Report: Two Million Americans Say They Are Addicted To Opioids

Lester Holt reported on NBC Nightly News (7/31, story 4, 2:15, Holt) that a “startling new report” from federal health officials shows that “in 2015, nearly 92 million American adults used a prescription opioid.” More than “11 million reported misusing opioids, and nearly two million said they were addicted.” Anne Thompson added that “almost half of those who misuse opioids get them from family and friends.”

Reuters (7/31, Seaman) reports the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, estimated that “about 38 percent of U.S. adults were prescribed an opioid in 2015,” about five percent of US adults were misusing opioids, and about one percent of adults had an opioid use disorder. Study coauthor and National Institute on Drug Abuse deputy director Dr. Wilson Compton said, “A very large proportion and large number of adults use these medications in a given year.” He added, “I was still a bit surprised that 38 percent or about 92 million people used prescription opioids in 2015.”

The Washington Post (7/31, Humphreys) reports the study also found “that opioid misuse and addiction are now as prevalent in urban areas and suburbs as they are in rural ones.” However, “rural areas face unique challenges regarding prescription opioids,” including few “health-care professionals who can treat addicted patients” and long distances for first responders to travel.

Related Links:

— “More than a third of US adults prescribed opioids in 2015,” Andrew M Seaman, Reuters, July 31, 2017.

FDA Announces New Strategy To Make Cigarettes Less Addictive By Reducing Nicotine, Encouraging Alternatives.

NBC Nightly News (7/28, story 6, 1:40, Holt) reported that the Food and Drug Administration made “new moves…in the battle to get more people to kick the habit” by making “tobacco products less addictive by cutting the nicotine.”

The Washington Post (7/28, McGinley, Wan) reported in “To Your Health” that the effort “would be the first time the government has tried to get the Americans to quit cigarettes by reaching beyond warning labels or taxes to attacking the actual addictive substance inside.” The agency also “rolled out a second major announcement at the same time: It is delaying for several years a key regulation” that requires agency approval of e-cigarettes and cigars. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb “said both actions are part of a comprehensive plan to eventually wean smokers off conventional cigarettes and steer them toward less harmful alternative forms of nicotine like vaping.” The article mentions research on low-nicotine cigarettes funded by the National Institutes of Health that conclude “that lower-nicotine cigarettes could indeed wean smokers of the habit and prompt them to quit.”

The New York Times (7/29, A13, Kaplan, Subscription Publication) reported that the regulations delayed by the FDA “could have removed many” e-cigarettes from the market. Now, the FDA’s new strategy “opened the door to endorsing e-cigarettes as a means to get smokers to quit.” In an interview, Dr. Gottlieb said, “We do think there’s a potential opportunity for e-cigarettes to be a lower-risk alternative to smokers who want to quit combustible cigarettes. We still have to figure out if they are a way to get people off combustible cigarettes. We don’t fully understand.”

The AP (7/28, Johnson) reported that under the new strategy, e-cigarette markers will have four more years “to comply with a review of products already on the market.” The FDA also “intends to write rules that balance safety with e-cigarettes’ role in helping smokers quit.” Dr. Gottlieb “said he has asked the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products to explore whether lowering nicotine could create a black market for higher nicotine products and what role e-cigarettes and other products play in reducing harm from smoking.” He “also wants new rules to address flavored tobacco products and kids.”

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Ketamine Promising As Depression Treatment, Researchers Say.

TIME (7/27, Oaklander) reports on the prospects for ketamine to be a therapy for depression. Dr. Carlos Zarate, chief of the “experimental therapeutics and pathophysiology branch at the National Institute of Mental Health and one of the foremost researchers of ketamine,” said, “It’s been a paradigm shift, that now we can achieve rapid antidepressant effects. Now we know there’s something radically different.” But, “a task force from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) concluded in an issue of the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry that ketamine wasn’t ready to be widely used as a medication for treatment-resistant depression.”

Related Links:

— “New Hope for Depression,” Mandy Oaklander, Time, July 27, 2017.

One Suicide Attempt In An Army Unit May Foreshadow Attempts By Other Soldiers In The Same Unit

Reuters (7/26, Seaman) reports, “One suicide attempt in an army unit may foreshadow attempts by other soldiers in the same unit,” researchers concluded after analyzing “data from soldiers on active duty from 2004 through 2009.” Those data, which included “9,512 soldiers who attempted suicide during that time,” revealed that “soldiers in units with a recent suicide attempt were 40 percent more likely to attempt suicide themselves.” The findings were published online July 26 in JAMA Psychiatry.

According to Psychiatric News (7/26), the authors of an accompanying editorial wrote, “The findings from this study certainly reflect actionable information, raising tantalizing questions about the influence of military social structure and leadership on suicide risk factors as well as the potential for contagion of suicidal behaviors within Army units.” Also covering the story are HealthDay (7/26, Dotinga) and Healio (7/26, Oldt).

Related Links:

— “Suicide attempt risk in U.S. Army tied to unit’s past,” Andrew M. Seaman, Reuters, July 26, 2017.

CTE Found In Most Brains Of Former Football Players, Small Postmortem Study Reveals

The Washington Post (7/25, Maese) reports that investigators looking into “the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy” have “found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease.” Altogether, the investigators “examined 202 brains that belonged to men who played football at all levels and were later donated for research.” CTE was found “in 177 of them – 87 percent.” Of the brains that belonged to men who had played in the NFL, 110 of 111 were found to have CTE.

The AP (7/25, Tanner) reports, “A panel of neuropathologists made the diagnosis by examining brain tissue, using recent criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke…said” lead author Dr. Ann McKee.

TIME (7/25, Sifferlin) reports that the study indicated “the severity of CTE symptoms appeared to progress the more a person played the sport.”

The Boston Globe (7/25, Freyer) reports that “even those with mild CTE had suffered from disabling mental problems, including agitation, impulsivity, explosive tempers, and memory loss,” while “more than half contemplated suicide.”

USA Today (7/25, Perez) reports that “the most common cause of death (27%) among those with mild stages of CTE (stages 1-2) was suicide.” The findings were published July 25 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to Psychiatric News (7/25), the study authors wrote, “Behavior or mood symptoms may be the initial presentation for a subset of individuals with CTE, or alternatively, CTE pathology may lower the threshold for psychiatric manifestations in susceptible individuals.”

Related Links:

— “The latest brain study examined 111 former NFL players. Only one didn’t have CTE.,” Rick Maese, Washington Post, July 25, 2017.

Teens, Adults With AD/HD May Have A Lower Risk Of Developing A Substance Problem If They Take Medications To Treat The Disorder

HealthDay (7/24, Preidt) reports that adolescents and “adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may have a lower risk of developing an alcohol or drug problem if they take medications to treat” AD/HD, researchers concluded after examining data “from three million Americans” with AD/HD. The findings were published online June 29 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, a publication of the American Psychiatric Association.

Related Links:

— “Treating ADHD May Help Curb Later Drinking, Drug Problems,” Robert Preidt, HealthDay, July 24, 2017.

English Initiative Offers Virtually Open-Ended Talk Therapy Free Of Charge To Treat Common Mental Illnesses

On the front of its Science Times section, the New York Times (7/24, D1, Carey, Subscription Publication) reports in a nearly 2,500-word article that “England is in the midst of a unique national experiment, the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses.” The initiative “offers virtually open-ended talk therapy free of charge at clinics throughout the country,” with the goal of the eventual creation of “a system of primary care for mental health not just for England but for all of Britain.”

Related Links:

— “England’s Mental Health Experiment: No-Cost Talk Therapy,” BENEDICT CAREY, New York Times, July 24, 2017.

Graduate Student: “We Must Push Conversation About Mental Illness Forward.”

In an op-ed in the New York Times (7/24, Subscription Publication), Robert Rigo, who recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, discusses his experiences with self-harm and depression and even how he has considered suicide. In the classroom, as well as in adult life, people with mental health issues “are suffering – and sometimes dying – in silence because we can’t seem to talk openly about mental health.”

Rigo concludes, “We must push the conversation about mental illness forward whether it be in the classrooms of public schools or with our families and friends.” Mental health “issues are real and lethal, and the first means of prevention is acknowledging their existence.”

Related Links:

— “Let’s Talk About Suicide,” ROBERT RIGO, New York Times, July 24, 2017.

Depression That Starts Early In Life May Increase Risk For Alzheimer’s

Medscape (7/24, Anderson) reports, “Depression that starts early in life increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” researchers concluded after examining “data from the Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg Sweden, which began almost 50 years ago.” Included in the study sample were some “800 women (mean age, 46 years), born between 1914 and 1930.” The findings were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017.

Related Links:

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New York City Launches New Opioid Intervention Court

NBC Nightly News (7/22, story 11, 2:25, Diaz-Balart) reported that the city of Buffalo, New York has implemented a new program through its court system to address the opioid problem, in which intervention is begun “immediately after users are arrested, getting them treatment inside the justice system.”

Correspondent Gabe Gutierrez said Judge Craig Hannah is “presiding over the nation’s first opioid crisis intervention court of its kind. Unlike typical drug courts, this program gets users into treatment within hours of their arrest, not weeks. It requires detox, strict curfews, and checking in with Judge Hannah every day for a month.” Hannah said, “I think the tide is changing in our country that you can’t lock away an addict; you have to give treatment.”