HEALTH

DXM abuse down among high school seniors; overall Rx and Vicodin abuse up

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Approximately 5.3% of high school seniors abused over-the-counter cough-cold medicines in the past month, according to the latest "Monitoring the Future" survey released Wednesday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That’s down from 6.6% of high school seniors who claimed to have recently abused cough-cold medicines last year.

Following the release of the survey, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced the OTC industry would remain diligent in educating parents, school officials and teenagers around the dangers of abusing OTC medicines. "Teens turning to the medicine cabinet to get high remains a persistent and concerning behavior, and the leading makers of over-the-counter medicines will continue our many efforts to stop this behavior," the association said.

And while abuse of dextromethorphan appeared to be on a decline again (5.9% of seniors reported cough-cold medicine abuse in 2009), abuse of prescription drugs are on the rise. As many as 15.2% of teenage seniors abused a prescription medicine in 2011, up from 15.1% in 2010. The pain reliever Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone) and the ADHD treatment Adderall (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine), were the two most-abused prescription medicines, with rates of 8.1% (up from 8% in 2010) and 6.5% (flat as compared with 2010), respectively.

"To help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, NIDA is launching an updated prescription drug section on our teen website," stated NIDA director Nora Volkow. "Teens can go to our PEERx pages to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make healthy decisions and understand the risks of abusing prescription drugs. We are also encouraging teens to provide feedback on these resources through NIDA’s teen blog, Sara Bellum, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or email."

Cigarette and alcohol use by 12th graders were at their lowest point since 1975, when the National Institute on Drug Abuse first conducted the "Monitoring the Future" survey. The 2011 results found that 18.7% of 12th graders reported current (past-month) cigarette use, compared with a peak rate of 36.5% in 1997 and 21.6% five years ago. "While it is good news that cigarette use has declined to historically low rates, we can and must do more to accelerate that decline," stated Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health. "The actual decline is relatively small compared to the sharp declines we witnessed in the late nineties."

Overall, 46,773 students from 400 public and private schools participated in this year’s MTF survey.

For a PDF of the raw survey, click here.

For an NIDA audio presentation of the survey results, click here.


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Tar Heel State to renew PSE Rx-only debate in two years

BY Michael Johnsen

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina may be two years away from joining Oregon and Mississippi as the only states to classify pseudoepehdrine as a prescription-only medicine.

A bill shepherded through the North Carolina legislature by the co-chair of that state’s House Select Committee on Methamphetamine Abuse sets the stage for a PSE prescription-only classification in 2013. The bill, which today mandates implementation of an electronic tracking system through the National Precursor Log Exchange, was passed in June and goes into effect Jan. 1. NPLEx potentially helps identify meth labs.

According to Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union County, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation had predicted the state would respond to more than 400 meth incidents this year, at a cost of $350,000 per incident. "That means that we will spend about $140 million to just deal with meth just this year," Horn wrote in a June blog. "We simply do not have the money, the jail space or the court time, and that does not account for innocent lives destroyed as a result of this terribly addictive drug. There are many more productive uses for our revenues [other] than chasing this stuff."

"My bill will mirror what has been done in Oregon and Mississippi and return pseudoephedrine — the one absolutely necessary ingredient to make methamphetamine — to prescription-only status," he continued. "The fears of inconvenience and increased costs did NOT bear out in the two states that have already done this." 

"The prescription mandate imposes time and financial burdens on more than 20 million Americans [nationwide] who rely on these medicines without solving the meth problem," the Consumer Healthcare Products Association wrote in its 2011 annual report. CHPA member companies bear the cost of launching and managing NPLEx in each state where it’s implemented. The association noted in its report that not one state had passed a PSE prescription-only bill in 2011, in great part due to those burdens that restriction would place on consumers.

In October, Horn wrote, "The House Select Committee of Methamphetamine Abuse will oversee the implementation of House Bill 12. … [T]his committee is also authorized to recommend action to the Legislature on the larger issues of both prescription and nonprescription drug abuse in North Carolina."

The committee has been tasked with studying the implementation of the NPLEx act, including the number of methamphetamine labs that are discovered annually and the potential costs of making pseudoephedrine products Schedule III controlled substances. The final report is due before North Carolina’s General Assembly in 2013.


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CDC, CHPA partner on medicine safety education initiative

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association Educational Foundation on Tuesday launched the Up and Away and Out of Sight educational program to help educate parents on the importance of keeping their medicines in a safe place from children. In recent years, the number of accidental overdoses in children increased by 20%, the agency and association stated.

“We know that, unfortunately, many children have to visit the emergency room because of accidental medication exposures,” stated Dan Budnitz, director of CDC’s Medication Safety Program in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “To help combat these preventable harms, the Up and Away and Out of Sight program gives parents and caregivers the information they need to store medicine safely and protect children.”

This campaign asks consumers to remind relatives, houseguests, babysitters and other visitors to keep purses, bags and coats that may have medicines or vitamins in them up and away and out of sight of children.

Safety tips for parents and caregivers include:

  • Never leave medicine or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside, even if you have to give another dose in a few hours;

  • Always relock the safety cap on a medicine bottle. If it has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click;

  • Explain to children what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them;

  • Never tell children that medication or vitamins are candy, even if your child does not like to take his or her medicine; and

  • Program the poison control center number — 1-800-222-1222 — into home and cell phones so that the number is easily available in case of an emergency.

“Young children are curious, and they can quickly get into medicines or vitamins when parents and caregivers aren’t looking,” said Emily Skor, VP communications and alliance development at CHPA. “Parents work hard to protect their children, and this program reminds them to keep medicines and vitamins up and away and out of sight of children.”

Up and Away and Out of Sight is supported by members of the PROTECT Initiative, which include the CDC, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, professional organizations, industry partners and academic representatives. The program includes a website, multimedia content and downloadable materials for parents and caregivers.

For more information on Up and Away and Out of Sight, go to UpandAway.org.


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