Tag Archives: Percocet

Teen pill abuse up 33% since 2008: study

pill bottlesOne in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime – a 33% increase over the past five years – up from 18% in 2008, according to a new survey, The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), by the Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation. That translates to about 5 million teens.

In addition, one in eight teens reported that at least once in their lifetime, they had taken the stimulants Ritalin or Adderall when those medications weren’t prescribed for them, the survey found.

Even more disturbing was the fact that almost one in four teens (23%) said their parents didn’t care as much if they were caught using prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription, as compared to getting caught with illegal drugs. And more than a quarter of teens (27%) mistakenly believed that misusing and abusing prescription drugs was safer than using street drugs, with 33% saying they believed it was “okay to use prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them to deal with an injury, illness or physical pain.”

Of those kids who said they abused prescription medications, one in five (20%) had done so before age 14, the survey found.

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Drug fatalities rose 3% in 2010: CDC

imgname--prescription_drug_abuse_on_the_rise---38647165--images--flickr_2931207680Drug fatalities increased 3% in 2010, driven largely by prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers rose to 16,651 in 2010, comprising 43% of all fatal overdoses, according to this article citing the CDC’s research. The article quotes CDC director Tom Frieden as saying about the prescription drug addiction epidemic:

“While most things are getting better in the health world, this isn’t. It’s a big problem, and it’s getting worse.”

He adds:

“The data supporting long-term use of opiates for pain, other than cancer pain, is scant to nonexistent. These are dangerous drugs. They’re not proven to have long-term benefit for non-cancer pain, and they’re being used to the detriment to hundreds of thousands of people in this country.”

In February, the CDC found that drug overdose deaths increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010, and that most of those deaths were accidents involving addictive painkillers.

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Naloxone awareness can combat opiate deaths: WRCPC


Although opiate overdoses are skyrocketing in the U.S., many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. (This always amazes me, but I myself didn’t know about naloxone until well after my brother’s heroin overdose death in 2009. It took less than 10 minutes for me to get trained in Narcan use by the wonderful folks at the D.O.P.E. Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce fatal overdose deaths by providing overdose prevention education and naloxone to drug users and their loved ones — and if you live in the Bay Area, I highly suggest contacting them to get trained.)

In Canada — which is second only to the U.S. in per-capita consumption of prescription opiates — naloxone costs less than $12, but isn’t widely distributed or acknowledged, according to the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. In a powerful new short film, the WRCPC explains how naloxone can help save lives and highlights the need for expanding overdose prevention.

Distributing the life-saving opioid overdose reverser naloxone can save one life for every 227 naloxone kits distributed, a study found earlier this year.

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How did we get here?

pillflagThe numbers are staggering: in the United States, the number of overdose deaths from prescription opioids has more than tripled in the past decade, resulting in nearly 15,000 fatalities in 2008 alone and now accounting for more than 40 deaths every single day – not to mention the fact that estimated annual health care costs from this epidemic are as high as $72.5 billion.

How did we get here?

In the latest issue of Emergency Medicine News, Dr. Leon Gussow, a physician and editor of The Poison Review blog, examines how opioid analgesics – once feared as dangerous medications with high risk for addiction and overdose – became the drug class most frequently prescribed in the U.S., with four million patients a year receiving scripts for these powerful medications.

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Calif. medical board under fire amid rising OD deaths

computerpillsParents whose children died of drug overdoses urged California’s medical board on Monday to utilize a tracking database of prescriptions to help identify doctors who over-prescribe powerful narcotics amid the state’s growing addiction epidemic. The testimony came from members of advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, and other individuals and experts who said the board’s failure to investigate complaints of physician misconduct in a timely manner has often had deadly results.

By the time parents were allowed to start their testimony, several of the board’s members had wandered out of the hearing, leaving only five active listeners (the board currently has 15 members.) When one of the parent speakers – a registered nurse whose son was addicted to pills and died of a heroin overdose last year – asked when the full board would be available, one of the members replied “soon” and added that everyone’s testimony would be transcribed.

Not very reassuring.

Among the powerful speakers were Bradley DeHaven, whose son was previously addicted to OxyContin; April Rovero, the founder of NCAPDA after her son died of a prescription drug overdose; and Jodi Barber, producer of the short film Overtaken who lost her son to an Opana overdose.

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Student’s OD death highlights dangers of pill ‘speedballing’

overdoseThe recent overdose death of a 24-year-old law student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. underscores the dangers of speedballing – the combination of stimulant and depressant drugs. In this case, the student died after mixing heroin and the prescription drug Adderall, which is meant to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to this article. Substance abusers also commonly use it to counteract the effects of heroin so they can take more of the opiate.

Obviously, the practice of speedballing is nothing new. But the widespread abuse of prescription drugs has brought things to a whole new level. Nearly 60% of drug-related deaths in 2010 involved prescription drugs, and three-quarters of those deaths involved opioids such as oxycodone and morphine, according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here is a list of common drug cocktails – including medicines as seemingly innocuous as Tylenol – that can be deadly when mixed together.

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FDA panel backs stricter controls on Vicodin

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may be set to reclassify hydrocodone-containing painkillers like Vicodin from Schedule III drugs to the more restrictive Schedule II, with an expert panel voting 19 to 10 in favor of the more stringent prescribing requirements. During a two-day hearing last week, the panel heard testimony from proponents who noted hydrocodone’s abuse potential (such products are currently the most-abused prescription medicine behind oxycodone), while critics argued that the move would hinder legitimate pain patients from obtaining treatment.

The FDA usually, but not always, follows the advice of its advisory panels.

The misuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Oregon leads nation in prescription drug abuse

The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health has found that Oregon leads the nation in abuse of prescription drugs. According to the survey, 6.37% of Oregonians 12 years and older used painkillers for a non-medical purpose in the past year. The lowest rate was found in Iowa, where 3.6% of residents were reported to have abused painkillers.

Of the ten states with the highest rates of past year non-medical use of prescription pain relievers in 2010 and 2011, seven were in the West; of the ten states with the lowest rates, four were in the Midwest, and four were in the South, the report found.

Nationally, the abuse rate of prescription painkillers was 4.6%.

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FDA mulls hydrocodone reclassification

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to conduct a two-day hearing on whether hydrocodone products such as Vicodin should be more highly regulated like other narcotics like OxyContin and morphine, this article reports. FDA researchers said in recent briefing documents that while chronic pain patients taking hydrocodone products might develop moderate or low physical dependence, they would not be expected to develop addiction, the article says. But critics say hydrocodone is potent and highly addictive, and that updating the drug’s classification could help bring the prescription drug addiction epidemic under control, according to the article.

Last year, pharmacy interest groups defeated an amendment to the FDA Safety Innovation Act that aimed to change the classification of hydrocodone-containing pain relief products from Schedule III to the more-restrictive Schedule II.

Combination hydrocodone products such as Vicodin and Norco are currently classified as Schedule III drugs, meaning that prescriptions can be written with five refills and pharmacies are not required to lock them in a safe.

The amendment to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) re-authorization bill would have rescheduled hydrocodone from Schedule III to Schedule II, putting hydrocodone painkillers into the same category as OxyContin and Percocet. Hydrocodone is the most-prescribed prescription drug in the U.S., with 131.2 million prescriptions written in 2010 alone.

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Study touts benefits of opioid overdose reverser

Distributing the life-saving opioid overdose reverser naloxone can save one life for every 227 naloxone kits distributed, a new study has found.

Naloxone distribution to heroin users is likely to reduce overdose deaths and is cost-effective “even under markedly conservative assumptions,” said the authors of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. For every 20% of heroin addicts in a population treated with the drug, about 6.5% of overdose deaths could be prevented, resulting in 2,000 lives saved in a population of 200,000 heroin users, the study found.

Anywhere from 1 to 2 million Americans currently misuse heroin or prescription opioid drugs and could be in danger of an overdose. As of 2010, about 188 naloxone distribution programs exist in the U.S., and these groups have trained over 53,000 people and reported more than 10,000 overdose reversals, according to this article.

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske recently called for increased action to prevent drug overdose deaths, specifically through wider distribution of naloxone.

Although opiate overdoses are on the rise, many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.

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