Recreational Use of Prescription Drugs Among Teens

Twenty percent of high school students in the United States have taken a prescription drug, such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax, without a doctor’s prescription, according to the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). This is the first year the survey assessed prescription drug abuse among high school students. The 2009 YRBS shows that many high school students engage in risk behaviors that are harmful to their overall health and increase their risk of disease and injury.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and YRBS’s recently released issue brief, “Unintentional Drug Poisoning in the United States” highlight a serious public health problem with non-medical use of prescription drugs. The issue brief points out that drug overdose rates have risen steadily in the United States since 1999, with most of the increase due to prescription drugs.

Data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), estimate that in 2008 people 12-20 years old accounted for an estimated 141,417 (14.5 percent) of the 971,914 emergency department visits for nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals. These numbers do not include suicide attempts.

“Our Nation faces many public health threats that deserve our immediate attention. Among them, there is the pressing reality of drug overdoses. Teens and others have a false assumption that prescription drugs are a safer high,” said Grant Baldwin, PhD, MPH, Director of CDC’s Injury Center Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. “These data and that from other sources show us that prescription drug misuse is a significant problem in both adolescents and adults.”

The CDC recommendations in the issue brief are based on promising interventions and expert opinion to help health care providers, state and federal agencies, as well as private insurance providers and pharmacy benefit managers, to better understand the impact and cost of unintentional poisoning. CDC continues to respond to this problem through surveillance activities, epidemiologic research, and evaluation of interventions with the greatest promise of creating a public health impact.

Source: CDC, June 3, 2010

New OxyContin Formulation Designed to Discourage Abuse of the Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved a new formulation of the controlled-release drug OxyContin that has been designed to help discourage misuse and abuse of the medication.

OxyContin is made to slowly release the potent opioid oxycodone to treat patients who require a continuous, around-the-clock opioid analgesic for management of their moderate to severe pain for an extended period of time. Because of its controlled-release properties, each OxyContin tablet contains a large quantity of oxycodone, which allows patients to take their drug less often. However, people intent on abusing the previous formulation have been able to release high levels of oxycodone all at once, which can result in a fatal overdose and contributes to high rates of OxyContin abuse.

The reformulated OxyContin is intended to prevent the opioid medication from being cut, broken, chewed, crushed or dissolved to release more medication. The new formulation may be an improvement that may result in less risk of overdose due to tampering, and will likely result in less abuse by snorting or injection; but it still can be abused or misused by simply ingesting larger doses than are recommended.

“Although this new formulation of OxyContin may provide only an incremental advantage over the current version of the drug, it is still a step in the right direction,” said Bob Rappaport, M.D., director of the Division of Anesthesia and Analgesia Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“As with all opioids, safety is an important consideration,” he said. “Prescribers and patients need to know that its tamper-resistant properties are limited and need to carefully weigh the benefits and risks of using this medication to treat pain.”

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately half a million people used OxyContin non-medically for the first time in 2008.

The manufacturer of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma L.P., will be required to conduct a postmarket study to collect data on the extent to which the new formulation reduces abuse and misuse of this opioid. The FDA is also requiring a REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) that will include the issuance of a Medication Guide to patients and a requirement for prescriber education regarding the appropriate use of opioid analgesics in the treatment of pain.

Purdue Pharma is based in Stamford, Conn.

Trading Prescription Medications Among Teens

With an increase in the number of psychotropic prescriptions for adolescents there are increased chances of these prescriptions ending up in the wrong hands.

Results of a survey of school students show that 1% of all prescriptions that caregivers write for teenagers are used for non-medical purposes. 6 out 10 students with legitimate psychotropic prescriptions are contacted to redirect their prescriptions. 1% of them agree to do it and some even sell them. As many as 25% have reported that they divert the prescriptions to family and friends.

Critics hold doctors responsible for giving out too many prescriptions to teenagers. However, researchers say that the real problem might be that doctors do not adequately discuss the matter of diverted prescriptions with patients and their families.

Study Claiming Cannabis – Schizophrenia Link Fuels Debate

A controversy has been sparked by a Swiss study, which claims that a link has been established between smoking canabis and developing schizophrenia.

The study concludes that there was an increase in occurrences of schizophrenia during the 90s, which is considered to be a liberal period, and corresponds to higher canabis usage. The critics, however, have pointed out that the study is inconclusive as it is does not take into consideration the individual patients’ drug usage.

Researchers claim that there is a direct relationship between the development of the disease and the rate of canabis consumption. They add that regular smokers of cannabis are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia by two to three times.

Experts on drug issues have welcomed the report, but they also remain cautious. They believe that the hypothesis may indeed be true, but that the results are not conclusive.

Party Drugs Likely Help Spread HIV Infections

A recent survey in the US has revealed that the increasing use of party drugs such as the stimulant “ice” (a methamphetamine) may be the cause behind escalating HIV-infections among gay men.

Although the study does not confirm that these party drugs are the direct causes of HIV infections, constantly increasing trends cannot be ignored.
Methamphetamine that is used in these drugs stimulates the male libido and enables them to stay awake for hours and have marathon sex sessions. And, a higher rate of risky sexual behavior is likely to lead to higher HIV infection rates.

In addition to drug use, many infected men have also confirmed that they either met their sex partners in a club or used the services provided on the Internet to arrange for anonymous sex partners. This also increases the risk of HIV infection.

Source: AAP (7/24/07)

Does Stimulant Treatment For ADHD Increase Risk Of Drug Abuse?

Parents, doctors, and others have wondered whether common treatments for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) inadvertently predispose adolescents to future drug abuse.
The answer may depend on the age at which treatment is started and how long it lasts, say the authors of a new brain-imaging and behavioral study conducted in animals at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.