Drug-addicted anesthesiologists pose danger

Anesthesiologists – the doctors who keep patients alive during surgery, who essentially take over our breathing – make up just three per cent of all doctors, but account for 20 to 30 per cent of drug-addicted MDs. Experts say anesthesiologists are overrepresented in addiction treatment programs by a ratio of three to one, compared with any other physician group, an occupational hazard that could pose catastrophic risks to their patients.

Their drugs of choice are most frequently fentanyl and sufentanil, opioids that are 100 and 1,000 times more potent than morphine. They “divert” a portion of the doses meant for their patients to themselves, slipping syringes into their pockets.

And later, alone in the bathroom or the call room, when the drug hits their own bloodstream, the relief, the sense that all is well in the world, the mild euphoria, is immediate.

See full story via Drug-addicted anesthesiologists pose danger.

Deadly Habits; Drugs, Tobacco and Alcohol

200 Million People Worldwide Use Illegal Drugs, Study Says

An estimated 200 million people worldwide use illegal drugs, according to a new study. The health consequences of this use are wide-ranging, researchers report this week in The Lancet.

They include

  • overdose,
  • dependence,
  • violence or injury due to intoxication, as well as
  • heart disease,
  • mental disorders and
  • cirrhosis.

The Los Angeles Times reports that

  • 125 to 203 million people use marijuana,
  • 14 million to 56 million use amphetamines,
  • 12 million to 21 million use opioids, and
  • 14 million to 21 million use cocaine.

In addition, 11 million to 21 million inject drugs. An estimated 15 million to 39 million are considered problem drug users, the article notes.

Illegal drug use is highest in developed countries, the researchers found. They point out that many people who use illegal drugs take more than one drug.

The major adverse health effects of marijuana are dependence, and probably psychotic disorders and other mental disorders, the researchers conclude. They say that marijuana is unlikely to be deadly.

Drugs caused 2.1 million years of life lost in 2004, followed by alcohol, which caused a loss of 1.5 million years, according to the World Health Organization. Drug-related deaths tend to strike younger people, accounting for the higher number of years of life lost compared with other causes of death.

Overall,

  • illegal drugs led to 250,000 deaths in that year, compared with
  • 5.1 million deaths due to tobacco, and
  • 2.25 million due to alcohol.

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Overdosed by Doctor

Small But Growing Number of Doctors Face Criminal Charges Over Prescription Drugs

As the number of fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers grows, so does the number of doctors who are facing criminal charges for overprescribing painkillers and other controlled medications, Reuters reports

The issue has gained attention in light of the upcoming trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray. Prosecutors have charged him with involuntary manslaughter, which could be punishable by two to four years in prison, for his role in the drug overdose death of the music star.

There have been an estimated 37 reported criminal cases against doctors between 2001 and 2011, according to Reuters. Most recent cases involved overprescribing painkillers and other controlled substances.

Many of these cases have been brought under the Controlled Substances Act, and similar state laws. In order to prove a doctor is guilty under the law, the prosecution must prove the physician knowingly and intentionally prescribed the drug outside “the usual course of professional practice” or not for a “legitimate medical purpose.”

Jackson’s doctor is not being charged with violating  a controlled substances law because propofol, the anesthetic he is accused of giving to Jackson, is not a controlled substance. Instead, prosecutors say he breached the standard of care when he administered the drug to Jackson at home, and his gross negligence caused the singer’s death.

Diane Hoffmann, a law professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, notes doctors who treat patients with chronic pain are in a tough position, relying on their patients to tell them how much pain they are suffering from. “Doctors are not supposed to be law enforcement agents. They’re supposed to believe their patients,” she said.

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Treating the tiniest addicts

Treating the tiniest addicts – City & Region – The Buffalo News.

An epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse has led to another growing problem — newborns exposed to the addictive drugs their mothers use.

At the Catholic Health System in Buffalo, which operates the state’s largest methadone clinic outside of New York City, physicians used to see one to three babies a month with symptoms of withdrawal from narcotic pain pills. Now, the number approaches 10 a month, said Dr. Paul Updike, director of chemical dependency at Sisters Hospital.

The number of cases has grown enough that the hospital network is reorganizing services to standardize the care of addicted moms-to-be and their newborns.

“We can’t control the influences on a child’s environment, but withdrawal is quite treatable. We can give a child a chance for a reasonable life,” said Updike.

More at;  Treating the tiniest addicts – City & Region – The Buffalo News.

Prescription and illicit drug use | Doctor waiting lists

Prescription and illicit drug use | Doctor waiting lists.

Thousands of West Australians have become addicted to dangerous prescription drugs while waiting to see a doctor, but a lag in illicit drug use statistics has left the escalating problem largely undetected, a scathing parliamentary inquiry has found.

General practitioners are concerned that about 22,000 West Australians are now addicted to opioids such as morphine and oxycodone, prescribed to them to manage chronic pain while they waited up to 12 months to see a specialist, the Education and Health Standing Committee said in an interim report tabled in parliament yesterday.

“The misuse of prescription opioids has become a significant problem within Western Australia and the number of people misusing them is now at a similar level to the number consuming heroin,” the report says.

Bath Salts’ Warning

bath-salts Drug Czar Issues Bath Salts‘ Warning

February 7, 2011. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) issued a nationwide warning about the dangers of legal synthetic drugs often marketed as bath salts while various states moved to ban them, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The powdered stimulants — sold online, in gas stations and drug paraphernalia stores as bath salts and plant food under names like "Ivory Wave" — are said to produce highs like cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamines. Active ingredients include 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (known as MPDV) and mephedrone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them for human consumption, but they have not been banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said the so-called "bath salts" can cause "chest pains, increased blood pressure and heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions," according to the AP. So far this year, 251 calls have been made about them to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, compared to 236 similar calls for all of last year.

"They pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of young people and anyone who uses them," said Kerlikowske.

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has introduced a bill that would put the chemicals on the federal list of controlled substances, Reuters reported Jan. 31.

"These so-called bath salts contain ingredients that are nothing more than legally sanctioned narcotics, and they are being sold cheaply to all comers, with no questions asked, at store counters around the country," Schumer said. 

The European Union, Australia, Canada, Israel, as well as several states — Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, and West Virginia — have already banned the substances or are considering legislation to do so. 

In West Virginia, lawmakers were also moving to ban any future variations of the synthetic drugs, according to the Herald-Dispatch Jan. 31.

"We’ve tried to use generic language to cover those situations where a knowledgeable person could change the formulation on new designer drugs. As such, with the wording, that will be covered under the code as well," Delegate Don Perdue (D-Wayne) explained.

"We may not be able to burst the balloon, but we can at least push on it and deflate it a little to the point where it’s less threatening," he said.

The DEA is reviewing data on abuse of the synthetic stimulants but does not currently have plans to ban them. Spokesman Rusty Payne recommended that people avoid the drugs.

"Just because something is not illegal does not mean it’s safe," he said.

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Portugal’s drug policy pays off; US eyes lessons – FoxNews.com

Portugal’s drug policy pays off; US eyes lessons – FoxNews.com.

These days, Casal Ventoso is an ordinary blue-collar community — mothers push baby strollers, men smoke outside cafes, buses chug up and down the cobbled main street.

Ten years ago, the Lisbon neighborhood was a hellhole, a “drug supermarket” where some 5,000 users lined up every day to buy heroin and sneak into a hillside honeycomb of derelict housing to shoot up. In dark, stinking corners, addicts — some with maggots squirming under track marks — staggered between the occasional corpse, scavenging used, bloody needles.

At that time, Portugal, like the junkies of Casal Ventoso, had hit rock bottom: An estimated 100,000 people — an astonishing 1 percent of its population — were addicted to illegal drugs. So, like anyone with little to lose, the Portuguese took a risky leap: They decriminalized the use of all drugs in a groundbreaking law in 2000.

 

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/12/26/portugals-drug-policy-pays-eyes-lessons/#ixzz19Gb1xbEf

Alcohol Most Harmful Drug

alcohol

Image via Wikipedia

A group of British scientific experts has concluded that when combining its effects on the individual and on society, alcohol far outpaces other substances as the most harmful drug, the Associated Press reported Nov. 1.

The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, meeting via an interactive workshop, used multicriteria decision analysis to evaluate drugs’ effects on the body and their impacts on society, including effects on families and on costs in areas such as health care and corrections. Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine were ranked in the analysis as the most lethal drugs to the individual, but alcohol, heroin and crack were judged most harmful to others.

The combined harm score for alcohol was the highest, at 72 out of a possible 100, followed by heroin (55) and crack (54).

The authors explained that the rankings, based on 16 criteria, do not correspond to how drugs are currently classified in the United Kingdom. For example, last year the British government increased penalties for possession of marijuana, a drug that ranked far below alcohol and other illegal drugs in the experts’ assessment of overall harm.

“What governments decide is illegal is not always based on science,” said Wim van den Brink, professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam.

Yet study co-author Leslie King, an adviser to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs, urged against interpreting the results as a call for alcohol prohibition. “Alcohol is too embedded in our culture and it won’t go away,” King said.

The findings were published online Nov. 1 2010 in The Lancet.

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FDA Okays Vivitrol for Opiate Addiction

Vivitrol FDA Okays Vivitrol for Opiate Addiction

In a 12-1 vote, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Vivitrol to treat addiction to opiates like heroin and prescription painkillers, ABC News reported Oct. 13.

Vivitrol, a form of naltrexone manufactured by Alkermes, is already used to treat about 10,000 patients a year for alcoholism. Though available in pill form, it is usually administered as a monthly shot, and can be prescribed by physicians.

Naltrexone works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain, ensuring that patients will not feel any effects if they attempt to use while being treated. Over time, their cravings diminish. By contrast, methadone is used as a replacement drug for opiates — users can still be addicted to it — and buprenorphine blocks some receptors, but not all. 

The FDA said it based its approval of Vivitrol on studies showing that 36 percent of those treated remained in treatment for six months, compared to 23 percent of those on a placebo. Possible side effects include depression, suicide, liver damage and a reaction at the injection site serious enough to require surgery. 

Vivitrol was approved for use to treat alcoholism in 2006, but according to an Oct. 12 CNN blog post, insurance companies generally do not pay for it. Shots cost about $1,000 each, and treatment can take over a year. According to doctors interviewed by CNN, Vivitrol is not meant to be used alone, but as part of a larger treatment plan.  

"Addiction is a serious problem in this country, and can have devastating effects on individuals who are drug-dependent, and on their family members and society," said Dr. Janet Woodcock, who directs the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "This drug approval represents a significant advancement in addiction treatment."

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