Indicators of despair rising among Gen X-ers entering middle age

Indicators of despair — depression, suicidal ideation, drug use and alcohol abuse — are rising among Americans in their late 30s and early 40s across most demographic groups, according to new research led by Lauren Gaydosh, assistant professor of Medicine, Health and Society and Public Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University. These findings suggest that the increase in “deaths of despair” observed among low-educated middle-aged white Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) in recent studies may begin to impact the youngest members of Generation X (born 1974-1983) more broadly in the years to come.

The study, The Depths of Despair Among U.S. Adults Entering Midlife, appears in the American Journal of Public Health. Gaydosh’s co-authors are Kathleen Mullan Harris, Robert A. Hummer, Taylor W. Hargrove, Carolyn T. Halpern, Jon M. Hussey, Eric A. Whitsel, and Nancy Dole, all at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In 2016, U.S. life expectancy began to decline for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, and researchers theorized that this was driven by a marked increase in deaths due to drug overdose, alcoholic cirrhosis and suicide among middle-aged whites with low education or in rural areas. At the time, this was explained by a unique triple-punch of worsening employment prospects accompanied by a declining perception of socioeconomic status and an erosion of social supports for this group. But studies to better understand those mortality trends did not definitively show that low-income rural whites were actually experiencing more despair than other groups.

Full story at Science Daily

Link between drug use and poor dental health confirmed

A new review published online today in the scientific journal Addiction has found that dental patients with substance use disorders have more tooth decay and periodontal disease than the general population, but are less likely to receive dental care. With drug use increasing by approximately three million new users each year, this is a problem that won’t disappear anytime soon.

Drug use affects oral health through direct physiological routes such as dry mouth, an increased urge for snacking, clenching and grinding of teeth, and chemical erosion from applying cocaine to teeth and gums. The lifestyle that often accompanies problematic drug use also affects oral health through high sugar diets, malnutrition, poor oral hygiene, and lack of regular professional dental care. Dental care can be further compromised by tolerance to painkillers and anaesthetics.

Full story of drug use linked to poor dental health at Science Daily

Lab Analyzes Babies’ Umbilical Cords for Mothers’ Drug Use

A lab in Utah is analyzing sections of umbilical cords to look for evidence of mothers’ drug use, Medical Daily reports. Quickly identifying which infants have been exposed to drugs, and which drugs they were exposed to, can provide valuable information to neonatal specialists treating the babies, the lab says.

ARUP Laboratories, which is affiliated with the University of Utah, was the second lab in the nation to offer umbilical cord testing, the article notes. Before umbilical cord testing was developed, doctors would analyze babies’ exposure to drugs through their meconium (first stool). Testing the umbilical cord is faster, according to the article. Umbilical cord testing can take up to 72 hours.

“Sometimes babies are already in the throes of withdrawal symptoms but physicians can’t determine what drugs they are dealing with until test results are available,” Dr. Gwen McMillin, Medical Director of ARUP’s Clinical Toxicology Laboratories, said in a press release.

Full story of analyzing umbilical cords from mother drug use at drugfree.org

Not Enough Evidence to Give Doctors Advice on Reducing Teens’ Drug Use: Expert Panel

A government panel said this week there is insufficient evidence about the best way for doctors to persuade children and teens not to use drugs.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which issues guidelines for doctors, said they did not find enough reliable studies to base recommendations on, NPR reports. They reviewed studies on brief counseling sessions during an office visit, which is sometimes combined with computer-based screening. They also looked at studies of computer-based programs that children or teens access at home.

Full story on the drug expert panel at drugfree.org