treatment for children. Many forms of the vaccine are sold out and major vaccine provider Sanofi SA said it cannot make any more vaccine for this season because its facilities are already preparing for next season, according to Reuters. "People who haven't been vaccinated and want to get the vaccine may have to look in several places for it," said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier this week the city of Boston declared a public health emergency due to the flu. The city has reported about 700 cases since October 1. Read more on influenza.
Prescription Painkiller Misuse Trails only Marijuana Abuse In U.S.
Prescription painkillers trail only marijuana when it comes to substance abuse in the United States, according to a new report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Approximately 22 million people have misused the drugs since 2002. "Any time you have 2 percent of the population using medications like this there is a lot to do, but we are doing a lot with a combination of putting tighter controls on who can get these drugs and public education," said Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, according to HealthDay. Painkiller abuse is also taking a growing toll on emergency departments who deal with people seeking treatment. Read more on prescription drugs.
Boston Declares Public Health Emergency over Flu
The city of Boston has declared a public health emergency in response to the severe flu season. Approximately 700 people are believed to have contracted the flu since October 1—up dramatically from the total of 70 cases for the entirety of last flu season. The Boston Public Health Commission is offering free vaccination clinics this weekend. “This is not only a health concern, but also an economic concern for families, and I’m urging residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t already,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino in a release. “It’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family. If you’re sick, please stay home from work or school.” Read more on influenza.
FDA Releases Draft Guidance on Abuse-Resistant Opioids
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued draft guidance to help the pharmaceutical industry develop new formulations of opioid drugs that are less likely to be abused. Included in the guidance is information on studies the agencies would like to see that demonstrate that a formulation has “abuse-deterrent properties,” how those studies will be evaluated by the FDA and what labeling claims may be approved based on the results of the studies. “The FDA is extremely concerned about the inappropriate use of prescription opioids, which is a major public health challenge for our nation,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “This draft guidance is an important part of a larger effort by FDA aimed at preventing prescription drug abuse and misuse.” According to the FDA, abuse-deterrent formulations target the known types of opioid abuse, such as crushing in order to snort or dissolving in order to inject, for the specific opioid drug substance in that formulation. The science of abuse deterrence is relatively new, and both the formulation technologies and the analytical, clinical and statistical methods for evaluating those technologies are developing quickly, according to the agency. “Our nation is in the midst of a prescription drug abuse epidemic,” said R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. “While there are no silver bullet solutions to this public health and safety challenge, abuse-deterrent formulations of powerful prescription opioids can make a difference in addressing this epidemic.” Read a NewPublicHealth interview with director Kerlikowske.
Report Says Cost-Cutting Measures Now Could Save $2 Trillion in Health Care Costs
Implementing cost-cutting measures now could help the United States save $2 trillion on health care over the next 10 years, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund. The plan calls for using gross domestic product per capita to determine overall healthcare spending growth, which would include Medicare, Medicaid, other government programs and private insurers. Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal said the proposal is an alternative to some of the possibilities being floated for the upcoming deficit talks, which could end up cutting entitlement programs. "In comparison with what some of those proposals advocate, we think that some of what we're proposing will look like an escape valve." Read more on access to health care.
The first Vital Signs health indicators report of 2013 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention finds that binge drinking is too often not recognized as a women’s health problem. The report found that nearly 14 million U.S. women binge drink about three times a month, and consume an average of six drinks per binge. CDC researchers determined the rate of binge drinking among U.S. women and girls by looking at the drinking behavior of approximately 278,000 U.S. women aged 18 and older for the past 30 days through data collected from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and for approximately 7,500 U.S. high school girls from the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
For women and girls, binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks on one occasion. Drinking excessively, including binge drinking, causes about 23,000 deaths among women and girls in the United States each year. About 1 in 8 women and 1 in 5 high school girls report binge drinking, with the practice most common among women ages 8-34, high school girls, whites, Hispanics and women with household incomes of $75,000 or more. Half of all high school girls who drink alcohol report binge drinking.
Research Suggests Problems with Mental Health Treatment of Suicidal Teenagers
More than half of the U.S. teenagers who plan or attempt suicide have previously received mental health treatment, contradicting the belief that lack of access to the treatment is a factor in suicidal behavior, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The research connects suicidal behavior to issues such as depression, attention-deficit disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse, and demonstrates the need to increase the range of treatment for severely suicidal teenagers. Read more on mental health.
N.C. Youth Overwhelming Oppose Smoking at Home, Indoors
A large majority of North Carolina youth are opposed to smoking in the home, indoors, at work and in cars, according to a new study in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Preventing Chronic Disease. Researchers found 80 percent of middle school students and 78 percent of high school students were against smoking, though the survey did not ask whether they thought it should be illegal. Researchers say the percentages are especially significant because tobacco plays a significant role in the state’s economy. "They're aware of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke exposure, and they understand the benefits of smoke-free policies," said study co-author Leah Ranney, associate director at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program. "It tells you how effective our campaigns were. We are a tobacco-growing state, which makes it more challenging for us to successfully promote prevention of uptake of tobacco or cessation." Read more on tobacco.
Regular Marijuana Use by Teens Continues to be a Concern
The annual survey of teen drug use by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds continued high use of marijuana by 8th, 10th and 12th graders, as well as a drop in how dangerous students think the drug is. The survey found that 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, up from 5.1 percent five years ago. Nearly 23 percent say they smoked it in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked within the previous year. The survey found that use escalates after eighth grade. “We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. "THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the ability of the hippocampus, a brain area related to learning and memory, to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function into adulthood." Volkow says that marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk of addiction to the drug. Read a NewPublicHealth interview with R. Greg Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.
HIV Infections Among African-American Women Drop, But Rise in Young Gay, Bisexual Men
New HIV infections among African-American women dropped for the first time, by 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, African-American women still account for almost two-thirds of new HIV infections among American women. Overall, the number of new infections among Americans was stable at about 50,000 per year over the last decade, but new infections among young gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 continue to rise, increasing 22 percent between 2008 and 2010. Read more on HIV.
Heart Association: Heart Health Varies from State to State
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds that heart health varies among the fifty states. Researchers used 2009 data on seven heart health factors from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, including blood pressure, total cholesterol, smoking, body mass index, diabetes, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption.
- The percentage of the population reporting optimal levels of all seven factors was lowest in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Mississippi, and highest in Washington, D.C., Vermont and Virginia.
- About 3 percent of the total U.S. population reported having ideal heart health.
- About 10 percent of the total population reported having poor cardiovascular health, with two or fewer heart-health factors at optimal levels.
- In general, people living in western and New England states reported having a higher percentage of ideal cardiovascular health.
- Those who were 65 or older reported the lowest percentage of ideal heart health, while the 35-54 age group reported the highest percentage of ideal heart health.
- Women said they were faring better than men.
- Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders reported highest rates of heart health, while Blacks, Native Americans and Alaska Natives reported the worst results.
- Those in the highest education group reported better health than the other groups.
Thinking Before Drinking During the Holidays
The National Institutes of Health is promoting an online and print booklet to make people think before drinking to excess during the holidays. Information includes medication and conditions that can interact badly with alcohol. Read more on alcohol.
Steep Rise in Recent Substance Abuse Hospital Admissions Linked to People Combining Certain Drugs
Substance abuse treatment admissions for addiction involving use of benzodiazepine together with narcotic pain relievers increased a total of 569.7 percent, to 33,701, from 2000 to 2010, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Overall substance abuse treatment admissions of people ages 12 and older in the same period rose 4 percent, to 1.82 million, the agency said. “Clearly, the rise in this form of substance abuse is a public health problem that all parts of the treatment community need to be aware of,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “When patients are battling severe withdrawal effects from two addictive drugs, new treatment strategies may be needed to meet this challenge. These findings will help us better understand the nature and scope of this problem and to develop better approaches to address it.” Read more on substance abuse.
Snacking on Healthier Foods Can Decrease Calorie Intakes for Kids
What you snack on matters. In a new study in the journal Pediatrics, 200 children in third to sixth grades were randomly given one of four snacks: potato chips, cheese, vegetables, or a combination of cheese and vegetables. The kids were told to snack freely until they felt full, while watching a 45-minute cartoon. Children who ate the combination snack consumed 72 percent fewer calories compared to children who ate potato chips, and they needed significantly fewer calories to feel satisfied. Children offered only cheese also consumed fewer calories than those who were served potato chips. Read more on nutrition.
Synthetic Marijuana Linked to Thousands of Emergency Room Trips Annually
“Synthetic marijuana” was connected to 11,406 emergency department visits in 2010 alone, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Synthetic cannabinoids, which are legal in some states, have been linked to health issues ranging from agitation and nausea to tremors, seizures and hallucinations. “This report confirms that synthetic drugs cause substantial damage to public health and safety in America,” said Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske. “Make no mistake—the use of synthetic cannabinoids can cause serious, lasting damage, particularly in young people. Parents have a responsibility to learn what these drugs can do and to educate their families about the negative impact they cause.” Read more on substance abuse.
NHTSA Calls for Safety Recorders in New Automobiles
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is recommending that all new automobiles be equipped with event data recorders (EDRs) starting September 1, 2014. About 96 percent of 2013 models include EDRs, which collect safety-related data such as vehicle speed, whether the brake was activated before a crash and information about air bag deployment. “By understanding how drivers respond in a crash and whether key safety systems operate properly, NHTSA and automakers can make our vehicles and our roadways even safer,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This proposal will give us the critical insight and information we need to save more lives.” Read more on transportation and health.
Winter Markets up 52 Percent from 2011
The number of winter markets in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Farmers Market Directory is up 52 percent from last year, to a total of 1,864. The markets enable farmers to expand their selling seasons and generate additional income, according to Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "These investments are a win-win,” Merrigan said in a release. “Farmers have more stability, and consumers have a reliable supply of local food, regardless of the season." The top state for winter markets is California, with 284. Read more on nutrition.
Smoking During Pregnancy Harms Reading Comprehension in Kids
Children whose mothers smoke more than one pack of cigarettes daily during pregnancy perform 21 percent lower on reading comprehension tests than the kids of non-smokers, according to a new study in The Journal of Pediatrics. "It's not a little difference—it's a big difference in accuracy and comprehension at a critical time when children are being assessed, and are getting a sense of what it means to be successful," said Jeffrey Gruen, MD, of Yale University to Reuters. Other health studies have linked tobacco use during pregnancy to lower IQs and poor academic performance. Read more on tobacco.
Study: Teens Turning to Steroids to Build Muscle, Meet Body Ideals
Approximately 5 percent of teenagers have use steroids in an attempt to build muscle, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Steroid use can lead to a range of side effects, from the minor all the way up to heart attacks and liver disease. Researchers also found that about 11 percent were using other physique-enhancing substances such as creatine or DHEA, all of which raises concerns not just about physical health, but also mental and emotional health. "We specifically asked whether they were doing those things to increase muscle mass or tone," said Marla Eisenberg, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. "If a kid is often exercising for that reason, it might point to body-image concerns." Read more on substance abuse.
Study: Younger, Less Mature Kids Being Misdiagnosed with ADHD
A new study in the journal Pediatrics indicates that some children may be medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when in fact they are simply younger—so less mature—than their classmates. Researchers found that kids who were in the youngest third of their classes were far more likely than those in the oldest third to be diagnosed with ADHD. "Educators and health-care providers should take children's ages in relation to their [classmates] into account when evaluating academic performance and other criteria for ADHD diagnosis," said Helga Zoega, a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Parents can use these findings to help inform their decisions about school readiness for children born close to cutoff dates for school entry." The number of ADHD cases has been increasing over the past several years, with many in the health community wondering whether it is being over-diagnosed. Read more on mental health.
News from APHA: Veterans More Likely Than Civilians to Seek Treatment for Heavy Drinking
A new study released today at the 140th meeting of the American Public Health Association meeting in San Francisco found that male military veterans with a history of heavy alcohol use are more likely to seek treatment and, later, report better overall health and less depression than their civilian counterparts. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Read more on military health.
Hurricane Sandy: Experts Urge Safe Food Handling
As the East Coast prepares for Hurricane Sandy, experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer critical tips for keeping food safe during a power outage, such as freezing containers of water to keep food cool and knowing how long refrigerators and freezers will stay cool enough to preserve food, even after the power goes out. Read more on preparedness for Sandy and other emergencies.
Study: Quitting Smoking Before Age 40 Avoids 90% of Excess Mortality
A new study published in The Lancet finds that although the hazards of smoking at any age are high, the benefits of quitting are also enormous. While smokers in the United Kingdom lose at least 10 years of life, quitting before age 40 years avoids more than 90 percent of those excess lost years of life. Stopping before age 30 years avoids more than 97% of the excess mortality. Read more tobacco news.