Thursday, May 15, 2014

Painkiller Overdose Deaths Have Tripled: Government Report By Join Together Staff | May 15, 2014 | Overdose deaths from prescription narcotics tripled from 2009-2010, compared with a decade earlier, according to a new government report. Almost half of Americans are taking one or more prescription medications, the report found. An estimated 10.5 percent are prescribed painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found among people ages 15 and older, painkiller use led to 6.6 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2009-2010, compared with 1.9 deaths per 100,000 in 1999-2000. According to the CDC, 17.7 percent of Americans take prescription medication for cardiovascular disease; 10.7 percent take cholesterol-lowering medication; 10.6 percent take antidepressants; and 9 percent take anti-acid reflux drugs, Time reports. The report found a large jump in the percentage of Americans taking prescription medication, according to HealthDay. From 2007 to 2010, about 48 percent of people said they were taking a prescription drug, up from 39 percent from 1988 to 1994. About 90 percent of adults ages 64 and older took prescription medication in the past month, while 25 percent of children did so. About 10 percent of Americans said they had taken five or more prescription drugs in the previous month. The rising use of medications has unintended consequences, including prescription drug abuse and antibiotic resistance. “Isn’t that the case with all forms of medical technology?” said Julia Holmes, Chief of the Analytic Studies Branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “It results in great benefit to people who are ill and disabled, but there’s always the potential for inappropriate use.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

DEA Arrests at Least 150 People in Synthetic Drug Operation in 29 States By Join Together Staff | May 8, 2014 | The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Wednesday it conducted a major crackdown on synthetic drugs that involved the arrest of at least 150 people in 29 states, and the seizure of more than $20 million in products and cash. Hundreds of thousands of packets of synthetic drugs were seized. The operation comes a week after more than 100 people in Texas became ill from synthetic marijuana, the Los Angeles Times reports. “There’s a cluster of people with severe anxiety, some with seizures, that could be because of synthetic cannaboids,” Dr. Miguel Fernandez, Director of South Texas Poison Center, told the newspaper. “I would caution people not to use them because they are not like typical marijuana.” Law enforcement officials and prosecutors have found it difficult to win convictions against makers of synthetic drugs, who are constantly changing the chemistry of the products to stay one step ahead of the law. In order to convict a synthetic drug maker, officials must prove the person sold the drug, and that the drug was substantially similar to a specifically banned substance. All a drug maker has to do is make small chemical changes to the products so they are not considered “analogues,” or chemical compounds that are similar to banned drugs. Last year, the DEA and authorities in three other countries announced the arrests of dozens of people involved in trafficking designer drugs such as bath salts and synthetic marijuana. In the United States, the enforcement operations took place in 49 cities, and targeted retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. The operations included more than 150 arrest warrants and almost 375 search warrants. In 2013, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported 29,000 emergency department visits nationwide in 2011 resulting from use of synthetic marijuana, up from 11,000 in 2010.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Two States to Consider Banning Powdered Alcohol By Join Together Staff | May 1, 2014 | Legislators in Minnesota and Vermont have introduced measures that would ban powdered alcohol, The Washington Post reports. The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved labels for a powdered alcohol product called “Palcohol,” but earlier this month said the approval was a mistake. Lipsmark, the company that makes Palcohol, has resubmitted an application, the article notes. Lipsmark says it plans to offer powdered alcohol in six varieties, including rum, vodka, Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita and Lemon Drop. According to the company, a package of Palcohol weighs about an ounce and can fit into a pocket. It warns people not to snort the powder. Minnesota state Representative Joe Atkins this week introduced a bill that would ban powdered alcohol sales in his state. A similar bill is being considered in Vermont. Some health experts are afraid the product could be easily misused or abused. “Virtually every possible use for powdered alcohol is nefarious, not to mention potentially dangerous,” Atkins said in a news release. “The different flavorings make it appealing to children and students who could easily sneak packets into school. This powder could also be inhaled or snorted, bringing a whole new world of problems into play. With how quickly this is moving, we shouldn’t wait until next session to deal with this issue. We need to move quickly to protect public health.” Vermont state Senator Kevin Mullin, who introduced the measure to ban powdered alcohol in his state, told VPR News, “You can’t buy a bottle of gin at the liquor store if you’re 16. But there’s nothing that I can see in Vermont statute that would prohibit you from buying powdered alcohol, if it was available. So think about kids walking around with packets of powdered alcohol in their pocket – hard to detect.”