Category Archives: Substance Abuse
Medical-Legal Partnerships Identify, Help At-risk Communities
Sometimes medical problems have legal solutions. A new study in the journal Pediatrics used pattern recognition, in conjunction with medical and legal expertise, to identify children and communities in need of legal assistance to address inadequate housing and other issues that negatively impact health. By addressing social and environmental factors, medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) can improve both individual and public health, while also identifying additional areas where people did not realize they could be helped legally. “The government has enacted laws and regulations to address the negative health impact of hunger, insufficient income, unsafe housing, and disability,” wrote Barry Zuckerman, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center, in a commentary. “When families do not receive the benefits or protections of these laws, health is undermined. The consequences can be treated medically, but their upstream causes are social and are more effectively addressed by using legal strategies.” Read more on medical-legal partnerships.
Substance Abuse Up Significantly Since 2001
The number of substance abuse diagnoses climbed approximately 70 percent from 2001 to 2009, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Study lead author Joseph W. Frank, MD, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, identified a number of possible explanations for the increase, including a rise in prescription drug use and increasingly effective treatments, such as methadone and talk therapy. "This finding is consistent with trends in substance use disorder-related utilization at the nation's community health centers and emergency departments and, sadly, use of its morgues," according to the study. Nearly 15,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on substance abuse.
Blood Pressure Improving for U.S. Adults with Hypertension
More and more U.S. adults with hypertension have their blood pressure under control, according to new research in the journal Circulation. About 47 percent of patients said their blood pressure was under control in 2010, up from 29 percent in 2001. Study authors cited an increasing use in multiple drugs as a reason for the improvement, as well as lower medication costs and greater awareness. The study also identified at-risk groups prone to higher blood pressure, including older Americans, blacks, people with chronic kidney issues and people with diabetes. The study also found that only 34 percent of Mexican-Americans had their blood pressure under control and recommend further research into the reasons. Read more on heart health.
3-D Mammogram Could Improve Cancer Diagnoses
A new type of 3-D mammogram produces sharper images than traditional CT scans that will allow physicians to identify and treat cancer earlier, according to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Approximately 210,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and almost 41,000 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new technique combines X-ray imaging and equally sloped tomography to produce an image. It also uses a lower radiation dose than current CT scans. However, researchers noted that the technology to use the technique in a clinical setting does not yet exist. Read more on cancer.
Post-storm Food Precautions from the USDA
As residents of four states hunker down to face Hurricane Isaac, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urges anyone in the storm’s path to take precautions when using and preparing food after a severe storm. According to the USDA, power outages and flooding from weather emergencies compromise the safety of stored food. While people still have power, it is a good idea to access and download A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes. USDA also has dedicated Twitter accounts with updated information on food preparation during and after the current severe weather: @FL_FSISAlert for Florida, @MS_FSISAlert for Mississippi and @LA_FSISAlert for Louisiana. USDA also has a “virtual representative”—Karen—available 24/7 online and on smartphones. Consumers can also find a live representative at the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline by calling 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. Operators speak English and Spanish. Read regular updates from the National Hurricane Center.
Marijuana Use by Teens Impacts Intelligence Later On
Regular marijuana use by teens who continue the drug use into their adulthood can lead to an average drop in IQ of eight points, according to a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study looked at more than 1,000 New Zealanders born in 1972 or 1973 who were tested at the ages of 13 and again at 38. The average IQ is 100, or the 50th percentile; an IQ of 92 would drop someone to the 29th percentile. “As an adolescent, your brain hasn’t fully developed. It’s undergoing some critical developmental changes,” said study author Madeline Meier, a postdoctoral research associate in psychology and neurology at Duke University, according to HealthDay. “This research suggests that because of that you are vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on your brain. If you start using as an adolescent and you keep using it, you are going to lose some of your mental abilities.” Read more on substance abuse.
Legionnaires’ Deaths and Illnesses Linked to Chicago Hotel
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in an outbreak linked to a Chicago Marriott hotel has led to two people dying and six others falling ill, according to Reuters. Officials with the national hotel chain have contacted 80 percent of the approximately 8,500 people who stayed at the hotel from July 16 to August 16. Kathleen Ritger, MD, Medical Director over Communicable Disease at the Chicago Department of Public Health, has said there is “no ongoing health threat” at the location. Legionnaires’—a type of pneumonia—starts with high fever, chills and a cough and can lead to death in between 5 percent and 30 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on infectious diseases.
Salmonella Deaths Linked to Cantaloupes
Two deaths and approximately 150 cases of salmonella have been linked to cantaloupe in Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota. Health officials are encouraging consumers to immediately discard any melons purchased from those three states, according to Reuters. Salmonella can cause severe diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. It is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Read more on food safety.
Teens Who Expect Early Deaths More Likely to Take Dangerous Risks
Teens who predict they have a 50 percent or less chance of living to the age of 35 were more likely than they peers to engage in risk-taking behavior, according to a new study published in the August 1 issue of PLOS ONE. The study compared data collected on 19,000 adolescents in 1994-95 to data collected on the same group approximately 14 years later. Researchers also found the teens were more likely to attempt suicide and abuse alcohol and drugs. “The new research extends previous work by the same group that found expectations of premature death can predict future socioeconomic status” and demonstrates the value in early screening to help predict—and stop—later harmful behaviors, according to a news release. Read more on substance abuse.
Antimicrobial Products Identified in Minnesota Waterways
Chemicals found in personal care products—antimicrobial soaps, disinfectants and sanitizers—have been identified in high concentrations in bodies of freshwater in Minnesota. The study was conducted by Arizona State University researchers in conjunction with federal partners. They looked specifically for triclosan and triclocarban, two chemicals that can stay in the environment for decades. The study “shows natural degradation processes to be too slow to counter the continuous environmental release of these endocrine disrupting chemicals,” said Rolf Halden, director of Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute and professor in the Ira A. Fulton School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. Read more on the environment.
CDC Recommends Against Using Popular Gonorrhea Treatment
Infectious disease experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this week that the antibiotic Suprax (cefixime) no longer be used to treat gonorrhea. The CDC is discouraging use of Suprax because patients are developing resistance to the drug. As first line treatment, the CDC recommends use of the drug ceftriaxone in combination with azithromycin or doxycycline. Read more on sexual health.
Alcohol Ad Violations More Common in Magazines with High Youth Readership
As the youth readership level of a magazine goes up, so too does the likelihood that alcohol advertisements in the publication are in violation of industry standards, according to a new study. The study was conducted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study looked at 1,261 advertisements for alcopops, beer, spirits or wine that appeared more than 2,500 times in 11 different with youth readership levels of at least 15 percent. CAMY Director and study co-author David Jernigan, PhD said the findings indicate the industry standards should be strengthened. Read more on alcohol.
SAMHSA Awards $11M to Treat Substance Abuse in Pregnant and Postpartum Women
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded up to $11 million in grants under the Service Grants Program for the Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women (PPW). There are seven total grants to be utilized over the next three years. They will go toward improving substance abuse treatment, prevention and recovery support services for pregnant women, new mothers and their minor children. “This program offers vital help and hope to women at a crucial time in their lives and in the lives of their children,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a release. “By including families in the supportive services that are being provided for these women, we acknowledge that people with substance use disorders are more than just their addictions.” Read more on substance abuse.
A recent article in the New York Times looks at a shift in thinking to combat drug abuse from efforts to prevent drugs such as heroin and cocaine from entering the U.S. illegally, to combating the rising, more significant problem in the fifty states—abuse of prescription drugs.
>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth interview with R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network has sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services requesting a report by the Surgeon General to examine how the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages impacts the health of Americans. Read more on obesity.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released two new reports on substance abuse. One finds that youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are far more likely to start using most substances during the summer than during other parts of the year. The second shows the rate of increase in drug-related emergency department visits slowed from an average annual rate of 18.2 percent in the years between 2005 and 2008, to an average annual rate of 6.1 percent in the years 2009 and 2010.
The youth and substance report also found that in June and July, an average of 5,000 youths smoke cigarettes for the first time, compared with the daily average of about 3,000 to 4,000 adolescents during the rest of the year. The same pattern holds true for first time use of cigars and smokeless tobacco among youth. Read more on substance abuse.
Many heart patients make mistakes with their medications after leaving the hospital that can lead to serious health risks, according to a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The most vulnerable patients, according to the study, are older people, those with impaired cognitive function or low health literacy, or patients who are prescribed many, or high-risk drugs. Read more on heart health.
The prescription drug methadone accounted for 2 percent of painkiller prescriptions in the United States in 2009, but was involved in more than 30 percent of prescription painkiller overdose deaths, according to a Vital Signs report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC researchers analyzed national data from 1999-2010, and 2009 data from 13 states. According to the researchers, methadone carries more risks than other painkillers because it tends to build up in the body and can disrupt a person’s breathing or heart rhythm. According to the report, 4 of every 10 overdose deaths from a single prescription painkiller involved methadone--twice as many as any other prescription painkiller.
The researchers say that methadone has been used safely and effectively for decades to treat drug addiction, but in recent years it has been increasingly used as a pain reliever and as methadone prescriptions for pain have increased, so have methadone-related nonmedical use and fatal overdoses. CDC researchers found that six times as many people died of methadone overdoses in 2009 compared to methadone-related deaths in 1999.
Measures to help prevent prescription painkiller overdoses include:
- Screening and monitoring patients for substance abuse and other mental health problems, when considering methadone as treatment.
- Prescribing only the quantity needed based on the expected length of pain.
- Using patient-provider agreements combined with urine drug tests for people taking methadone long term.
- Using prescription drug monitoring programs to identify patients who are misusing or abusing methadone or other prescription painkillers.
- Educating patients on how to safely use, store and dispose of prescription painkillers and how to prevent and recognize overdoses.
Read more on addiction.
A new study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, examined number of steps walked on average and diabetes risk, and found that people who walked the most were 29 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who walked the least. This study builds on research linking even limited physical activity to lower diabetes risk, and helps to quantify the effect with number of steps taken on average. The association held when accounting for age, smoking status and other diabetes risk factors, but not BMI. Read more on diabetes.
Preventive mammography rates in women in their 40s have dropped nearly 6 percent nationwide since the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against routine mammograms for women in this age group, according a Mayo Clinic analysis. The study was presented at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting this week. Read more NewPublicHealth coverage from the AcademyHealth meeting.
Forty million Americans ages 12 and older have an addiction involving nicotine, alcohol or other drugs, according to a five-year national study released this week by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. The study authors say only about 1 in 10 people who need treatment for addiction involving alcohol or other drugs receive it. Read more on substance abuse.
The Associated Press is reporting that many former players or their families have filed a master lawsuit against the National Football League, accusing the league of withholding information that linked head injuries during practice and games to permanent brain injuries. Read more on sports-related head injuries.
A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on school bullying finds that 20-28% of youths reported being bullied in school, but that federal and some state laws provide only limited protection against bullying since they don’t identify specific groups, such as race or gender. The report recommends that federal agencies investigate legal options for victims of bullying, provide more information on state-level protections and determine whether current protections are adequate. Read more on violence.
A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that U.S. high school students have shown significant progress over twenty years in improving many health risk behaviors particularly related to motor vehicle safety, but still engage in some dangerous practices such as cyber bullying, marijuana use and texting and emailing while driving.
Improved behaviors in the report include:
- From 1991 to 2011, the percentage of high school students who never or rarely wore a seatbelt declined from 26 to 8.
- From 1991 to 2011, the percentage of students who rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol during the past 30 days declined from 40 to 24.
- The percentage of high school students who had driven a car during the past 30 days when they had been drinking alcohol decreased from 17 in 1997 to 8 in 2011.
Concerning behaviors identified in the survey include:
- One in three high school students had texted or e-mailed while driving a car or other vehicle in the thirty days before the survey.
- Current cigarette use did not change significantly between 2009 (19 percent) and 2011 (18 percent).
- Marijuana use increased from 21 percent to 23 percent, although there has been an overall decrease in current marijuana use (from 27 percent in 1999 to 23 percent in 2011).
- Current marijuana use among high school students was more common than current cigarette use (23 percent compared to 18 percent).
Read more on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Department of Health and Human Service Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report "Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program: Vulnerabilities in Vaccine Management." this week that found that some vaccines stored by health care providers as part of the government’s Vaccines for Children program may have been stored at the wrong temperature, which could make them less effective. In some clinics and offices, expired and unexpired vaccines had been stored together.
In a statement responding to the report, the CDC said that most of the expired vaccines were seasonal flu shots that would not have been administered and that, “While the safety and health of our nation’s children has not been compromised by the issues identified by the OIG, the findings are important and underscore that we must do better at ensuring that all vaccines are stored properly at all times, including removing expired vaccine from units where viable vaccines are stored.” Read more on vaccines.
Data from national surveys reviewed by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that the number of 50 to 59-year-old adults reporting past-month abuse of illicit drugs — including the nonmedical use of prescription drugs — more than doubled from 2002 to 2010. The number increased from 907,000 in 2002 to 2,375,000 in 2010, or from 2.7 to 5.8 percent of this population.
The NIDA researchers say younger baby boomers were more likely than previous generations to have used illicit drugs in their youth, but abusing these drugs may be particularly harmful in older adults. "As people get older, it is more difficult for their bodies to absorb and break down medications and drugs," says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIDA. "Abusing these substances can worsen age-related health conditions, cause injuries and lead to addiction.” Read more on substance abuse.
Millions of people with gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, may be at risk of running out of treatment options, according to an action plan released this week by the World Health Organization (WHO). Several countries, including Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, are reporting cases of resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics — the last treatment option against gonorrhea.
According to the WHO, every year an estimated 106 million people are infected with gonorrhea. The action plan calls for increased vigilance on the correct use of antibiotics, more research into alternative treatment regimens for gonorrhea, increased monitoring and reporting of resistant strains, and better prevention, diagnosis and control of the infections. Read more on sexual health.
Two or three computed tomography (CT) head scans in kids can triple the risk of brain cancer later in life, according to a new study published in The Lancet. The study, which spanned twenty years, also found that the accumulated radiation in five to 10 scans during childhood may increase the likelihood of a child developing leukemia.
Recommendations include keeping radiation doses as low as possible and using alternatives to CT scans such as MRI and ultrasound, when possible.
The risk is about 1 in 10,000 according to the researchers, which may help physicians weigh the risk and benefit in each case. The study comes at a time when concern over sports-related head injuries may be increasing the number of head CT scans for kids. Read more on sports-related head injuries.
The National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy is about to celebrate its first anniversary. The Strategy offers a comprehensive plan aimed at increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. A cornerstone of the National Prevention Strategy is that it recognizes that good health comes not just from receiving quality medical care, but also from the conditions we face where we live, learn work and play such as clean water and air, safe worksites and healthy foods. The strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council, which is composed of 17 federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and others.
As the Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth will be speaking with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about the initiatives being introduced to work with all Americans toward the goal of long and healthy lives.
This week, NewPublicHealth spoke with R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy about their focus on prevention, shortly after the Office released the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy. Listen to the short podcast, and read the full interview below.
>>Follow the full National Prevention Strategy series on NewPublicHealth.org.
NewPublicHealth:What is the scope of the problem of drug abuse in the United States and who does it affect?
Gil Kerlikowske: Well, we know that it affects everyone. I’ve spent three years in this job and traveled all over the country, actually all over the world. I cannot find anyone who has not been impacted by drugs. A family member, a friend, a spouse, a co-worker, a neighbor. So the scope is significant and the cost is significant; $193 billion is the most recent estimate and that was from a Department of Justice report.
NPH: Thinking about the scope of that problem, why is prevention such a critical goal for the ONDCP?