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Latest News Around the Web

Methamphetamine Users May Be At Increased Risk For Developing Schizophrenia.

MedWire (4/10, Cowen) reports that according to a study published April 1 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, “methamphetamine users are at increased risk for developing schizophrenia.” After examining “data from California inpatient hospital discharge records for the period 1990-2000 to identify 42,412 patients with methamphetamine, 39,390 with cocaine, 408,604 with alcohol, 56,844 with opioid, 23,335 with cannabis use disorders, and a comparison group of 188,732 patients with appendicitis,” investigators “found that, compared with appendicitis patients, methamphetamine users had the greatest risk for schizophrenia (hazard ratio [HR]=9.37), followed by cannabis users (HR=8.16), cocaine users (HR= 5.84), those with alcohol use disorder (HR=5.56), and opioid users (HR=3.60), after accounting for age, gender, ethnicity, and other variables.”

Related Links:

— “Methamphetamine use may increase schizophrenia risk,”Mark Cowen, MedWire News, April 10, 2012.

Military Reports Spike In Use Of Psychotropic Medications By Troops.

The Los Angeles Times (4/8, Murphy) reported that “in a small but growing number of cases across the nation, lawyers are blaming the US military’s heavy use of psychotropic drugs for their clients’ aberrant behavior and related health problems.” According to the Times, “more than 110,000 active-duty Army troops last year were taking prescribed antidepressants, narcotics, sedatives, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs. … Nearly 8% of the active-duty Army is now on sedatives and more than 6% is on antidepressants — an eightfold increase since 2005.”

VA Part Of Effort To Reduce Painkiller Usage. On its front page, the New York Times (4/9, A1, Meier, Subscription Publication) reports, “Data suggests that hundreds of thousands of patients nationwide may be on potentially dangerous dosages” of powerful painkillers like oxycodone. The “Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are trying new programs to reduce use among active-duty troops and veterans. Various states are experimenting with restrictions.”

Related Links:

— “A fog of drugs and war,”Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2012.

CDC Report Stokes Debate On Increasing Prevalence Of Autism.

In a special analysis piece, the New York Times (4/9, SR3, Harmon, Subscription Publication) reports, “The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that one in 88 American children have an autism spectrum disorder has stoked a debate about why the condition’s prevalence continues to rise,” conceding that the increase could possibly be attributed to better methods of detection or perhaps to some unknown factor in the environment. However, last month’s report also “appears to be serving as a lightning rod for those who question the legitimacy of a diagnosis whose estimated prevalence has nearly doubled since 2007.” Meanwhile, an American Psychiatric Association workgroup “in charge of autism criteria for the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has proposed changes that would exclude some who currently qualify, reducing the combination of behavioral traits through which the diagnosis can be reached from a mind-boggling 2,027 to 11, according to one estimate.”

Related Links:

— “The Autism Wars,”Amy Harmon, The New York Times, April 7, 2012.

Experts: Violence Uncommon Among People With Dementia.

The Boston Globe (4/7, Lazar) reported, “Violence is uncommon among people suffering from dementia, and acts of extreme violence are rarer still,” according to experts “stunned by allegations that a Shrewsbury [MA] man stricken with the condition had brutally slain his wife.” The piece pointed out, however, that “statistics on the frequency of violence by dementia patients are hard to find. One small 1992 study by University of Illinois researchers found that roughly 16 percent of Alzheimer’s patients had been violent toward a family member who cared for them in the year since their diagnosis. The violence was defined as hitting, kicking, biting, punching, or threats with a weapon.”

Studies Underscore Stress Of Caregiving For Patients With Dementia. In a lengthy article, the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (4/8, Nelson) reported, “More than 400,000 Tennesseans are caregivers for patients with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.” The caregiving comes with a steep cost. “Study after study highlights the stress of caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s. In one report, more than 60 percent of dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as ‘high’ or ‘very high.’ A third of caregivers said they had experienced symptoms of depression.” One study, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh on behalf of the National Caregivers Alliance, found an association between a person’s Alzheimer’s progression with a decline in health of the caregiver.

Related Links:

— “Extreme violence by dementia patients is rare,”Kay Lazar, Boston.com, April 7, 2012.

Psychiatric Disorders, Chronic Pain Common Among Patients Frequently Admitted To Hospital.

MedPage Today (4/6, Walsh) reports, “Patients with psychiatric disorders and those with chronic pain used a disproportionally high amount of healthcare resources because of frequent hospital readmission, a researcher said” at the Society of Hospital Medicine meeting. “In a chart review of 29 patients who had an index admission during 2011 and six or more readmissions,” researchers found that “55% had psychiatric conditions and 52% had chronic pain.” The investigators reported that “other common diagnoses included pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, end-stage renal disease, and persistent vomiting.”

Related Links:

— “Study IDs Hospital Frequent Flyers,”Nancy Walsh, MedPage Today, April 5, 2012.

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