Monthly Archives: July 2013

Elderly population suffering from pill abuse

pill bottlesHealth professionals are seeing an increase in prescription drug abuse among the elderly — a problem that is largely going unnoticed due to the difficulties of balancing seniors’ legitimate medical concerns and the potential for abuse.

According to this article, “loss, isolation and easy access to medication make it increasingly common for aging adults to become addicted to the drugs they need to sleep through the night or manage their chronic pain.”

The number of people 55 and older admitted to the emergency room across the U.S. because of nonmedical use of prescription drugs more than tripled between 2004 and 2011, the article says, citing data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that America’s 78 million aging baby boomers are also experiencing the effects of the epidemic. According to the Times, a 2011 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that among adults aged 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased to 6.3% in 2011 from 2.7% in 2002; opiates were among the most commonly abused drugs.

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W. Va. heroin deaths tripled in 2012

overdoseHeroin overdose deaths in West Virginia tripled in 2012 compared to just five years ago, and the state saw a 53% increase in heroin overdose-related deaths last year compared to 2011.

According to this article, which cites statistics released by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Health Statistics Center, between 2007 and 2012, the state’s health statistics center in Charleston reported that a total of 240 deaths were caused by heroin overdoses through the state, increasing from a total of 22 in 2007 to 66 in 2012.

Berkeley County has seen a total of 48 deaths, Jefferson County saw a total of 14 deaths and Morgan County was listed as having seven heroin overdose deaths in that same time period, the article says.

In Berkeley County, the statistics center attributed just one death to a fatal heroin overdose in 2007, but by last year, the number had increased to 13, the article says. Jefferson County saw its highest number of heroin overdose deaths in 2008 and 2010, when four deaths were directly attributed to heroin, but the number dropped to just one in 2012, while Morgan County saw just one heroin overdose death recorded in 2011, which increased to three last year, according to the article.

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Cheap, high-grade heroin floods New England

needle ODRecent restrictions on doctors in prescribing painkillers has led to a rise in the amount of low-cost heroin in New England states that is increasingly purer and thus more potent and dangerous. According to this article in the New York Times, though heroin was once seen as an urban drug, it has been making an alarming comeback in the smaller cities and towns of New England.

Heroin killed 21 people in Maine last year, three times as many as in 2011, while New Hampshire recorded 40 deaths from heroin overdoses last year, up from just 7 a decade ago, the article says. In Vermont, officials reported that 914 people were treated for heroin abuse last year, up from 654 the year before, an increase of almost 40%, according to the article.

A $6 bag of heroin in New York City nets $10 in southern New England and up to $30 or $40 in northern New England, the article adds, citing law enforcement officials.

According to the article:

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. About a quarter of everyone who tries it becomes dependent on it. Users can quickly develop a tolerance, prompting them to seek more and more until the pursuit takes over their lives and, often, leads to ruin.

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Painkiller abuse taking lives of N.C. soldiers

soldier drugsPrescription drug abuse has skyrocketed among American soldiers in recent years, and this article out of North Carolina discusses some of the many casualties associated with the huge spike in opiate painkillers in the Fayetteville area since the country went to war more than a decade ago.

A Fayetteville Observer analysis of state and county records found that opiate painkillers contributed to 95 deaths in Cumberland County between 2008 and 2011, more than the previous eight years combined, according to the article. In the counties surrounding Fort Bragg — Hoke, Harnett, Lee, Moore and Cumberland — prescription opiates have been a contributing factor in at least 395 deaths since 2000, the article says.

Moreover, more oxycodone — the main ingredient in Percocet and other addictive painkillers — was sold at pharmacies in the Fayetteville area than anywhere else in North Carolina in 2011, according to the article, while the sale of hydrocodone ranked third-highest in the state.

And painkiller sales during the past decade — when the VA saw an influx of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans — spiked at higher than average rates around towns with military bases and large Veterans Affairs hospitals, the article says: in 2001, the Fayetteville VA prescribed hydrocodone to 1,130 patients; last year, that number soared to 47,586 patients — an increase of 4,100% in 11 years. Nationally, hydrocodone prescriptions rose by 56% from 2001 to 2011.

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N.J. opiate epidemic driven by network of corruption: report

gunAn investigation into prescription pill and heroin abuse in New Jersey has revealed the operation of illicit medical practices run by unscrupulous entrepreneurs and corrupt physicians, some with ties to organized crime.

The report by the state’s Commission of Investigation found that the painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic has taken an unprecedented hold in the suburbs that is far more serious than the heroin crisis of the 1960s and ’70s. According to the commission, a network of corrupt doctors — some feeding Russian organized crime by bilking Medicaid and Medicare — has created a proliferation of painkillers and heroin, with open-air drug markets in cities and at malls in affluent communities. For example, in the span of 19 months in 2010 and 2011, one local pharmacy had 3,100 prescriptions for pills, nearly all with various quantities of oxycodone, the report found.

In 2011, there were 1,008 drug deaths in New Jersey — a 20% increase over 2010, and nearly half were people 25 or younger, according to this article. Of those, 337 involved oxycodone, and 368 involved heroin mixed with other illicit drugs, the article says.

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Heroin ODs in Maryland up by 54%: officials

heroinFatal overdoses from heroin rose by 54% in Maryland from 2011 to 2012, due in part to the state’s painkiller addiction epidemic, according to a report released by the state health department on Wednesday. This increase led to a 15% rise in the total number of fatal drug- and alcohol-related overdoses in the state, from 663 in 2011 to 761 in 2012.

According to the report, 2012 marked a reversal in recent alcohol and drug overdose trends: heroin-related deaths, which declined 36% between 2007 and 2011, increased among all demographic groups and in all regions in the state from 2011 to 2012.

In contrast, deaths related to prescription opioids like oxycodone and methadone, which increased 18% between 2007 and 2011, decreased 12% between 2011 and 2012, according to the report.

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Prescription drug OD deaths skyrocketing in women: CDC

helpOverdose deaths due to prescription painkillers have been on the rise among all segments of the population, but a new analysis of federal data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that such deaths have quintupled among women since 1999.

Although more men are still dying of prescription drug overdoses, women are catching up: in the last 14 years, the percentage increase in deaths has been greater for women, spiking by 400% as opposed to 265% for men, the CDC says.

According to the agency, 6,631 women died of opioid overdoses in 2010 — more than twice the number who die from cervical cancer — compared with 10,020 men; in addition, while younger women in their 20s and 30s tend to have the highest rates of opioid abuse, the overdose death rate was highest among women ages 45 to 54.

In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency room department visits for misuse of opioids among women, one every three minutes, the CDC says.

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Del. becomes 14th state to pass ‘Good Samaritan’ law

911 dial phone callThe governor of Delaware signed so-called “Good Samaritan” legislation on Tuesday offering protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose, making Delaware the 14th state to pass such a measure. The law gives immunity from prosecution to people reporting an overdose, even if he or she has been involved in drug-related activity.

The bill also grants immunity from prosecution for offenses related to underage drinking.

Lawmakers approved the bill only after exempting higher level drug felonies from its immunity protections, a change that worried some critics who claimed the exemptions weakened the bill and would discourage people from reporting overdoses.

In Delaware, overdose deaths nearly tripled from 50 in 1999 to 137 in 2009, with a majority in recent years involving at least one prescription drug, according to this article.

New Mexico was the first state to pass a Good Samaritan law in 2007, followed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia. According to TheFix.com, this year, nearly a dozen more states introduced bills: legislation in North Carolina and New Jersey succeeded, while other bills failed due to partisan bickering (Missouri, Mississippi and North Dakota), were killed in committee (New Hampshire and West Virginia), or ran out of time (Hawaii and Texas); Maine still has a live bill, but it isn’t likely to pass this year.

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