Public Health News Roundup: July 5
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.