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Latest News Around the Web

Veterans With PTSD May Be More Likely To Be Prescribed Addictive Painkillers.

The AP (3/7) reports, “Morphine and similar powerful painkillers are sometimes prescribed to recent war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress along with physical pain, and the consequences can be tragic,” according to a study published March 7 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Despite the fact that veterans “are at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse…they’re two times more likely to get prescriptions for addictive painkillers than vets with only physical pain,” the study found. “Iraq and Afghanistan vets with PTSD who already had substance abuse problems were four times more likely to get these drugs than vets without mental health problems.”

“The research points to the need for doctors to use caution when treating veterans who need pain relief but who also have mental health or substance-use disorders,” the Los Angeles Times (3/6, Roan) “Booster Shots” blog reports. “Even in the civilian population, abuse of opioid medications has skyrocketed, with increased rates of addiction and overdose deaths. But, the authors noted: ‘Most VA primary care clinicians lack specialized training in the management of comorbid pain and PTSD.'”

Karen Seal, MD, MPH, of the VA Medical Center at the University of California-San Francisco, and colleagues “found that a far greater percentage of those with PTSD and those with other mental health problems — including depression, anxiety, alcohol use disorders, drug use disorders, and traumatic brain injury — received opioids for their pain compared with those without mental health diagnoses (17.8% and 11.7% versus 6.5%),” MedPage Today (3/7, Fiore) reports.

HealthDay (3/7, Reinberg) explains, “For the study, Seal’s team looked at the association between mental health problems and unfavorable results — including accidents, overdose and self-inflicted injury — with use of prescription painkillers in more than 140,000 veterans treated for pain at VA hospitals from October 2005 to December 2010.” Investigators found that nearly “16,000 patients received prescriptions for painkillers covering 20 or more days.” The study authors also found that veterans with “PTSD were more likely to take higher doses and more than one painkiller than mentally healthy vets. They were also more likely than the others to take sedatives and to refill their prescriptions early.” Also covering the story are the CNN (3/7, Kounang) “The Chart” blog and Reuters (3/7, Pittman).

Related Links:

— “Vets with mental health problems more likely to abuse painkillers,”Shari Roan, LA Times, March 6, 2012.

Taking Ecstasy During Pregnancy May Harm Fetus.

HealthDay (2/29, Mozes) reports, “Taking the hallucinogen ecstasy during pregnancy may harm the health of the fetus and lead to poorer motor control in infants,” according to a US National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology. Researchers found that “infants born to mothers who used ecstasy during pregnancy had worse motor control and poorer hand-eye coordination at four months than babies whose mothers didn’t use the drug. Other problems among the ecstasy-exposed group included an impaired ability to balance their heads, sit up without support or roll from their back on to their side.”

Related Links:

— “Ecstasy Use During Pregnancy May Harm Fetus: Study, “Alan Mozes , Health Day, February 28, 2012.

INCB: Illegal Online Pharmacies Using Social Media To Market Drugs To Young People.

Reuters (2/29, Dahl, Croft, Subscription Publication) reports that illegal pharmacies based on the Internet are utilizing social media to publicize and market their wares to young people, according to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). INCB President Hamid Ghodse was quoted as saying, “Illegal Internet pharmacies have started to use social media to publicize their websites, which can put large audiences at risk of dangerous products.” According to Ghodse, such illegal pharmacies use YouTube and Facebook for such purposes.

The Financial Times (2/29, Jack, Rappeport, Subscription Publication) reports that the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board warned, in its 2011 annual report, of “relatively slow progress” from governments in banning illegal drug sales online. Of note, the US Food and Drug Administration has recently been trying to stop such illegal sales and warned about websites offering fake drugs and supplements.

Related Links:

— “Social Media Used to Sell Drugs to Youth, Report Says,”Reuters, The New York Times, February 28, 2012.

Shinseki Gets 49-State Commitment To Obtain Better Data On Veteran Suicide Rates.

The Army Times (2/29, Kime) reports, “Better data on suicide rates among veterans could be available by summer under an agreement forged between” Secretary Shinseki “and 49 states.” The rate “often noted in press reports and analyses — an average of 18 veteran suicides each day — is derived from information available from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System, which receives input from 18 states, and other sources. VA now has a commitment from 49 state governments to furnish statistics on veterans’ deaths in their states to the department, said Jan Kemp, VA’s National Mental Health Program Director for Suicide Prevention,” who added that VA is in talks with Colorado’s governor to provide the information. While speaking at the American Legion convention in Washington, DC, on Monday, Kemp stated, “By April, hopefully, we’ll have a more realistic view of the scope” of suicides committed by veterans.

Related Links:

— “VA aims to get better data on vet suicide rates,”Patricia Kime, ArmyTimes, February 28, 2012.

Acute Care For Mentally Ill Diminishing.

Bloomberg News (2/28, Moroney) discussed “the diminishment of acute care for the mentally ill — the kind of hospitalizations sought during times of crisis. The duration of these stays has dropped to 7.8 days in 2009, the last year of available data, from 12.8 days in 1993.” Even though “stays of all kinds have been shortened by insurance plans trying to manage care, the 39 percent decline for mental illness is one of the sharpest…according to the US Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHQR).” Bloomberg News adds, “The result: greater relapse and more patients released prematurely doing harm to themselves and others, according to 20 psychiatric experts interviewed by Bloomberg News.”

Related Links:

— “Son Who Hears Voices Finds Health Care Fatally Dysfunctional,”Tom Moroney , Bloomberg, February 28, 2012.

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