Number of Children and Teens Hospitalized for Opioid Overdoses Almost Tripled

A new study finds the number of young children and teens hospitalized for opioid painkiller overdoses has almost tripled in recent years.

Opioid overdoses increased 205 percent from 1997 to 2012 among children ages 1 to 4, HealthDay reports. Among teens ages 15 to 19, overdoses increased 176 percent.

Full story of children and teen opioid overdoses tripled at drugfree.org

Increased Risk of Suicide Attempts in Teens Linked to Abuse of Prescription Drugs

A new study finds an increased risk of suicide attempts in teens is associated with prescription drug abuse, Reuters reports. Teens who said they used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes at the start of the study were almost three times as likely to report a suicide attempt a year later.

The study of 3,300 Chinese teens is published in JAMA Pediatrics. The researchers found teens’ suicide risk was more than tripled if they abused opiates.

Full story of suicide risks in teens with prescription drug abuse at drugfree.org

Senate Bill Would Require Doctors to Use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

Three U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would require doctors to use prescription drug monitoring programs before they prescribe painkillers. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Act is co-sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Angus King of Maine.

Minnesota is one of the states in which doctors’ participation in prescription drug monitoring is voluntary. At a news conference Tuesday, Klobuchar said if such programs are not mandatory, some doctors who excessively prescribe opioids can go undetected, theStar Tribune reported.

Full story of Senate bill for doctors to use prescription drug monitoring programs at drugfree.org

Two Former Drug Salesmen Arrested for Allegedly Paying Doctors to Prescribe Fentanyl

Two former drug salesmen were arrested last week for allegedly paying physicians to prescribe fentanyl, USA Today reports. Fentanyl has received heavy scrutiny after it was announced Prince died from an accidental overdose of the drug.

Fentanyl, a powerful opioid, can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine, the article notes.

The salesmen worked for Insys Therapeutics, which makes Subsys, a fast-acting form of fentanyl that is sprayed under the tongue. Subsys provides pain relief in as little as five minutes. In contrast, fentanyl patches provide a slow, continuous dose of painkiller.

According to the complaint, the salesmen paid two New York-area doctors $259,000 in kickbacks in 2014. Court documents say the doctors wrote more than $6 million worth of prescriptions for Subsys that year—more than all but a few physicians in the country. The complaint states that a manager for the company allegedly knew about the scheme, and told sales staff to demand that doctors prescribe large quantities of fentanyl in exchange for the payments.

Full story of drug salesman arrested prescribing Fentanyl at drugfree.org

Opioid Taper Program Helps Patients Take Less Medication Without More Pain

A new study suggests many patients who are taking a high dose of opioid medication to treat chronic pain are willing to taper off their medication if they are given guidance in how to cope with pain without drugs.

In many cases, patients who are able to taper off opioids find their pain doesn’t increase, and in some cases, it actually decreases, according to Beth Darnall, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of Pain Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Darnall spoke about the study at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. She partnered with a Colorado physician, Richard L. Stieg, MD, who was closing his practice, which included many patients who were taking high doses of opioids. He had inherited many of the patients from other doctors.

Full story of the opioid taper program at drugfree.org