Monthly Archives: December 2011

Opiate overdose antidote can save lives, but it’s under-used

Although opiate overdoses are on the rise, many people still don’t know that there is a way to literally reverse the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin. It’s called Narcan (naloxone), and it can save the life of an overdose victim by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. Here’s a great column from The Rocky Mountain Collegian, the daily student newspaper of Colorado State University, on the benefits of Narcan. In Fort Collins, Colo., where the school is based, three residents have died in the last few weeks due to heroin overdoses, the article says.

As of November 2010, over 10,000 overdose reversals with naloxone by bystanders trained in overdose prevention had been reported in the United States, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition. But as this article points out, many family members and friends of drug users are unaware of the signs of overdose – or don’t know about Narcan at all. And as this study points out, “drug policies that deviate from ‘zero tolerance’ are considered a political liability.”

Nearly 40 Americans die per day from overdoses of prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Ohio sees spike in opiate-addicted babies

In Ohio, where prescription drug addiction has a strong foothold, some hospitals are seeing as much as a four-fold increase in newborns born addicted to opiates like OxyContin – resulting in longer hospital stays for the affected babies and higher public health care costs, according to this article. One Ohio hospital treated 80 opiate-addicted newborns in 2010, up more than 400 percent from 15 newborns in 2005, the article says.

Newborns being born addicted to painkillers is yet another disturbing trend stemming from the rampant abuse of prescription drugs, and has become an issue in several other states, including Florida.

Read about birth defects caused by opiate abuse here.

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CVS yanks oxycodone from some Fla. pharmacies

Pharmacies have taken different approaches to some of the problems raised by the prescription drug epidemic, such as doctor shopping and the risk of pharmacy robberies. Walgreens, for example, installed time-delayed safes in all of its Washington stores to hold supplies of OxyContin. Now, CVS has notified some Florida doctors and the state’s surgeon general that it will no longer fill prescriptions written for strong narcotics, including oxycodone (read the letter here.) A recent report found that deaths caused by oxycodone in 2010 were up by 27.9% as compared with 2009.

Read more about Florida’s struggle with prescription drug addiction here and here.

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Pa. doctors rally for access to prescription monitoring info

In Pennsylvania – where prescription overdose is a leading cause of death among young people – doctors are pushing for access to the state’s prescription monitoring program, which tracks Schedule II controlled substances. Currently, the database can only be accessed by law enforcement officials, but a new proposal would open up the information to doctors and pharmacists. Most state drug-monitoring programs already give access to health providers, but patient privacy concerns have hampered doctors’ access to Pennsylvania’s database, according to the article.

Meanwhile, Florida – which implemented its prescription drug monitoring program in September – has seen a growing number of physicians using the database, even though they are not yet required by law to do so. In that state, legislation has been introduced to take it a step further by requiring prescribers to consult the database and review the patient’s history before writing prescriptions for certain drugs, according to this article.

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