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Headlines: November 2, 2011

by Kyle Thomson


Deaths from overdose on pain killers has nearly tripled in the past decade, according to a recent report released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  Prescription pain killers like Oxycotin, Vicodin, and Methadone, all part of the powerful narcotic class of opiods, are currently prescribed to over 12 million Americans.  Since 1999, the amount of opiods available in medical settings has quadrupled.  While the drugs are used to treat severe pain, they are highly addictive and can readily be abused.  In fact, 5 percent of Americans over the age of 12 have reported abusing a prescription pain killer - taking the drug without a prescription or just for the high.  The 15,000 deaths caused by overdose on pain killers in 2008 outstrips fatalities from abuse of illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.   This recent surge in overdoses has been termed an epidemic, but it is one that can be stopped by increasing controls on prescription writing practices and tracking prescriptions at the state level.

According to a new study, as little as three to six alcoholic drinks a week can increase women’s risk of breast cancer by up to 15 percent.  The study involved over 100,000 female nurses followed over three decades to record their long-term health trends.  In addition to showing that even low levels of drinking can increase breast cancer risk, the study shows that effect was cumulative, with risk increasing 10 percent per 10g (about a third of an ounce) consumption of alcohol per day.  Heavier drinking, defined as at least two drinks per day was associated with a 51 percent increase in risk.  The study is not conclusive, but the strong association between drinking and breast cancer is hard to ignore.  Others have urged that we keep the increased risk in perspective: the increase in risk is similar to that associated with certain therapies for menopause, for example, and the risk may be offset by the positive effects of moderate alcohol consumption which has been shown to have protective effects against heart disease

Ritalin and similar drugs treating ADHD in children do not increase children’s risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems,
a new study shows.  The study involved over 1.2 million children and included Adderral, Concerta, Ritalin, and other generic versions of the popular stimulants used to treat hyperactivity and inattention in children and adults.  Labeling on the drugs warns that there have been reports of patients suffering from sudden heart stoppages, but the study shows that these incidents were highly unusual and no more likely to happen in children taking ADHD medication than un-medicated children. ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral problem in children, with over 5 million children diagnosed and 2.7 million now taking medication to treat the disorder.  Just last month, the FDA recommended that prescribing ADHD medication should be done in children as young as four, so there was an increased imperative to understand the potential risks involved with the drug.


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