Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Americans are drinking more heavily, especially women

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whiskey-glassBy Barbara Feder Ostrov
KHN

Whether quaffing artisanal cocktails at hipster bars or knocking back no-name beers on the couch, more Americans are drinking heavily – and engaging in episodes of binge-drinking, concludes a major study of alcohol use.

Heavy drinking among Americans rose 17.2 percent between 2005 and 2012, largely due to rising rates among women, according to the study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

Over the course of the decade, the rate of binge drinking among women increased more than seven times the rate among men, a UW study has found.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines heavy drinking as exceeding an average of one drink per day during the past month for women and two drinks per day for men.

Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on a single occasion at least once during the past month.

The increases are driven largely by women’s drinking habits as social norms change, researchers found. Continue reading

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Most states list deadly methadone as a ‘preferred drug’

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465px-Methadone.svgBy Christine Vestal
Stateline

The federal government has been issuing warnings about the dangers of methadone for nearly a decade.

Two years ago, states started removing it from their Medicaid “preferred drug lists.” (Joe Amon/Getty Images)

As prescription drug overdose deaths soar nationwide, most states have failed to take a simple step that would make it harder for doctors to prescribe the deadliest of all narcotics.

Methadone is four times as likely to cause an overdose death as oxycodone, and more than twice as likely as morphine, yet as many as 33 states make it easy for doctors to prescribe. 

Methadone overdoses kill about 5,000 people every year, six times as many as in the late 1990s, when it was prescribed almost exclusively for use in hospitals and addiction clinics where it is tightly controlled.

It is four times as likely to cause an overdose death as oxycodone, and more than twice as likely as morphine. In addition, experts say it is the most addictive of all opiates.

Yet as many as 33 states make it easy for doctors to prescribe the pain medicine to Medicaid patients, no questions asked. Continue reading

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Narcotic Painkillers in Pregnancy Common, Harmful to Baby: Study – WebMD

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Blue Pregnant BellyUse of prescription narcotic painkillers is common in pregnancy and increases the likelihood a baby will be born small or early, or go through painful drug withdrawal, a new study finds.

These prescription painkillers, also called opioids, include drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin), codeine and morphine.

Nearly 30 percent of the Tennessee mothers-to-be in the new study used at least one of these drugs while pregnant, and the associated risks went up if they also smoked or took antidepressants.

via Narcotic Painkillers in Pregnancy Common, Harmful to Baby: Study – WebMD.

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Want to quit smoking? There’s an app for that!

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quit

QuitGuide is a free smartphone app that can help you:

  • track your cravings and moods,
  • monitor your progress toward achieving smokefree milestones,
  • identify your reasons for quitting,
  • identify smoking triggers and develop strategies to deal with them,
  • provide guidance on quitting smoking, and a variety of other strategies to help you successfully become and stay smokefree.

QuitGuide is a product of Smokefree.gov (SfG)—a smoking cessation resource created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with tobacco control professionals and smoking cessation experts and with input from ex-smokers.

QuitGuide provides tips to use during cravings. Use these tips to help you manage your mood and stay smokefree. To get more tips and support, you can also visit the smokefree.gov website.

 

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Overdoses due to the painkiller fentanyl prompt nationwide alert

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Alert IconFrom the US Drug Enforcement Administration

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today issued a nationwide alert about the dangers posed by abuse with the synthetic opioid painkiller fentanyl.

The drug, which is commonly added to heroin, has been associated with a marked increase in overdoses and deaths as abuse of heroin has increased in recent years, the DEA said.

“Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Often laced in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.”

In the last two years, DEA has seen a significant resurgence in fentanyl-related seizures and last year state and local drug-testing labs reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions, up from 942 in 2013. Continue reading

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King County teen e-cigarette use is on the rise, but fewer smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol

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Map of SeattleFrom Public Health – Seattle & King County

Most King County youth are heeding public health prevention warnings about cigarette smoking and drinking and driving, according to new, preliminary results from the Healthy Youth Survey.

However, e-cigarettes use among youth is increasing.

One in five King County high school seniors reports vaping or e-cigarette use, which is double the number that smokes cigarettes. Continue reading

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Drugs: Heroin Overdose Deaths in U.S. Have Tripled Since 2010 – Bloomberg Business

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320px-HeroinMore than 8,200 Americans—an average of 23 people each day—died of heroin overdoses in 2013. That’s according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and it’s the latest evidence that the nation’s heroin problem is becoming more severe. The rate of overdose deaths in 2013, the CDC report states, is almost triple what it was in 2010.

via Drugs: Heroin Overdose Deaths in U.S. Have Tripled Since 2010 – Bloomberg Business.

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Trying to quit smoking? There’s an app for that.

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smartquitThe state Department of Health is offering a smartphone app to help Washingtonians kick their tobacco habits, and the first 1,900 app downloads are free.

SmartQuit follows a unique program created at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to help people become tobacco-free.

A study conducted by the Seattle cancer research center found that SmartQuit users were two-to-three times more likely to kick their nicotine addiction than those who tried to quit on their own.

The first 1,900 app downloads are free.

The program’s strategy is to teach participants to accept and master their cravings, rather than ignore or replace those urges.

“Quitting tobacco is one of the best things a person can do for their health,” said Joella Pyatt, cessation coordinator at the Department of Health, “and we want to give people the tools they need to succeed. Tobacco related illnesses are still one of the top killers in our state.”

The agency is offering 1,900 free downloads through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People must complete an online survey before receiving a code that provides access to a version of the app that is unique to the state health department.

The app can be purchased for $49.99 after the free codes are given out, and will be available in the iTunes and Android app stores.

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The changing face of heroin

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By Teresa Wiltz
Stateline

On Super Bowl Sunday, most football fans watched ads for Victoria’s Secret, the lost Budweiser dog and a deadpan Kim Kardashian extolling the virtues of T-Mobile. But in St. Louis, those national ads were supplemented with a different kind of Super Bowl commercial.

On screen, the camera focused on the face of a white middle class teenager as he died of a heroin overdose. Off screen, a singer crooned along to perky guitar music: First you stole prescription pills from your mom/You threw back a few and then they were gone/So you’re jonesing real bad and you need some more… And that’s how, how you got addicted to heroin. 

Beginning in the 1920s, when heroin became illegal, people tended to think of heroin abuse as a problem plaguing people of color in the big cities.

But in the past decade, heroin abuse has exploded—and it is hitting white people in suburbs and rural areas particularly hard. As the demographics of heroin use have changed, so have states’ efforts to combat the problem.

“People have recognized that (heroin addiction) is a problem facing folks they know as well as groups that are distant from them. That certainly affects the way you view the problem,” said Kurt Schmoke, who as Baltimore mayor from 1987 to 1999 was harshly criticized for his efforts to decriminalize drug use.

Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia now have laws designed to make naloxone, a heroin antidote that is 99 percent effective, more easily accessible to overdose victims, according to the Network for Public Health Law.

Since 2007, 21 states and the District adopted so-called “Good Samaritan laws” that provide some type of immunity for people calling 911 to report or seek help for an overdose.  Continue reading

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Public Health asks court to stop two hookah bars from violating smoking law

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Hookah

Photo courtesy of Solix via Wikipedia

From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Public Health – Seattle & King County has filed papers in King County Superior Court asking the court to stop two hookah bars for exposing employees and the public to tobacco smoke in violation of Washington’s Smoking in Public Places Act and local Board of Health Code.

The request for an injunction was filed against The Night Owl in Seattle’s University District and Medina Hookah Lounge in south Seattle.

A hookah is a glass pipe filled with water that is used for smoking flavored tobacco, often by several people at once.

During a typical 45-minute session of hookah use, a person may inhale as much smoke, tobacco and carcinogens as smoking 100 cigarettes or more.

Smoking in public places law

Washington’s Smoking in Public Places law was passed by voters in 2005 and prohibits smoking in public places and places of employment. The local Board of Health code mirrors the state law and includes provisions that prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices.

Hookah bars have claimed that they are exempt from the indoor smoking law because they are private clubs. However, smoking is prohibited by law if an establishment has employees and/or the club is open to the public.

A previous ruling by a King County Hearing Examiner on February 12, 2014 found that both the Night Owl and Medina are open to the public, operating similarly to night clubs that charge a cover for admission.

“Hookah smoke is as addictive as traditional cigarettes”, said Patty Hayes, Interim Director, Public Health- Seattle & King County. “Asking the court for an injunction is a measure of last resort, but it is necessary now to ensure all our businesses are protecting the health of employees and the public.” Continue reading

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