Monthly Archives: May 2012

N.Y. adopts “Good Samaritan” law to help save overdose victims

New York has passed a “Good Samaritan” law aimed at reducing overdose deaths by protecting people who call for medical help for overdose victims from being prosecuted for personal possession of drugs, paraphernalia or underage drinking. The state is now the largest in the nation to adopt such a measure. Washington state, Connecticut and New Mexico have all passed similar laws, and California, Illinois and Nebraska are currently considering them.

Overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in New York, where almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in in 2010, according to a recent report issued by the state’s attorney general.

Even though opiate overdoses are on the rise, many people don’t call 911 out of fear of arrest and prosecution, and instead rely on ineffective methods of reviving victims.

Read more about the prescription addiction epidemic in New York here.

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“Allowing Discomfort:” Psychologist Candace Plattor on recovering from pill addiction

In this guest post, Candace Plattor, psychologist and author of “Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction,” discusses the process of recovering from drug and alcohol addiction – including her own personal experience recovering from an addiction to prescription drugs after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

Allowing Discomfort: The Secret to Successful Recovery From Addictive Behaviors
By Candace Plattor

You’ve given it a lot of thought. You know that your addiction is overwhelming your life and causing you a lot of problems. You really want to stop engaging in these self-defeating behaviors and have a better life. You’re so sure you’re ready, but…

“It’s going to be so hard!” you tell yourself. “How am I going to get through the rough times without having that substance or behavior to fall back on?”

The truth is, you’re right! It will be difficult. When we have been soothing ourselves with long-held, dysfunctional patterns, habits or addictions, we have developed a “comfort zone” for ourselves. This means that we have been comfortable using these behaviors, and we will have to learn all over again how to live without them. For most people this takes some time, vigilance, commitment and yes – discomfort.

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N.Y. prosecutor blames doctors for painkiller epidemic

A New York prosecutor is pointing the finger of blame at doctors for the prescription drug and heroin epidemic that has devastated the region, saying they overprescribed powerful painkillers – sometimes to known addicts, the Wall Street Journal reports. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said a grand jury report found that between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of drug-sale arrests related to prescription drugs in Suffolk increased to 17.4% from 1.5%, while intoxicated driving incidents linked to prescription drugs rose to 48% last year, up from 15% in 2001, according to the WSJ.

The grand jury was convened last year following the quadruple homicide that occurred at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy.

New York has suffered brutally at the hands of the prescription drug addiction epidemic. Prescriptions for oxycodone in New York rose by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a recent report issued by the state’s attorney general. Almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in the state in 2010, with an especially high quantity of prescriptions being written on Staten Island and in large areas of Suffolk County, the report says.

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Drug poisoning huge factor in U.S. deaths: report

Prescription painkillers are responsible for around 15,000 deaths and 475,000 emergency room visits a year, killing more people than car accidents, according to a new report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The growth in availability of these medications means more individuals are using leftover drugs for non-medical purposes, leading to a significant rise in unintentional overdoses, the report says.

Sales of prescription painkillers tripled from 1999 to 2010 — as did the number of fatal poisonings due to prescription pain medications, and enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult continually for a month, according to the report.

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Number of addicted newborns tripled in last decade

Newborns being born addicted to painkillers is yet another disturbing trend stemming from the rampant abuse of prescription drugs. The number of pregnant women who were dependent on or using opiates when they delivered increased from 4,839 in 2000 to 23,009 in 2009.

As a result, the incidence of babies being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of problems caused by maternal opiate use during pregnancy, has nearly tripled in the past decade. In 2009, the syndrome was diagnosed in newborns at a rate of 3.4 per 1,000 hospital births per year, up from 1.2 diagnoses per 1,000 births per year in 2000.

Use of opioid painkillers during pregnancy increases the risk of certain birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Cardinal settles with DEA over painkiller distribution

Cardinal Health has reached a deal with the Drug Enforcement Administration that will block one of its Florida facilities from distributing controlled substances for two years. The company also said it will take steps to improve anti-diversion procedures designed to prevent prescription drugs from being abused.

Earlier this year, the DEA suspended Cardinal’s license after finding that the company – which is one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals – sold excessive amounts of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. (The suspension related only to the company’s license to distribute controlled substances from its Lakeland, Fla. facility, which the DEA claims shipped 50 times as much oxycodone to its top four customers than it has shipped to its other Florida retail customers.)

Cardinal challenged the suspension in federal court, and both the company and the DEA filed documents that gave an inside look into how prescription painkillers have flooded the black market.

Cardinal was initially granted a temporary restraining order blocking the suspension after convincing a judge that the move would disrupt drug shipments to more than 2,500 pharmacy customers in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The company said it has “robust controls and performs careful due diligence,” noting that in the past four years, it has stopped shipping controlled medicines to more than 350 pharmacies it determined posed an unreasonable risk of diversion, including 160 in Florida alone.

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Pain advocacy group shuts doors amid Senate probe

A U.S. Senate investigation into financial ties between producers of prescription painkillers and organizations that champion such drugs was announced Tuesday, just after the American Pain Foundation, the nation’s largest organization for pain patients, said it would shut down. The group said in a statement on its website that its closure was due to “irreparable economic circumstances.”

APF – which received 90 percent of its $5 million in funding in 2010 from the drug and medical-device industry – came under fire in December over its ties to pharmaceutical companies.

The Senate investigation was launched amid concerns that doctors and consumers aren’t getting accurate information about the risks of powerful opiate painkillers. According to the New York Times, pharmaceutical companies that received notice of the probe include OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma; Endo Pharmaceuticals, which makes Percocet; and Johnson & Johnson, which markets Duragesic.

APF – which was also sent a letter – claims on its website that “misguided state and federal policies are impeding access to appropriate and reasonable medical care for people struggling with pain, and deterring even the most compassionate medical providers from treating anyone with pain conditions.”

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Painkiller addiction in Knoxville, Tenn.

This is Part Two of an ongoing series by Cityview concerning the opiate addiction epidemic in Knoxville, Tenn. that explores where the painkillers that are flooding East Tennessee are coming from. The article points out that any licensed doctor can open and run a pain management clinic, even those without training in pain management – and doctors who prescribe opiates can make as much as $7,000 to $10,000 per day by billing insurance or getting cash from patients.

Read Part One of Cityview’s series, “The Faces of Addiction,” here.

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One in four U.S. high schoolers exposed to pills: report

Nearly 1 in every 4 high school seniors in the United States has ever had some exposure to prescription opioids either medically or nonmedically, according to new research published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

One in eight older U.S. teenagers has abused opioid painkillers without prescriptions, with many of them starting to misuse the pills at age 16 or 17, the research found, while an estimated 80 percent of abusers had previously been prescribed to them for a medical condition.

Nearly 40 Americans die per day from overdoses of prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, according to a recent CDC report. Every day, 2,500 youth between the ages of 12 and 17 abuse a prescription pain reliever for the very first time.

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Ohio sets new rules for opioids in the ER

Ohio’s governor has unveiled new guidelines for the prescription of opioids in emergency rooms and urgent care centers in a state where overdoses of such drugs are now the leading cause of accidental death. Gov. John Kasich said the rules establish an emergency department limit of a three-day supply of opiates and encourage emergency room doctors to make use of available state databases to identify abusers.

Emergency rooms are a major source of the nation’s opiate prescriptions, with 39 percent of all opioids prescribed, administered or continued in the U.S. Opioid prescribing for pain-related ER visits rose from 23 percent in 1993 to 37 percent in 2005.

Read more about prescription drug abuse in Ohio here.

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