May 25, 2016

Hiring Hurdle: Finding Workers Who Can Pass a Drug Test

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A few years back, the heavy-equipment manufacturer held a job fair in the glass foyer of its sprawling headquarters near here, but when a throng of prospective employees learned the next step would be drug testing, an alarming thing happened: About half of them left.
That story still circulates within the business community of this historic port city. But the problem has gotten worse.

All over the country, employers say they see a disturbing downside of tighter labor markets as they try to rebuild from the worst recession since the Depression: They are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test.

That hurdle partly stems from the growing ubiquity of drug testing, at corporations with big human resources departments, in industries like trucking where testing is mandated by federal law for safety reasons, and increasingly at smaller companies.

For the rest of the article go here

May 19, 2016

America's opioid addiction: 'I ended up selling all my valuable stuff to buy pills'

On the outskirts of Kingsport, Tennessee, Kim, a therapist, faces a small group of people sitting in folding chairs. She’s helping them rid their life of illegal drugs.

The attendees are all white and working class, self-described “dirt poor”, and none with college degrees. They have come to spend hours talking of past and present pains, offer each other support, and pee in a cup. If they pass the test, they will get their weekly prescription of Suboxone, an FDA-approved narcotic for opioid addiction treatment. Or as it is called on the streets, “fake heroin”.

Kingsport is where the Appalachians cross into eastern Tennessee. It’s a factory town cut in two by train lines and surrounded by hills. The few parts that are flat are stuffed with shopping malls, themselves filled with franchises. On maps, the area is mostly colored green for national forest, or brown for the hills. But on maps showing drug overdoses in the US it is dark red, the color used for the most deaths.
Fifteen years ago, the map of the US was all blue, with few deaths reported. Since then, deaths from drugs have doubled, and what was once a small isolated red spot in Kentucky has grown larger and darker, overtaking Kingsport and the rest of central Appalachia. The area has been overrun with a demand for illegal drugs, opioids and tranquilizers. As a consequence, it has also been overrun with the pain, upturned lives and death that follow addiction.

The reasons behind the surge in demand are unclear and everyone asked has a different explanation – some are repeated so often in the press they have become street mythology. There is the pain pill story: “They prescribed so many pain pills so easily back in the 1990s, we all got addicted.” There is also the gang from big city story: “The heroin highway runs straight through them hills, right up to Detroit. When demand up there dried up, the gangs needed a new market and came here.”

May 13, 2016

Former FDA head: Opioid epidemic one of “great mistakes of modern medicine”

Doctor David Kessler, who ran the FDA from 1990 to 1997, doesn’t hold back when talking about the explosion in opioid use in the last two decades.
“This has been one of the great mistakes of modern medicine,” said Kessler, who went on to say opioid addiction in the U.S. amounts to an epidemic. “FDA has responsibility, the pharmaceutical companies have responsibility, physicians have responsibility. We didn’t see these drugs for what they truly are,” Dr. Kessler said.
From 1999 to 2014, sales of opioids quadrupled in the U.S. — and so did the number of opioid-related overdose deaths, reports CBS News’ Jim Axelrod. “There was a notion that pain was the fifth vital sign, you wanted to relieve pain, that that was essential. You dosed until the pain was alleviated,” Kessler explained.

That, said Kessler, was a costly mistake. Seventy-eight people now die each day from overdosing on painkillers. But the CDC didn’t issue prescription guidelines until this past March. They recommended doctors try over-the-counter pain medications before prescribing more limited quantities of opioids — but did not mandate they do so.

But are the guidelines strong enough? “We’ll see,” said Kessler. “This is an American condition. This is an American disease.” In the 21 years since OxyContin first came on the market, it has generated more than $35 billion in sales.

“The inappropriate promotion of drugs contributed significantly to this epidemic,” Kessler said. “Because drug companies took a small piece, a sliver of science and widely promoted it as not being addictive. That was false.”

While pill mills are among the most visible signs of the epidemic, Kessler said two-thirds of painkiller prescriptions are written by well-intentioned physicians trying to do right by their patients.

“Everybody has to do better. The CDC guidelines need to be implemented. Pharmaceutical companies need not over-promote. Doctors need to prescribe more wisely in a more limited way.” “But it’s going to take a societal shift, it’s bigger than any one of those steps, in order to change this epidemic.”

When asked about his responsibility as the head of the FDA, he said the epidemic took hold after he left the agency in 1997, but does admit he should have pushed for stricter prescription practices when he was still in charge.

May 9, 2016

Suicide Rate on the Rise; Experts Say Rising Drug Use May Be Contributing Factor

The suicide rate in the United States rose 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The researchers say increasing drug use may be one of the contributing factors.

The economy is another possible factor in the increasing suicide rate, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Suicide is the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States, the report notes. The suicide rate continued to increase in the first half of 2015, the CDC found in a separate study. There were more suicides among men than women, but the suicide rate for women increased faster during the study period.

“Exactly where the major influences are—we don’t know all of the answers to that yet,” said CDC researcher Alex Crosby. “It is usually an interaction of multiple behaviors.”

He noted abuse of prescription opioids, heroin and other drugs has increased in the past 15 years. According to the CDC, more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. The majority of drug overdose deaths involve an opioid. Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) almost quadrupled. From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses. Those deaths include suicides, the article noted.

Crosby noted the economic downturn also may have contributed to the suicide rate, which historically has risen during difficult economic times. Lack of easy access to mental health services may also play a role in the rising rate, he added.

Suicides surged among middle-aged men and women, the report found. The suicide rate tripled among young girls, ages 5 to 14. The actual number of suicides in that age group remains small, the researchers said.

May 2, 2016

The Brain Likes It!

He had been clean less than a year when his son broke a wrist, requiring a trip to the emergency room.

The situation was terrifying for Mark, a Lake Villa resident who became addicted to pain medication after being prescribed hydrocodone for his chronic shoulder pain. He asked not to be identified due to the possible repercussions.

When his son was prescribed a mix of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, Mark worried that the teen could also become addicted. He worried about whether he'd be strong enough to handle the pills being in the house. He wondered why his son's doctor was so quick to prescribe such a powerful and potentially addictive drug.

The doctor Mark turned to to get his addiction under control was Dr. Adam Rubinstein, a Libertyville-based physician board certified in addiction and internal medicine, who estimates that 80 percent of prescription drug addicts were first prescribed the medicine.
So-called pill or pharming parties where teenagers share exchanged and randomly ingested prescription pills are "extremely rare," Rubinstein said. The most common reason teenagers start using prescription pills is that they're prescribed them by a doctor for a sports injury.

"The brain likes it," he said. "They feel soothed by it. Their brain feels soothed. Imagine your entire life you have this chronic sunburn, but you don't realize you don't have this sunburn. And then somebody gives you a cream."

The prescription pills take away the uneasiness and anxiety they feel, Rubinstein said.

But prescription drug abuse is also a leading indicator for becoming a heroin user, said Bill Gentes, coordinator for the Lake County Underage Drinking and Drug Prevention Task Force.

An estimated 11 percent of high school seniors in Lake County reported that within the prior year they had used prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them, according to the Illinois Youth Survey, a biennial study that tracks the attitudes of sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th graders toward drugs and alcohol — and their use of the substances.

In Illinois, 12.6 percent of seniors reported abusing prescription drugs, according to the study. Only alcohol, cigarette and marijuana were used more frequently by seniors.

Schools are currently preparing for this year's survey, and county officials are set to get the results in the fall, Gentes said.

April 18, 2016

Round Lake Park Drug Disposal Last Weekend

Last weekend the Round Lake Park Police department hosted a Drug Disposal event at the Grayslake Fire Protection District Station # 3. We were happy to have Pharmacy students from Rosalind Franklin School of Pharmacy help out.

Many thanks to Congressman Bob Dold and States Attorney Mike Nerheim for stopping by and supporting the efforts.

Early estimates say they took in over 200 pounds in during the 4 hour event, roughly $15,000 in street value schedule medications!